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Musical Mondaze

Sister Sparrow

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Photo By: Shervin Lainez

For singer/songwriter Arleigh Kincheloe, music is a personal journey, one that she was guided on from a very early age by her musical parents, and that she too is now paving for her own son. Learning to read by scanning Emmylou Harris liner notes, the Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds frontwoman has evolved her sonic identity with her latest album, “Gold,” which is available now from Thirty Tigers.

We recently sat down with Kincheloe to discuss finding her confidence, embracing change, and why you should always listen to that little voice in your head telling you to take a chance.

TrunkSpace: Your video for the single “Gold” dropped last week. What emotions do you juggle with as you release new material into the world?
Kincheloe: It’s always a little bit scary just that first initial, “Okay, everyone can see this.” (Laughter) But I really like this video. I think it’s very different from any one we’ve ever done before and I think it kind of shows a little bit more of a true side of me that is… a little bit more vulnerable and a little bit more exposed. The videographer is a very close friend of mine, Mel Barlow. She’s actually my brother’s girlfriend, so I’m super, super comfortable with her and she’s an amazing artist. It was cool to work with her on that, because it was just the two of us in a room.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the stuff beyond the music itself… the videos, choosing album artwork, and everything else that goes into maintaining a career as a professional artist… do you enjoy that aspect of what you do?
Kincheloe: I’d say it kind of comes and goes in terms of enjoying it. (Laughter) Sometimes it feels like, “How am I ever going to come up with something cool?” Or, “Does this really fit?” Or, “Is this really me?” You go through a range of emotions when it comes to that stuff because unlike the music, which to me comes a little bit more naturally, I think the visual stuff is definitely not my department so I always find it… I always kind of lean on other people. But I will say that with this record, I had way more to do with the visual aspect of it and I got a lot more hands-on in terms of picking the direction and picking the photos and picking this and that. So I definitely feel pretty proud of this go round and it’s a really good feeling to be like, “Oh, I actually did have some input here, and I don’t feel embarrassed by it.” (Laughter) So that’s good.

TrunkSpace: In terms of our overall life experiences on this journey we call life, they always have a way of seeping into creative output. For you, where have you seen your songwriting change throughout the years by way of those personal experiences? What big moments in your life altered your creative POV?
Kincheloe: I think that that’s a great question and there have been very strong changes that have come in my writing from my life. I started writing songs when I was still living in the Catskills and I was 18 years old. The first record that we ever put out is a lot of those songs and even the second record has some of those songs as well. But once we moved to New York City, I think I started to kind of… life got a little harder and I was really struggling to kind of make ends meet and struggling to try to make the dream a reality, so my writing got a little bit, I don’t know, harder or something edgier.

But then it always comes full circle, and with this record, with “Gold,” I was working on it while I was pregnant and then I was working on it after I became a mom, so it was the biggest shift in my life so far, as you can imagine. But I think with that shift came a lot of courage and confidence that I didn’t really have as much of before, and so I was able to kind of go in different directions and try new things that really were exciting. It felt really good to do that, so I’m really proud of it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned courage and confidence. It seems one of the benefits of getting older is that you become more comfortable with yourself, and that is often reflected in the writing of songwriters as they progress in their careers.
Kincheloe: One would hope that. (Laughter) I think it’s always hard. Even though I can talk about having more confidence, I think back on some of these moments and I’m like, “Did I really, though?” Because I can remember being just as scared in some of the sessions that we did, and not being sure of myself. But then when it came down to making decisions about the product or the music and the project, I felt more confident. So it’s interesting. I think being creative is always super vulnerable, and I don’t think anyone could be 100 percent confident in creativity because that’s what it’s all about. You have to be a little bit vulnerable and scared of some things.

TrunkSpace: Would that younger version of you, writing in the Catskills, be surprised by the artist you are today?
Kincheloe: No, I don’t think so. I honestly think that I’m just coming more and more to where I wanted to be when I started out. Is that weird?

TrunkSpace: Not at all!
Kincheloe: I think that I’m getting closer to the essence of who I have always been, especially creatively. I think that some of this stuff is like, “Yeah, yeah yeah, this is what I was thinking when I was 18,” but I didn’t know my ass from my elbow enough to say what I was thinking. It feels so good because I can say that this is actually closer to what I was setting out to do.

Photo By: Shervin Lainez

TrunkSpace: Is there a side of growth as an artist that can be a double-edged sword? And by that we mean, you establish yourself as an artist with a specific sound, and then if you venture too far away from that sound, people say, “This is not what I know.” But then if you stay too close to what they already know, they say, “She didn’t show any growth here.” Is it sometimes a balancing act?
Kincheloe: Yes, 100 percent. You’re never going to please everybody, and you have to be okay with that. I think, in previous years, we’ve all been kind of afraid and we felt this sort of die hard loyalty to our fans to keep it in one place or keep it where we thought that they wanted it. But the thing is, we are the musicians. We have to make the choices. And you have to be brave enough to do what feels right to you because otherwise that’s not really art. If you’re just copying yourself over and over again, to please somebody, eventually that’s going to burn out. And again, you can’t please everybody so why not please yourself? And hopefully some people will still like it.

TrunkSpace: If the work isn’t inspiring you, how can it inspire someone else? Not only will the project burn out, but eventually so will your passion for it.
Kincheloe: 100 percent. I think that’s a really good point and that’s one of the factors that I think was leading me in this direction, because we’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That’s a lot of years of a lot of similar stuff. And I love that stuff, don’t get me wrong. I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done, but at a certain point, if there’s a little voice inside of you telling you to do something different or take a chance, I think that you should always go with that.

TrunkSpace: Your parents were in bands. You hear all of the time about how we become the kind of spouses or significant others that we saw our parents be. Does that apply to music in any way? Are you the kind of bandmate that you are today because of how you saw your parents interact with their fellow creatives?
Kincheloe: Hmm, that’s an interesting thought that I have never thought about. I love that question. I think that you may be onto something. My brother and I are… I think we try to be really copacetic and congenial. My dad was always that way. He’s kind of like a go-with-the-flow, happy to be there, kind of drummer.

I think you learn from watching what your parents do in every way, so I think that I definitely picked up on that. I think that watching my mom be able to sing in front of people is the reason why I thought it was okay and not scary when I was nine years old.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a more personal connection to music as a whole because it was a part of your upbringing in a way?
Kincheloe: Yes, absolutely. I actually learned how to read by listening to Emmylou Harris records and Bonnie Raitt records and reading along with the lyrics on the liner notes. I would come up to a word and be like, “I don’t know what that is, but I hear her saying it but I don’t understand.” My mom would be like, “Yeah, there’s a silent g in that one.” And that was little Arleigh sitting on the floor while mom was making dinner and I’m like six or whatever. So it’s a super, super personal and lifelong thing for me that’s been connected to my learning to be a person and, let alone be a musician, but absolutely becoming a human being.

TrunkSpace: It must be so interesting now that you’re doing music professionally to be able to say that there’s somebody else out there sort of having that personal connection to your music the same way that you did with Emmylou Harris?
Kincheloe: Totally, and I hear a lot of people tell me that their kids listen and love it and it just really feels full-circle, and especially now that I’m a mom. When my son hears music in general he freaks out, but when my voice comes over the speakers he knows it and he has a certain reaction. It’s a really crazy thing to watch.

Tour dates are available here.

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Musical Mondaze

Buke & Gase

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While the majority of their upcoming album “Scholars” was finished about a year ago, the songs that make up the record tell a story that they are eager to share, though they admit the individual interpretations are in the ears of the beholder. And therein lies the beauty of music. Like all art, what we see, hear and feel from any piece is our own unique experience. How we absorb songs and carry those interpretations with us throughout our lives is a sonic “Choose Your Own Adventure.” We’ll go left, you go right, but in the end, an album like “Scholars” can move us all in different ways.

We recently sat down with Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez to discuss first impressions, how they’re constantly pulling each other in different creative directions, and why professional and personal goals don’t always see eye to eye in music.

TrunkSpace: “Scholars” drops on January 18. What emotions do you juggle with as you
prepare to release new material into the world?
Sanchez: I can feel a bit nervous about it but at the same time the album is work that we mostly completed a year ago and we’ve been performing these songs for awhile now – they’ve had a life of their own. They represent an emotional story that we are familiar with now. What will be different is that more people will hear this music within the confines of their own earbuds, in a critical setting or what have you, hopefully our audience will own this music and interpret it in ways that suits them. It’s exciting to see what happens next. It’s also exciting to just get it out into the world finally, and move forward with whatever new music is ahead of us.

TrunkSpace: As we understand it, the vast majority of the music that you two create as Buke & Gase comes out of the two of you sitting down in one room and clanging your minds together. Do you believe in creative kinship at first sight, and if so, did you experience that with each other when you first met?
Dyer: I think we had a particularly intense first meeting, confusing creative kinship with intimate kinship. We generally don’t talk about this (out of embarrassment or fear of judgment?), but I’ve been seeing the importance of discussing the subject more recently. I can only speak from my perspective, but I find artists tend to be quick to fall in love. Not that we feel more than a non-artist, but we pay closer attention to our feelings, giving them more weight and autonomy over our lives. So oftentimes artists who might be better off as working partners end up coupling together, and in a fit of fiery passion, completely destroy their true calling of creative companionship. What many people consider to be celebrity drama might merely be an artists’ misinterpretation of attraction. We fell into what we thought was love, while continuing to make music together, and through time the intimate relationship died for both of us. In truth, for the past seven years or so, the creation of music has become the only thing that brings us together.

TrunkSpace: Is there something artistically inspiring about working together as a duo that you have been unable to achieve in a solo capacity? How does being in that room with your creative counterpart make you a stronger songwriter?
Sanchez: It’s a completely different experience working together versus creating music in a solo setting. When we improvise together it’s like a roller coaster ride – when it’s going well, we hop on the train and go. Sometimes it’s familiar territory and sometimes we end up places we’ve never been. The process of creating music we use requires us to rely on each other in ways that relinquishes our ego or specific sonic desires to a degree. We’re constantly pulling each other in different directions and you either follow or it falls apart. This is inspiring because we wind up creating music that neither of us could make on our own.

TrunkSpace: When choosing the tracks that would make up the album, you had over 60 songs to choose from. Was the process of whittling it down a difficult one, and how did you approach deciding what would ultimately become a part of “Scholars” and what would be best left for future releases?
Dyer: Many of the pieces were easy to set aside as lyrics were less concise or the energy wasn’t overwhelming. But of the songs that were complete and energetically enticing, it became a coin toss. Some we wanted to have on the album but there just wasn’t enough time for them. Hence B, C, D and Z sides.

Photo By: Buke & Gase

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Sanchez: I think we were able to get over our creative slump. We actually completed another record in 2014 but were unhappy with it and decided to not release it at the last minute. What followed was a long period of reinvention and trying to figure out what we had done wrong and not repeat it. It took a lot of trial and error of process, but ultimately we figured out the problem. Creatively we were getting in our own way, too critical and having too much control of the finished product and we had to find ways to get ourselves out of the room and let the music take control. I think we succeeded with “Scholars.”

TrunkSpace: Aron, you invent instruments, and in the process, create sounds that ears have never heard before. How much of that musical maiden voyage is part of Buke & Gase in terms of its sonic identity? Could you envision a day where there’s a Buke & Gase album that did not utilize your instrumental inventions?
Sanchez: Well, for some of this album we relied a lot less on the Buke and the Gase already – we tried some other processes to create and perform, using software and midi controllers. We’re doing this because we didn’t want to be tied down to the sonic limitations of our previous work. All of the instrumental creations for this project were solutions to a problem: how do we create interesting music that we can perform live and just be a duo? At first we tried expanding the sonic capabilities of electric stringed instruments and minimal percussion that we could perform simultaneously. That has now expanded to using computers and electronics to help us do more with what we have. This expansion has also mirrored our interests in other forms of music.

TrunkSpace: Does that make touring difficult? Does it take experimentation to carry over every sound that you’ve created in the studio and transfer it to the stage?
Sanchez: I’m always thinking about how our gear setup can be compact and easily tourable – our equipment has always been an integral and influential part of our music creation. The gear and music creation are always in conversation to some extent and are requiring different things of each other, thus we have to experiment and there’s lots of trial and error to get things right. Using more electronics and software has helped that a lot, and we now have a lot of sonic control over our live performances.

Photo By: Buke & Gase

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Dyer: I have pictured it, but I want to do everything in my power to avoid that possibility. I don’t feel either of us are limited to this particular project, which makes room for future musical opportunities. The question of having music in my life versus not is so much more existential than you might have wanted to hear: it’s the main reason I haven’t started a family. It’s hard to imagine having children AND being a musician (with limited means, I mean, for crying out loud, I have soooooo many side jobs to maintain MY life month-to-month, how could I conscientiously do that with another human to care for?! And then go on tour??!). The only models I have of that are already successful female artists and… men (who generally don’t have to have a child on their tit/hip for the formative years). Having a child would mean musical suicide, for all I know. So I guess when I’ve pictured my life without music, it’s because a fresh, new human needs my attention and love. What would you say to this?

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artists?
Dyer: Internally. Personally. In the worst ways.
Sanchez: I can be too much of a perfectionist sometimes.

TrunkSpace: We’re jumping headfirst into 2019. Any New Year’s resolutions that you’re hoping to hold onto as you travel through the months ahead?
Dyer: My 2019 mantra is: FUTURE POSITIVE
Sanchez: Stay Real. Everything is OK.

Scholars” is available January 18 from Brassland.

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Musical Mondaze

The Verve Pipe

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Photo By: Jamie Geysbeek

As The Verve Pipe prepares to embark on a winter tour, frontman Brian Vander Ark teases that the band will be pulling double duty, not just entertaining their longtime fans at stops from Richmond to Boston, but writing new material as well.

This is the year that we’re back in the studio and working on new material,” he says. “We had to take a nice little break in 2018, and actually most of 2017, just to play live and get to know each other again live. We’ve got plenty of ideas now.”

The Michigan-born band best known for their 1997 hit “The Freshmen” has experienced the highs and lows of the music industry, but have proven that perseverance is the best defense against a machine that is so well adept at chewing up and spitting out those whose chase their musical dreams.

We recently sat down with Vander Ark to discuss how he keeps The Verve Pipe fresh after over two decades, navigating the digital age, and what he values as an artist now that his younger self never would have appreciated.

TrunkSpace: You’ve toured the world and have experienced the ins and outs of the industry. When you hit the road now are there still firsts out there?
Brian Vander Ark: I love this question. Good start. It’s never been asked and it’s a good one.

I’d like to think that I’ve seen it all and that, pardon the pun, I knew everything, but I’m always surprised by the people that come out now. The crowds have become more and more diverse age wise. It’s not just the alternative folks that are coming out. We’ve got young people coming out as well. I think that might be reflective of the kids albums we’ve put out and now those kids have grown, so I think that actually helped us exponentially, although it was a happy accident. No one ever planned on that.

Really for me, it’s about cultivating those connections and when you cultivate the new connections, you learn about the fans. We always try to hang out with the fans a little bit after the show or even pre-show. You learn their stories. It’s always fresh.

What’s the same usually are the back rooms and the camaraderie with the band. We’ve got eight guys out and we all know what gets on each others’ nerves and what not to do. (Laughter) Also, we know what pleases each other and know what to do.

I think what keeps it fresh are the fans. They’re ever-changing and ever-growing and that’s a terrific thing. Also what we like to do is we have people request songs. You put your request in through social media and then we’ll play those requests. We have to sometimes go through our old catalog and relearn songs, so every soundcheck we’ll say, “What’s requested tonight? Let’s work on that,” and we’ll work on the songs through soundcheck. So, we try to keep it as fresh as possible.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned cultivating the connection with the fans. It seems like nowadays, especially with many of the younger bands, they rely so heavily on social media to do that and the personal connection of it is lost. It sounds like you guys are making sure to put yourselves in front of the fans as well.
Brian Vander Ark: Yeah. I’m probably one of the few out there that will say that social media, I think, is way overrated. Maybe I’m not the only one that says that – maybe there are other people that say it – but I’ve felt that way over the course of the last three or four years. I’m very resistant to expectations that come with posting on social media. A good example is in your Twitter feed. If they don’t see it, they don’t see it. No one is going to find out what The Verve Pipe or Brian Vander Ark has to say by going to the feed and looking at it, you know? It just comes up. And that’s the way that Facebook is as well. You have to go to the page. So, I rely heavily on our mailing list and I rely on meeting people at the shows. I think that’s how you cultivate connections. I don’t know how you cultivate it through social media. I haven’t figured that out yet and I don’t know that I ever will. I just think there’s something that gets lost in the digital age and I’m just not seeing any fruitful results. Where it was fruitful was when we released “Parachute.” We released every song individually every two weeks and that was very successful for us. But as far as cultivating any connections, I’m not sure that really works.

TrunkSpace: Most people would never say, “Wow, I really remember that time Brian posted that thing on Twitter,” but they’d say, “I remember that time Brian took a few minutes to talk to me after the show and it made the show more memorable.”
Brian Vander Ark: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what the important thing is, I think… dropping that barrier between the fan and the musician, or the performer, the actor, anything, and just letting the curtain down. It really ingratiates you with fans, I think.

TrunkSpace: Are albums a bit like chapters in your life and do you associate them with memories even more so than just the years themselves? Do they become pieces of your own personal calendar?
Brian Vander Ark: That’s exactly what they are. I couldn’t have said it better. They’re memory albums – our own scrapbook. It’s probably every five years or so I’ll listen to an early album and just get a great laugh out of it and chuckle out of it just because some of the songs on the first couple of albums are just terrible – the production and knowing what we went through and stuff, but I get a good kick out of it now.

There was so much good and so much bad that happened once we got signed with RCA within such a short period of time. We’re talking, in 1998 I think, we were on top of the world and by the end of 1999, we barely sold 7,000 or 8,000 records of our follow up record to “Villains,” which sold almost two million. So there’s top and bottom right there, you know? I think the trends had changed with Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. It just goes to show that those changes happen and to enjoy that moment. When I listen to the albums now or listen to those songs now and we play those songs I go, “Oh man, I had such high expectations for this song and for this album.” Though it’s disappointing, it’s nice to be able to play them and be able to say, “Wow, this is a really great song that really was lost in the masses.” Which if it’s lost in the masses, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not valid. A good song is a good song and people have discovered, years later, some of our material and they were like, “I had no idea that you guys even did this song.” “Colorful” is a great example. To this day, I still have people come up and say, “I had no idea that was you guys.”

Photo By: Jamie Geysbeek

TrunkSpace: You mentioned looking back over your music. If you could sit down with young Brian when he was first picking up a guitar, would he be surprised by how your career played out and the musical journey you’ve put yourself on?
Brian Vander Ark: Yeah. First of all, he would be surprised that I’m not coloring my hair anymore probably. (Laughter) I think he would be disgusted with the way my head looks right now. (Laughter) “This is ridiculous!”

That’s another great question. I got to say, I think yes. I think we always expected once we got signed to a major label that that was our ticket for the rest of our lives. You don’t realize that if you don’t get the priority of the label, you’re dead in the water. You just assume, “Well, we got signed now, here we go. We’re gonna go out and do this.” And then when it’s confirmed with your first single… “Photograph” did pretty well for us. We made a video and then made a second video, and then “The Freshmen” came out and was huge for us. Then you’re like, “Okay, this is never gonna end.” And even though I had seen every episode then of “Behind the Music” and I watched every warning sign come at me, we followed every cliché and wrong turn possible. That’s the one thing that would surprise me. “Wow, I really fell for all that.” That’s what my young person would say.

What I would like to say to that person though is, “You take it way too seriously.” This is a great life. I get to make music for a living, I get to travel with my kids on occasion, I have a beautiful family, and at the end of the day, I just got to play a fun show with people that I really love. That’s something that I wouldn’t have valued 25 years ago. There’s no way I would’ve valued that then.

TrunkSpace: And what’s really amazing is that some of those people that you’re playing to have been with you, supporting your music, for decades.
Brian Vander Ark: Oh, absolutely. I travel the country and do speaking tours as well, and I have a lot of people that say, “Oh my God, I totally know that song!” I go into financial industries and talk to their people about refocusing, rebranding, reinvention, and cultivating connections – that kind of thing – and at least three quarters of the room has already heard of the band, no matter where I am in the US. I still marvel at that. “It’s really pretty amazing that 75 percent of the people here know who The Verve Pipe is.”

Unless they’re confusing us with The Verve, but I never asked. (Laughter)

Tour dates are available here.

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Musical Mondaze

Flint Eastwood

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Flint Eastwood is Jax Anderson. Jax Anderson is Flint Eastwood.

Regardless of how you categorize her alongside of her music, one thing is for certain – she is a breath of fresh air, one infused with positivity, who connects with her fans through shared experiences and presenting herself as part indie artist and part motivational speaker. Her message is one of community, bridging the gap between those who feel they are struggling with personalized demons and those who bring assurance that the demons visit us all in time. In other words – you are not alone.

We recently sat down with Anderson to discuss how her creativity is fueled by listeners, accessing the things we can all relate to, and why she chooses to perform under the name Flint Eastwood.

TrunkSpace: How do you balance creative expectations and career expectations, and, are they one in the same or two completely different roads you’re traveling on?
Anderson: I think for me, I’ve always had this idea of what I want to do with Flint Eastwood. My whole purpose with this project is just to help people. Creatively and career wise, that’s what I want to do. As long as I’m doing that, I’ll continue with Flint Eastwood and if I feel like I’m not doing that, then I’ll either change the path and follow down something else, or I’ll do something that turns into something totally different. I think for me, creatively and career wise, it’s just the same goal, which is to help people. Everything’s kind of viewed through that lens.

TrunkSpace: Sometimes even when we’re surrounded by people, being human can feel very lonely. Often people will connect with a songwriter in a way that sort of helps them feel like they’re not alone in the world. Does the opposite work for you? Does having an audience connect with your music give you a sense of connection and community?
Anderson: Yeah, for sure. I think what initially drew me to music is just the sense of community that it brings. In every genre, music is just a common thread that kind of transcends any type of difference that you may have with anyone. I think that’s such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I think is a very rare thing for human beings to experience. I think having a community around what I do is extremely important. I always thought it was awesome being able to follow a band and kind of be able to discover other bands and discover other things that I may like, just because I have that commonality of liking the same band as somebody else, and going to the show and meeting new friends. It’s really cool to be able to go to shows and kind of see repeated faces and see even new faces, and just see things that we have in common and be able to connect on just being human. It’s a really comforting feeling, especially whenever you’re on the road for a while. To be able to end a show and talk with people, and it feel like you’re all a family is a really comforting thing.

TrunkSpace: The most powerful music is always the most honest music, but does putting that much of yourself into something open you up to the sort of snap judgments of the social media age where everyone has a soapbox that they’re ready to stand on?
Anderson: Just me as an artist, I always want to be a beacon of hope and a beacon of positivity, ‘cause I do think that there’s a lot of negativity in the world. I think there are certain artists that it is so vital for them to have their platforms and be really vocal and use their platform for something that they feel like is good. For me, I feel like my soapbox is just positivity.

Yeah, I mean any time you put anything out there in the world, whether you’re going to school to be a teacher or going to school to be an artist, or you’re actually doing things – anytime you do anything that’s other than just sitting at home and being by yourself, you open yourself up to judgment. For me, I just don’t pay attention to that. I have way too much stuff to do and way too much stuff that I want to get done to ever pay attention to people that are being negative. I’m the type of person too that’s like, “Yeah, everybody’s allowed to have their opinions. I am not going to be for everybody, and that’s totally okay.”

TrunkSpace: Where did the inspiration come from to spread positivity through your music?
Anderson: For me, input equals output. If you’re putting positive things into your life, typically things are going to be a little bit more positive for you. Granted, there are different circumstances that people are going into, and things that people can’t really help. Everybody deals with pain or negativity in a different manner, but for me personally, I just feel like I spent so much of my life being sad that I finally just made the decision that I didn’t want to be sad anymore. I just kind of changed my perspective. I mean, it took a really long time – I say it as if it’s easy – but I made an intentional effort to take a look at the people around me and take a look at the things that I was putting into my life, and to base it all around this core value of being a beacon of hope and being a beacon of positivity, and spreading that to people around me and surrounding myself with those kind of people. Hopefully connecting people and helping them with whatever they’re going through because, you know, all of us have shit in life. All of us have gone through stuff and all of us have difficult times and if we can just admit that and admit that we have hard times and things aren’t easy, then it makes things a lot more relatable and it makes things a lot more easier to cope.

For me, I just want to let people know that it’s going to be okay, you know?

TrunkSpace: And that’s a great way to be, particularly in a world where there seems to be so much promotion of negativity. When you hear how your positive messages impact your listeners, does that keep you moving forward on this journey? Does your audience inspire you to continue on the Flint Eastwood path?
Anderson: Definitely. Music has been that for me in so many instances. The times that I was at my darkest, there were different records that just got me through. To be able to create that for other people as well is just something that’s… you hit it right on the head, it’s exactly what keeps me going. Granted I’m not saying that I’m this savior that comes in and changes everyone’s lives and blah, blah, blah, blah… what we were saying before, I’m not going to connect with everybody and not everybody’s going to fuck with what I do, but the people who do feel the things that I have felt and have gone through the things that I’ve gone through, I just want to be able to give that kind of empathy towards them and let them know that they’re not alone and let them know it’s going to be okay.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular reason that you spread that message as Flint Eastwood and not as Jax Anderson?
Anderson: Yeah, I wanted to give it a feel that it was more than just me. I wanted to give it a feel that it was more of a community and it was more of a group effort, because honestly, yes Flint Eastwood is just me, but there are so many friends and there’s so many people that are involved and behind the scenes and with the creation of everything that it’s crazy. I’m extremely grateful for the people that are around me and I kind of felt saying that it was just Jax Anderson wouldn’t be truthful.

Flint Eastwood’s latest EP, “Broke Royalty,” is available now from Neon Gold Records.

Visit here for tour dates.

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Musical Mondaze

Joey Dosik

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Photo By: GL Askew II

Music has many functions. People listen for different reasons. Some bind songs to memories. Others use them as outlets of emotional deliverance. For singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joey Dosik, his own journey with music became a form of therapy.

While recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, Dosik found a balance between physical healing and expressive restoration. Marrying his love for music to the pastime he’s most passionate about, basketball, the concept EP “Game Winner” was born. Recently re-released on Secretly Canadian and featuring four bonus tracks, the mini-album serves as a harbinger of the full-length he’s currently working on, one we’re eagerly looking forward to.

We recently sat down with Dosik to find common basketball ground, what it’s like promoting “Game Winner” a second time around, and why you can hear a little bit of every genre in the music you listen to these days.

TrunkSpace: You’re a big Lakers fan. Full disclosure, we’re Boston guys.
Dosik: (Laughter) Right on. That’s cool. That’s fine. You know, I used to date a girl who is from New England and I remember finding her green Celtics’ Starter jacket in the closet one day and just being terrified at the sight of it.

TrunkSpace: You heard the record scratch to a halt in your mind?
Dosik: (Laughter) Completely. I’ve got respect for Boston fans though. Boston fans are great.

TrunkSpace: When fans of two rival teams are in the same room, there needs to be a “love the game” policy taken.
Dosik: Exactly. That’s a good policy.

TrunkSpace: We just discovered “Game Winner” a few weeks ago, but for you it’s been a part of your life for some time now. Even with the re-release, do you feel like a creatively different person now than when you put that together?
Dosik: Absolutely. The EP sort of represents a moment in time that was vulnerable for me because I made it while I was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and there’s something about that time that was… the EP sort of froze that moment forever for me. I’m a different person since then and I’m excited for some of the music that I’ll be getting out. I’m kind of finishing a full-length record here. But, yeah, I mean, you know, it was a moment in time where I tried to make the best of a tough situation and I’m so thankful for it because it allowed me to bring the thing that I love as much as music, which is basketball, kind of into my creative fold and it’s been a blessing for me.

TrunkSpace: How do you go about getting into the mindset to promote the record all over again as you’ve already creatively moved on from it?
Dosik: Well, I spent a lot of time thinking about songwriting, and in songwriting I always try and see if there’s a way that I can make the songs sort of… what’s the right word… make the songs a bit adjustable to different situation. So, with a song like “Game Winner,” or a song like “Running Away,” or “Competitive Streak,” I feel like I can do the songs in a lot of different ways. I can do them with a full band. I can do them myself. I could do them in a broken down setting. I played “Game Winner” at the Garden last year. I can play it just me and a piano.

So, the crazy thing about songs is that sometimes you write them and you say, “Okay, cool. Here’s this weird basketball love song.” But now looking back on what it is that I did, I realize that it really was a sort of music therapy and the song continues to bring different meaning to me in my own life as I get older. And the cool thing about “Game Winner” is that they’re going to just keep happening. I mean, we just saw last night how the women’s American hockey team shot a game winner in overtime. So, it’s kind of that, hopefully, songs can be the gifts that keep on giving.

TrunkSpace: And the beauty of songs is that they can mean different things to different people. Five people could sit down and listen to “Game Winner” and each one of them could pull something different from it.
Dosik: Right on. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that really excites me, man. The fact that that’s happening just kind of makes it all worth while – all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making a record.

TrunkSpace: So on something like your new full-length, do you have more creative freedom than you did on “Game Winner” because that was specifically a concept album? Is there more open space to create?
Dosik: Definitely. Limitation can be oddly freeing, but the album that I’m working on is not just basketball related.

TrunkSpace: Do you consciously add multi-layered meanings into your music or do you just write what’s honest to you as a songwriter and then let people find in them what they may?
Dosik: I’ve heard a lot of songwriters say that once you write and perform it and release it, the song is no longer yours, and I kind of see both sides of the coin. It’ll always be mine because it came out of my brain, and like I said, the songs do kind of mean different things to me as I get older and go through different life experiences and continue to perform them, but, yeah, I’m more than happy to hand the songs off to listeners and let them find their own meaning in their own lives. That kind of stuff always excites me.

TrunkSpace: You play multiple instruments. We know there are probably multiple ways that you go about creating new songs, but is there one instrument in particular that usually serves as the launching pad for the earliest nuggets of songs?
Dosik: It could be a lot of different things. Usually it’s chords from the piano or a melody from my voice, or just words. It’s also fun to write to a drum beat. It’s also fun to write to a bass line. I think piano being my first instrument, and the voice kind of being so close to my body, I think those are the things that usually first inspire me.

Photo By: GL Askew II

TrunkSpace: You play the saxophone. We are lovers of all things ‘80s saxophone solos here and think we need more of them like Eddie Money’s “I Wanna Go Back.” Have you ever written a pop song specifically for the saxophone?
Dosik: When I was a jazz obsessed saxophone player I wrote many songs for the saxophone, but they weren’t pop songs. My family, every time they come to see one of my shows or when they listen to a track that I’ve made, they always say, “You know, you should really take out the saxophone again.” And so I’m getting the full-court press from the family to try and come up with it, and I would love to figure that one out. So, hopefully that’s next on the docket.

TrunkSpace: You’ve mastered many instruments, but are there any that you’d still like to take up and add to your repertoire?
Dosik: I don’t know if I’d call myself a master at any instrument. I can definitely play them and I still really desire to get better at all of the instruments that I play. I guess the one that I think about a lot right now is drums. I’ve played drums on recordings of mine but it’s an amazing instrument. It’s really just a bunch of instruments combined into one and I really enjoy recording them and getting sounds out of them. So, I guess drums is one that I’m thinking about a lot.

TrunkSpace: You’ve written and performed in many genres. As you look forward in your career, are you hoping to continue to expand your creative horizons and write without musical margins? Are you an artist who is willing to go anywhere creatively?
Dosik: Yeah. I feel like genres are just there for record stores and are there for people to write about it, honestly. There will never be a substitute for actually hearing music. It’s also a way that we communicate with others about what it is that we’re hearing, but I think the interesting thing about music nowadays is that everything is so boxed in so whenever you hear something it’s usually a combination of at least three genres of music. Nothing is necessarily that clear cut anymore. When you listen to pop music you’re hearing so many different types of music. So, yeah, I hope to continue to evolve and explore all things that inspire me.

Game Winner” is available now from Secretly Canadian.

Joey Dosik tour dates can be found here.

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Musical Mondaze

Matt Costa

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Photo By: Jen Rosenstein

Being such a visual person, singer/songwriter Matt Costa felt at home turning his latest album “Santa Rosa Fangs” into a sort of musical film, a cinematic soundtrack to three fictional characters who are coming of age while discovering that life is equal parts triumph and tragedy. Much of what is playing out in Costa’s captivating lyrics involve aspects of his own personal experiences, which he gifted to his trio of made-up muses and shaped into their shared story. The result is a record that, as a listener, feels timeless in its collective narrative and delivers on artistic layers that stretch deep beneath the surface.

We recently sat down with Costa to discuss the work that goes into an album after it’s finished, where he’s grown as an artist since his last full length release five years ago, and which “Santa Rosa Fangs” character he feels closest to.

TrunkSpace: “Santa Rosa Fangs” drops tomorrow. As you gear up to release new material to the world, what emotions do you juggle with, especially in a case like this where it’s been five years since your last full length album.
Costa: Well, there’s a lot of that goes into the feelings around releasing something, especially when it’s been a long time since I’ve done a proper full length release. I think that over the years though, I’ve gotten better at sort of managing my creative time and creative emotions with it. I finished the record in… it takes time for stuff to be put out. It takes about a year when you finish recording it, going through all the processes and everything for it to get put out, so it’s been awhile since I’ve recorded it. But since then, there’s been a lot put into sort of living in the songs – bringing them to life and getting ready to bring them to the road – which is a different thing than being creative in the writing time. Ideally, the song is a vehicle to kind of channel the ether. So it’s just kind of getting into that and then be able to go on the road and be able to really live inside the songs and bring people into them as well, rather then just having them live in their recorded form.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to manage the expectations associated with a release once it is out of your hands – basically, how it will be accepted and perceived once out in the world?
Costa: No, I don’t think so. Obviously you get – being in the music business or industry – those people who are invested in it just on the business end of it. My main goal has always been doing something creative that I think has depth to it. And sometimes it hits immediately, sometimes it takes a while to sink in. I’m just really happy to have the opportunity this time, or anytime, that I’m able to put a record out with support, in order to have it reach more people. So I think that, in itself, is a luxury.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, it’s been five years since your last full length album. Is the artist you are now dramatically different than the artist you were at the time of that self-titled release?
Costa: Yeah, I think it is. When I did that record I recorded it in Scotland and I recorded it in Glasgow specifically. I recorded it with some of the members… a lot of members of the band Belle and Sebastian. Throughout the years I’ve gotten to play with a lot of musicians who I admire and have looked at and with administration from a distance. I flew home and came home from that experience with a lot of growth, but then I also realized that there was a lot of… every time I do something I realize where I need to grow in other areas. You do something, put a big piece of work out and it’s sort of like Sisyphus. You have to climb, the rock falls back down, and you have to push it back up. For me, I like to think that during this time I did a lot studying of different genres and styles and things, which I’ve always done throughout my career. I explored that during the “Orange Sunshine” documentary, that I was able to spread out some of the songs. Instead of just writing a sort of pop-structured song, I was able to spread sounds out, go to different genres and explore that, and I think that has given more depth. And even sonically too, working in my home studio here, being able to explore more recording techniques on my own, as well, has helped to make the sound and evolution from what I’ve done. My voice is still there, but I think that I’m just able to get some different sounds and some different rhythms and things. I think with the “Orange Sunshine” record I was starting to focus more on just like, a specific groove – groove things – and stuff like that. And I think that I’m sort of locking into a nice pocket on these songs.

TrunkSpace: Are you somebody who, after finishing an album or creative endeavor, needs to then step away to refuel the tank?
Costa: Well, we’ll see. (Laughter) I don’t know. I think that this time around, it’s easy for me to, once I finish working on a piece of music to… the reason I’ve been able to sustain it for so long is because I just move onto the next day and just keep going and going and going. Recently, for this one, I’ve been channeling that energy and putting it into a lot more of the visual aspects of it. And so, instead of saying, “Okay, I’m gonna sit down and write a song today,” I think that my working on the film and several films over the last couple years – I’ve always been a very visual person the way I see music – so now I realize I can take that energy that I put creatively into songs and really shape the album packaging, which I did with a close friend of mine who I’ve known since I was a kid. I did the art direction for it and laid that out. And also, a lot of the video work that’s been going along with this as well. So instead of, “On to the next thing, on to the next record,” which I have done a little bit – I can’t help but write songs and having those ideas come – but I’ve been trying to channel them into creating how the visuals that go along with the record accompany it. And I think it’s been really fun. And also that stuff is necessary for the way that people perceive music nowadays. It’s been that way for a long time. Think about a film without a score or something, or maybe it has a very minimal one but it really, definitely shapes the mood. So I’ve been enjoying that process.

Photo By: Pamela Littky

TrunkSpace: Did being a visual person help to shape the storytelling elements of “Santa Rosa Fangs?”
Costa: Yeah, it definitely did. I think when I start writing a song, I don’t solidify or I don’t commit to an idea until my mind’s eye sees the image that correlates to the music. And when it does, then I start going down that path. Over the last five years when I wasn’t putting out my own records, I put out some EPs that were hyper-focused into smaller conceptual ideas where the sound was focused. And I think that my idea with that, in the long run, was to make a larger, more conceptual piece that I could have themes and characters and I could weave in and out of them to tell my own story, but also tell their story. Like a vine that goes through it.

Also too, I feel like from when I first started writing songs, just being young and also having only minimal experience as a musician or a writer, by my own experience, limitations were made. And as you grow – grow as a musician – obviously your palate gets wider and you get all these other tools, but I think that narrowing the focus with a setting and these characters helped drive the direction of the record to be something that was more contained conceptually.

TrunkSpace: With that focused storytelling, did you find yourself relating to one of the characters more than another?
Costa: It’s sort of all of them in a way. Some of it is family experience too. Like the song “Ritchie” was based upon two family tragedies that happened early on when I was young. Those two cousins who passed away, within a year of each other, both by a motorcycle and a car accident, their father, his name is Tony. He was my uncle and he was the most influential person in my musical growth. He’d always give me records and things. And all the music I’ve done has been inspired by him and so, I guess the character of Tony, who’s kind of the spokesperson for the group and has the wisdom between all of them, he’s the one who I relate to the most.

TrunkSpace: Obviously all music is personal, but because the record ties back to your own experiences and family, does it feel more personal?
Costa: It does feel more personal, yeah. I think it does feel more personal but it’s also easier when there are these archetype characters that you can channel and – channeling, I’ve been using that a lot – to focus the story into, I feel like I can get out of my own way, in that sense. A lot of times I feel it can become too self-indulgent or something like that, and a lot of it too is that songwriting or writing in general is looking at people I have relationships with or that are in my life whether it be romantic or friends or business or however it may be, and obviously you can only bounce your own experience off of them. But that’s how you gain a perspective and I think that same way within these songs I was able to get more perspective on the songs and the record and the story when I was able to bounce ideas and themes off of the character.

TrunkSpace: Billboard called it one of the most ambitious projects you’ve taken on. Did it feel that way to you? Did it become an undertaking that you didn’t anticipate at the outset?
Costa: I think so, yeah. I definitely had it in mind. I knew that I wanted to take on some larger themes in the years leading up to it. I knew that was something. I kind of sat back started to visualize what it was specifically and really putting into it my own family history, and all that, really feels important and somewhat vulnerable too. And so I think that makes it an ambitious thing. I guess I try to be as ambitious as I can with it and hopefully, as I go along, each one is relative to the time and event in my life. I feel like this one definitely is. And I don’t think I could have written this record or even done these songs in the beginning of my career because I think certain sonic textures that the tunes are made up of, actually I had to learn how to develop a sonic texture in order to write a song that could work with inside of it. I don’t think it would have been the same, for a song like “Sharon” or something like that. I could have written it when I was younger, but I don’t think I could deliver it as impactful.

Santa Rosa Fangs” is available Friday on Dangerbird Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Sarah Shook

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Photo By: Anthony Nguyen

Sarah Shook doesn’t write music for fame or adulation, she writes because she has to. An outlet for emotional purging, the songs she creates – gritty and authentic – are part of her own internal healing process. And while her latest album “Years” may have aided in exorcising the personal demons of the North Carolina native, it is also helping listeners of her brand of twangy AmericHONESTa search for answers to their own questions about the confusing world circulating around them.

We recently sat down with Shook to discuss songwriting catharsis, going boots on the ground, and why it’s necessary for artists to be transparent in what they’re creating.

TrunkSpace: What emotions do you juggle with internally as you gear up to release new material to the masses and is it important to tamper expectations given that once its released to the world, so much of how it is perceived is then out of your hands?
Shook: I don’t make music to please anyone. I make music to exorcise my demons and heal. The people who listen to my songs and feel connected to me, this music is for them, too. Their pain and suffering, their failures and victories, are every bit as valid as my own. My band and I worked incredibly hard to make an excellent record with “Years,” not because we want accolades, but because we challenge ourselves personally and collectively to be the best we possibly can. That’s its own reward in many ways.

TrunkSpace: Is there ever a moment when you finish an album and you feel a sense of loss or sadness because the experience is over and those songs no longer require your attention? Is it difficult to let go of the creative in the process?
Shook: Hell no. These songs are my catharsis, I don’t get tired of howling out the same words night after night because this shit is real and at this point this is bigger than just me, this is about bringing some relief and catharsis to the people who show up for it. Shared experience is powerful.

TrunkSpace: “Years” has been out for about a month now. Creatively are you a different person than you were when you first started writing the material for that album?
Shook: Creatively, no. Same old me. For better or worse. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: From our perspective, there seems to be a revolution happening in country music with singers/songwriters pushing back against the polished, packaged country that has dominated the genre for the last decade or so. Is that an accurate reading, and if so, why are artists hoping to redefine the country sound and vibe once again?
Shook: There’s a mighty thirst to find something real in a sea of glittery bubblegum superstardom. People are looking for something that speaks to them because it’s authentic and from the heart. Pop country artists might be selling out stadiums, but the little people like us are out here, boots on the ground, working hard AF, connecting with people. Pretty sure you won’t find Brad Paisley doin’ shots at the bar with his fans. We make ourselves available as much as possible.

TrunkSpace: You describe yourself as shy. How does someone who is shy ultimately settle on a career where being in front of people, both physically and emotionally, is part of the job description?
Shook: I’ve come a very long way in a very short amount of time. As an introvert, after a shit ton of socializing, yes, I’m definitely gonna need some alone time to recoup. But I totally enjoy meeting new people and the chaos of touring life. Being incessantly thrown into new and unfamiliar territory with so many unknown factors, this way of life requires fast and lasting change in one’s way of thinking. You just gotta roll with the punches, keep your head on straight, and keep moving forward.

Photo By: John Gessner

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, if you could spend the remainder of your career making a living writing and recording exclusively, could you walk away from performing in front of people or is there still a draw there?
Shook: I love touring, I love performing, and most of all, I love my bandmates. We’ve worked so fucking hard to get to where we are, I would totally be letting them down if I quit touring. I could never do that. They’re my family when I’m not home.

TrunkSpace: You seem to put so much of yourself into your music. On the lyrics side, do you ever feel like you’re saying too much about yourself and your experiences, and in the process, opening yourself up to third party dissection… especially in this social media age?
Shook: No. Artists need to be more honest and transparent in their art. I make mistakes, I’m not perfect, and when I fuck up I’m not afraid to talk about it.

TrunkSpace: You have a great rock star aura about you, but really, the first “rock stars” with swagger were the classic country artists. What are your thoughts on persona and attitude when it comes to an artist’s point of view? Is it all part of the necessary equation?
Shook: I don’t give a single fuck what anybody thinks about me. I know who I am. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I work really hard to better myself. It’s impossible to intimidate someone who has lived through the shit I’ve lived through and clawed their way kicking and screaming towards freedom and independence. Nobody is ever gonna keep me down again and there is no more liberating feeling.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lyrics, the kind that make us curse the universe for not coming up with ourselves. What is a favorite line of yours that you have written and why?
Shook: “I didn’t come here to be seen, but I can feel your eyes burning holes in me.” Because I’ll never forget that feeling with that person in that moment at the bar. Ain’t desire a hell of a thing.

Years” by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers is available now from Bloodshot Records.

Featured image by: Jillian Clark.

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Musical Mondaze

Michael Rault

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Photo By: Mat Dunlap

Crafting one of our favorite albums of 2018 thus far, Michael Rault has created a modern-day classic with “It’s A New Day Tonight,” a 10-song masterpiece of vintage rock sounds and lyrical narratives reminiscent of breezy summer days. The Montreal-based singer/songwriter set out to construct a record that could be spun on a turntable and absorbed front to back in a single sitting. He has done just that, and in the process, has left a musical longing within the listener for more.

We recently sat down with Rault to discuss music’s therapeutic qualities, how “It’s A New Day Tonight” is an album about the subconscious, and why he needs to start sleeping with a dream journal.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, “It’s a New Day Tonight,” drops in just a few days. What emotions do you juggle with in your head as you gear up to release new material to the world?
Rault: Oh, a lot of different feelings come to the surface. There’s a little bit of anxiety, a little regret, but mainly, I’m just really excited. It is intense finally letting go of something you worked on for so long, though.

TrunkSpace: We read that the album sprung from a period of creative dissatisfaction. Are you someone who tends to hit walls creatively and then needs to refuel the tank? Do you find yourself taking breaks from music?
Rault: I don’t take very long breaks from music. I tend to take breaks from writing. Sometimes, it can be too much to keep squeezing the toothpaste tube once it has given all its got. I find that practicing instruments and learning songs keeps me in a state of expansion so I can avoid getting stuck in my writing.

TrunkSpace: The album as a whole feels like more than just a collection of songs. There is a cohesive vibe to it – a sense that it was crafted like an album from the ‘70s where each track to track transition was important to the journey of the listener. Did you set out to create more than just a package to wrap your songs in and how much thought was put into the order of the songs themselves?
Rault: At the beginning of the whole thing, I was just writing and trying to come up with enough material to fill a new album. At some point, I noticed there was a theme emerging, and I definitely pulled a handful of songs out of the pile and thought “these ones go together.” A bunch of tunes that might have been pretty good on their own just couldn’t get included, because they didn’t mesh well with what had become the core of the record. We fully tracked eleven songs, and had one other partially done, and once we had finished tracking and got into mixing, we eliminated one of the tracked tunes and opted for one of the other songs that seemed to fit the vibe better. After everything was mixed, Wayne Gordon (my engineer and co-producer) and I definitely put a bunch of work into sequencing the record. It was important for it to sound good when somebody put it on their turntable and listened to each side all the way through.

TrunkSpace: We know the title comes from a hockey pre-game interview, but we found something very music-focused in it, at least from our perspective. Music has the power to impact people in profound ways. Someone can be having a rough go of things and then put on their favorite record and then WHAM, they’re viewing things differently. Essentially, a bad day can become a new night. Yes, we took a long way to get here, but have you experienced a moment where a fan shared how your music impacted them directly and do moments like that help fuel your desire to continue forward with your career?
Rault: Yeah, definitely! Occasionally, someone will message me and say that my music has made them feel better in a hard time, and that’s encouraging to me. I have been helped throughout my whole life by my favorite music, making life more bearable and giving it all some meaning. I also find that working on my own music can give me insight into my own emotional life, and connect me with my inner life in a way that can have a positive impact on my day-to-day experience. I think you are right, that is the more true meaning of the album title. Although it did come from a hockey player’s awkward pre-game interview, the title itself meant something different to me, which is why I wrote the song.

TrunkSpace: What does “It’s A New Day Tonight” say about who you were as an artist at the time of its inception and have you already moved on creatively and found a new headspace to approach your writing from?
Rault: I am moving on. It is interesting to finish a huge project like this and see how certain ideas or concepts that have been in central positions in your mind for so long start to fade away. I find myself being attracted to different bands and genres and songs after drawing inspiration from other areas for so long when I was gathering ideas for this record. I’d say that “New Day” is a record about the subconscious, and maybe was my way of dealing with some things that I was unaware of. It seems to me like it was a more intimate album than anything I had done before, but also simultaneously was this sort of impersonal fantasy about being a rock and roll star in the sense that the sounds were so heavily based in this classic rock aesthetic. So, it seemed like it was both unglamorously personal, and fantastic at the same time.

TrunkSpace: Do you write primarily from experience or do you take a more storyteller’s approach to your lyrics?
Rault: The most recent thing I’ve been doing is writing subconsciously, and I guess that is something I’ve done since I started writing in my teen years. I try to just let things run their course and sometimes a song just comes out lyrically well-formed. Other times, you need to edit it and do more work on it to bring it together. I guess that makes the songs pretty personal, but in a way they also don’t seem like they are necessarily direct representations of what is going on in my life. It’s more like a reflection of my personal experience, but maybe through a fun house mirror or something. It comes out different on the other side, if it is working right.

Photo By: Meg Remy

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lines, the kind that make us curse the universe for not having come up with them ourselves. What is a favorite line of yours that you have written and why are you proud of that particular snippet?
Rault: That’s hard to say. I feel like some of my older material had some better one liners that I could just pull out and quote here. As far as this album goes, one of my favorite little lyrical snippets was from “Sleeping & Smiling,” when it goes “all the days run together like colours in my mind, leaving me looking through a blur, til it’s so hard to see through as dark as night and I wish that things could be just as they were…”, I liked the imagery in that line.

TrunkSpace: Sleeping and dreaming were two themes you focused on while writing “It’s A New Day Tonight.” Are you someone who can shut off the creative brain or are the gears always turning? Do you wake up with a need to jot down lyrics or concepts for songs?
Rault: I sometimes do wake up with ideas, and I often times decide that it isn’t good enough to get out of bed and find a pen for. I think I need to start sleeping with a dream journal / notebook type thing on hand. I wouldn’t say that there are just always great ideas pouring out of my skull, though. Only occasionally something comes up unprompted.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Rault: Everywhere. (Laughter) I need to be better about that.

TrunkSpace: Finally Michael, if you could sit down and have a conversation with 16-year-old you, would he be happy with the artist you have become today?
Rault: I think so! I’m guessing 16-year-old me would have a pretty good perspective on the amount of work present day me has done to improve and expand my skills and such. I also think I still share a lot of core interests with 16-year-old me, but I bet there would be some musical tastes that I have developed that I wouldn’t have liked at all at that age. It would definitely be a trippy encounter.

It’s A New Day Tonight” is available May 18 on Wick Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Santa Cruz

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For those of you in America who think that rock ‘n’ roll is on life support, it may be time to venture outside of your cozy little comfort zones.

Finnish rockers Santa Cruz are scheduled to return to the States on February 28 as they kick off an opening stint with Fozzy in New Orleans. Their latest album, “Bad Blood Rising,” is filled with big guitars and an even bigger attitude, a winning combination for a young and ambitious band set on a path to becoming amphitheater icons.

We recently sat down with Santa Cruz bass player and backing vocalist Middy to discuss America’s relevance to international artists, why he recorded all of his stuff for “Bad Blood Rising” from a couch, and the most magical experience in his Santa Cruz journey thus far.

TrunkSpace: We read that the band was first inspired by Los Angeles-based acts like Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. Both of those bands were part of an era of rock where a look and an attitude were just as important than the songs themselves. When you guys started out, was that important to you as you looked towards the future – finding who the band was and not just the sound itself?
Middy: I think at first those things came kinda hand in hand, but at some point we must have watched Pantera’s home videos on repeat too much or something and started going easy with the hairspray thing or then we just got more environmentally conscious.

Nah! But I think these days it’s more about the music than about the looks.

TrunkSpace: Here in the States, rock music doesn’t have the same mainstream appeal as it once did in the heyday of Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. You’re set to return to the States on February 28 as you kick of a tour with Fozzy. From your perspective, what are your thoughts on American rock fans? When you first came here and performed live for U.S. audiences, did the crowds live up to expectations in terms of how you perceived them?
Middy: Well, I think these days the whole musical landscape is more diverse, people have easier access to all kinds of music and the only place to find new bands is not your big sister’s record collection anymore. I don’t see the “rock is dead” in any sense of the brutal word. And as far as we’re concerned, the crowds in U.S. were still living and breathing rock music.

TrunkSpace: For all of our readers here in the States who are unfamiliar with the musical tastes of Finland, can you give us a little insight on how rock music is consumed there? Is it just as popular there today as it was say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Middy: Well rock/metal music has been pretty relevant in Finland since the early 70s, even though back in those days all the mainstream things came to Finland a year or two late. In early 2000, late 90s, this huge metal movement started in Finland cause of bands like Nightwish, Him, and Children of Bodom. I think at some point everyone from a kid to a grandmother was showing the evil horns and maybe that was why a counter movement called Finnish rap music came up. These days when it comes to the younger generations, rap is the big thing out there, but the metal music still has a solid fan base in Finland.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when bands looked towards the States as the promise land in terms of where they hoped to one day make it and break it. Is that still the case or have the changes in the music industry altered the way people view America’s musical viability?
Middy: I think that the American market is still a big deal, one reason being the size of it. And I still feel that many countries are looking for what is big in the States at the moment and it really reflects the markets outside of the States. I don’t see why the changes in music industry would take any credibility away from it.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Bad Blood Rising” debuted at #5 in your native Finland. What was the journey like to bring that album into fruition? As you look back now at the process, did it go as planned or were you forced to make changes on the fly?
Middy: I think it went down pretty much as planned and for the reason that we made it ourselves. We were not forced to make compromises with anyone else. Even though in the beginning we didn’t have this kind of concept for the album, we just started putting songs together and seeing where it took us. Of course, some of the ideas for songs were more than two years old, but from that point, when we got into our rehearsal place all together with the early demos it took us about a month to put the songs in such a form that we were able to walk into a studio with them. So in some sense the process was pretty swift.

TrunkSpace: For the listener, it’s the album that becomes memorable, but for the people putting it together, the experience becomes just as memorable. What’s one of your favorite memories in recording that album that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life?
Middy: To me personally there aren’t many stories about recording the album since it took me two and a half days to lay down the bass tracks. But I recorded all my stuff sitting on Johnny’s couch and we had loads of fun during that time. So nothing to put in the great history book of rock ‘n’ roll.

TrunkSpace: If we had a group of people lined up who had never heard Santa Cruz before, what’s the one track off of the album that you’d confidently throw out there to win them all over? What song off of “Bad Blood Rising” sort of says, “This is who we are!”?
Middy: I’d go with “Young Blood Rising” since to me it’s probably the most “Santa Cruz sounding” song there is, and I think the reason is that it sounds more like the stuff that we’ve done before. On “Bad Blood Rising” there are lots of stuff that is at least, in some way, experimental to us and might give people the wrong picture of what the band has done in the past. Not saying that the songs are any less us.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process? Does everything come together in a room together, or are parts and pieces worked on separately and then brought together to be fine-tuned?
Middy: On this latest album we had raw demos for about 15 songs made by Archie and Johnny and then we got into our rehearsal place together and we worked daily for a month and walked out with 11 finished songs. Of course during that month we focused on structures and tempos and what not. We kinda baked the cake in that month and in the studio we added the jam between the layers and decorated the whole thing.

TrunkSpace: What about from a lyrical standpoint? What is the point of view of the songs… are they told from a first person perspective or as a storyteller’s perspective?
Middy: Well, actually to that question Archie would be a better one to answer. But my point when it comes to lyrics has always been the “don’t explain them too much, rather let the listeners make their own conclusions and interpretations.”

TrunkSpace: One of the best things about music is that it can bring people together who otherwise see eye to eye on nothing. In a club, you could be standing next to two different people who you may having nothing else in common with other than a love for Santa Cruz. In this day and age where everything everywhere seems so divided, is there anything like a live rock concert experience… because in a lot of ways, it feels like one of the last true communities?
Middy: Since my teens the rock concerts and festivals have probably been the only mass events that I’ve taken part in cause I’m not into Black Fridays or Christmas shopping. But to be serious, I don’t see why the so called “rock community” should be so privileged compared to other music genres for example, cause I bet that people at techno raves feel that they are part of a big community rather than just a large number of people who happened to walk into the same field at the same time. But that is true that rock music brings people together and when you walk into a metal festival you don’t see people fighting each other or anything like that. I think that metal heads have always been proud of belonging to one big family.

TrunkSpace: As you look at your time in the band thus far, what has been the best part about the journey for you? What wouldn’t you give up for any amount of money or fame?
Middy: The past 10 years have been an ongoing chain of great memories and sometimes I even start to feel nostalgic about it, which is kinda scary being a 24-year-old and all. But one day that sticks out was when we got the opportunity to open up for AC/DC in Finland in front of 55,000 people. That feeling when I walked on stage was magical.

To find out if Santa Cruz is coming to a city near you, check out their tour dates here.

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Musical Mondaze

Eric Schenkman

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Photo By: Karen Kuehn

Eric Schenkman didn’t set out to make a new solo album in 2018, but when the opportunity – and creative inspiration – presented itself, “Who Shot John?” was born. A diverse and sprawling collection of genre-bending tracks that range from blues to classic guitar rock, the Spin Doctors’ founding member is continuing his mission of creating music, four and a half decades after playing his first gig.

We recently sat down with Schenkman to discuss the business of streaming, the art of writing, and… curly cords.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” was originally slated for an October release but is now due January 11 after you partnered with VizzTone Records. Has that stop and go made this a unique roll out experience for you? Was it difficult having to pump the brakes on the release?
Schenkman: It was okay with me. I didn’t mind. The way I figure it is, the whole thing about records now is the roll out, pretty much, and then the first little bit and then it’s hard to hang on after that. It becomes repertoire rather quickly. Originally I was completely super-indie and I was just getting ready to put it out, and then one thing led to another and I started talking to people and I was playing stuff for people and I went and saw this friend of mine in Boston. I wasn’t even thinking about it, and then next thing I know the label, VizzTone, is going, “Well hey, we’d like to put it out, but we’ll have to make it a little bit later because of the distributor.”

It’s nice when something starts to snowball like that. You kind of feel like, “Oh, this is cool.” You know it’s working. It was sort of a pleasant experience, actually, to have that happen. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Anything to get ears on the music is a good thing because nowadays it seems like having as many different avenues for an album as possible is important.
Schenkman: Yeah, it’s all guesswork, but I would agree with you – the more avenues, the better, which is nice, actually. As an improvising musician, I can say that I like a lot of different avenues because you can go from the same place to the same other place in a lot of different ways.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been a professional musician for decades now. Are there still firsts for you? Do still get that sort of “fresh car” scent with any aspect of what you do, creative or otherwise?
Schenkman: Yeah. I love being a musician because that never changes. It’s always getting to know the thing a little better, or from a different angle, or always relearning or reimagining some aspect of something. Anything that’s worth your time in music, and I suppose you could extend that to business, too… I mean, I’m the type of musician that believes that… I kind of see my job as that I make music. And maybe I like to make ensembles, too. I enjoy doing that. But I make music. I think money and business – that kind of is the secondary thing to that. Sometimes it’ll make some money, sometimes it’ll make some business, but I want to make sure that it makes music every time.

TrunkSpace: The way that money is made off of music changes so quickly it seems. It used to be that tours supported albums, but now it seems like albums support tours.
Schenkman: Oh absolutely. The only hope that we have really as musicians, particularly young musicians, is pretty much to be on the road playing and hawking your wares night after night.

TrunkSpace: Are there more opportunities in the licensing world with there being so much more content – film and TV – in need of song placement?
Schenkman: I don’t know that there is, really. I think there’s still opportunity. I think there’s more home for content. As far as speaking to how that interfaces with business, I’m more the mind of putting a fish in the water – a horse in the race – and then scratching my head and watching it, because I really don’t know. All I can say for sure is the business has changed a great deal since I’ve been in it. I’ve been playing the guitar in a band since I was just a teenager, so that’s a few decades right there, and the music business has changed so much from the time the Doctors were making music. The records we made in the early ‘90s, that was a whole different business, you know? You used to make records to get on the radio. Now you make records, you go tour them, they end up on streaming services, and then you have to play gigs in order to support them. It’s literally like you almost have to support your tunes on the streaming networks by playing live because it’s almost like… I mean .0001 is very, very little.

TrunkSpace: It’s so interesting because 20 years ago there would be headlines about, XX Band Goes Platinum. Now it’s, XX Band Has 1 Million Streams.
Schenkman: Yeah, and on the one hand, streaming is very exciting from the point of view of the currency of it, and the fact that it’s there and it’s available. There’s so much different diversity and amazing talent. The trouble is, in terms of it paying, definitely as time wears on, it becomes quite clear that the musician is definitely the last in line for the buck as far as the streaming services are concerned. So you got to wonder if people are putting music out that’s “free” on the one side, on the other side, somebody’s making money somewhere.

It’s very interesting to me, but I don’t really know the business so well. Like I say, I make music and I love making music, but it’s definitely way easier to get an idea of what’s going on now if you can produce the music and try to set it out there and see how it floats.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” is very diverse, which is also reflective of your career as a whole. Has that always been your mission, to be able to be the type of artist that you wanted to be in any given moment and not back yourself into a corner creatively?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’m more happy for sure feeling free to be creative. I don’t like being in a corner. I feel very uncomfortable if I’m expected to do a bunch of stuff. So this record, for me, was really kind of a perfect storm for the year, because I didn’t expect to be making it. It really was borne out of playing with friends, playing this gig that I play regularly, really expanding my repertoire – new songs and some old songs, and songs that hadn’t been written yet sort of all bouncing around in my head. And then I realized that I was starting to record a bunch of stuff that I liked and so it was hanging together, and so I just kept following that, very comfortable creatively in that context. Live as well.

I do a gig weekly where I play three sets a night, and the Spin Doctors used to do that same kind of gig. And if you can stretch out, your playing can get to some real, real fantastic depths, and you need diversity to be able to do that. You need to be a student of music to be able to try to get better at dynamics and all these sorts of things. So, yeah, I started realizing that I had a record. I was like, “Oh, I got to put this out. I haven’t done one of these in a long time.”

I’ve kind of been waiting to do the next Spin Doctors’ record, actually, for the last two years, and one thing led to another and we just didn’t get started. We had some hang-ups and, I think this is another thing, some of the creative energy probably would have put into the band had we started working last year.

TrunkSpace: Would the Eric Schenkman who first picked up a guitar be surprised by this album or would it seem like a natural progression from where you started?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’d be quite happy. I would not be unhappy with where I’m at now. There’s one picture I have from the very first gig I ever played with an electric guitar, which would have been… I was 10, I guess… so I think 1973. I’m wearing a tennis sweatband around my head and a cowboy shirt with a Kent guitar. I’m sitting on the stage and… remember curly cords? I had a curly cord coming out of my guitar.

Anyways, yeah, I think for me, it’s the combination of trying to beat the fear of standing up on the stage and trying to sort of play your heart out… or sing your heart out… in other words, feeling like you really do have something to say or sing, but king of being just almost just too tepid to really take the first step. But you know, I have never been able to help myself. (Laughter) And so there you are, right? And that’s really a great place to be in the music because you’re really having to grab what works and stay afloat. And I think this record… it shows that throughout, and that’s all my former self would be looking for, would be validity in that. Truth in that.

Who Shot John?” is due January 11 on VizzTone Records.

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