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June 2019

Wingman Wednesday

Dash Williams

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Photo By: The Riker Brothers/Grooming By: Michelle Harvey

Being funny for a living is no laughing matter, especially when you can back it up with some serious dramatic chops. For young multi-hyphenate Dash Williams, who can currently be seen starring in the new Epix series “Perpetual Grace LTD,” acting may be his calling, but comedy is the ultimate tool in his performance toolbox.

When I act it’s helpful to be able to think quickly and comedy helps me do that,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Williams to discuss establishing himself in the industry at such a young age, why the Epix ensemble is so epic, and the reason its best not to overthink the jobs he takes on.

TrunkSpace: You’re a comedian. You’re an actor. Are they the same road on your journey or are they two separate paths that lead in different directions? How do you view the two facets of your career?
Williams: I think they definitely service each other. The skills that I use when I act transfer over. When I act it’s helpful to be able to think quickly and comedy helps me do that.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting since you were three years old. At what point in your journey as an actor do you think you understood that this creative avenue was one that you’d stick with and make a career out of?
Williams: I’ve been acting my whole life and I’ve always known that I would make a career out of acting. Acting has always been my go-to creative avenue to express myself.

TrunkSpace: You’ve also been doing improv since you were seven years old. Which of your interests – acting and comedy – do you think has been more difficult to gain respect in based on your age at the time of entry? Was one been more difficult than the other in terms of establishing yourself?
Williams: I think comedy has developed a lot since I started doing it. I started to feel established when I became a part of the first teen class at UCB. Age is less of a factor in other areas of performance because they’ve been around for longer.

TrunkSpace: As someone who is used to working in front of both an audience and a camera, does the method in which you work differ based on the environment you’re performing in? Would we see a different Dash on the set of a series than we would in a comedy club?
Williams: Performing in front of an audience is different in that I get a reaction immediately and can tune what I’m doing based on that reaction. When I am on set I have to trust that what I’m doing is good because there isn’t an audience there to give me that type of reaction.

TrunkSpace: You’re working alongside an amazing cast in your new series “Perpetual Grace LTD.” Do you view your time on a project like this as much of a learning experience as you do a job, especially when you’re surrounded by so many accomplished performers?
Williams: I take every chance that I get to perform as a learning experience but especially when I’m working with great actors like Jimmi Simpson. Being in scenes with Jimmi and the rest of our ensemble was an amazing experience.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, it’s always important to live in the moment, but when you’re working on such a big show like “Perpetual Grace LTD” or your other series “Fresh Off the Boat,” is it hard not to see them as career game changers? How do you stay grounded in the moment and not think, “This is a job that will lead to bigger and better things in the future?”
Williams: As an actor you learn to stop thinking of jobs in terms of what they will do for your career because you never really know. When I first booked “Fresh Off the Boat” I was only supposed to be on it for one episode. This one episode part turned into a multi-season part, and there was no way to predict that.

TrunkSpace: For the audience the final product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project we’d imagine that it goes much further than that. What is something from your time working on “Perpetual Grace LTD” that you’ll take with you through the rest of your life and career?
Williams: I will always remember how supportive our set was. The creator of the show, Steve Conrad, is full of trust and respect, not just for the cast and crew but for the audience as well. He’s a genius and such an interesting new voice in television.

Photo By: The Riker Brothers/Grooming By: Michelle Harvey

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far… a total “pinch me” moment?
Williams: The most recent highlight was after the “Perpetual Grace LTD” premiere when I got to talk to Sir Ben Kingsley about the show. It was also just incredible to sit in the theatre and watch the audience’s reaction.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you and said, “Dash, here is a blank check… go out and greenlight anything you want for yourself,” what kind of project would you put into production and why?
Williams: I would probably greenlight a sketch show in America with some of my favorite British comedians that I feel are under appreciated here.

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?
Williams: I don’t think I would because I enjoy watching my career unfold.

Perpetual Grace LTD” airs Sundays on Epix.

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Musical Mondaze

The Dollyrots

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Sadness. Regret. Contemplation. Happiness.

These were just a few of the ingredients that went into making The Dollyrots seventh studio album, “Daydream Explosion,” which is set for release on July 12 via Wicked Cool Records. For bassist and frontwoman Kelly Ogden (one half of the punk-pop duo that also features her husband Luis Cabezas), the record was a difficult one to make as she looked to find her creative footing amidst personal tragedy, but in the end, she believes that the songs speak for themselves.

I honestly, truly… and I know that people always say this… but I do think it’s our best work yet,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Ogden to discuss keeping it fresh, creating something outside of themselves, and finding time to write when life has other ideas.

TrunkSpace: “Daydream Explosion” will be the seventh full-length for The Dollyrots. Are there still firsts for you each time you head into the studio or hit the road?
Ogden: For sure. I mean, honestly, this record feels kind of new in a lot of different ways. We released our first album on our own and got picked up by Lookout! Records, so we did the label thing and then our next two were on Blackheart Records, and then we started the DIY route. So, we’ve been releasing our records through crowdsource campaigns for the past, I think, five albums. We started this one the same way. We did a pre-order through PledgeMusic and we were in a studio in Minnesota – which is also a first – Pachyderm Studios. It’s just this epic place outside of Minneapolis where some of our favorite 90s records were recorded. “In Utero,” for example. Some Babes in Toyland. Soul Asylum. Just some really, really awesome records. So, we were in the studio and we were ready to get started for the day and we get an email from Billboard, just being like, “Hey, you guys want to make a comment? Are you pulling your project from PledgeMusic or what?” And we were like, “What? What are you talking about? Our campaign is going great. No. What’s happening?” Because we had been in the studio for a week at that point, so we just were not really in the real world. So, at that point, we had to rethink how we were going to make this record and we had been doing it the same way for, like I said, the past five albums. We ended up having to pull the plug on our Pledge campaign, which, fortunately, happened before we had reached 100%, so our fans hadn’t been charged. We made out relatively unscathed, or, our fans made out unscathed. And then we just moved it over to a Shopify store where we were doing it and sent our roughs over to Wicked Cool Records, which is run by Little Steven of E Street Band. We were like, “Hey, you guys want to take a listen? What do you think? You think that we could get some airplay?” And they got back to us immediately and they were like, “Let’s just put it out on Wicked Cool.”

So, we’re in very new territory. We recorded in a snowstorm in Minnesota at Pachyderm Studio. Finally we’re putting it out with a record label, which we haven’t done in a really, really long time. It all feels kind of shiny and exciting. And musically, it’s definitely a bit of a different album, I think, for us.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the history of Pachyderm. When you’re creating in a space like that, does it translate creatively to what you’re doing? Does it feel different being in a space where so many great people created?
Ogden: It does. I think it’s like when you go to your state capital building or you go into any sort of historic place. This is a rock and roll historic place. It still has a vibe and I think all the experiences that happen inside of a place, somehow there must be little bits and pieces still hanging out in some way. We couldn’t not acknowledge the fact that some of our favorite rock stars slept in the bedroom that we slept in, and swam in the pool drunk after their sessions at night, and made snacks in the same kitchen, and made epic records in that studio. So, it does bring something outside of ourselves when we go to different places. It was exciting for us. We’ve had the privilege of recording in a lot of really cool studios, but this one was one that we had wanted to go to since we were young kids learning how to play guitar, listening to all those bands’ records.

TrunkSpace: Do albums start to feel like chapters of your life, especially with seven under your belt? Does it feel like you’re looking back at yearbooks?
Ogden: It does, definitely. I go back and listen and I can remember the feeling of the songs, and what we were doing, and the shows that we were playing. I think, probably for fans, it’s the same way. When I listen to music from when I was 17 – which is all the time I will admit – it does make me remember the time back then. So, I think, as much as it is for me, I feel like it probably is for our fans too… just a way to kind of go back in time a little bit and remember how it used to feel.

The last few have been kind of wild for us because with “Barefoot and Pregnant” I was pregnant with our first kid. “Whiplash Splash,” I was pregnant with our second kid. This one, I am not pregnant. Woo-hoo. (Laughter)

But I do have a whole new life experience being a mother and we bring our little kids on tour. People say, “When you have kids you’re going to see life through their eyes.” It’s totally true. I was getting kind of sick of touring. It was just the same thing all the time. It was exhausting. We were drinking too much. I was just kind of feeling like it wasn’t positive in the ways that it used to be. I still loved getting to see all of our fans and I loved performing on stage, but it didn’t have the magic anymore that it had before we kind of burned ourselves into the ground for a while. So, now that we have kids, we tour in a different way and part of it is about sharing the experience with them and them getting to meet all of our friends across the States and England, even parts of Europe now. It definitely is a different experience.

And writing this record, for better or worse, was definitely a struggle in some ways and a gift in others. My dad passed away the week of Christmas. We had booked Pachyderm for the third week in January and Luis and I are very skilled procrastinators, so I think we had about seven songs under our belt and we wanted to have at least 18 demoed out and tracked before we got to the studio to finish working on them with our producer, John Fields. So, my dad died and he had been sick for a while, but we certainly weren’t expecting it right then. He had been doing really good. It was the holidays, and we went out to eat a couple days before and everything seemed okay. We had kind of planned on having that break, where we had extra help from the family and stuff to watch the kids to write this record, and that didn’t happen because I couldn’t really function. So we were definitely cramming. We have a studio in our backyard and we put the kids to bed, put the monitor on, and we would just come back here and pray for inspiration. We would just start playing. Luis would start playing something on the guitar, and I would just pray that a melody would pop into my head and then words, and somehow it did, over and over and over again. And I feel like the result is something that’s a little bit outside of ourselves. It’s outside of our normal lyrics and melody – just everything. I honestly, truly… and I know that people always say this… but I do think it’s our best work yet.

And I don’t think it’s our best work because it’s overcomplicated or we’re playing our best. I just think that the music is very inspired and it still has the same spirit that it should. It’s just really good.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like part of that was because emotionally you were dealing with so much that the music kind of became an outlet, in a way?
Ogden: Yeah, I think it definitely did. Any time you have a life experience like that I think that you’re super tapped into your emotions. And it wasn’t that it was all sad emotions. It was a lot of happy emotions, some regretful emotions, and a lot of looking back and reliving great things too. It definitely did help.

I hope our next record will just be real boring, though. No birth. No death. Just a nice boring kids record or something. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You had “Whiplash Splash” drop in 2017. You put out an album with Jaret Reddick, “Sittin’ In A Tree,” earlier this year. And now you have “Daydream Explosion” coming out in less than a month. If you look at the last few years as a whole, has this been a particularly fertile year for songwriting for you?
Ogden: Yeah, I think so. Because Luis is my husband and my band mate, for us I feel like before we had kids we thought that we were busy. And now that we have kids, we realize how precious time is and how little time we have to sit and ponder a guitar melody or a word in a phrase of a song. I think now we move more quickly and with purpose. We don’t have time to overthink anymore. I did that record with Jaret and it was the same thing. We just wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and when we felt like there were enough songs, then we went for it and recorded them. But, there isn’t a whole lot of second guessing or pondering at this point in life, it’s just a lot of forward movement because it has to be.

TrunkSpace: Has the focus or inspiration of your writing changed since having kids? Do you find yourself going, “Okay, they’re really going to dig this song,” and move forward with something that you maybe wouldn’t have prior to being a mother?
Ogden: I think not so much in the writing yet because when Luis and I write… we’ve been together since we were 17, so a lot of our writing still stems from our youthful love. I don’t really know how else to say it. Maybe it could also be called immature and codependent. (Laughter) That’s what we have to write with. Yeah, we’re parents now and all that, but when we get to do music it’s when we really get to be ourselves together again without the kids.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your youthful love. Do you believe in creative soulmates and is that how it is for you and Luis where there is a connection on an artistic level as well?
Ogden: I think Luis and I were both artistic as teenagers. We both were painting all the time and we both did a lot of writing. We were good students too. We ended up going to school for science, but we went to a liberal arts school that was very artistic based. And I think both of us love music and art and all those things. That said, we do create awesome art together, but it’s not easy. I would say it’s one of the more difficult parts of our relationship, I think, because it’s hard. It’s hard to do. We’ve written with outside writers here and there. When we were on Blackheart Records, after “Because I’m Awesome” came out, there’s that whole pressure because it was like, “’Because I’m Awesome’ is almost a hit – almost a Top 40 radio hit. Next record, you’re going to do it!” And so we wrote with all these people and that was a different experience because it was like a person in there with the two of us. But not until I started writing with Jaret Reddick on the duets album had I just written songs with somebody not Luis in the room. And that was really, really easy. Jaret and I have been friends for over a decade now. Luis and I lived on tour buses with Bowling for Soup for a lot of those touring years there. So, he’s kind of like a brother. He’s definitely one of my best friends in the world and I think because there is no personal baggage and all the history and all of the things like, “Well, I need to make lunch for tomorrow, I need to go clean up dinner, I need to switch the laundry over,” I’m not thinking about those things when I’m writing with Jaret. But when Luis and I write together it’s like our whole life is still in the room. It’s not really an outlet, so it is kind of difficult. I think some of our biggest fights have been around songwriting.

TrunkSpace: Because it’s tough to turn off life, right? You can’t flick that switch.
Ogden: Yeah. And some days I just really don’t feel like doing it either, but we have to push each other and try and get each other to that place. And Luis, he’s definitely the more aggressive component of The Dollyrots and so he likes to get a little bit more amped up in his writing and that is not the way I like to write. I like it to be easy, cool, natural, floating down from the ether. So, we do butt heads sometimes depending on the style of song that we’re writing. If we’re writing more aggressive songs, like “City of Angels,” he’s like, “You’re softening it. You’re softening it. I want it to be this.” So, that is a struggle.

TrunkSpace: When all is said and done and you hang up your bass guitar, what do you hope your legacy is? What do you want to be remembered for musically?
Ogden: Definitely a girl onstage with an instrument playing music that is not a terrible influence. I hope that I inspire people to do something artistic, whether they’re kids or grownups. I’ve had a lot of adults say, “I feel like without seeing you up there, I wouldn’t have tried to learn an instrument.” And I’m like, “You can do it. It’s not hard. Learn our songs. You can totally do this.” So, I just really want people to feel encouraged to try and find a way to have an outlet. And more than anything, our music is just there to make people feel better. We’re political people. We are deep people, emotionally, but we try to keep the music in a place where you can listen to it and it can make you feel better. If you really want to look deeply into our lyrics then it can make you feel terrible too, but at least on the surface we want to be a feelgood thing in people’s lives and so we try and keep it at that.

Daydream Explosion” drops July 12 on Wicked Cool Records. Their latest single, “I Know How to Party” is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

Edan Archer

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It’s not always easy for an artist to find their place in the universe. They create, but at the same time, can’t help but wonder for what purpose, and, if the artistic contributions they’re making will leave their mark. For singer-songwriter Edan Archer, this is an internal struggle that she can’t help return to as she gears up to release her latest album, “Journey Proud,” set to drop on August 2.

I think someone’s art is kind of like their face – some may find it pleasing, some may not, some prefer different features, but we can’t always change our face to match what people like,” she shares in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Archer to discuss journey-prouding, the impact of a space on a recording, and why the life of an independent artist can take its toll.

TrunkSpace: You’re set to release your new album, “Journey Proud,” on August 2. What emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to unleash new material onto the world?
Archer: I think the most common emotion is the feeling of worthiness, and wondering if what I’m contributing to the community is ‘good enough.’ Those feelings can be paralyzing for an artist, both while they’re creating art and while they’re releasing it to the world, and I think it’s important to work on compartmentalizing. I think someone’s art is kind of like their face – some may find it pleasing, some may not, some prefer different features, but we can’t always change our face to match what people like. We can just try to accept what we are and what we produce, and keep trying to improve.

TrunkSpace: Playing off the title of the album… what are you most proud of by way of your journey in bringing “Journey Proud” into existence?
Archer: I’m a bit hesitant about the album title because I know a lot of people will interpret the “proud” in the traditional sense, where I’m actually using a more archaic and idiosyncratic interpretation to mean is less self-congratulatory. The feeling of being journey-proud used to refer to being so nervous and excited about a venture or trip that it was hard to sleep or even to eat. It’s that feeling a kid might have the day before they go on vacation, or soon after arriving, where you just can’t go to sleep yet because you’re still going on adrenaline and still journey-proud from traveling. I’ve since discovered that it’s an obscure phrase that I’ll likely spend a lot of time explaining! (Laughter) But that’s okay. For me, it refers to the feeling of creating something and embarking on a trip that lasts a lifetime, that of being a musician. The ultimate destination is a place inside myself, where I approach the “journey” or “work” of life with a happy heart and am not dissuaded by the challenges I might encounter.

TrunkSpace: The album was recorded at two different studios, Atomic Sound in Brooklyn, NY and Magnetic Sound in Nashville, Tennessee. Does a space play into how you can feel and emote when laying down tracks? Do the surroundings impact the music itself?
Archer: The space definitely affects the feel and sound of the recordings. The New York sessions had a New York band, and we all went in together and laid down six songs in three days, which was a lot for us, considering we hadn’t played together before. There was some work done with tempos and vibes, and the fact that there was a big room where we could all see each other through our various isolation booths meant that we could really play ‘together.’ Some of the vocals are done live, and some were done quickly, while the rest of the band took a break. Atomic Sound is an amazing space that has a lot of rock cred, and it was an honor to record there.

The Nashville sessions came later when I realized I wanted to release a full album instead of an EP. So I found a sweet, chill spot and was really able to take my time and kind of add to the songs the way I wanted. The Nashville players were also fantastic and really nailed the honky-tonk vibe, and the studio felt like a second home where I brought my dog and just got into a relaxed space. I think the album sounds cohesive and that the songs go together, but I can also feel the different energies between the two sessions.

TrunkSpace: For first-time listeners, what would they learn about you as a person and as an artist in sitting down to listen to “Journey Proud” in its entirety?
Archer: Hmmm… I think a few things are quite clear from the album. It’s apparent that I feel things deeply, and more strongly than I would like to. That’s something I struggle with. It’s clear that I’ve had troubles with love, with alcohol, and with feelings of belonging in the world. I think a bit of my cheekiness comes across as well – I like to play and tease a bit – and I hope the listener would sense my honesty and find something similar to their life experiences, and maybe in the very least realize that other people experience those feelings too. I end the album with “Little Birds,” which is a more spiritual take on this life’s illusions and finding peace with the seemingly endless dissatisfaction of existence in the simplicity of nature. I think of it as a bit of a lullaby, after the journey of the album.

TrunkSpace: We love great lyrics here… the kind that linger in our heads for days after our first listen. What is a particular piece of writing from “Journey Proud” that you’re particularly happy with and why?
Archer: That’s a tricky one! So sometimes I might feel proud of a clever turn of phrase, that makes me seem smart or something. But the most meaningful and lasting are the lines that I feel describe simply and truthfully what I wanted to describe. A rhyme can make that more powerful, almost like a spell or an incantation, and our brain might hold onto it for longer. I’m not sure which lyric will resonate with listeners, it probably depends on what they’re going through and what they need to hear.

TrunkSpace: You grew up in a musical family. Do you think that your passion for music comes from the creative nurturing of your mother and father? Would you be writing, recording and performing today if it weren’t for your upbringing?
Archer: I think people with internal struggles, like my depression and anxiety, are often drawn to art as a way of processing the sensory input of life. It’s likely that I would have developed some form of creative expression – but I’m too clumsy to be a dancer and have the worst drawing skills ever, so I’m not sure! I do think that with so many distractions in life if a child isn’t raised around music, they are less likely to seek it out, and go through the frustrating aspects of actually learning to play. (Which isn’t fun at first!) I do think that growing up the way I did made it easy to seek out music when I needed it, and to apply my own creative impulses, and to continue in the musical tradition in which I was raised.

Photo By: Starr Sarriego/Hair & Makeup By: Luisa Franco

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Archer: The hardest thing for me is to justify spending my time and resources on what some may consider a trivial pursuit. The financial, emotional, and physical challenges of being an independent artist take a lot of courage to meet. I feel like people do have judgments about artists, and I internalize that and often judge myself harshly for the life I’ve chosen. I’ve chosen not to have children, and traveling takes me away from my family often at critical times, so those are all sacrifices I’ve made for abstraction and artistic fulfillment. If at the end of my life, someone asks me if it was worth it, I’d say I couldn’t even answer because what is “worth”? I’ve had to live according to my own little principles, and hope that I leave something meaningful behind.

TrunkSpace: What is the first song you ever wrote and do you, A.) still perform it, and B.) what did that song say about who you were at the time of its creation?
Archer: Good lord, no! (Laughter) The first song I wrote I was about four, and it was on the piano in the pentatonic scale… you know, the black keys. It had imagery I took from church and was about dying and being reincarnated. It was called “Pray My Life” and said, “Wave the palm over, for I once lived.” I do not play it but I still remember it because my family teases me about my seriousness and how I would sing that song but couldn’t pronounce my Rs.

TrunkSpace: Would 12-year-old Edan be surprised by the artist her future self has become?
Archer: I think the 12-year-old me would recognize myself completely. I still play guitar, write on the guitar and piano, I still have the same Appalachian, Irish and alt-rock motifs. I can still play a show all by myself, which just means that I keep my music pretty close to organic and to my original roots. I’m closer to where I started now than I was a few years ago, when I was still exploring jazz and Latin rhythms. In a way, I’ve come full circle. I think it was Picasso who said it took him a lifetime to paint like a child. I’m no Picasso, but I see a glimpse of what he means – to strip away all of our excess and pretense and come to the root of who we are. I’m trying for that now.

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?
Archer: I remind myself every day that I’m not doing what I’m doing because of any assumption of how I think my journey will end. I can only do what I feel overwhelmingly compelled to do, so that when I’m on my deathbed I know I tried to produce what I wanted to produce, and honored the bit of talent that the universe gave me. But hell, ask me again next week.

Journey Proud” drops August 2. Archer’s latest single, “Six Wing Angel,” is available now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Benjamin Charles Watson

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

For an actor, joining an existing series can be a daunting task, but any nerves Benjamin Charles Watson had upon signing up for Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” quickly vanished after the first day of filming. As confident digital officer Dontae Evans, the Jamaican-born actor’s emergence into the political thriller came at a time when the series was transitioning from ABC to its new home, Netflix. While many of the original cast members remain (Kiefer Sutherland, for example, still plays President Thomas Kirkman), many new faces have been hired on at the fictional White House, making Watson’s arrival a welcome addition to the ever-growing on-set family.

I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.”

We recently sat down with Watson to discuss how the current political climate impacts the show, its newfound realism, and his “Snowpiercer” future.

TrunkSpace: You joined the latest season of “Designated Survivor” as digital officer Dontae Evans. Were there nerves joining the cast of an established series with the on-set tone already in place, even with the show making the leap to its new home Netflix?
Watson: I was absolutely scared to join a team that had already established itself with its audience. Being the new guy, I had to carefully study the first two seasons in order to match the tone. After the first day of filming, my nerves disappeared because I had the opportunity to work with actors I’ve always wanted to work with. I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years. But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that, is there also something exciting about joining a series that already has an established audience, knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting for it when the episodes eventually air?
Watson: It was very exciting joining a show that has such a fan base, but at the same time it made me nervous. This show is filled with characters that are dearly loved by its audiences and some characters didn’t return for Season 3. As a new member of the team, I had to make sure my character would be loved and accepted as a new member of the West Wing. And I think it was accomplished. Also, Dontae on the team will bring a fresh audience that has never experienced the show.

TrunkSpace: While you’re new to the series, tonally, has anything changed given that there are no longer the same restrictions with the content given its new home? Is it grittier than what people will recall from its time on ABC?
Watson: I think after leaving ABC and finding its new home on Netflix, the show has gotten better. We’re able to push boundaries a bit further and also explore real topics that affect the American people. I find that the show is a lot more realistic and engaging. We parallel some real-world events and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

TrunkSpace: There are some heavy hitters in the cast. As an actor, do you view an experience like this – and any experience really – just as much of a learning experience as you do a job? Can you take a role like Dontae Evans and apply the time on set to future roles/jobs?
Watson: This show was a huge learning experience as an actor. Getting the opportunity to watch Kiefer Sutherland work, was absolutely phenomenal. He’s such a master craftsman and sharing screen time with him on a one-on-one basis was exhilarating. I understand what it takes to be an actor at his caliber, and it was fascinating to watch him work. He was an incredible scene partner and absolutely a dream to work opposite.

Dontae is a lot stronger than I am in real life. He fully knows who he is as a person and is unapologetic about it. I’ve taken Dontae and applied him to my real-life, including auditions. He is strong, confident, fearless and wears his heart on his sleeve. He taught me a lot about life and how to become the person I truly desire to become.

TrunkSpace: We’re living in a very politically-focused time right now, particularly here in the United States. Does a show like “Designated Survivor” benefit creatively during a period of such uncertainty and unrest because so many people are attuned to what is going on around them? Does the attention on real-life politics spill over into the fictional world?
Watson: With the political uncertainty happening in the USA right now, I think it works amazingly for the show. This show gets the audience to look at the inside of The White House from a point of view they’ve never seen. This season, we’ve touched on so many real-world events that many individuals don’t necessarily know about stateside and abroad.

TrunkSpace: For the audience the final product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project we’d imagine that it goes much further than that. What is something from your time working on “Designated Survivor” that you’ll take with you through the rest of your life and career?
Watson: The thing I will take away from working on “Designated Survivor” is knowing that I’ve done the work and trusting that life I’ve prepared for my character will show up once the director calls “Action!” Also, just knowing and trusting myself and being confident in my abilities. I remember having a rough time on a scene and Julie White, who plays Lorraine Zimmer, saw how badly I was beating myself up and she told me that it’s okay and I know what I’m doing so just be easy on myself. After this pep talk, I attacked this scene in a completely different way and I’m happy I had her to calm me down.

TrunkSpace: When you receive a new script on a project that you’re working on – in this case “Designated Survivor” – what are you most excited to discover when reading about your character’s latest narrative progression? Is it his overall arc? Is it a great piece of dialogue? What are the most intriguing aspects for you personally about reading a new script for the first time?
Watson: Whenever we got a new script I’m so intrigued to discover more about Dontae’s arc throughout the episode and how it affects his overall objective goal. Dontae’s biggest reveal is that he’s HIV positive and I had no idea until I received and read the script! It blew my mind because I was so excited to research and explore the aspects of living with a disease that affect a lot of individuals, including African American men, and has been stigmatized for a long time. As an actor, I love researching every aspect of my character and knowing him fully from early childhood to his current life.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

TrunkSpace: You’re also set to star in the small screen adaptation of “Snowpiercer” for TNT. This is a show that people are very excited about. For those fans of the film, what can they expect when they see the series air later this year, and how your character Brakeman Fuller falls into things?
Watson: I’ve been a huge fan of “Snowpiercer” for such a long time! The fans can expect something out of this world. You’re going to be drawn into a world that is chaotic and extreme, but full of heart and hope.

Brakeman Fuller is obedient, but he’s a bit weak and a follower. He’s primarily seen with John Osweiler (played by Sam Otto). The thing about Brakeman Fuller is that when the going gets tough, he’s not down to fight.

TrunkSpace: What is a character that you portrayed – even as a guest spot – that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Watson: I had a guest spot on “Travelers” and I wish I had more time to explore my character Lars. The episode was entitled “17 Minutes” and we see my character basically crying because one of his best friends dies. I just wish I had more time to explore the dynamic and greater inner work of Lars, especially his relationship with his best friends.

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?
Watson: Time machine! I’m not sure if I’d jump into the future 10 years. I’d be worried that by entering the future, I’d change the trajectory of my path by viewing it. What if by looking into the future, that the specific timeline would be changed? What if I saw myself and then I’d have to explain to myself who I was? Too many possibilities. But if I do go into the future and don’t like what I see, I would probably come back to the past and work diligently to change my future. SOOOOO, MAYBE I WOULD…

Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” is available now on Netflix.

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Opening Act

Luke Hogan

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Artist: Luke Hogan

Socials: Facebook/Instagram

Hometown: Portland, OR

TrunkSpace: You built the studio that you ultimately recorded your album in. Walk us through what that initial moment was like when you went from starting out in that space as a carpenter to returning to it as a singer-songwriter? Did it feel like you had traveled full circle?
Hogan: It was really cool to get to work in a space I had created, and with the person I had created it with. (Tomas Dolas, “Thank You Stranger” producer.) Anyone who’s ever been to a recording studio can appreciate how important it is to be comfortable with the space and the people you’re working with – I certainly had that luxury this time around. Also, it was fun to pop by when other bands were working in there – everyone seemed to really enjoy working in the studio we made.

TrunkSpace: As we mentioned, you’re a carpenter by trade. At this point, as you gear up to release your debut album, do you still see yourself as a carpenter first? Has there been an internal transition for you in terms of how you see yourself as your focus has changed?
Hogan: I am really trying my best to make the transition to seeing myself as a musician first as we speak – mostly it’s just been reflected in my paycheck – but I am spending way more time on music stuff, booking, gigging more, etc. The process of putting out this first record has forced me to focus on things like that. Right now it kinda feels like I have two part-time jobs.

TrunkSpace: How long had “Thank You Stranger” been itching to get out of you? Was this a long and winding journey for you to see the album become a reality?
Hogan: I certainly wouldn’t argue with that characterization. Some of these songs have been around for a really long time – “Nothing Special,” the closing track, is from 2004. But there are also newer songs on the record that didn’t exist when we started recording, so I’m glad we didn’t rush. Moving across the country to LA, then back home, then back to LA, then up to the Northwest, with plenty of detours along the way, all these events were part of the process of making and putting out this record. So yes, I suppose it has been a bit of an adventure. And it’s still actually not out yet…

TrunkSpace: For first-time listeners, what would they learn about you as a person and as an artist in sitting down to listen to “Thank You Stranger” in its entirety?
Hogan: Hopefully they don’t just think I’m some sad bastard. I think overall this record is really about trying to find your place, which is something most people can identify with, so ideally listeners would be able to find some common ground there. Hopefully they hear somebody who’s trying his best to make it all fit together in an honest and thoughtful way.

TrunkSpace: You have said that you connect with records on a very personal level. As someone who builds those connections with music, is there something kind of thrilling to putting an album out into the world knowing that you could be paying that same feeling forward – someone could be connecting to your music in the very same way?
Hogan: For sure, that’s really the point for me. I really enjoy writing, performing and recording but the end goal is to create something that people connect with. If there was some kid in high school who was just starting to write songs and he took influence from my record, that would be amazing.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Thank You Stranger” and how it all came together in the end?
Hogan: I’m really proud of all the people who helped make this record a reality, whether they played on it, made artwork for it, produced it, whatever – everyone did an amazing job and for very little compensation, if any at all. They know who they are. In terms of the record itself, it definitely feels to me like it tells a story, and certainly captures a very transformative period of my life. I’m really happy with the variety of instrumentation as well – some songs are full band, some more minimal. I think we really used the studio and all that it had to offer to its full potential. Right now, at least, it really feels like I made the record I wanted to make.

TrunkSpace: If you weren’t on your current path with “Thank You Stranger,” would creating music still be a part of your life, even if you weren’t sharing the results with people like you are now?
Hogan: Definitely, music was always more than just a hobby even when I was just writing songs at home and not really sharing them with anyone. It’s always been a big part of how I identify myself.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Hogan: It’s always been my goal to excel as a lyricist, so I suppose that’s where I am hardest on myself, but really the whole writing process is what I take the most seriously. But part of taking your writing seriously also involves trying not to take it too seriously, so there’s always that.

TrunkSpace: Music is a passion. Carpentry is a passion. Do the two ever intersect for you? Is there anything about the two – crafting something out of nothing – that excites the same part of your brain?
Hogan: Yes, obviously building Studio 22 and making this record there is a very literal example of the two intersecting, but on another level, for two things that are such a big part of one’s life it would be foolish not to expect them to intersect in many other ways, even ways you don’t necessarily see play out before your eyes. It would be interesting to find out which parts of the brain are excited by more physical, concrete creativity (like carpentry), as opposed to more abstract creativity, and if they overlap at all.

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?
Hogan: At this point, I think I’m all in, so yes. I’m hoping for the best.

Thank You Stranger” will be available this Fall. Hogan’s latest single, “Windowpane,” is available now.

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Sit and Spin

Robin Alice’s Here & There

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Artist: Robin Alice

Album: Here & There

Reason We’re Cranking It: Fans of the “Pitch Perfect” franchise will recognize Kelley Jakle, who appeared as Jessica in all three films, but it is her powerful vocals and the range in which she displays that impeccable skill set that makes us wish this EP was a full-length so that we could enjoy even more of the Robin Alice experience.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Americana with a melodic pop, the duo – which in addition to Jakle also features the guitar work of Jeff “Horti” Hortillosa – write with systematic synergy, a natural pairing that seems to be glued together by an artistic attraction, or, creative love at first sight. The future is always uncertain, but if these two stay the course and keep writing together, the possibilities in what they can accomplish together are limitless.

Track Stuck On Repeat: Patsy Cline laced with soul, “Late Bloomer” is actually the exact opposite, flowering from the first note all the way through to the last. Jakle’s emotion can be felt in each line that she delivers, making us not only hear what she is singing, but feel it at the same time.

And that means…

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Opening Act

Cosmo Gold

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Artist: Cosmo Gold

Socials: Facebook/Instagram/Twitter

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Members: Emily Gold, Peter Maffei, Stephen Burns, Mike Deluccia

TrunkSpace: Your debut EP was released on June 7. Did the band feel any pressure in delivering on the songs in a way that served as the best possible introduction of Cosmo Gold to the masses? Did that “This is our first impression…” focus ever trickle into the process?
Gold: Naturally, we wanted to make a good impression but when we initially began the writing process we didn’t even know we were going to be starting over as a “new” band. This project evolved from my previous band, Velvet, and the songs just seemed to organically become this other thing. So I’m not sure we would have done anything different if it had been, say, our second or third release. However, I think track listing and choosing the order of the singles was subject to that focus.

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what do you think someone might learn about Cosmo Gold through the music itself?
Gold: I think the wide variety of our influences will come through.

TrunkSpace: What would your 10-year-old self think about the EP? Would she be surprised by the musical journey you’ve traveled thus far as an adult?
Gold: I would be proud of how far my musicianship has come but I’m not sure I’d be surprised. I loved super lush, dramatic kind of arrangements even as a kid and would make Garageband tracks in middle school using all the strings, drum loops, etc. It was basically a primordial version of how I like to make music now.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to Cosmo Gold songs, are they ever truly finished? Is what we hear on “Waiting On The City” the same version of the songs we’d hear in a live setting a year from now, or do you find yourselves always tinkering and tweaking?
Gold: Who knows! Always open to growth if a better musical choice bubbles up through performance or if we had different resources or sonic limitations. If we somehow played the Hollywood Bowl, for example, you bet your ass I’m getting a full orchestra and choir with like three extra guitar players.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Gold: The final arrangements. My band and I were pretty meticulous about every element – we ripped some of the songs apart and re-recorded/rewrote parts. “Carnivore pt. I (Beautiful Day)” and “Carnivore pt. II & III” is especially fun to listen through and remember all of the choices we made. We thought about that one a lot and I’m really proud with how it turned out.

TrunkSpace: You’ve all been involved in other projects over the years. What is it about this one and its members that fuels your creative fire?
Gold: I think our commitment to communication and collaboration. We all have a say in the creative and musical direction of the band, which is both exciting and challenging. Also, we are like family. We live together and hang out all the time so it doesn’t feel like the band is separated in any way from the rest of our lives.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Gold: Live performances. If we have a weird set I have a hard time not being bummed about it. But, I now also see it as an opportunity for growth.

TrunkSpace: Many musicians say that music is a form of therapy. Is it that way for you? How has creating music helped you navigate this wild ride we call life?
Gold: Absolutely. I don’t know how people get through life without expressing themselves creatively. Writing songs is cathartic for me. It takes a complex emotion and puts it into a neat three to five minute thing that exists outside of the brain. It’s very satisfying.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far?
Gold: Working on this record.

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?
Gold: Yikes! Seems like a freaky Butterfly Effect type of situation!

Waiting On The City” is available now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Madeleine McGraw

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Photographer: JSquared Photography/Hair: Gui Schoedler/Make-up: Desirae Cherman/Stylist: Jessica Margolis

Animated Disney movies are enjoyed generation after generation, over and over again. For example, our parents watched “Cinderella” in the 1950s, and then we watched it in the 1980s, and now our kids are watching it in a different century than when it was produced. That timeless, evergreen viewing experience is not lost on 10-year-old Madeleine McGraw, who plays Bonnie in “Toy Story 4,” set to hit theaters on June 21.

I almost can’t wrap my head around it,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with McGraw to discuss how she reacted upon learning she had been cast in the fan-favorite franchise, being a part of the Marvel cinematic universe, and the kindness of her “pretend dad” Patrick Fugit.

TrunkSpace: We are huge fans of the “Toy Story” movies because there is always something for everyone in them – both kids and adults alike. Were you a fan of the movies prior to being cast, and what was your first thought when you learned that you’d be playing Bonnie?
McGraw: I was five when I booked the role of Bonnie and I had definitely seen all three “Toy Story” movies. I loved them so much! We used to drive from Northern California to Southern California a lot and I would always bring all three movies for our drives. I remember when my mom and dad told me I booked Bonnie. I ran around our house screaming! I was so excited.

TrunkSpace: Bonnie is a character who was previously established in “Toy Story 3” and then appeared in a few of their holiday specials as well. Were you nervous taking on a character who had been voiced by a previous performer? Did you have the freedom to make her your own in this latest installment?
McGraw: When I first got the audition they were definitely looking for a voice match. I listened to the talented Emily Hahn and realized Emily and I sounded similar. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially Emily. You get very attached to a character you work on for such a long time.

TrunkSpace: Disney movies like “Bambi” and “Cinderella” are more than 70 years old but are still enjoyed by kids today. Is it cool knowing that your work will be watched by people for generations to come?
McGraw: Oh my goodness… YES! I know I am only 10, but I do think about how someday my kids, or even my grandkids, will get to enjoy this amazing series of movies. I almost can’t wrap my head around it.

TrunkSpace: What was the most enjoyable aspect of getting to play Bonnie in “Toy Story 4?”
McGraw: Well, I loved getting to work with Josh Cooley (director) these past four years and I hope to work with him and Jonas Rivera (producer) again and again. They were always super supportive. I also loved getting to record at the Pixar Studios in Emeryville. It was like an extension of Disneyland. I didn’t want to leave.

TrunkSpace: Without giving away any spoilers, what are you most excited for people to see when they sit down and watch “Toy Story 4” when it hits theaters on June 21?
McGraw: I can’t wait for everyone to meet Forky and watch his adventure with the original toys.

TrunkSpace: The franchise is one that always gets plenty of merchandise tie-ins, including toys. What is it like seeing a toy based on a character that you portrayed on the big screen?
McGraw: I don’t know if they will make a Bonnie toy, but I was incredibly lucky to voice a car in “Cars 3.” I played Maddy McGear. (Named after me – Maddy McGraw.) Having a character named after me was probably one of the most incredible things that has ever happened to me. Then when I saw the cute die-cast Maddy McGear car, I cried. It was a really special moment.

TrunkSpace: You also appeared in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” portraying a young Hope Van Dyne. With the recent release of “Avengers: End Game,” what does it feel like knowing that you were a part of such a huge, international success as the Marvel cinematic universe?
McGraw: It definitely doesn’t feel real. But it does feel incredibly special. I am a HUGE Marvel Fan! My brothers have their whole room decorated in Marvel stuff. My pretend dad from “Outcast,” Patrick Fugit (we are still super close), his awesome wife, Jenny, and my whole family, always go to see all the Marvel movies together. It was so cool to take him to see “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” The whole Marvel experience is something I will never EVER forget! I still can’t believe I was a part of it. So grateful!

Photographer: JSquared Photography/Hair: Gui Schoedler/Make-up: Desirae Cherman/Stylist: Jessica Margolis

TrunkSpace: Another project that you starred in with a comic book connection is “Outcast.” Are there any characters from the world of comic books that you’d like a chance to play in the future?
McGraw: Playing Amber Barnes was such a gift. Robert Kirkman is, well, a genius. So if he came up with a new comic book character that I could play, that would be awesome. But honestly, I love Marvel so much, it would be an honor to play any of them.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
McGraw: Well, the highlight for me would definitely have to be all the amazing people I have met. Some of my closest friends and mentors in my life I have met because of acting. My friend Megan Park (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) has been such an incredible friend and mentor to me. She cast me in her directorial debut and she keeps casting me in just about anything she can. Besides directing and acting, she is such a gifted writer. I admire her so much. Meeting her and having her in my life is definitely a highlight. Same with my pretend dad from “Outcast,” Patrick Fugit, he is one of the coolest people I know. I had a tough audition recently and I asked my mom to call him and see if he could help me. He totally made space in his day to help me out. So meeting him has also been a huge highlight.

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?
McGraw: No, I would want to experience the journey as it comes. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise or work any less hard. I like having goals and working to reach them.

Toy Story 4” unwraps in theaters June 21.

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Photographer: JSquared Photography/Hair: Gui Schoedler/Make-up: Desirae Cherman/Stylist: Jessica Margolis

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Musical Mondaze

Jade Jackson

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Photo By: Matt Bizer

It’s comforting to think that we might have angels looking over us, fully prepared to step in and save us from the world and ourselves just as we’re about to teeter off of whatever ledge it is that we’re dangling from. Of course, that’s not reality, but for some, real-life angels do exist. Singer-songwriter Jade Jackson had one, and as it turned out, he looked a lot like punk rock legend and Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness.

In fact, it was Ness.

He showed up at just the right moment, swooping me away from the doubts depression was feeding my mind and helped me believe in my music again,” Jackson said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

Her latest album, “Wilderness,” was produced by Ness and is set to be released on June 28 from ANTI-.

We recently sat down with Jackson to discuss the power of vulnerability, overcoming her demons, and why being committed to your craft isn’t an easy task.

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what do you think someone might learn about you?
Jackson: Songwriting is therapeutic for me. It’s where the energies stored inside get the chance to escape and change form. Being honest about my feelings is vulnerable and vulnerability gives people the opportunity to look into who I really am.

TrunkSpace: You first decided to pursue a career in music at just 13 years old! Would 13-year-old Jade be surprised by the artist you are today?
Jackson: No. 13-year-old me had a fire in her belly that propelled me in the direction leading to where I am now.

TrunkSpace: Part of that original spark to pursue music came about after seeing Social Distortion live. Years later, it would be frontman Mike Ness who helped kick-start the path that you’re currently on. For so many people, meeting their heroes ends in heartbreak, but for you, could there have been a more serendipitous journey from where you began to where you are now?
Jackson: It’s quite the serendipitous story, isn’t it? Mike and his music inspired me to pursue my passion tirelessly. Him reaching out to work with me helped keep my dreams alive during a very dark season in my life. He showed up at just the right moment, swooping me away from the doubts depression was feeding my mind and helped me believe in my music again.

TrunkSpace: Ness has put out some amazing solo albums with a hard-crashing country twang, including one or our favorites, “Cheating at Solitaire,” released in 1999. How much did he influence your own sound, which itself has that prairie punk vibe that we can’t get enough of?
Jackson: Mike and I have the same country heroes. We bond in our love for George Jones, Buck Owens and Johnny Cash. “Cheating at Solitaire” is a brilliant work of art that’s influenced me on both a subconscious and conscious level.

TrunkSpace: Artists come and go. Some fade. Some burn out. That being said, Mike Ness has not only been active for decades, but he has been relevant as well. Did you take any advice from him, specifically about career longevity, that you’ll carry with you?
Jackson: Be patient. Be true to your art. Work hard, sweat and never stop. His career is a great model of what I want for my own. I think people underestimate the work that goes into records and touring. Mike works his ass off and cares deeply about every detail. Being that committed to your craft isn’t an easy task. I’ve learned, am learning, and will continue to learn a lot from him in the years to come.

TrunkSpace: What are you hardest on yourself about as an artist?
Jackson: There have been several shows that’ve ended with me curled up in the green room in tears, wanting to disappear. Touring wears your body, soul and spirit ragged. And it’s that imbalance mixed with a show where I feel I’ve failed to connect that allows past demons to take control and steal my peace. Those are the hardest moments for me to overcome. Overcoming them though is what makes me stronger.

Photo By: Xina Hamari

TrunkSpace: You’ll be releasing your second album “Wilderness” in late June. What emotions are you juggling with as you prepare to release it into the world? Is it difficult relinquishing control over something you’re so close to and letting the universe have its say now?
Jackson: Laying the tracks down in the studio was the hardest part. Singing my songs in an isolated booth without human connection was difficult but I’ve discovered performing those same songs live and sharing them with the world empowers me. The more honest I am about my feelings, the less I care about what people think of me.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Jackson: I’m proud of the team around me and our ability to work together to create something that feels honest and true.

TrunkSpace: Where and when are you the most creatively inspired?
Jackson: It totally varies.

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?
Jackson: No. I try not to focus on the destination. It’s difficult, but practicing being in the moment and doing the best I can with what I have at the time is most important to me.

Wilderness” is available June 28 on ANTI-.

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Musical Mondaze

Damn Tall Buildings

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Photo By: SCOTT MCCORMICK

Meeting at Berklee College of Music and cutting their collective teeth busking on the streets of Boston, the foursome that eventually became Damn Tall Buildings feel the least alone when they’re together and playing music. After a brief hiatus of physical separation, the talented musicians moved to Brooklyn, New York together and altered their focus, which rekindled their creative ambitions and lead to their latest album, “Don’t Look Down,” released independently on June 7.

If that togetherness shines for you in the recordings then you’ve gotten a pretty good glimpse of who we are,” the band stated in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Damn Tall Buildings to discuss “all” the feelings, finding an artistic connection with each other, and why striking a balance between self-care and self-sacrifice is so important.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Don’t Look Down” dropped last week. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you gear up to release new material into the world?
Damn Tall Buildings: ALL THE FEELINGS. It’s a real mix of excitement and anxiety. We’re really proud of this record and that has been stoking the fire pretty intensely. A wonderful and new-to-us aspect of this project is that the recording and a large chunk of production/distribution was made possible by two-hundred-odd backers on Kickstarter. The generosity of these fine folks refueled a desire to reach beyond the stage and do our utmost to bring everyone who’s ever been there for us a piece of our spirit they can/will want to carry with them.

TrunkSpace: What were the creative goals when you first set out to tackle the album, and now that you have some separation from it, would you say that you were able to put a check in every one of those boxes?
Damn Tall Buildings: One example of the things we faced early on was the task of finding/building/recording sonic worlds for each song, and balancing them inside this eclectic universe of an LP. It felt like Dan (Cardinal) of Dimension Sound Studios became our fifth member during the process of creating this album, and the end result feels continually good to us, which we’re taking as a good sign.

TrunkSpace: For those who are not yet familiar with the band, if they were to listen to “Don’t Look Down” for the first time, what would it tell them about who Damn Tall Buildings is as a band? How does the music itself represent its members as human beings?
Damn Tall Buildings: Our live performance is chalk full of unbridled honesty around one mic, and Dan captured that spirit masterfully. The album is home to a lot of collective truths of ours and is an honest capturing of who we were when we recorded it. Very much like how every live performance of ours is an honest display of who we are then. In the end, we’re a family. Seems to be we tend to feel the least alone when we’re playing music together. If that togetherness shines for you in the recordings then you’ve gotten a pretty good glimpse of who we are.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Damn Tall Buildings: The fact that we made it! It exists! It had been a few years since our ‘15 EP and all that time and life built up pressure to the point of us saying, “We either make this record, or we reconsider the future of the band,”

TrunkSpace: The cover art for “Don’t Look Down” is very compelling. Can you talk to us a bit about how that all came together and ultimately carried over into the visual branding for the singles as well?
Damn Tall Buildings: We had the pleasure of working with Scott McCormick down in CO. He’s the creator of some of our favorite album art (Gregory Alan Isakov, The Infamous Stringdusters, Mandolin Orange), and the idea that transformed into our cover art was among the first he’d mentioned to us. The imagery pays homage to an age old Chinese myth of Wan Hu, the first “astronaut”. The tale tells of a sixteenth-century official who (as told by George Edward Pendray/quoted on Wikipedia): “Wan decided to take advantage of China’s advanced rocket and fireworks technology to launch himself into outer space. He supposedly had a chair built with forty-seven rockets attached. On the day of lift-off, Wan, splendidly attired, climbed into his rocket chair and forty seven servants lit the fuses and then hastily ran for cover. There was a huge explosion. When the smoke cleared, Wan and the chair were gone, and was said never to have been seen again.”

We’re tickled by this example of someone who took their loftiest goal and literally shot for the stars. It feels very akin to our decision to make this record and our keen desire to do it “right” (up to our standards). Scott’s deft creativity has given the album a visual anchor that we are as proud of as we are of the music.

TrunkSpace: The band is based in Brooklyn but you got your start busking on the streets of Boston. How did that city and its scene influence the band and shape you into the artists that you are today?
Damn Tall Buildings: We all came to Boston for college (all four of us attended Berklee College of Music), but busking together is mainly what helped us find our creative voices. Boston made for a great incubator, and everyone we met during our time there has played a huge role in shaping us as players, performers and people. We are lucky enough to still get to make music with/along side some of our oldest Boston friends & influences (Twisted Pine, The Western Den, Lula Wiles, Honeysuckle just to name a FEW). In addition to band family, places like Club Passim, The Burren, Cantab Lounge, Club Church (RIP) became homes to us while we’ve grown into our current sound. As a band, growing up in Boston taught us that true friendship and being true to yourself are two vital ingredients for success, no matter where we find ourselves.

Photo By: SCOTT MCCORMICK

TrunkSpace: Between Boston and Brooklyn, you all went your separate ways for a bit. Did that absence make the creative heart grow fonder? When you came back together, did it make even more sense than when you first started out in Boston?
Damn Tall Buildings: Our separate ways were physical/goal-based, which is to say we were still gigging on weekends, sometimes every other week for months at a time. Still, the creative heart did grow fond as we found it continuously hard to connect while only seeing one another for shows. New songs came floating to the surface during this stint and kinda demanded to be made into a record. Deciding to move to Brooklyn together and re-tuning our collective focus in ways we hadn’t since our early days certainly rekindled our creative fires, and made it possible to make the recordings we’d been dreaming of.

TrunkSpace: What is it about being in a band – and this band in particular – that you can’t achieve in a solo capacity? Are your artistic fires fueled by the creativity of those around you?
Damn Tall Buildings: Absolutely. There’s an undeniable something that happens when you connect with someone. It’s like coming to a profound understanding for the first time. Your blood pumps just a bit better for a moment, and your whole body feels like it’s buzzing on a new frequency. The four of us definitely feel that buzz when we play and the vibes are so multiplied together, it often becomes infectious.

We are RICH with people around us who share their gifts with us. We wouldn’t be who we are today without getting to explore our art with our musical family.

TrunkSpace: What is the most difficult thing about being a working musician in 2019?
Damn Tall Buildings: (Laughter) Probably staying healthy. Mentally and physically. Often spiritually. This profession takes a toll on all three and sometimes it’ll take folks out when they’re not lookin’. This is a big one because every performance is a gift to the audience. Whatever you’re feeling most inside you when performing will inevitably be directed outward. Healing can turn to poison if the doctor stops caring. So we’ll say the most difficult thing (and what we’re always navigating here at DTB HQ), is finding the balance of self-care and self-sacrifice that can sustain the level of experience that we and our fans have come to expect from our work as a band.

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?
Damn Tall Buildings: If we could take the journey and didn’t like what we see could we go back and change things? Even so, probably not. About four years ago a musician friend that we all respect told us that the best years of his career were living in a shitty van and playing rooms for however many people, so we have taken that as creed. We’re trying to embrace every bump of this ride as we go, and carry that creed forward to bigger and better things, no matter the journey.

Don’t Look Down” is available now.

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