Artist/Band: Colton Kayser
Hometown: Monmouth Beach, NJ
Latest Album/Release: Place to Settle (Full length LP, July 2016)
Influences: Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Fionn Regan, John Prine, Weezer
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Kayser: My music is a mixture of Americana and pop. I try to say something with my songs, and they’re usually pretty short and to the point.
TrunkSpace: What did you hope to accomplish in the songwriting on “Place to Settle” that was different from what was heard on your debut?
Kayser: The first record was more about tracking the songs I had at the time. This time around, there was more of a developed game plan. I think “Place to Settle” is more cohesive in the sense that we had an overall sound, and theme, in mind. We also tracked the basic tracks live, which helped the songs breathe. I’m proud of both of my records and I think “Place to Settle” is an honest representation of where I was at in my life at the time I wrote it.
TrunkSpace: When it comes to the inspiration of your songwriting, do you write from experience or as more of a storyteller?
Kayser: Usually from experience. But I do flip story elements if I think it will make the song stronger. There’s always a little wiggle room to tell a better story.
TrunkSpace: Has the songwriting process itself changed for you since you first started writing songs?
Kayser: It’s eerily different, yet oddly the same. As a kid, I would just come home from school and write. Now, there’s a lot more factors, and I have to get in the right headspace to finish a song. However, ideas still pop into my head all the time, and I still write the majority of my songs late at night. The process is still there, I’ve just refined it a bit.
I’m writing less about girls, and more about life these days, and I think the next record will have a more serious tone to it. I’m really looking forward to developing my perspective in that sense.
TrunkSpace: Are you someone who is continuously tweaking songs even after they’ve been recorded or do you make peace with songs after you come out of the studio?
Kayser: Make peace with them. The band and I play them just like the records. By the time the record’s out, I’m thinking about the next one.
TrunkSpace: For many people, listening to music is a sort of cathartic therapy. Is songwriting the same thing for you? Does it help you get through the ups and downs of life?
Kayser: I think it lets me process events in life, both good and bad. I just like listening to what someone has to say, and I think that’s why I write songs. It’s easier for me to tell the whole story in three and half minutes than it is for me to express myself using other art forms.
TrunkSpace: When you look over your catalog of music, what song are you the most proud of and why?
Kayser: “I Better Leave” is definitely up there for me. It’s just very honest, and structurally sound from a writing standpoint. The song “Lift” hits me for the same reasons.
There’s a couple of tunes I’m working on now that I think I’m going to be very happy with when they’re done.
TrunkSpace: What is the most difficult aspect of marketing music and spreading the word in the digital age? It seems like it’s easier to get the word out, but at the same time, it seems more difficult to cut through the noise of everything else in order to have people pay attention.
Kayser: I was reading an article about the day to day life of touring musicians in The Fader the other day, and there was a line talking about how the Internet has made everything (musically speaking) popular, but nothing profitable.
I’ve definitely reached more people because of my web presence, and it’s cool to see that my songs have reached people all over the world. There’s a community of content sharers that have really helped my music reach others, and I tip my hat to them.
I’m still trying to figure out what 100,000 Spotify plays mean. Is it that you’re on a popular playlist or that people really like the song? And what am I marketing if the vast majority of music lovers don’t have to buy my work to enjoy it?
I think those are the real hard questions. Putting your songs out there is easy, and I think people will always listen to music if it’s good. That’s a prerequisite. The larger question is what does all this info generated by my music mean?
TrunkSpace: We’ve heard a lot about the rising music scene of Asbury Park. What is it about the area that has been having people talk about a resurgence and can it sustain itself?
Kayser: The arts have been thriving since the start of the redevelopment of the city about 10 years ago. The arts have always been there, but the influx of clubs, galleries, and music related businesses in recent years has really given artists/performers a platform to grow.
There’s a lot of good music coming out of the city, and I couldn’t wish for a better music community to grow up in. We’re more linked by location than genre, which allows for a lot of cross pollination of ideas.
There’s a lot of serious, career minded bands/music professionals, which allows for some great networking/job opportunities. It’s also small enough to give someone starting out a chance to be noticed if the music is good, and to survive from any early mistakes they happen to make.
Asbury Park can definitely sustain itself. The money has moved in. If you had told me as a kid that I would be hanging on Cookman Ave. at night, I would have laughed at you. I think artists may be priced out of living there at some point, but there’ll always be places to play, record, and grow.
TrunkSpace: If your phone rang tomorrow and a particular artist was on the other end of the line asking you to open for them… who would you want that particular artist to be and why?
Kayser: That’s tough to answer with just one artist. I’d love to open for Dawes because I love their music. I love their songs, and I love their arrangements. You could switch them out with Wilco for the same reasons too.
TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Colton Kayser for the rest of 2017?
Kayser: Well, I’m writing this from a car on my way out of Boston to Providence, RI for a gig tonight. So the immediate future is more touring.
I’m writing a lot right now, and I’ll definitely be working on releasing new music. I really want to get back in the studio, and grow as an artist. I love the process of recording and I’m exited to get back at it.