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May 2019

Sit and Spin

Olden Yolk’s Living Theatre

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Artist: Olden Yolk

Album: Living Theatre

Label: Trouble In Mind

Reason We’re Cranking It: We were already big fans of the duo since first hearing their self-titled 2018 debut, so naturally we had some expectations heading into this follow-up. Thankfully the combination of Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer didn’t let us down. The album is a poetic bundle of beauty that tickles of tranquility. If peace of mind had a soundtrack, “Living Theatre” would be it.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Given that there was only a little more than a year between their previous release and this current album, the folksy pair is proving to be prolific. While some artists churn out content only to end up with more quantity than quality, Olden Yolk seems perfectly competent at doing both simultaneously, and that’s a good thing for the listener.

Track Stuck On Repeat: “Cotton & Cane” plays like something you’d hear on your parents’ favorite oldies channel, an upbeat throwback that forces a toe-tapping response from your body and a smile to stretch across your face. It’s a sunny Saturday morning on a three-day weekend.

And that means…

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Listen Up

Walk Off The Earth

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Photo By: Andreanter 02 Hu

We grew up in the 1980s drinking Ecto Cooler and playing with our G.I. Joes, but we came into maturity in the 1990s, trading in our He-Man T-shirts for oversized sweaters that we held together using safety pins. Lisa Loeb shot to stardom right around that time with “Stay (I Missed You)” and we’re pretty sure she was our first legitimate celebrity crush, so when we heard the song was turning 25-years-old, naturally we couldn’t help but feel a little old ourselves. Thanks to Walk Off the Earth’s re-imagining of the Gen X classic, however, we’re celebrating with nostalgic streamers and sentimental birthday hats.

When not writing and recording their own material, the Juno-award winning, multi-platinum selling group is bringing fresh takes to old tracks, including Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.” But for those of us who lived and breathed MTV in the ‘90s, “Stay (I Missed You)” is far and away their best creative collaboration yet.

We recently sat down with members Gianni Luminati and Joel Cassady to discuss pimple-faced astonishment, triggering memories, and the advice they would give to any band that tries to cover one of their own songs one day.

TrunkSpace: It’s hard to believe that “Stay (I Missed You)” is 25 years old. Like wine, great songs tend to get better over time. That being said, are some songs easier to re-imagine than others, and how did the past influence the present on this particular track?
Luminati: Yes, some songs are definitely easier to cover than others. Usually the better the song the easier it is for us to reimagine it. That’s why we love to cover good songs because they inspire us so much. Lisa’s song is such an anomaly and we thought of covering it for years so when the opportunity came up we knew exactly how to do it.

TrunkSpace: Lisa Loeb catapulted to fame when the single and video were originally released in 1994. Would the you from 1994 be surprised to hear that someday you’d be covering the classic track in such an eclectic way?
Luminati: Of course. Pimply faced 13-year-old me would be shocked if you told me 25 years later I would be in a room with Lisa re-imagining this timeless song!

TrunkSpace: Songs like “Stay (I Missed You)” mean so much to people. They become a part of our youth, tied to our memories. Is that something you consider when working with an iconic track like this, knowing that it has the potential to trigger memories and jump start glory days?
Luminati: Yes, we always keep this in mind while messing with iconic tracks. You don’t want to change it so much that you lose the familiarity of the arrangement to a point where it won’t trigger those memories for people. But still change it enough to make it your own.

TrunkSpace: Does working with the original artist – in this case Lisa – give you a different creative POV than if you went into the studio without the collaboration?
Luminati: Yes, of course! We had the opportunity to ask her so many questions about her writing process and collaboration process. She told us some really cool things about the creation of the song that we didn’t know about prior. You can’t pay for that kind of experience.

TrunkSpace: Are there great songs that should be left alone? Is anything off limits that the group won’t sink their collective teeth into?
Cassady: Nothing is off limits, but there’s definitely a special category of songs out there that needs to be treated more carefully than others based on how well-known and beloved they are. We’re very fortunate to be at a point where the original band or artist often winds up seeing/hearing our version of their song, but this also means that there’s an added pressure on us to really nail it! We do our best to not overthink anything and let arrangements come together naturally, but if we’re talking about something like a “Bohemian Rhapsody” or the idea of putting together a Beatles medley, it’s important to take the extra time and really make sure we feel we’re doing such legendary compositions justice.

TrunkSpace: If another group was sitting down to re-imagine one of Walk Off the Earth’s originals, what advice you give them about making it their own, while still staying true to the original?
Cassady: One of the most magical things about music is that it’s entirely subjective to a given creator or listener. The sound that one person might love more than anything in the world is the same sound that someone else might feel is comparable to nails on a chalkboard! I think it’s very important for creators to do things in a way that’s faithful to their musical voice, because fans tend to gravitate to what feels most genuine to them. This is the advice that I think we’d give to another band or artist wanting to cover a WOTE song: what’s true to the original is whatever’s most true to you!

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Cassady: The creative process and the act of being inspired is an interesting beast in that you never quite know when, where, how or why it’s going to strike. Depending on the given day, this can be either frustrating or wonderful… sometimes both! Some days you want to be in a familiar surrounding with people that you know and trust, and that’s what lets you best tap into a great creative space. Other days, you’ll find yourself wanting to be totally out of your element in a new place or with a new collaborator so you can embrace the unknown and let that inform your process. Not knowing what it’s going to look and feel like until you’re actually in it is one of the most exciting parts of being an artist/creator.

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in Walk Off the Earth that you couldn’t achieve as a solo artist? What is it about the group atmosphere that continues to inspire you?
Cassady: The communal element of WOTE is something that definitely wouldn’t be the same in a solo sense. To have the ability to bounce opinions and ideas off of your bandmates and come from a place of true collaboration virtually every time we put a project together is something that certainly contributes to the eclectic sound that we’ve become known for. Rock to reggae, metal to EDM… WOTE is a safe space for all genres and influences and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cassady: I think for many artists (ourselves included), one of the biggest goals is to inspire others in the same way that your favorite artists have inspired you. It’s a true full-circle moment, and it’s one that we’ve been fortunate enough to experience multiple times in multiple forms. Hearing that we’ve been able to inspire a younger person to get into music for the first time, hearing that we’ve been able to reintroduce or reinvigorate an older person’s love for music, and hearing “I don’t usually like stuff like this, but for some reason I like you guys” are all stand-out moments that are very special to us.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Cassady: Absolutely! Even just thinking about how far we’ve come and how much we’ve changed over the 10 years that we’ve been doing our thing at this level, the idea of seeing what the next 10 might bring would be far too tempting to turn down. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and those events can often bring about the best forms of inspiration. We’ve always talked about wanting to be the first band to play a show in space…maybe a decade from now we’ll have done it!

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The Featured Presentation

Lisa Durupt

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Photographer: Birdie Thompson/Grooming: Allison Noelle

Although she has had to take a few reflective deep breaths from time to time, Lisa Durupt never doubted herself or her ability to make a career in the arts. With an unwavering belief that her dreams would one day become a reality, the Canadian-born actress stayed the course. Now with her role as Paula Noble in the recently-released film “Breakthrough,” what lies ahead is becoming increasingly more clear as she continues to build on an already impressive 2019, which also includes a return to the series “Heartland” later this summer.

We recently sat down with Durupt to discuss taking life lessons from her costars, the unpredictability of acting, and “playing cold.”

TrunkSpace: “Breakthrough” is based on a true story. When there are real people involved in the journey that you’re taking audiences on – even with artistic license taken – do you feel like you have a responsibility to those who lived the story? Is there a different feeling on set with a project like this than something that is entirely fictional?
Durupt: Of course, yes. You want to be careful to honor their actual story but at the same time you need to trust that you were hired because you had the right type of energy from the start. At the end of the day if you focus on the facts of the story and on the relationships that the character had with everyone else, you can rest assured you are somewhat on track. The feeling on set was different than fiction in the sense that everyone wanted to get it right. There is always a sense of trying to make a great show, but when it is a true story, there is a little extra care that is taken, even if no one says it out loud.

TrunkSpace: Paula Noble is a real person. What was your approach to giving her life on screen? How much of who the woman actually is in real life is present in your performance?
Durupt: I had to trust that my gut instincts were on point, as I did not meet her unil the premiere. I met her husband Jason Noble on set but she did not make the trip. He confirmed that I was a great choice as she is just as sassy and spunky, so I felt pretty comfortable at the end of the day.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of heavy drama involved in “Breakthrough.” Was there a moment captured in the film that you feel shined a spotlight on a side of your acting that the world had yet to see? Were you able to go places as Paula that you hadn’t had an opportunity to with previous roles?
Durupt: I do get to do a fair bit of comedy in my career so a film like this was a nice change of pace. I think the one aspect that I had not tackled before was Paula’s unwavering faith. I grew up going to United Church until I was about 12, but due to sports on Sundays eventually we stopped going. Understanding her point of view about faith and religion was a new one for me, I learned a lot about myself in the process.

TrunkSpace: What would younger Lisa – the one who first decided to make a career in the arts – think about her future self’s performance in “Breakthrough?” Would she be surprised?
Durupt: I think she would have thought you were nuts, but, at the same time, totally believed it. I was a late comer to the game but I never doubted I would make a career in the business. Call it naivety or blind ambition but I always knew I would get to do exactly what I wanted to one day. I still do. Others might doubt me, but I always prove them wrong, sometimes it just takes longer than I would like.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in the project it must go much further than that. What’s the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “Breakthrough” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Durupt: The cast. I am a fan of them all so to get to know them on a personal level, as much as you can in the short time you work together, it was really special. They are all great people and sometimes in this business that is not always the case. I tend to take away a life lesson from each actor I work with and they gave me some of my most memorable yet. They are a special group and I wish them all continued success.

TrunkSpace: What has been an unexpected bonus or reward – something you could have never anticipated when you first started your journey as an actress – to a career in the arts? What is an aspect of your life that you wouldn’t have now had you not taken this path, but at the same time, one that you can’t imagine your life without?
Durupt: The relationships. The people I have met from all walks of life through work, they are talented, hard-working and creative beyond belief. It absolutely melts my heart to think about how spoiled I am to have them in my life. If someone had told me at 19 that I would have the circle of friends and extended family I have now, because of this business, I would never have believed it. I value those connections immensely and would never trade them for anything.

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career, but certainly the entertainment industry is known for delivering peaks and valleys. Was there ever a moment where you considered walking away from acting, and if so, what kept you on your path and looking forward?
Durupt: Oh man, yes! Every artist goes through that more often than they are willing to admit. Any other career, the amount of work you put in to auditioning, training, and managing your own career, you could be the CEO of the company. Acting is so unpredictable and out of your control. The reason I could never quit is my deep-rooted passion for what I do. Sometimes I do need to take a breath, shake it off for a few days and regroup. But quitting? Not an option.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for Christmas movies here and have seen quite a few of yours, either around the holidays or during our Christmas in July binge sessions. Is it a bit of a trip to shoot these movies and dive into that red and green festiveness months before the holly is hung in real life?
Durupt: YES! Murphy’s law: It is always so hot when we are shooting them and they are yelling (playfully) at you to “play the cold.” But I looove Christmas so I am happy to do it.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Durupt: It is hard to pick one. There are so many for various reasons. A really memorable one was working with Josh Lucas. I was such a fan of “Sweet Home Alabama” back in the day. All my girlfriends and I swooned for him as ‘Jake’ so to meet him and get to know him as a person was a big highlight. He is a total gem and not to mention an awesome dad.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Durupt: No. I am a big advocate of trusting that you are exactly where you were meant to be in life. It is too easy to worry about enough in life already that stressing about what is coming next only distracts you from staying present in the moment. I am so excited about what is coming up, I am just getting started. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.

Featured Image Photographer: Birdie Thompson
Featured Image Grooming: Allison Noelle

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Mason Ashley

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Artist: Mason Ashley

Socials: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

Hometown: Tomball, TX

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what would someone learn about you through the music itself?
Ashley: I think first of all, they would discover that I’m moody. Also, I think I’m a little bit cynical. I tend to be drawn to darker emotions but I like to play off them and make them seem lighter. I’ve realized even if I write a love song it always has some little hint of sarcasm or cynicism in it. I’m a bit dramatic, I think.

TrunkSpace: You started performing when you were 12 years old. Would 12-year-old Mason be surprised by the artist you are today?
Ashley: I think she would be! I honestly don’t think I ever thought I’d be writing the songs that I’ve written. I think she’d lose her mind over a few of the things I’ve accomplished. I’d like to think that young Mason would like older Mason’s music… but I guess I’ll never know!

TrunkSpace: You recently released your new single “Ever Had You” and the music video to go along with it. When you release new material into the world, what emotions do you juggle with? Is it hard to let go of something that you put so much of yourself into?
Ashley:There’s something very fulfilling to release a song knowing that it’s finished. Putting a song out there is kind of like closing whatever chapter of life I was in while writing it. It’s definitely not always easy though, especially when it’s a very personal song. There are tracks that I’ve sworn I’d never release because they were too close to me… “Ever Had You” was one of those songs.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Ashley: I can be pretty picky about my writing. I like to feel that a song has said everything I want to say and I can be pretty hard on myself if I can’t get it exactly where I want it. I’ve actually been trying to let myself write more relaxed lately and just see what comes of it without worrying about saying every single thing that’s on my mind. After almost 12 years of writing songs I’ve just realized you can easily write more than one song about certain topics or emotions.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult in this day and age – when social media trolls are so common – to be vulnerable as an artist and pour yourself into your music? How do you stay focused on the positive and block out the negative?
Ashley: I have always thought of music as a form of self-therapy. It is a way to put my thought, fears, truths on paper… and if other people relate to those feelings, then great. If people don’t relate to those feelings, that’s okay too. It’s so easy for the social media generation to hide behind a screen and say anything they want, no matter how inconsiderate or even hateful it can be. I have never and will never let anything anyone says affect the way I write music, though. And the positive comments always majorly overshadowed any negative.

TrunkSpace: We talked earlier about 12-year-old Mason and how she would view your musical journey today. What would you like to see from, say, 40-year-old Mason and how she has grown as an artist? What do you hope the future holds for you and your creative output?
Ashley: I just hope that she’s still in love with music. I have always loved writing and loved the feeling I get when a song is finished. I hope that 20 years from now I still have the same passion for it and that it’s still therapeutic for me. Everything is about numbers these days; how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get, how much money you make, how many streams you get… and I kind of feel like it could get worse from here. I’ve always cared about how music makes me feel and how my music can make others feel. I hope I never get caught up in numbers and still just love the raw and vulnerable magic behind what music is.

TrunkSpace: Where and when are you the most creatively inspired?
Ashley: Inspiration hits at very random times for me. I can be driving in my car and have something pop into my head. I do always notice though, when I travel I tend to write a lot. My mind has gotten in this weird little routine recently of writing songs from an airplane. I think the more that I see and experience, the more content I have to write about.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who has to step away from music at times in order to refuel the creative tank? Can you envision a day where music is not a part of your life?
Ashley: I don’t like to force myself to write, so there are times when I take a step back and wait for ideas to come to me. I actually have had mini-panics over the years when I occasionally get writer’s block. I’ll think, “This is it. I’ll never write another song. I’ve run out of things to say.” But I honestly can’t imagine a time when music isn’t a main focus of my life. Music has always been and always will be a part of who I am and I never see that changing.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Ashley: I have been lucky enough to already have some great highlights in my career. I couldn’t believe reaching over 1 million views on YouTube last year… and then almost 5 million views on “Ever Had You” this year. I got a little freaked out to know that someone used one of my old tracks in their wedding. Last year I got to attend my first award show. When I was sixteen, I heard my song on the radio for the first time. Honestly, every time I get a message from a stranger telling me that my music meant something to them is a highlight. I really don’t think I can easily pick just one.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Ashley: I don’t think I would. As tempting as that would be, I believe that things happen the way they’re supposed and I wouldn’t want to change anything if I didn’t like my future. Life is about now. Music is about capturing moments now so that they can live forever and I wouldn’t be able to focus on now if I knew what was coming.

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The Featured Presentation

Derek Mears

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Photo By: Brezinski Photography

The coolest thing about Derek Mears isn’t that he’s getting to play Swamp Thing in the new original series set to premiere on the DC Universe digital subscription service May 31, but that he is so grateful to be doing so. As a fan of the iconic character himself, the California-born actor first picked up a “Swamp Thing” comic book as kid – before he could even read – only to find himself bringing the misunderstood creature to life on the small screen decades later. Full circle at its finest!

We recently sat down with Mears to discuss what his younger self would think of his latest role, the wearable art that is the Swamp Thing suit, and why he prepared by reading about everything from existentialism to botany.


TrunkSpace
: What would 12-year-old Derek think about getting to play Swamp Thing?
Mears: 12-year-old Derek just stares at a wall for his entire career going, “Are you kidding me?” I don’t understand how this happened, but I am in no way sad about it. If I had six guns right now, I’d be shooting them in the air. So, pretty excited.

TrunkSpace: Because it’s such an established character, did you feel pressure to make Swamp Thing your own?
Mears: For sure. Any role that I do, I approach it that way. It’s like handwriting. If you and I were to play Pinocchio, we’re going to approach it different. It’s our own kind of style and it’s naturally going to happen. But yeah, of course, I did put my own little spin on things, but also tying back the fan pressure… I wouldn’t really say it’s fan pressure, it’s… on my end, more of a responsibility. I‘ve been getting so many lovely messages on social media from people who have grown up with Swamp Thing being their guy, and they already have this personal relationship that has given them crossroads in their life, and given them answers, and given them joy. It means so much to these people that I knew I had that responsibility of making it right for them, because it’s almost like you’re babysitting their child and going, “Oh, I want you to be happy in what we’re doing, and be on board,” because you don’t want to ruin those memories. You want to make those memories that they have – and the love for the character that they have – flourish.

TrunkSpace: In many ways Swamp Thing has always represented what The X-Men have for people, which is, characters who are outcasts. For many readers who feel that in their own lives, that helps form a connection.
Mears: Oh, 1,000 percent. That’s a huge theme that we’re doing in this version of “Swamp Thing” where a lot of it is about acceptance that we can all kind of relate to. I’ll call it trying to accept, or struggling to accept, who he is as Swamp Thing. It’s something that we all feel, because at certain points, we feel we’re too tall, or too short, or too thin, or too wide, or our teeth just aren’t right, so there are elements of humanity that we all gravitate to with this character. So in a sense, he represents us.

TrunkSpace: In many ways, he was a more relatable character than the super-powered heroes. He was more human than some of the human characters.
Mears: Oh, absolutely. That’s what’s kind of beautiful about it. He’s such a balance. Where there’s good, there’s bad, but there has to be a balance and he strives to do the right thing. But as humans, we’re all fallible and we’re going to mess up somewhere. It wasn’t just the stereotypical black and white of things. There’s so much gray to this character, but the intention is to do good.

TrunkSpace: Were you nervous leading up to the first trailer being released and fans having their first look at what the series and the character would represent?
Mears: Honestly, through my own vision or through my own rose-colored glasses, when I first saw the concept for the character of how they were executing it, my mouth dropped. I was like, “Are you kidding me? That’s what you’re going with because that is pretty right-on!” And I kind of knew ahead of time because the buzz on the set has been sort of there the entire series. It’s one of those special jobs where the cast and crew get along so well, and there’s no hierarchy between the different departments. It’s like, “Oh, we all want to row the boat in the same direction to accomplish the best possible story that we can.” And once I saw how the suit looked, I went, “Okay.” Some people tear up over it. It’s like, “I can’t believe it.” Also, seeing that teaser shot, I go, “Wait until you see it in the different proper lighting, it looks even better than that.” And I’m not bragging because I’m in the suit, but I’m just trying to relate that as a fan myself, I get to wear art. And that art is pretty darn accurate. I don’t know how you could get much closer to the bullseye with that.

TrunkSpace: What’s so great about that is, with this kind of wearable art, you’re leaving a mark on pop culture and the suit could end up in a museum some day.
Mears: I’m thrilled about that. The work that the Fractured FX guys did, with Justin Raleigh at the helm, they put so much time and effort into this. There are some times where people kind of rush through and go, “Oh, what’s the minimum that I have to do to do my job?” I know for a fact that they went above and beyond, and went outside their own budget and used some of their own budget to make it right, because they knew how much this meant to fans and to themselves as artists. I’ve been so blessed to wear different prosthetic characters throughout my career, but I tell you, man, this suit is the Cadillac of suits. The way that you can emote so well through the face, the way that the prosthetics move and work… but it’s all within the design. It was done on purpose. So even like spending so much time in the water, they designed it to be a quicker drying suit than it normally would be. I’m looking at it in a mirror after wearing it I don’t know how many times… because after a while, you kind of get like, “Okay, that’s what I’m wearing,” but every time I’m suiting up, I’m staring at a mirror going, “Are you kidding me? I can’t see the lines on this, the way that it moves.” If I want to, I can kick over my head. It moves so well. So it’s really a pleasure. I’m not trying to pump it up more than it is, but just from my eyes, I’m really lucky to wear this. I can’t wait to see the fans’ reaction when they see it onscreen.

TrunkSpace: And you touched on it, but the suit’s ability to emote is incredible, which is so important for this character. From a performance standpoint, did this character require a different approach than other characters where you had to wear prosthetic suits?
Mears: Well, yes and no. I’ve been on producer sessions or what not for features or shows, and they’re like, “Oh, we need a big guy to wear a mask,” and I’m like, “Alright, have a good day, guys.” “Are you leaving?” I’m like, “Yeah, if that’s your mentality, I’m not right for this job.” Because there’s so much more that we do for this when you’re behind a suit. You approach it like it’s any other character. You have to add that emotional depth, and that’s why I think it’s so important to do a lot of characters like this practically and not just CGI. There’s the point where the two could marry with, say, they benefit each other, which is amazing, but you have to be able to emote the humanity of the character through that makeup. And especially with this character, there’s such a pathos to Swamp Thing, and the extremes of extreme sadness to extreme violence and anger, and the middle ground of that humanity, and trying to keep that balance that he struggles for. It’s such a challenge. But I prepared. I read so many different books on existentialism, and psychology, and philosophy. I even dug into different books on botany. But just kind of making up my own and… using the Alan Moore run from “Swamp Thing” as a flow chart to draw from. So just doing hours upon hours of extensive research, and to be able to hit some of the emotional depths of this character as he strongly deserves, and tie it into my own past and my own personal experiences, but molded him in a sense that they can be used through the limbs of the character to express. So, just the little, subtle things of something affecting you with the makeup, it really shines through and I don’t have to do much because of the prosthetic, because you can read what’s going on.

Photo By: Brezinski Photography

TrunkSpace: You had mentioned reading Alan Moore’s arc. In going back and looking at the books, was there any iconic imagery that you drew from, and how you physically presented Swamp Thing on camera?
Mears: Oh, for sure. They call it aspect. It’s kind of like Frankenstein. I mean, there’s so many aspects of making a character in general as an actor. There are the physical aspects, and the mental aspects, the emotional. There’s the subtextual, the parables, the metaphors that you try to add in. But on the visual side, absolutely. We’ve taken from the original series with Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson – Bernie Wrightson’s drawings, and we rely heavily, story-wise, through the Alan Moore saga, but there are elements of “52” in some of the design. It’s an amalgamation of all of them. And from time to time, being that I’m a nerd and I learned to read by collecting comic books as a kid, I would do little homages to John Totleben or Stephen Bissette, as well as Bernie Wrightson, so fans could be tied into the characters.

TrunkSpace: And those fans will appreciate that because they will be able to see that you’re just as in love with the character as they are.
Mears: Yeah. It’s weird, because growing up, I grew up on some of those comics. I remember when I was a kid, a little weird story was I remember not being old enough to read yet, and my mom would go get her hair done at a beauty salon or whatever, and every time she went, I got to go across the way to a 7-11 where they sold comic books. Our town didn’t have a comic book store at the time, and I got to choose different comic books to read while she got her hair done. And I remember being a big Batman fan, and I got this one comic, and I went, “Oh, this comic is issue #7 called ‘Swamp Thing’ with Batman in it? Well, Batman’s in it.” And I remember reading it, and being totally into this character, going like, “But he’s a good guy, but he looks so terrifying! Okay!” But I didn’t know what the words were, so later on, having developed to be able to read and understand what it was… and now as an adult, I completely forgot about all that, but when I was doing all my research and going through all the comics, seeing that cover, going, “Wait a second,” and having this rush of nostalgia hit me. “I remember staring at these pictures and trying to understand what was going on in the story, but not being able to read.”

What a crazy full circle to be able to play the character now as an adult.

Swamp Thing” premieres May 31 on the DC Universe digital subscription service.

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Sit and Spin

The Get Up Kids’ Problems

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Artist: The Get Up Kids

Album: Problems

Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.

Reason We’re Cranking It: Unlike the lackluster pay off of waiting for what felt like a medieval lifetime to watch the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the eight-year-long wait for the next The Get Up Kids album was worth the pumping of the pop-punk brakes. The Kansas City-born band has not only returned to their signature sound, but improved upon it by creating a collection of songs that forces fans – old and new alike – to get up and listen.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: People love to put things – and others – into boxes. It certainly happened with The Get Up Kids, who after the release of their 2011 offering, “There Are Rules,” discovered that many of their fans liked them just fine the way they were. The sonic switch-up to their sound with that particular album, their fifth together, confused some long-time listeners, and whether the band took note or not, “Problems” has taken them full circle. Filled with tracks that feel vintage The Get Up Kids, the only problem with “Problems” is that there isn’t more of it to enjoy.

Track Stuck On Repeat: “Salina” is a standout, building slowly towards a memorable chorus that inspires singalongs wherever you’re at – in the office, at the gym, or at the stoplight waiting for the light to turn green.

And that means…

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Listen Up

Frankie Lee

FrankieLeeFeatured

Critical praise may not be the fuel that spurs Frankie Lee’s creative engine, but for folks like us here at TrunkSpace, we were music fans long before we were industry opinion givers. The singer-songwriter’s latest album, “Stillwater,” (out May 24 on River Valley Records) is a stripped-down gem of pure storytelling goodness, and whether we’re listening to it as fans or as commentators, we’re better off with it in our collections.

We recently sat down with Lee to discuss leaving room for spontaneity, the surprise appearance of inspiration, and why a sense of place has always informed his life and music.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, “Stillwater,” is due to drop on May 24. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world?
Lee: Well, if emotions were the kind of thing I could juggle, I’d just take all the negative stuff – misery, frustration, anger, self-doubt, jealousy, fear, anxiety – and just lock them back up with the rest of the props in the clown trunk. Then, I guess I’d go buy a dog and play fetch with the happiness remaining. I don’t think I’d need to make music if I had a ball of happiness and a dog. That would be nice. But unfortunately, emotions juggle themselves. They all come ‘round and ‘round. How I feel about releasing the new record “into the world” depends on when you catch me. If you ask me right now, it’s hard to say. I just see myself as a juggler. So I guess I don’t feel very confident. But as a juggler seeing myself as a songwriter, I feel much better. The short answer must be that I feel relief that the record’s done. I write about the world around me, and the world will respond how the world will respond. You never know how someone will react to what you say about them.

TrunkSpace: As an artist, do you struggle with being able to put a song down, consider it finished, and move onto the next one? Are you someone who, left to his own devices, would continue to tweak tracks, and if so, are there any songs on “Stillwater” that take on a different life in a live atmosphere because of that?
Lee: Nothing’s ever finished and I’m not into tweaks.

With the exception of very few records (“Titanic Rising,” “Nick of Time,” “Time Out of Mind)” I have little to no interest in making or listening to music that way. Tweaking things tends to take the life out if it for me. I like human mistakes. My favorite records are full of them. People who tweak things in the studio make me want to stay out of studios… to me it’s like if you went to a dentist and they took nine hours on a filling trying out all their “new tools.” I just need a filling so I can get back to eating.

The recording was purposely set up to that way… to have a “live” feel. We recorded it all to 2” tape in a house and the engineer had it set up so we could move around, three days, limited to three to four instruments and three to four takes takes. That was what we tried to do.

As far as live music goes, I try to create some space for spontaneity and chaos. I feel that’s necessary for the music I make and the time we’re in. 90 percent of what you hear and see today is to a click track and played the same every night. The assembly line approach to music doesn’t interest me.

With my approach, you can change the furniture around and paint the doors in rainbows, knock down the walls and rebuild… it’s all about having a strong foundation. I like re-working, re-shaping and re-building what’s already there. It keeps it fresh for me and hopefully for whoever comes to hear me.

TrunkSpace: When the core concept of “Stillwater” first came together, did you have a goal in mind in terms of what you wanted to accomplish artistically, and now that the album is finished, do you feel like you have checked all of those boxes?
Lee: Slippery question! I would relate “concept” to “inspiration,” and inspiration to something that just takes me by surprise. It’s just a tailwind that gets you moving toward the place where you end up. Here, it happens to end at the completion of another record. As to the idea of checking “boxes,” that presupposes that I know what the boxes are ahead of me; like I know where I’m headed after inspiration hits. That’s a very difficult way to make art, whether you’re a songwriter, a painter, a sculptor, a poet – whatever. Making art only by concepts and ideas requires someone so brilliant that they are always one step ahead of the smartest listener; the smartest viewer; the smartest reader. Someone like Auden could pull it off. Not many others. So if I catch a tailwind, I don’t see boxes to check, rather I’m just remembering old emotions (you brought them up!) as I pass them by, and I try to document them the best I can while I’m in their waters. There’s very little adventure in creating art with a GPS.

TrunkSpace: You received some great critical praise for the release of your 2016 debut, “American Dreamer.” Did you feel any pressure going into your follow up, even if in retrospect, you didn’t realize it at the time?
Lee: Critical praise is nice for family and friends to see. It’s validation for many people to say, “Look at Frankie! He’s done good!” And I would be lying if I said that I would feel the same way about a 4-star review as I would a 1-star review. But it’s like eating a really good homemade tamale after you’ve driven straight from Minneapolis to San Antonio without a bite. A good homemade tamale tastes really good! Especially after such a long wait. And it beats the hell out of a highly dubious 1-star ham and cheese sandwich in a triangle wedge from a BP in Hillsboro, Texas. But at the end of the day, praise becomes a corn husk. What do I do to get another tamale? The answer is obviously to stay in San Antonio forever. In all seriousness, to talk about things as they pertain to the real world: critical praise has very little to do with financial security. If it did, I wouldn’t buy stock in critical praise, if I can just put it that way.

As far as pressure for the follow-up, I can safely say no. I wasn’t writing “In Utero,” or “Please Please Me,” or even something like “She’s So Unusual.” I’m not being self-deprecating when I say that, only that there wasn’t an entire major label’s stock price riding on it. I love writing songs. I like writing songs that I’m happy with. I like songs that my songwriting friends like – many of whom have known me since the beginning. I have an old songwriter buddy named Ian Richardson. He tells me when I’m writing crap. Though he hasn’t said anything critical in a long time. I can trust Ian. He’s real, and he knows me. It’s friends like him and countless others whose praise holds water for me. And like I said, the praise from the critics is a tasty tamale.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you have a personal connection to the title of the album. It’s your hometown. For some, hometowns can be a blessing and a curse. How did your roots – Stillwater – impact your creative point of view?
Lee: Sense of place has always informed my life and music. There’s no blessing or curse for me. It just is. I had a nice childhood. Got to do all the things kids used to be able to do. My older brother is a professional skateboarder and an artist in LA. I looked up to him growing up and that informed how I saw the world.

The town itself attracts creatives, I remember going to lots of art fairs and barn dances as a kid. There were always some hippy/communal type gatherings in the summers. Very family based. Scandanavian folks. Out of towners would come down on the weekends to shop in the old sawmill’s turned antique malls.

Stillwater has a strong history and was shaped by pioneers. Lumberjacks clearing forests and floating logs down the Mississippi river, gangsters and land barons. Before that, it was a trading post for the native Americans and french trappers. It goes back way deeper than that too… there’s no way that can’t inform you.

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Frankie, hanging out in Stillwater, think about the music that his future self is writing? Would he be surprised?
Lee: I don’t think he’d be surprised, no. He might be bored with it, or not old enough to understand it. I write music for adults, or at least for people who’ve gotten over most of their childhood and angst. When I was 10, I was skateboarding everyday to Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” I really liked the early rap I heard then too. They were always talking about their hometowns and what they were doing to get by and survive. That made sense to me… the write what you know approach.

I think 10-year-old me would be surprised by the fact that the record business was collapsed by a 10-year-old kid on a computer and that people pay money to listen to a “DJ” hit a space bar in a stadium.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Lee: That it was made on its own terms. No money, no manager, no label, no producer, no computers. Just me and some friends in a house. I’m proud to know Tom Herbers, who recorded this album. This wouldn’t have been made without his knowledge and experience.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Lee: Not marrying Nikki Lane.

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Lee: 68 degrees, late in the fall, near a body of water. Honestly, most of the time it taps into me. I don’t try to create any conditions for it. If it comes, it comes. Ideas form when I’m paying attention to the details… I try to live in that space every day. Early morning is always best.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lee: No. That sounds worse than suicide.

Why? Because I wanna live.

Short answer.

Stillwater” is available May 24 on River Valley Records.

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Sit and Spin

Big Nothing’s Chris

BigNothingFeatureReview

Artist: Big Nothing

Album: Chris

Label: Salinas Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: Big Nothing’s latest album is actually a big something, filled with raucous riffs and a trifecta of vocals from Pat Graham (lead singer of Spraynard), Liz Parsons (formerly of Casual) and Chris Jordan (formerly of Young Livers). The microphone mingling is an alt-rock buffet filled with a tasty selection of offerings that while unique to their particular front-person, fully compliment the overall sound and vibe of the band as a whole.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: It’s easy to get lost in the melodic, fist-pumping propulsion of “Chris,” but beneath the surface layer strengths there is a lyrical framework that the entire album is constructed upon, making this a band who knows how to approach songwriting from all sides of the build.

Track Stuck On Repeat: The band’s first single off of the album, “Real Name” is also the most memorable, featuring a catchy chorus which is an all-day mind tickle. Crank it away because your brain will bank it away, replaying it over and over.

And that means…

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Listen Up

James Lanman

JamesLanmanFeatured

After performing more than 120 living room shows across the United States and Canada in 2017, James Lanman discovered something about music: if a song isn’t good enough to stand on its own acoustically and completely stripped down, then it doesn’t deserve the high-priced studio treatment. That revelation lead him to create his latest album, “Mosaics,” a beautifully-intimate collection of songs that the California-based singer-songwriter crafted to be an interactive experience for listeners. Releasing one new track each Friday until the album as a whole is revealed, the latest single, “I Lost Myself” is available now.

We recently sat down with Lanman to discuss the imperfections of humanity, the magic of solo performances, and the moment he realized he was living out his dream.

TrunkSpace: You’re releasing your new album, “Mosaics,” one song at a time. Did that factor into how you set up the order of the tracks on the record? Why was it so important that “Still a Liar” hold the first position?
Lanman
: I really wanted this album to be interactive and to see how listeners interpreted the songs and get a feel for what the larger story of the album means to them before leading them to any conclusions. For me, the excitement of how people interpret meaning is the best part. For this reason, the release order isn’t necessarily the track order I would have laid out. I wanted this body of work to be an ongoing dialogue on the themes this album deals with and I wanted to start with “Still a Liar” because it really sets the tone for the album.

The song is meant to read as a drunk dial resulting in a long rambling voicemail. I wanted to juxtapose the stark honesty of a profound admission (“And when the day is done / Honey I’m still a liar”) against the simple motivation to call someone just because you miss them (“But I just called you to say / That I was thinking about you today”). To me, the idea of someone spilling their guts to a lifeless machine in an attempt to win someone back while being so self aware of why it will never work is strangely poetic. Humans are messy, highly imperfect emotional creatures. The songs on this album try to explore that side of humanity.

I joke that “Still a Liar” is one of the most honest songs on the album despite it being about admitting that I’m a liar. As a songwriter, the idea that two things can be true and at odds at the same time is what makes storytelling interesting. I think this song prefaces that this is an album that thrives on the paradox. It’s an album of open-ended questions and in the case of “Still a Liar” it asks whether people can change?

TrunkSpace: Part of why you’re releasing the album in this fashion is to build a longer lasting impression – a personal connection – with each song. In a way, it feels a bit like the early days of commercial music when artists like Buddy Holly nurtured singles as opposed to full albums. Is there a reason why you still felt this collection of songs belonged on an album and not as individual singles?
Lanman
: Yes, this album tells the story of how I really found my voice as a writer, as a musician and as a human being. It’s an entire era of pivotal moments in my life that shaped who I am at present. As singles, they each hold their own lesson or revelation that are individually significant, but they were all born of a certain age. This is why I named the album, “Mosaics.” They are individual pieces from a life that form a bigger picture of who I am.

It’s also a way for me to put a bow on a collection of songs I’ve carried with me for a long time. Some of these were written this year but a couple were written six or seven years ago. It felt right to let these songs go one at a time but to house them under the same roof. For a long time I had this feeling that these songs were ‘unfinished business’ and I couldn’t move on until there was closure. Putting these out as a collection makes me feel like I now have permission to move past that part of my life and onto the next chapter creatively.

TrunkSpace: The album feels very intimate. It doesn’t feel like we’re listening, but instead, that we’re listening in – seated a few feet away from you while you perform the songs. Was this a conscious decision on your part… to try and bring the listener into the experience as opposed to being on the outside looking (or listening) in?
Lanman
: I’m glad it feels that way. That was my intention. Touring alone as a solo artist these past three years has really taught me so much about how people perceive my music. I spent years trying to create a sound worthy of people’s ears and almost went broke trying to throw money at studios and producers to figure that out. But what I ended up realizing by touring and how people received my live album is that if a song isn’t strong enough to stand on its own acoustically and completely stripped down – then it has no business being dressed up with bells and whistles. I was going about it backwards.

I self produced this album by taking time off from touring, enrolling in a local community college to take audio production classes so I had access to their studio and recorded everything with a really spartan setup with zero budget. These songs have nothing to hide behind. They are raw, the production is straightforward and they are the way you would hear me if I was playing for you and your friends in your living room. Living room concerts taught me how powerful an experience it can be for listeners to hear you like that, up close and personal. I’ve actually found that on larger stages, you lose a lot of that magic when you perform acoustically because so much hinges on the ephemeral nature of hearing a song so close and only for that moment in time.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Lanman:
I’m most proud that I finished it. I tried recording some of these songs on the road and kept getting 60 percent of the way there and scrapping it entirely because I didn’t like the sound. There was so much internal struggle that went into finishing this that people will never see overcoming lack of resources, lack of quiet spaces to record on the road, self doubt, etc. It’s so easy to start projects but it’s so much more difficult to really finish something, especially a large project. I think some of that blood, sweat and tears can be felt in the music but for me, that’s definitely what I am most proud of, getting it done and releasing it to the world.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Lanman
: Is that a trick question? (Laughter) Probably in feeling that what I’m doing is never good enough. I used to show a buddy of mine my demos and he would be like, “Put that out, it’s so good.” and I would say, “No, this is just a demo. It’s super unpolished.” Then never put it out because it was never going to be that unattainably perfect version I dreamt up in my head. I recently joked with him that “Mosaics” is the ‘demo’ album he always wanted me to put out. I definitely obsess over the details way too much. I’m still learning to let that go.

TrunkSpace: You’ve written and performed in a band atmosphere as well as in a solo capacity. How do the two experiences differ and do they both spark a different part of your brain creatively?
Lanman
: After touring solo for three years the thing that’s become so apparent about that difference is the vulnerability of it all. When I perform alone, all eyes are on me and the sound is so minimal that every misstep feels a hundred times more apparent. They are hanging on every word, every note – people can actually hear the lyrics! It’s a double edged sword because for all of the uncomfortableness it can breed, there is also a ton of magic in the spontaneity of it.

Creatively, it has forced me to look much closer at everything from the way I sing, to the dynamics of songs to the lyrics. I think about how songs will be live when I write them now. There’s also a great more deal of improvisation now that there wasn’t before. To really get people engaged you have to tear down the fourth wall that a lot of performers put up to try and look cool. Because there’s no looking cool when you’ve driven for hours after sleeping at a Walmart the night before and you roll out of your van with nothing but a crazy dream three feet away from their prying eyes. They can see everything and there’s no fooling anyone from the safety of a large stage where you’re blending into four bandmates, fog machines and laser beams.

At that point, there’s nothing left but to appeal to the shared experience of being human and laugh about it. From the moment I open my mouth in front of a new audience I’m looking for that common ground that connects us. It’s crucial to establish that honest connection so when I’m performing, listeners feel connected to the music. You have to give them permission and freedom to experience it fully. I think above all else, performing solo has forced me to open up with people in a way that I didn’t in a band.

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Lanman
: People never believe me when I tell them I’m an introvert, especially when they hear I did 120 performances in 2017 ranging from 10 person audiences in small apartments to performing for thousands in the Fargodome. But the perfect conditions for writing are when I can completely disappear from the world and get engrossed in my own thoughts without distraction. I actually “write” a lot of ideas when I’m driving late at night when there’s no one else on the road and I can just sing out lyric or melodic ideas into the darkness. My dream environment if I ever get this lucky would be to own a ranch somewhere like Wyoming with a studio where I could disappear to every winter and write for large stretches of time between stints on the road.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed about my creative process is that it usually happens when I have the freedom to experiment and burn up time. If there’s a deadline looming or other obligations, I find it really difficult to do meaningful work.

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old James think about the music that his future self is currently writing? Would he be surprised by where your musical path has taken you?
Lanman: Definitely! 10-year-old James didn’t even know music was an option. I didn’t pick up a guitar and even start singing until I was an adult so I think 10-year-old me would be amazed to see that this is where I ended up and probably a bit horrified by some of the quirks living this way presents. He would be like, “Are we going to be homeless? We look pretty happy but we live in a van?” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lanman
: Having the realization that I didn’t have to be performing in arenas in order for me to be able to live the dream of being a full time musician. The moment I quit compromising the life I wanted and sold everything to live into a van and pursue music full time is a moment I’ll mark as one of the great treasures of my lifetime.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lanman
: That’s a scary question! I think I would because I believe our fates aren’t set in stone and I would take the opportunity to get the hindsight we always wish we had. Taking the leap I did and re-approaching what it means to be a ‘successful musician’ for myself meant putting more emphasis on realities instead of fantasies. I really believe that if you put in the work consistently, you’ll go farther than you could have ever imagined. If things didn’t go as planned in the future I would want to know why, so I could do something different.

But on the other hand, if you told me the future was unchangeable then I wouldn’t want to see it. The biggest lesson I’ve kept close to heart since starting this journey is to do away with expectations. Accept the losses and savor the victories but let myself enjoy the journey as it comes. As cheesy as it sounds, life really is all about the ride. If I can’t change the future then at least I have control over the present and what I choose to do with it moment to moment. For me, that freedom will always outweigh the setbacks.

The latest track from “Mosaics” drops today here!

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Listen Up

Claude Fontaine

ClaudeFontaineFeatured
Photo By: B+

Marketing a reggae-meets-bossa nova record to the masses is no easy feat in the digitally-driven world of 2019, but Los Angeles-based Claude Fontaine isn’t letting the present influence her future as she searches for inspiration in the past.

The singer/songwriter first found her creative calling while living in London and frequenting a local record store where she would listen to vintage vinyl, experiencing sounds that she had yet to be introduced to. Falling head over heels for those genres with roots planted firmly in Jamaica and Brazil, she set out to create her own throwback record, eventually returning home with a newfound musical motivation. The end result is her beautifully-crafted self-titled debut, available now on Innovative Leisure.

We recently sat down with Fontaine to discuss seeing her dream through to the end, grappling with stage fright, and why her nickname was “fantasy child” growing up.

TrunkSpace: You recently released your debut album. Do you feel pressure to make a splash with this particular collection of songs given that for many people, this will be their first introduction to you as an artist?
Fontaine: I hope that people connect to the songs, of course. But it’ll be interesting, these particular styles of music have been lost in the ether for quite some time now, so perhaps the songs will need to seep in rather than splash for people to become reacquainted.

TrunkSpace: What goals did you set for yourself when you first decided to make this album a reality and do you feel like you accomplished them now that you’ve called wrap on the writing/production side of things?
Fontaine: What was most essential for me throughout was to stick to a dream I saw very clearly from day one, and to figure out how to translate that dream into something real. Sometimes that meant a few attempts in certain areas, and there was a lot of experimentation along the way. After all, it was my first time approaching this kind of music and it was a significant learning process. I was lucky enough to have a producer who has a great understanding and affection for the genres as well, and he supported my relentlessness to make the record sound like it was perhaps something lost long ago. Through trial and error I hope we got pretty close.

TrunkSpace: Some amazing session players stepped in to work on the album. What did you learn from them and their collective experience, either through asking questions or observing from across the room?
Fontaine: What I was most inspired by was the otherworldly spontaneity of their imagination. The freedom and inventiveness they were able to channel through their musicality is something I’ll always aspire to and was truly moving to watch.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fontaine: Holding the record in my hands. I made this album with the intention of it living on vinyl one day. Two definitive sides, Reggae on side A, Bossa on side B. From having a mere idea, to touching a round piece of wax, a relic of sorts, that preserves the stories close to my heart, I think that’s been the most fulfilling.

TrunkSpace: The album has been called a love letter to classic Reggae and Brazilian music. Do you think your next album will have the same feel and vibe, or will it be a completely different take on a completely different set of sub-genres?
Fontaine: I feel I’ve barely chipped the ice. There’s so much I have yet to explore in both styles. Though I’ve done a lot of my homework, both genres still feel so relatively new to me. The love letters have only just begun.

TrunkSpace: Would 10-year-old Claude be surprised by this album? Would your past self have anticipated this musical path?
Fontaine: I’ve been a passionate and imaginative person my whole life, deeply inspired by the outside world from a young age. My parents nickname for me growing up was “fantasy child”. I was always dreaming, so this album feels quite in line.

TrunkSpace: Where are you most at home in your creativity? What conditions – external and internal – do you need to be able to sit down and write?
Fontaine: At home, in a certain stillness; almost a meditative quiet. Typically with tea by my side. I wrote this whole record at my breakfast table, paper and pen in hand. Always by hand.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Fontaine: I would say in my live show. I’m prone to crippling stage fright. It’s something I’m working through but being a shy person, it’s where I’m most critical of myself as an artist.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Fontaine: Signing with my label and receiving the opportunity and creative freedom to make the record I sought out to make. I’m still pinching myself.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fontaine: I don’t believe I would. The unexpected is what I find makes life most exciting. Plus the future has never intrigued me as much as the past.

Claude Fontaine’s debut album is available now on Innovative Leisure.

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