close

musical mondaze

Musical Mondaze

States & Capitals

States&CapitalsFeatured

For Richie Arthur, who grew up on a steady musical diet of everything from John Mayer to Guns N’ Roses, maintaining a sound that was distinct to his own while paying homage to his influences was very important. For his new project States & Capitals, which is set to drop its debut album “The Feelings LP” on August 2, he labored over what that meant sonically until he had an artistic epiphany.

At first I thought it was something you had to work on, but I definitely found, over time, you’ve just got to make music,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Just go out and do it and it’ll all come as you go.”

We recently sat down with Arthur to discuss wearing multiple hats in the studio, tinkering with songs, and why he hopes listeners will feel everything he felt when writing “The Feelings LP.”

TrunkSpace: Your debut album, “The Feelings LP,” is due out August 2. What kind of emotions are you juggling with as you lead up to its release, especially knowing that this might be the first impression that people have of the music and the band in general?
Arthur: A lot of different ones. Very exciting. It’s the first album that I’ve done that’s full length and as well as producing myself. So, it’s very exciting… very scary. It’s been a lot of different emotions. There’s very, very low moments and very high moments. We’re on tour right now and we’re playing the two new songs that are out (and one that’s not out yet) on that record, and the reaction has been great. So, it’s slowly but surely becoming more exciting than scary. And I’m thinking, as we get closer, it’ll be a lot more exciting.

TrunkSpace: Did musician Richie and producer Richie ever butt heads? Did you ever have moments where you wanted something creatively but maybe you knew you couldn’t pull it off production wise?
Arthur: For sure. There was because, like I said, I’m fairly new to production and there was a lot of… I heard a lot of a live feel too it, and I kind of had to reel it back in and just remember that it’s all about the song on the record. When you go live, you can do all of that stuff. You can show it off live. But on the record I had to channel the very simple and just simplify everything to get the song across and make sure the words are pinpoint. There was definitely moments like that, but I found myself, towards the end, enjoying the production side a lot more because, like I said, the live thing is so much fun, but I’d never actually sat there and did the studio thing all by myself.

So, I learned a lot by going through that process and trying to figure out how to keep that live feel and show it off as much as you can without taking anything away from the song.

TrunkSpace: Did you get bitten by the bug in terms of wanting to be on the production side more, perhaps even for other artists?
Arthur: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Definitely. That’s something I’ve always wanted to get into. I think that’s something that I will definitely get into down the road. I’ve talked to a few buddies about doing it. It’s nothing I ever actually set in stone. I’m very focused on my project and making this go, but it opened up a whole new world for me, and the ideas that it gave for the future, I’m very excited for. So, I’m thinking within the next year or two, once I kind of settle with the project, I could try to get in with some other guys and try to produce other music and write other music for other people. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned trying to find the balance between the live sound and that crispness of making sure every word hits when you’re recording. Now that you’ve wrapped production and there’s some separation with it, do you feel like you’ve accomplished everything that you wanted to when you set out to make the album?
Arthur: Yeah, I do. With this one it was cool because I wrote a couple of the songs, like two years ago when I was living in LA… three years ago when I was there… and then, towards the end, some of the songs I wrote right before the album, so it was cool to kind of just take that and really get them to where they needed to be without making it so bandy. It was cool to just kind of take the time and really figure that out.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to sort of put a stamp on a song and call it a wrap? Does it get to the point where you can almost tinker too much with them?
Arthur: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done that too. I forget what song it was… I’d have to really go back because like I said, they’ve been going through the process… but there’s been tunes that were completely different because I went so far with them. And it was just to the point where it was so just not a song anymore. I literally stripped them down and redid them. So, you can definitely go too far. I think I finally found the balance of knowing when the song was done. You kind of listen back and nothing really stands out. You kind of just listen to it and jam, which I did with the other ones, but then I’m like, “Oh…” after a couple minutes, “…what if I do this?” You just watch yourself go up that mountain. You definitely need to try to find that balance of, yes, it could use something else but it doesn’t need it. But then there are times where it needs it. You’ve got to try things. And again, if you push it too far, you just go back and try again.

TrunkSpace: Well, and the songs have to live with you for a long time. You’re going to be performing them, so you have to be invested in them. You still have to feel that drive to want spend time with those songs.
Arthur: Exactly. You need that feeling. Every song, for me at least, with this album, is like you need to feel where I was coming from when writing them, rather than when I went in and actually recorded the song. I definitely made sure I kept that ground of, “All right, this is a song that I wrote, it needs to get across, have some cool sounds here, has some cool sounds there, show the melody off a little bit here, but don’t take away from that this is the song that I wrote and this is from me and within me, and this is something that’s always going to be a part of me.” You’ve got to keep that and show that and make it you. You don’t want to push something too hard and then a year from now just feel like you never even did it.

TrunkSpace: What can someone learn about you both as a musician and as a person in listening to the album in its entirety?
Arthur: Well, I think a big thing for me is I have such a love for all different music – stuff that my parents grew up on, and stuff that I grew up on. I try to keep every song influence that I’ve ever had in my life within my music. So, I think that you can kind of learn just the amount of music that I’ve tried throughout my career. I’m only 22 now, but I’ve been making music since I was like seven, seriously too… professionally. And so, I’ve gone through a lot of different trials and error. I’ve been in straight up rock bands. I’ve been in straight up pop punk bands. I’ve been in straight up cover bands. And I’ve done all the old covers, ’80s to today’s music, like Bieber. All that stuff. So, I think you can kind of learn all the music that I’ve kind of channeled throughout the years to get me to this project. And I’m really proud of where I brought this project now. I think it’s definitely the furthest that I’ve ever gone. And I just think it’s so cool that I hear where my John Mayer influence is, and I hear where my Guns N’ Roses influence is, and I hear where my Boys Like Girls influence is. I just try to keep it all in. I don’t try to just put everything to bed. I try to keep a little bit of everything throughout my life within my music.

TrunkSpace: And you’re right, you can’t hear those influences, but at the same time, your sound is unique to you. Was that overall vibe something you set out to create or did it just come natural?
Arthur: Well, at first it was something I thought you had to work on really hard and I kept failing. I took like two or three years there where I just didn’t put out anything because I was trying to, like I said, keep all my influences but make my own sound. And I kind of learned within time, it’s natural. Even this album, I wasn’t intending on it being an album, I was just making songs. And then I was like, “Well, it all fits. It’s all my own thing.” And every time I listen to it it’s like, I can tell it’s States & Capitals. It came naturally for sure. At first I thought it was something you had to work on, but I definitely found, over time, you’ve just got to make music. Just go out and do it and it’ll all come as you go.

The Feelings LP” is due August 2 via JIRNY. Tour dates are available here.

read more
Musical Mondaze

The Dollyrots

TheDollyrotsFeatured

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.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Edan Archer

EdanArcherFeatured

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.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Jade Jackson

JadeJacksonFeatured
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-.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Damn Tall Buildings

DamnTallBuildingsFeatured
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.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Charlie Collins

CharlieCollinsInterviewFeatured

With a steady diet of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Gram Parsons growing up, Charlie Collins learned early in her life that it was best to write and sing what she was feeling. That lesson by osmosis is apparent all over her full-length debut “Snowpine” (out today on Mirror Music Group), an album that pulls no punches when it comes to personal reflection and lays it all out on the table – ups, downs and all points in between.

I don’t hold anything back,” the Australian-born singer-songwriter admits in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Collins to discuss finding peace within herself, battling inner demons through song, and how her dad helped her to find the truth in music.

TrunkSpace: “Snowpine,” is due out today. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you gear up to release new material to the masses, particularly in the case of your full-length debut, because for many listeners this will be their first introduction to who you are as an artist?
Collins: The emotions range from ecstatic to nervous. This record is the most honest I have ever been with my music. It talks about from when I started music from the age of 10 up until now and all the heartbreaks, struggles, highs and lows I’ve ventured upon. I do hope it gives the audience more of an understanding of who I am and knowing that I’m raw, broken, real but how I’ve overcome all the challenges that came my way.

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what would someone learn about you through the music itself?
Collins: I don’t hold anything back. Like I literally can’t make up a story. Everything you hear is what’s happened/happening in my life. Growing up on country music such as artists like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Gram Parsons taught me how to write what you feel, sing what you’re feeling, because that’s the only way people can truly connect with you.

TrunkSpace: We read that “Snowpine” happened very organically. You found your way back to the guitar after some time away from it and the songs started to work their way out. What do you think was the key to this being the right place/right time for you creatively?
Collins: I think as a person I was ready to tell my story and open up all the suppressed emotions I’ve buried for a long time. I was at a place of peace with myself and who I wanted to be. I had a shit load of stories to tell and a fractured heart to verbalize them through song.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of personal reminiscing on the album. Was the creative process a bit of a walk down memory lane for you, and if so, did you end up revisiting things you would have never imagined you’d be discussing publicly?
Collins: For sure. I never thought I would ever be at a place where I could talk about my depression I struggled with for years. I’ve always been quite closed off so to expose that side of me is quite daunting but also liberating. The first track on the record sums up a lot about the inner demons I battled with.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Collins: Seriously, everything. I’m proud of the songs, the way it sounds, the way it happened so naturally and the way it captures how I’ve wanted to sound and everything I’ve wanted to say for so long.

TrunkSpace: We enjoyed the storytelling aspect of “Snowpine” and your ability to establish a compelling narrative in the lyrics and their delivery. What do you think the key is to taking the listener on a journey that goes beyond the music itself?
Collins: I really think being honest is key for me. I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid, “The song you’re singing, what does it mean? Tell me what you’re singing about? Do you feel it?” And since then I’ve never shaken that and carry it with me wherever I’m at.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Collins: I guess never feeling good enough. “Please Let Me Go” is about that. I have a tendency to compare myself to others and feel inadequate among the sea of musical people. BUT I’m getting better at dealing with that. Hence why I didn’t throw my guitar in a fire pit.

Photo By: Christopher Collins

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to overthink a song? Can a songwriter tinker so much that the breath of the song – the thing that makes it special – be exhaled?
Collins: That’s one thing I don’t do when it’s me and my guitar in sync with one another. It all comes out at once. I never go back on lyrics because whatever comes out is what I needed to say. As far as recording goes, that’s why I wanted to record live so we were all feeling at the same time without too much thought. There was no right or wrong, just playing what you think the song itself needs to accompany it.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular feeling you get – a vibe – when a song is officially done?
Collins: FUCK YEAH.

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?
Collins: Honestly I don’t ever think about the future but if I did I hope I’m just still making honest music and staying true to who I am no matter where I am or what stage I’m on.

Snowpine” is available today from Mirror Music Group.

read more
Musical Mondaze

John Smith

JohnSmithFeatured

A self-described disciple of British Folk, John Smith’s latest album “Hummingbird” is a stirring mixture of originals and traditional folk songs, some of which date back to the 15th century. Discovering the genre when he was 16 years old, the UK-based singer-songwriter points to the album’s title track – a song that related everything that he had hoped to through his writing – as the glue that tied the collection together.

Without that song I suspect my repertoire of folk interpretations would’ve remained untethered,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Smith to discuss laying low creatively, rediscovering his pen, and why every musician should know their instrument.

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to Hummingbird,what would someone learn about you through this particular collection of songs, both as a songwriter and as a human?
Smith: That I’m a disciple of British Folk and I enjoy a love song. All of these are love songs in one way or another. From the deep yearning that goes with unconditional surrender to a loved one, to the bloody revenge exacted by scorned lovers.

TrunkSpace: You finished up Hummingbirdlast year. Are you someone who has to take a break from writing after calling wrap on an album to refuel the creative tank, or is there already a future album in the works?
Smith: I tend to lie low for a few months, creatively speaking. There is a lot to be said for taking a breather. However, with an album release you go on tour for at least a solid year, so there’s not an awful lot of time to really concentrate on writing. This time, a few months in to the release, I’m beginning to rediscover my pen. Songs are happening. I’d like to make another record before too long.

TrunkSpace: Youve been gigging out since you 14 years old. What would 14-year-old John think about the music you are writing and performing today and would he be surprised by where your musical path has lead you thus far?
Smith: I think 14 year-old John would be glad to know that he won’t be a paperboy forever. I was around 16 when I discovered folk music so perhaps my much younger self would be a little vexed at the lack of shredding in my life. At least he could look forward to owning some nice guitars one day.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with Hummingbirdand how it all came together in the end?
Smith: The title track means a great deal to me. I managed to say what I wanted to in a song, which is harder than you might think. It was the glue that bound the whole collection. Without that song I suspect my repertoire of folk interpretations would’ve remained untethered.

TrunkSpace: You took a lesson from songwriter/producer Joe Henry that the decisions that we make in our careers and life lead us to where we are at any given point. We could have zigged instead of zagged and ended up in a very different place than were in right now. How has that life lesson impacted your creative POV and your writing as a whole?
Smith: It has taught me to trust in my writing process and to follow my gut. I have learned to say “No” to people and things, but more importantly, to myself. I trust myself a lot more than I used to. It’s so easy to want to tick every box, to please everyone around you, but it’s not possible. Nowadays I look at a song as an opportunity to say something meaningful, or something that I at least feel the need to express, because I am able to do it a little more confidently than before. Writing a song and being happy with it is definitely a good time.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Smith: I’m hard on myself in every aspect. If I’m not, I grow lazy. That said, I’m particularly tough on myself when it comes to my playing. I work hard at it. If people are going to pay good money to watch someone play, then I believe the musician had better know their instrument and treat the audience with respect.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lyrical snippets that help paint a narrative. What is a favorite line of yours that you have written in your career and why does it stand out to you?
Smith: I don’t know really. There’s a line in “Hummingbird” I quite like.

In these times of constant change / I am holding on for you / The one whose affections I still crave / The one my world clings to”

I hope that one or two listeners will know what I’m talking about.

TrunkSpace: Are albums a bit like chapters of your life? Does it start to feel like, These are my Hummingbirdyears and those were my Great Lakesyears?
Smith: Absolutely. All the house moves, romances, moments of flushness and destitution, they all hang around album releases. “Great Lakes” marks a pivotal time in my life. I went from obscurity to being someone who gets played on the radio. “Hummingbird” has been good to me so far – I’ve played around a hundred shows since the album was launched in Europe. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter!

TrunkSpace: Where and when are you the most creatively inspired?
Smith: Inspiration continues to be the least predictable thing in a life of surprises. If a song falls out of the sky with its eye on my notebook, it doesn’t matter where I’m sat, if I’m relaxed or out my mind with stress. It just comes out of nowhere and I have to try and catch it.

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?
Smith: I would. It might help me resist the urge to buy the Neon Stratocaster that I know will alter my world forever.

Hummingbird” is available now on Commoner Records/Thirty Tigers. A full list of tour dates are available here.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Jacob Miller

JacobMillerFeatured

Prior to entering the singer/songwriter arena, Jacob Miller was writing mostly jazz and blues songs. His genre transition wasn’t only a creative change of direction, but also an emotional necessity. Using the experience as a way to push forward through a particularly difficult time in his personal life, the Wisconsin-born musician’s goal was to create music that was authentic and honest, and given the end result – the dazzlingly-affecting “This New Home” – he achieved his objective.

We recently sat down with Miller to discuss opening the time capsule, learning to not second-guess himself, and how Aunt Rosie put him on his musical path.

TrunkSpace: Your debut album, “This New Home,” is due to drop on June 6. What kind of emotions are you juggling with as you gear up to release these songs into the world?
Miller: Kind of a mixed bag. It’s a bit surreal to work on something so diligently for a year and a half and then be in the mental space where you’re just ready to let it loose into the world. It certainly feels like a time capsule from a very specific handful of months in my life when I was writing the record in early 2018.

TrunkSpace: There’s so much music out there… most of which is accessible in a click or two. Can that be an overwhelming thought when you consider how crowded the landscape is?
Miller: I would say that overwhelming feeling comes and goes. With digital streaming and social media, etc., it can leave an artist with this sinking feeling that their material will be overlooked. But honestly, I write music because it’s what I love to do and if the songs can resonate with even a small group, I’ll consider that a win.

TrunkSpace: Talk to us a little bit about the title of the album and how it came to be. Is the “Home” a physical place or more of an emotional state of mind?
Miller: “This New Home” was the decided album title pretty much from the writing process of this collection of songs. The period in which I wrote them saw me through a big transitional phase in life; having gotten out of a long-term relationship and also disbanding a musical group that I had led for seven years. Quite a lot of change, and definitely more of a state of mind than a physical place.

TrunkSpace: What did you set out to accomplish with the album when you first set sights on bringing it to life, and now that it’s officially wrapped, do you feel like you have put a check mark in all of the boxes that you had originally hoped for?
Miller: The writing and recording of this album was again, very transitional for me. Before pursuing solo music, I was writing mostly jazz and blues songs. I wanted to try something very different, that was coming from the most authentic and honest place possible. These songs became tools that gave me strength to carry on during some pretty tough times.

My biggest goal was to write music that wasn’t pandering or adhering to some formula, but rather to create an album that felt sincere.

TrunkSpace: For the listener, the end result is always the most memorable aspect of an album… the physical music. But for you, what are some of the memories in bringing “This New Home” together that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Miller: The making of this album was definitely a memorable experience. I recorded basically the entire thing at my friend Charlie’s house in SE Portland. He has a grand piano in the living room, a drum set in the basement, etc. I found myself for days just alone in the house tracking and reworking arrangements. It gave me time and space to just fuck around, which made for a much more relaxed recording process than having done it in a studio.

I should mention that I did spend a handful of days with good friend and engineer, Ryan Oxford (Y La Bamba, Like A Villian, etc.), at Sound and Color Therapy Studios in NE Portland for some overdubs and various additions to the songs. It was a pleasure working with Ryan on the songs.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Miller: I think I’m most proud of unabashedly trying something completely different than I’ve done before – musically. I love singer/songwriter music and the nuances that surround it. This album has been an outlet for me to try new things and not second-guess myself in the process.

TrunkSpace: Where did your journey with music begin? At what point did you decide to pursue it further than a hobby?
Miller: I grew up in Eden, WI (pop. 400) and sang in the church choir growing up. I’m not at all religious, but it was a good place to be exposed to music and music history. My Aunt Rosie who led the choir gave me a guitar when I was 12, and things just escalated from there.

I played in bands throughout my school years, then moved to Portland, OR when I was 19. I didn’t move to PDX with the intention of pursuing music professionally, but more for a change of scenery. A few years into traveling and on-and-off living in PDX found me in a place where I was taking music more seriously and it has become a pretty big part of my life. The act of emotional expression through music, paired with the community that surrounds it is something real beautiful.

Photo By: Ryan Oxford

TrunkSpace: You’ve written and performed in bands. How does the solo experience differ for you? Is it apples to oranges or more like apples to… more apples? Is the process the same, only with less minds in the mix?
Miller: I’ve done both and doing the solo thing has been a real treat. I love playing music with others; that shared experience and communicating together through sound is special. But after leading a six-piece band for seven+ years, steering the solo ship has been a nice reprieve. And it’s also allowed me to do and play exactly what I’d like to without compromise, which feels very respective to my own artistic process. It’s been a pleasant switch overall.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far?
Miller: The highlights seem to vary! I’ve played Portland’s Keller Auditorium at a Ted Talk for 2500+ people a few years back, which was an incredible and simultaneously strange feeling. The big stuff is I assume what most people expect to hear, but I think my favorite experience that comes to mind is a house show I played in the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago, IL last fall. It was this elongated living room filled to the brim with about 60+ people. Pin drop silence.

A great joy I have is sharing what the songs I write are about, and telling those stories. At this particular house show, the audience was so respectful and receptive. It felt like we shared something.

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?
Miller: I don’t think I would, I’ll let that unveil itself over time. If I did see what the future had brought me, I feel like I’d keep asking myself how I got there or what I should have done differently. For the time being I am trying to enjoy every day and be appreciative for the things I do have – musically and otherwise.

This New Home” is available June 6.

read more
Musical Mondaze

Walk Off The Earth

WalkOffTheEarthFeatured
Photo By: Andreanter 02 Hu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

read more
Musical Mondaze

Frankie Lee

FrankieLeeFeatured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why? Because I wanna live.

Short answer.

Stillwater” is available May 24 on River Valley Records.

read more