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Miserable Chillers

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Like most creative people, Miguel Gallego, aka Miserable Chillers, questioned his artistic exploits in the early days of his musical journey. Although he started playing guitar as a preteen, it took him time to find the confidence in both himself and the sounds he was looking to give life to, but when he did, everything fell into place.

I think the biggest thing that was missing, though, was just the sinking in of an obvious truth that I could do, or try to do, whatever I want musically,” said Gallego in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “That I can and should follow my nose.”

And following his nose he has. The latest Miserable Chillers album, Audience of Summer, drops August 7.

We recently sat down with Gallego to discuss embracing sounds he used to find corny, looking beyond validation, and why releasing this album is both liberating and sad for its creator.

TrunkSpace: You have described yourself as a late bloomer. Does that also relate to your creative self, and if so, was the inspiration always there and you just didn’t discover the delivery method until recently or was it the spark itself that came later?
Gallego: I think the pull towards music as the way I wanted to express myself was always there. I loved to make up little songs when I was very little (titles include: “Stop Copying Me,” “Long John,” “I’m The Best Boy Ever Made”), and was drawn to this dinky Casio keyboard we had growing up. I started playing guitar when I was about 12 or 13 and started writing songs shortly after, but I think a lot of elements alluded me – a voice and perspective that felt my own, the confidence that I could pursue the kind of sounds I wanted to rather than the ones that felt most readily available, the sense that I had something to say, to share. I think the biggest thing that was missing, though, was just the sinking in of an obvious truth that I could do, or try to do, whatever I want musically. That I can and should follow my nose.

TrunkSpace: So with that said, would 10-year-old Miguel be surprised by this creative journey that you’re currently on?
Gallego: I’ve embraced a lot of sounds I used to find very corny, like fretless bass. I think 10-year-old me would be surprised that I’ve moved away at all from making rock music.

TrunkSpace: As you look into the future as it relates to your music and creative endeavors, what do you hope to accomplish with them? What would “success” be to you as it relates to being the songwriter and artist that you are?
Gallego: For a long time I looked to music to provide a kind of validation that it was never going to give me. I’ve always struggled with this sense of doubt that the way I experience the world – the way I think and feel about things – is valid, or good. I’ve always felt very stuck in my head and like I’m missing something about the world around me that’s obvious to everybody else. So to share my music, something that feels very much my own, felt, for a long time, like an opportunity to seek that validation. It still does, sometimes, and I would love for anyone to hear my music and feel like it speaks to some deep, unshared thought or feeling. I would love for anyone to feel connected to by my music. But I also realized as I’ve gotten older that wanting validation from this practice was placing an undue burden on something that already gives me a lot. Just the act of making is deeply fulfilling in and of itself. I try to see the sharing of it as a cherry on top, rather than the end to making’s means. I don’t want to lose sight of that. And so, I just want to reach a few more ears, and to maybe get more opportunities to make more music, too.

TrunkSpace: Your new album Audience of Summer is due to drop August 7. What kind of emotions do you juggle with when releasing new material to the masses, and is the experience different this time around given that the entire world, essentially, has ground to a halt?
Gallego: I’m letting go of a lot – of a record that I finished making almost a year ago, before everything changed, both personally and in the world at large. Consequently, it’s like an index of a period of my life, of myself, that feels fundamentally different than the present. It’s a little liberating and a little sad to share it.

TrunkSpace: Normally you would tour to support a new release, but that is not something that is possible in every state right now. How has promoting the upcoming album changed? How do you get the word out when people can’t get out themselves?
Gallego: I’ve always relied on social media and word of mouth from friends to share my music. Miserable Chillers has never really toured, just played around locally and done a few out of towners here and there. I would very much love to play this music out, and hope I get the chance in the future. Hoping to make some videos and other materials around this music to share it more, though.

TrunkSpace: No one knows your music better than you. With that said, where do you hear the biggest differences between what you were doing creatively with Miserable Chillers six years ago to where you are today on the eve of Audience of Summer being released?
Gallego: Six years ago I was still pretty bound up in my own imaginative constraints around guitar music. I like a lot of the oldest Miserable Chillers’ music, but I feel like I was exhausting what I felt like I could do with power chords and strummed acoustic guitars. It’s melodic in a way the music I try to make now still is, but I was so much less interested and capable when it came to production and arrangement. I just wanted to get the songs out, whereas now I get a lot of pleasure out of taking time to fill in each detail, each texture.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down and listened to Audience of Summer front to back, what would they learn about you guys upon that first dive into the music?
Gallego: I love the band Prefab Sprout.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Gallego: I think it feels very concise while having a lot of breadth. I like feeling like I’m being thrown into a big world, and I think I got at some of that feeling.

TrunkSpace: We have all been in some form of lockdown for the majority of 2020. How much of your time spent social distancing has also been spent creating? Have you experienced a creative jolt during this period – and will it lead to another album?
Gallego: I had a big jolt towards the beginning and made a lot of music, mostly instrumental and improvisational, which I think may eventually make another record. I’ve been trying to return to more pop-adjacent music lately and the pace has been slower, but I’m excited to make things.

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?
Gallego: No, thanks. I want to make it over there myself, on my own time.

Audience of Summer drops tomorrow on Baby Blue. Preorder is available here.

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John Shipe

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Photo By: Ricardo Llamas

Singer-songwriter John Shipe traveled through darkness to find the light, a theme that permeates his latest album, the double-sized The Beast Is Back.

Personal reckoning leads not only to being a better person, but to better art,” said Shipe in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “My writing now meets the listener in some of the most personal places. Fortunately, with age comes the humility to let this happen.”

While the album isn’t due until September 25, the Portland-based Americana artist’s latest single, “Love Ain’t Easy,” is available now.

We recently sat down with Shipe to discuss art worth sharing, the maturity of social media in music, and writing for grown-ups.

TrunkSpace: You have a new DOUBLE album due out in the near future. What kind of emotions do you juggle with when releasing new material to the masses, and is the experience different this time around given that the entire world, essentially, is ground to a halt?
Shipe: So much happens in the world between the day you go into a studio with 18 songs, and when you emerge a year later with your hopeful masterpiece. Race issues exploding. Pandemic. Our damaged national psyche. People in real economic trouble. I picked a hell of a time to do this. None of the personal self-involved, self-directed anxieties I’ve experienced in the past apply. And that’s a good thing. There is more at stake in America than the comings and goings of singer-songwriters. (This takes me back to when I started a tour the morning of September 11th, 2001, when the Trade Towers went down. It was difficult to muster up the energy to self-promote.) You press pause, and you ask some hard questions. Those questions aren’t just about the timing of the business at hand, or even the quality of the product. They’re about the fundamental meaning of the project. Artists aren’t entitled to an audience, so, are we offering up something worth sharing? We seriously considered these questions, and we changed our choice of debut single, in fact. But I feel good about how the material relates, and that it’s universal. Some of the stuff I was making 20 years ago might be awkward to put into the world right now. But as an older, wiser artist, there’s more humility and humanity than in my previous work. Not so nakedly ambitious and idiosyncratic.

TrunkSpace: Normally you would tour to support a new release, but that is not something that is possible in every state right now. How has promoting the upcoming album changed? How do you get the word out when people can’t get out themselves?
Shipe: I recently joked to a friend and colleague, that as a “comeback artist,” without the channels of commercial success at my disposal, my music career might be on Facebook. And now, everybody’s career is on Facebook (and Instagram, and Twitter). As an optimist, I can’t help seeing some beauty in this. The intimidating inertia of Music Industry has been interrupted. And we’re all in this together, famous and unknown alike. Not that the playing field has been totally leveled, but a spirit of generosity, sweeping through the Biz, encourages artists to LiveStream, post, tweet, and blog abundantly. (Independent press is more generous than when I was cutting my teeth in the ‘90s.) Social media used to be superficial promotion – an impersonal shill for music you could purchase, or shows you could attend. But now, blogs and posts are part of my art. I treat them as the substance of what I might have to offer, as an artist, with something of value to share. The ideas, the writing, and the message I put out there deepen my relationship with fans and potential fans. (Especially with regard to the fragile times we live in.) The limelight is nowhere and everywhere. And competition for it has been removed as a source of anxiety. Artists’ fans are literally right there in the palm of their hands at any given moment. And we ought to take good care of that relationship. As for live shows, I’ll admit I’m extremely frustrated not being able to play a hundred gigs out of the gate. But I’m still digging deep and giving it out as thoroughly as I can in a virtual, digital way, which can also be sufficiently intimate. When you can’t play any shows, social media presence becomes the very product of your creativity. It’s like “The Wizard of Oz.” The man behind the curtain is now a main character, and he’s just as interesting as the formidable Wizard with the lights and the flames and the smoke.

TrunkSpace: You have said that this is the album of your life and that you might not make another one because you may not have anything left in you. Are you someone who has to step away from music after creating in order to refuel the emotional tank? Did you feel like you were running on empty after putting this one to tape?
Shipe: It’s tough to talk about this (because it relates to alcohol recovery). It’s a well-informed question, because that’s the way art works. You drain the well; then it takes a minute to fill the well. For 10 years prior to Beast, my emotional tank was overflowing wildly. But I was in no condition to perform the task of making a good record. (Addiction, recovery, and various disorienting life stuff.) My supportive partner helped me get back on track. And my producer, Tyler Fortier, navigated the project via a path of total vulnerability. So, I put it all out there like a year-long breakthrough therapy session, completely hollowing myself out. The good news is, the well fills back up faster than expected, ’cause I emptied out all the stifling, counter-productive sludge. Maybe “the well” metaphor doesn’t work anymore. I’m healthier now, by virtue of the process, and I feel like I could make another album sooner than later. Hopefully, from here on out, creativity won’t be a boom-and-bust cycle.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to the album front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Shipe: They would think I am melodramatic, with dark pessimistic thoughts, which I use a combination of determination and humor to overcome. They’d imagine that I have experience with the corroding power of secrets poorly kept. And I’ve learned that it’s safer to face things head-on than to hide. I hope I make it clear that it’s worth the trouble. I hope they would find me empathetic and compassionate, about even the toughest stuff.

As an artist and musical craftsman, I don’t ponder my place in the “State of the Art.” I’ve never had a “mission,” so to speak, with respect to any particular aesthetic, or self-consciousness about how I fit my genre. But I have an inkling of what I’m up to: putting edgy passion into grown-up music. It seems like the musical intensity of older artists wanes in direct proportion to the spirit of resignation in the average aging adult’s life outlook. Grown-up music seems removed and deflecting. Intense, invested music seems reserved for young people experiencing everything for the first time. Falling in love for the first time. Breaking up for the first time. (Feels like the end of the world.) Challenging authority for the first time. A young man’s first existential angst troubles the soul. But the music of grown-ups can be so calm and dignified, like mature, stable family life. This does not make sense to me. For grown-ups, there’s so much more at stake. Where is the proportional musical outlet for the depths of the adult experience? If grown-ups can get so worked-up with outrage, loss and confusion that they’ll vote for a man like Donald Trump, or protest in the streets against a man like Donald Trump, maybe they’re open to music that’s just as melodramatic. A break-up of a long marriage really is the end of the world. Existential angst in middle-age is truly psychologically-dangerous, not a mere pose. Successful romance later in life is salvation for real. I wanted to create mature music, with grown-up lyrics, about grown-up stuff, and put the urgency and passion back in. (“My Daughter, My Love,” is about a father who’s losing his teenager’s affection. I imagined the pain of that rejection being tougher on him than any of his failed romances. So I made it like a wrenching break-up song.)

TrunkSpace: You went all in on the writing and took a “brutal honesty” approach. We already talked about what others would learn in listening to the album, but what did YOU learn about yourself in creating it?
Shipe: It was a great relief to find that I still have what it takes to see a project through, to stay in command of my craft, and meet the expectations of my collaborator. That was a positive. But I was humbled to discover the degree to which my previous work had kept my vulnerability on a leash, in contrast to the honesty on this album. When I was younger, I willed myself to be a deep thinker, a profound writer, and an earnest performer. But it was sort of a role that I played on the outside, while I held a lot back on the inside. I played it well-enough to make 10 albums of varied quality, but something was missing. In retrospect, I was not gifted with a huge imaginative intellect; I just work very hard to cultivate one. For this album, I stripped away all the artifice and defensiveness. It really dovetails with addiction recovery. Personal reckoning leads not only to being a better person, but to better art. My writing now meets the listener in some of the most personal places. Fortunately, with age comes the humility to let this happen.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Shipe: Three things: 1) My slide guitar playing. It’s the only thing I do well enough as a player that might get me hired as a sideman. 2) I put myself in the hands of my producer, Tyler. On his roster of artists, I’m one of the more cooperative – not difficult or stubborn. This doesn’t come easy for the average songster, but that’s how you make a good album. 3) Tyler and I know for sure that we did our best. We held nothing back and leaned into all the passion possible within the grown-up conventions of the Americana genre.

TrunkSpace: We have all been in some form of lockdown for the majority of 2020. How much of your time spent social distancing has also been spent creating? Have you experienced a creative jolt during this period – and will it lead to another album?
Shipe: As we speak, Tyler and I are working on a single I wrote called “A Song About This.” It’s about the artist’s responsibility to say something, anything, when faced with our country being torn apart. We plan to release it in September. Meanwhile, I have all this time to work on my act – doing new things on the guitar and adding piano – it’s a welcome surprise that I continue to improve and discover new musical dimensions even after many plateaus. I write a little something every day, so I will be recording again in the spring of 2021 if I’m not touring.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Shipe: Every artist has stretches of self-doubt. We deny our talents, even though we have proven bodies of work. Charlie Chaplin used to say, “Any minute now, I’ll be exposed as a fraud who’s just making it up as he goes along.” It often happens after a noticeable success. It’s just panic – the pressure of measuring up to the standards you set for yourself in the release of your own work. “Oh, God, now I gotta live up to the hype.” I’ve recently come to realize that this doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. I’m lucky to have supportive colleagues, collaborators, friends and fans – all shameless enablers – who won’t let me doubt without reprimand. When people openly enjoy your songs, it’s disrespectful to implicate your audience as foolish for rooting for you. That said, I confess that I worry about flaws in my singing voice, sloppiness in my guitar playing, and pretentiousness in the lyrics. But I had a nice colleague remind me that it’s all a function of my willingness to take risks. So I just push on. I practice and write constantly, like clockwork. Songwriting is a compulsion – or, better, a meditation – and I can’t really stop. It scratches the deepest itch. I have a thousand yet-to-be-completed songs to keep me company. Something creative is always on the docket. I don’t have time to doubt it.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave him a glimpse of his future, would he be surprised by where his musical journey has taken him thus far?
Shipe: My childhood self would be delighted to hear about seeing the whole country from a touring van, playing big stages, opening for famous bands, and visiting National Parks every chance along the way. But I’d have to warn him about the inner stuff that would drive him to keep it going as a struggling solo artist, in a kind of “second adulthood” after the fun was over. He’d wonder what the payoff will be. And I’d have to tell him just to trust it. It’s gold, but you have to dig deep for it. There would come an abundance of collaboration, a decent body of work and a continued welcome in the Biz, in spite of experiencing so many supposed failures.

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?
Shipe: I’m still getting better at what I do. I’m re-connecting with musical friends & colleagues, and I have much more to offer. So, yeah, come 2030, I wanna look back on another decade (my 4th), of satisfying collaborations, and my best work.

Shipe’s latest single, “Love Ain’t Easy” is available now. The album, The Beast is Back, is due September 25.

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Market Junction

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Photo By: Jason Allison

Releasing music during a worldwide pandemic is new ground for any musician, but once Texas-based Market Junction agreed to stick with the plan and drop their latest effort, Burning Bridges, on August 7, they felt a collective sense of relief.

Once we decided that we were going to push ahead in spite of the pandemic, we felt at peace with that decision and most of our anxiety and fear subsided,” said frontman Matt Parrish in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Parrish to discuss embracing who they are musically, breaking patterns, and why they find it cathartic to write sad songs.

TrunkSpace: Your new album Burning Bridges is due to drop August 7. What kind of emotions do you juggle with when releasing new material to the masses, and is the experience different this time around given that the entire world, essentially, has ground to a halt?
Parrish: Hmm… anxiety, excitement, fear, joy and a host of other emotions have crossed our emotional palettes as weve prepared for this release. Once we decided that we were going to push ahead in spite of the pandemic, we felt at peace with that decision and most of our anxiety and fear subsided. We are on cruise control now, just enjoying the feedback we are getting from the singles.

TrunkSpace: Normally you would tour to support a new release, but that is not something that is possible in every state right now. How has promoting the upcoming album changed? How do you get the word out when people can’t get out themselves?
Parrish: This has been the biggest challenge and can make us feel like we are running in place at times but we’ve completely remodeled our rehearsal space into a livestream studio, and once we livestream to celebrate the release, we’ll be planning to do a lot more of those until venues open back up. Thank God for the internet.

TrunkSpace: You guys have been at it writing, recording and touring together since 2012. What has the creative journey been like from where you started out to where you are today? Do you see the music youre creating differently now than you did then?
Parrish: Our creative process hasnt changed much during those eight years. Justin (Lofton) and I toss ideas around and carve on a song until its ready. What has changed is the art we make. We set out to be a folk/Americana band back in 2012 but got sidetracked a couple of years in and began trying to please the radio markets in the Texas music scene. With this album we are about to release, we abandoned all of that and only recorded songs and sounds that inspired us. It was a way of getting back to our true intentions and we are glad we did. Weve found that the Texas scene will accept us without us needing to fit into some box we invented in our own minds.

TrunkSpace: No one knows your music better than you. With that said, where do you hear the biggest differences between 2012’s Heroes Have Gravestones and what makes up Burning Bridges today?
Parrish: Mostly the maturity in writing and playing. Although there are songs on that first record that we are still proud of, Burning Bridges is just more of a consistently mature batch of songs.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down and listened to Burning Bridges front to back, what would they learn about you guys upon that first dive into the music?
Parrish: I think the two main takeaways would be that we love to tell stories and we like the stories all the more if they are sad. As genuinely happy people, there is something cathartic for us about writing and playing sad songs.

TrunkSpace: Outside of the music itself, what did you want to accomplish with the production on Burning Bridges that perhaps you were unable to achieve on earlier releases? Did you accomplish your vision for the album as a whole when you called wrap on the process?
Parrish: Yes, I think that we accomplished what we set out to do and that was to make a record that truly represented us as a band. We wanted to finish this record without attaching excuses to any of the songs or production. Richard Barrow and Ty Robins, who produced the album, were huge in helping bring our vision to life. Outside of the music itself, we hope that this record puts us on a trajectory to play a broader region of the country and reach new fans. The jury is out on that for now, but our hopes are high.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Parrish: This record has a piece of everyone in our camp. It was truly a group effort and everyone left their mark. Were so proud of what we were able to do together.

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in a band that you cant achieve in a solo capacity? Does having multiple brains in the mix fuel your own creativity?
Parrish: I’ve noticed that I get into the same patterns as a writer and having Justin break me from that or twist ideas in new directions has really saved a ton of songs from ending up in the trash can. We all have different influences, so Taylor (Hilyard) and Mike (Blattel) may want to take a song to a kind of feel that wasnt even on our radar. It can be tough, but if we can all agree that something is good, in spite of our different backgrounds and tastes, it usually means that its good.

TrunkSpace: We have all been in some form of lockdown for the majority of 2020. How much of your time spent social distancing has also been spent creating? Have you experienced a creative jolt during this period and will it lead to another album?
Parrish: It took us 18 months to make this record and half of the record was written after we started recording. So, when we finished there was a feeling that we needed to get away from creating for a bit. That didnt last long. Justin and I have started bouncing around ideas for the next record already. We figure that if it takes us that long to make a record, wed better get a batch of songs ready now.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Parrish: Weve opened for some great acts and had a blast doing that but nothing compares to playing in front of a packed room of your own fans who know the words to your own songs. Weve done that a few times at McGonigels Mucky Duck here in Houston.

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?
Parrish: Absolutely, I would. Im always wishing I could take todays knowledge and go back to fix some things in the past. I dont think seeing the outcome would change our ambition or desire to make music. It might keep us from making a few mistakes today.

Burning Bridges is due August 7.

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Garrett Owen

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Photo By: Melissa Laree Cunningham

When left to our own devices – something we’ve all experienced an abundance of in 2020 – some choose a path of betterment while others go the self-destructive route. For singer-songwriter Garrett Owen, he has spent The Year of Quarantine studying songbooks, transcriptions, melodies, and even the music of Stone Temple Pilots.

“This may sound dumb, but I really think they may have been the most sophisticated popular rock band of the ’90s,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

Owen’s latest album, Quiet Lives, is due September 18.

We recently sat down with Own to discuss attention spans during the pandemic, chord growth, and why he loves nine and 11, but not necessarily 10.

TrunkSpace: Your new album Quiet Lives is due to drop September 18. What kind of emotions do you juggle with when releasing new material to the masses, and is the experience different this time around given that the entire world, essentially, has ground to a halt?
Owen: It is a little different for sure, but maybe people have the ability to pay more attention to music coming out during this time. I’ve spent my life working on these things, and I have feelings about them and emotional attachments to them. That would be the same no matter when they were released. I’m just really excited to get these songs out there.

TrunkSpace: Normally you would tour to support a new release, but that is not something that is possible in every state right now. How has promoting the upcoming album changed? How do you get the word out when people can’t get out themselves?
Owen: I almost feel like this weird situation helps me. This way I can focus on promoting the album online as much as possible and probably more than I would if I’d ended up touring.

TrunkSpace: Quiet Lives is your second full-length album. As someone who knows your music better than anybody, where do you personally hear the biggest growth as an artist between the first album and the latest?
Owen: I think I’m starting to go through another musical growth period. There was some growth in terms of complex chord progressions on Quiet Lives. One song has 14 chord changes in the chorus not including inversions (“Souvenir”). “Hour In The Forest” is also complex, and I think of that tune as a growth song for me. I think my willingness to have producer Taylor Tatsch do a lot more with several of these songs is just a part of maturing. I think sometimes less is more and other times, more is more, and sometimes, I really want more stuff going on.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to Quiet Lives front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Owen: I think they’d learn that I’m a “tell-all” when I write. I don’t mind singing about pretty embarrassing emotional situations. I’ll put my scars on display as long as it rolls off the tongue when you sing it. I like breaking rules. I love a lot of songs that don’t have a traditional verse-chorus structure. I like when a song has a chorus, melodically-speaking but not lyrically, and I use that idea quite a bit. A friend caught me taking the easy way out with a verse to one of these songs and called me on it, so I went back and re-wrote the verse and had to go re-record it. I think they’d learn pretty quickly that preconceived notions about how to properly do something are not ideas I really care about. With that said, I want my unconventional sides to still be listenable, so I try to pull unconventional ideas together with enough melodic content that it’s still pleasant.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Owen: I think I’m most proud of just finishing it at all, or calling it done and moving forward. One friend said, “I think you should throw one more tune on there to make an even 10.” I thought, Well I’m for sure leaving at nine now, though I used to think 11 tracks was my favorite number of tracks for a full-length record. I like 11 more than nine, but I also like nine more than 10. Ten feels basic. Nine feels like I feel a lot of the time.

TrunkSpace: We have all been in some form of lockdown for the majority of 2020. How much of your time spent social distancing has also been spent creating? Have you experienced a creative jolt during this period – and will it lead to another album?
Owen: I experienced some nice little bursts of creativity during the super extra downtime, but I think I spent more time trying to learn. I pulled out some songbooks, transcriptions of some pretty complex stuff, and really tried to analyze the method behind certain songs – to the point of writing the letters out above the notation and comparing them with the chords they’re being played over (I’ve mostly lost my ability to comfortably read standard notation). I tried to figure out what’s going on here that makes these songs interesting to me. I also dug into some of my favorite Stone Temple Pilots songs. This may sound dumb, but I really think they may have been the most sophisticated popular rock band of the ’90s.

Photo By: Melissa Laree Cunningham

TrunkSpace: How do you define success in the music industry and do you feel you are comfortable where you are creatively at this point in your career? Is the Garrett Owen of 2020 the artist you always wanted to be?
Owen: I think if I could have a career touring and put out a record every few years, I’d call that success. Although no matter how far-fetched, my dream is still to play in front of thousands of people. I played in front of about 10,000 when I won a songwriting contest, but doing it with a band would be a totally different experience.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self critical insecurities?
Owen: I get down on myself about having a tendency toward certain kinds of melodies. I talk myself off that ledge by saying, “Beatles songs tend to sound like Beatles songs. Jackson Browne songs tend to sound like Jackson Browne songs. Eagles songs tend to sound like Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and J.D. Souther songs because they wrote those songs.”

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of writing and performing music that you are unable to achieve as a listener alone? What does being a songwriter mean to you as a person and does it give you the balance that you need?
Owen: Listening to music is incredibly satisfying, but when I realized I could have some kind of outlet with it or show parts of me you’d never otherwise see, I went from being interested in playing to being obsessed with playing for about the next six or seven years. I’m still obsessed, it just looks different than when I was younger.

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?
Owen: I’m not sure I would take that trip. I like not knowing exactly where something is headed. I like when I’m not sure where a storyline is going. I like having something to stay curious about.

Quiet Lives is set for release on on September 18.

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Imogen Clark

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Photo By: Jeremy Dylan

Australia’s Imogen Clark believes she became a songwriter because she feels so deeply. One of the benefits of expressing emotion through song is that those feelings then become a shared experience for both the performer and the listener, something Clark has witnesses firsthand.

I try to be honest about my struggles with those feelings, because I want others to remember that it’s completely okay to not feel okay during difficult times,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.*

With her new EP Making Of Me set to release on August 21, we sat down with Clark to discuss the evolution of her sound, making music without boundaries, and being productive in a time of isolation.

*Due to our own complications during the pandemic, this interview was originally conducted in May and is just now being posted as we return from hiatus.

TrunkSpace: We are all experiencing uncertainty and a cornucopia of emotions given the current state of the world and the varying levels of quarantine we have been all been in these last few months. How has that impacted you as an artist? Have you found yourself to be creatively-inspired during this span?
Clark: Every day seems to be a little different. Some days I feel really productive and I’m using a daily working-from-home routine and exercise regime to keep myself on track, but other days I feel pretty overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and depression. The reason I became a songwriter was because I feel a lot of things very deeply all the time, and that can be both a blessing and a curse, especially in times like these. I try to be honest about my struggles with those feelings, because I want others to remember that it’s completely okay to not feel okay during difficult times. I feel so grateful that some of my favorite artists are still releasing music, as I’m always inspired to keep writing and honing my trade when I find new music I love. The loss of the experience of playing and watching live shows has taken its toll on me, so I’m glad there’s still creative energy to be found in records. And I hope that’s what my new music can provide for someone else too.

Something I have found really great during isolation is doing some skill building. I’m trying to improve my piano and lead guitar playing by taking Zoom lessons in both, keeping my brain healthy by reading a lot, and listening to/writing more music.

TrunkSpace: In the middle of it all, you recently released a new single, “Found Me,” and you’re preparing to unveil your EP, The Making of Me, in August. How have you had to change your promotional focus during this time to ensure that this work you’ve poured so much of yourself into has the best chance at finding an audience?
Clark: We made the decision that, rather than put everything on hold during this pandemic, we’d release this music and make the most of what we can do safely right now, which is share music with people from afar. I think now more than ever people need something positive to brighten their days, and I hope these songs can be that for some people.

While I’d love to be out there touring these new songs, in the meantime, we’ve got a fun virtual tour going on. Starting this Saturday (16th May), every fortnight I’ll be live streaming a professionally produced show from my backyard in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. The show is open to anyone across the globe, and it’s a “pay what you can” ticket price, so anyone doing it tough right now doesn’t have to miss out. Each show will have a different theme; acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano and an “all request” show, and the shows won’t be archived so folks will have to tune in live to catch them. If you tune in, you’ll get a full preview of all the songs from the upcoming EP, as well as some old favorites and new covers. Once it is safe to do so, we definitely can’t wait to get back out on the road to venues across Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and Europe.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about you as both an artist and as a person in sitting down to listen to the EP, front to back?
Clark: I hope that listening to this EP shows people that I’m someone who is feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin after years of self-doubt and feeling beholden to other people’s ideas of who I am, or what authentic art is. I worried for so long about the box I fit into musically, and perhaps who others wanted me to be. There’s a feeling of liberation and self-discovery to this record that I’m very proud of, and that reflects how I felt while writing and recording it. It’s a collection of songs about building confidence through adversity, and becoming the person you always wanted to be, or who people told you you couldn’t be.

TrunkSpace: As we understand, putting this EP together took its emotional toll on you because it represented a lot of what was going on in your personal life, sort of worked through in song form. Do you ever worry – or at least, take pause – when you put that much of yourself into a song or album? In the age of social media and everyone having an opinion they speak out loud, is it scary exposing yourself to that through your music?
Clark: Especially as someone who suffers from anxiety and is a chronic people pleaser, putting yourself and your feelings out on the line for a living is absolutely terrifying. But it’s also exhilarating and gives me a sense of strength and happiness that I live for. Having started playing music professionally at 12 years old, I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling underestimated or patronized, constantly seeking the approval of others who saw me as just a little girl. For the first time, I’m unafraid of what people think of me, or whether they think I’m good enough to be here, and I think that shows in this new music. I’m embracing all the kinds of music I love and want to write now.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the EP?
Clark: I’m probably most proud of the evolution of my sound, and the sincerity of the lyrics. I’ve always had so many pop sensibilities in my songwriting, but I was always afraid of letting them live in my recordings. I worked on this album in LA with producer Mike Bloom (Jenny Lewis, Julian Casablancas), engineer Will Golden and my manager Jeremy Dylan. It was one of the most freeing experiences of my life because we let each song flow naturally and become exactly what it wanted to be, without asking ourselves “What genre of music are we making?” Musicians are used to living in a box defined by a genre category that they’ve been placed into, usually by someone else, and this can be so frustrating and limiting. But with this record, we used wildly different production references – everything from Chris Isaak to Christine and the Queens to Prince – and for the first time, I felt like I was making music with absolutely no boundaries for where it could go.

Lyrics have always been my favorite and the most important part of songwriting for me. All the lyrics featured on this record feel very raw and honest to me, and are at times painfully autobiographical. I’m proud of having the courage to share so much of myself in my music.

Photo By: Jeremy Dylan

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and did that manifest during the creation and recording of the EP?
Clark: I tend to always be hardest on my own vocal performance in the studio. I’ll usually get up in my own head too much about it, and I’ll start thinking so much about making the vocal performance sound perfect (I think this comes from 10 years of classical training!), that I can barely think about the emotion I’m supposed to be conveying. What Mike, Will and Jeremy all helped teach me in the studio this time around, was that a perfectly performed vocal in a song isn’t going to make anyone feel much of anything. What will make them fall in love with the song is the emotion you convey through your voice, so that’s what I tried to focus on most during these recordings. I really let loose in the vocal booth like I never had before, and we tried so many things that put me well outside of my comfortable zone.

TrunkSpace: How has where you’re from impacted you as an artist? Would you be a different artist if you grew up in a different city surrounded by different people?
Clark: I think where I’m from made me a more down-to-Earth person. I come from a tiny rural town called Bowen Mountain, on the very outskirts of the Greater Sydney region. There are no street lights or shops here. Everyone knows each other’s names, and the names of their dogs. We all say hello in the street and we all pull together in times of crisis, as we showed with our amazing Rural Fire Service volunteers earlier this year during the Australian bushfire disaster which impacted my town. I think if I’d grown up in a city, I wouldn’t have developed that sense of small town kindness and friendliness, which I feel is a wonderful and helpful trait to have when it comes to meeting so many new people on the road. When you come from a town like this, you can never develop a swollen ego because the people around you remind you pretty quickly where you came from!

I think coming from a small town also gives you classic small town big dreams. You want to do your little community proud by leaving the town and going onto bigger things, but you never forget that was the town that made you into who you are.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Clark: I don’t think 10-year-old me would have believed it if you’d told her what she’d have achieved as a 25-year-old. My music has given me experiences I never believed I’d be privileged enough to have. On this record, we had Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & The Imposters) come into the studio to track drums, and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) come in to track keys and organ. These are musical heroes I admire hugely, and people I thought I’d never even get to meet, let alone get to work with. I’ve had the opportunity to play in cities all around the world and connect with fans at huge gigs supporting some of my idols like Shania Twain and Clare Bowen. I’m so proud of these experiences, and I think 10-year-old me would have been super excited too.

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?
Clark: I don’t think I would. I think a big part of the magic of life is that you don’t know. You don’t know where you’re going or who you’ll meet and when, and how that will change your life in the long run. Five years ago, I sat in my favorite venue, the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, and fell in love with Jenny Lewis’ music for the first time. She was playing her song Acid Tongue, and singing and playing guitar beside her was Mike Bloom. As I sat in that theatre drooling over the stunning harmonies the band were providing, I had no clue that five years on, I’d be working with Mike in the studio. For me, the thrill is in the surprise and the unexpectedness of it all; in my career but also in life in general. If you know where you’re going to end up, the journey isn’t quite as fun. I’m sure as hell excited to find out as it comes, though.

Clark’s latest EP, Making Of Me, is due August 21.

 

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