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Edan Archer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Archer: I remind myself every day that I’m not doing what I’m doing because of any assumption of how I think my journey will end. I can only do what I feel overwhelmingly compelled to do, so that when I’m on my deathbed I know I tried to produce what I wanted to produce, and honored the bit of talent that the universe gave me. But hell, ask me again next week.

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

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Jade Jackson

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Photo By: Matt Bizer

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

In fact, it was Ness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TrunkSpace: What are you hardest on yourself about as an artist?
Jackson: There have been several shows that’ve ended with me curled up in the green room in tears, wanting to disappear. Touring wears your body, soul and spirit ragged. And it’s that imbalance mixed with a show where I feel I’ve failed to connect that allows past demons to take control and steal my peace. Those are the hardest moments for me to overcome. It is possible to overcome them though. It takes a lot of spirit and I must admit that CBD olie is very useful in helping to regulate your emotions and moods. If you can find something like that, which helps to balance you back out and refresh your body, then it is possible to overcome those moments. And overcoming them is what makes me stronger.

Photo By: Xina Hamari

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

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

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

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Jackson: No. I try not to focus on the destination. It’s difficult, but practicing being in the moment and doing the best I can with what I have at the time is most important to me.

Wilderness” is available June 28 on ANTI-.

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Damn Tall Buildings

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Photo By: SCOTT MCCORMICK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo By: SCOTT MCCORMICK

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

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

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

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

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Damn Tall Buildings: If we could take the journey and didn’t like what we see could we go back and change things? Even so, probably not. About four years ago a musician friend that we all respect told us that the best years of his career were living in a shitty van and playing rooms for however many people, so we have taken that as creed. We’re trying to embrace every bump of this ride as we go, and carry that creed forward to bigger and better things, no matter the journey.

Don’t Look Down” is available now.

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Listen Up

Charlie Collins

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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.

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John Smith

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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.

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Jacob Miller

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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.

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Walk Off The Earth

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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!

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Frankie Lee

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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.

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James Lanman

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After performing more than 120 living room shows across the United States and Canada in 2017, James Lanman discovered something about music: if a song isn’t good enough to stand on its own acoustically and completely stripped down, then it doesn’t deserve the high-priced studio treatment. That revelation lead him to create his latest album, “Mosaics,” a beautifully-intimate collection of songs that the California-based singer-songwriter crafted to be an interactive experience for listeners. Releasing one new track each Friday until the album as a whole is revealed, the latest single, “I Lost Myself” is available now.

We recently sat down with Lanman to discuss the imperfections of humanity, the magic of solo performances, and the moment he realized he was living out his dream.

TrunkSpace: You’re releasing your new album, “Mosaics,” one song at a time. Did that factor into how you set up the order of the tracks on the record? Why was it so important that “Still a Liar” hold the first position?
Lanman
: I really wanted this album to be interactive and to see how listeners interpreted the songs and get a feel for what the larger story of the album means to them before leading them to any conclusions. For me, the excitement of how people interpret meaning is the best part. For this reason, the release order isn’t necessarily the track order I would have laid out. I wanted this body of work to be an ongoing dialogue on the themes this album deals with and I wanted to start with “Still a Liar” because it really sets the tone for the album.

The song is meant to read as a drunk dial resulting in a long rambling voicemail. I wanted to juxtapose the stark honesty of a profound admission (“And when the day is done / Honey I’m still a liar”) against the simple motivation to call someone just because you miss them (“But I just called you to say / That I was thinking about you today”). To me, the idea of someone spilling their guts to a lifeless machine in an attempt to win someone back while being so self aware of why it will never work is strangely poetic. Humans are messy, highly imperfect emotional creatures. The songs on this album try to explore that side of humanity.

I joke that “Still a Liar” is one of the most honest songs on the album despite it being about admitting that I’m a liar. As a songwriter, the idea that two things can be true and at odds at the same time is what makes storytelling interesting. I think this song prefaces that this is an album that thrives on the paradox. It’s an album of open-ended questions and in the case of “Still a Liar” it asks whether people can change?

TrunkSpace: Part of why you’re releasing the album in this fashion is to build a longer lasting impression – a personal connection – with each song. In a way, it feels a bit like the early days of commercial music when artists like Buddy Holly nurtured singles as opposed to full albums. Is there a reason why you still felt this collection of songs belonged on an album and not as individual singles?
Lanman
: Yes, this album tells the story of how I really found my voice as a writer, as a musician and as a human being. It’s an entire era of pivotal moments in my life that shaped who I am at present. As singles, they each hold their own lesson or revelation that are individually significant, but they were all born of a certain age. This is why I named the album, “Mosaics.” They are individual pieces from a life that form a bigger picture of who I am.

It’s also a way for me to put a bow on a collection of songs I’ve carried with me for a long time. Some of these were written this year but a couple were written six or seven years ago. It felt right to let these songs go one at a time but to house them under the same roof. For a long time I had this feeling that these songs were ‘unfinished business’ and I couldn’t move on until there was closure. Putting these out as a collection makes me feel like I now have permission to move past that part of my life and onto the next chapter creatively.

TrunkSpace: The album feels very intimate. It doesn’t feel like we’re listening, but instead, that we’re listening in – seated a few feet away from you while you perform the songs. Was this a conscious decision on your part… to try and bring the listener into the experience as opposed to being on the outside looking (or listening) in?
Lanman
: I’m glad it feels that way. That was my intention. Touring alone as a solo artist these past three years has really taught me so much about how people perceive my music. I spent years trying to create a sound worthy of people’s ears and almost went broke trying to throw money at studios and producers to figure that out. But what I ended up realizing by touring and how people received my live album is that if a song isn’t strong enough to stand on its own acoustically and completely stripped down – then it has no business being dressed up with bells and whistles. I was going about it backwards.

I self produced this album by taking time off from touring, enrolling in a local community college to take audio production classes so I had access to their studio and recorded everything with a really spartan setup with zero budget. These songs have nothing to hide behind. They are raw, the production is straightforward and they are the way you would hear me if I was playing for you and your friends in your living room. Living room concerts taught me how powerful an experience it can be for listeners to hear you like that, up close and personal. I’ve actually found that on larger stages, you lose a lot of that magic when you perform acoustically because so much hinges on the ephemeral nature of hearing a song so close and only for that moment in time.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Lanman:
I’m most proud that I finished it. I tried recording some of these songs on the road and kept getting 60 percent of the way there and scrapping it entirely because I didn’t like the sound. There was so much internal struggle that went into finishing this that people will never see overcoming lack of resources, lack of quiet spaces to record on the road, self doubt, etc. It’s so easy to start projects but it’s so much more difficult to really finish something, especially a large project. I think some of that blood, sweat and tears can be felt in the music but for me, that’s definitely what I am most proud of, getting it done and releasing it to the world.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Lanman
: Is that a trick question? (Laughter) Probably in feeling that what I’m doing is never good enough. I used to show a buddy of mine my demos and he would be like, “Put that out, it’s so good.” and I would say, “No, this is just a demo. It’s super unpolished.” Then never put it out because it was never going to be that unattainably perfect version I dreamt up in my head. I recently joked with him that “Mosaics” is the ‘demo’ album he always wanted me to put out. I definitely obsess over the details way too much. I’m still learning to let that go.

TrunkSpace: You’ve written and performed in a band atmosphere as well as in a solo capacity. How do the two experiences differ and do they both spark a different part of your brain creatively?
Lanman
: After touring solo for three years the thing that’s become so apparent about that difference is the vulnerability of it all. When I perform alone, all eyes are on me and the sound is so minimal that every misstep feels a hundred times more apparent. They are hanging on every word, every note – people can actually hear the lyrics! It’s a double edged sword because for all of the uncomfortableness it can breed, there is also a ton of magic in the spontaneity of it.

Creatively, it has forced me to look much closer at everything from the way I sing, to the dynamics of songs to the lyrics. I think about how songs will be live when I write them now. There’s also a great more deal of improvisation now that there wasn’t before. To really get people engaged you have to tear down the fourth wall that a lot of performers put up to try and look cool. Because there’s no looking cool when you’ve driven for hours after sleeping at a Walmart the night before and you roll out of your van with nothing but a crazy dream three feet away from their prying eyes. They can see everything and there’s no fooling anyone from the safety of a large stage where you’re blending into four bandmates, fog machines and laser beams.

At that point, there’s nothing left but to appeal to the shared experience of being human and laugh about it. From the moment I open my mouth in front of a new audience I’m looking for that common ground that connects us. It’s crucial to establish that honest connection so when I’m performing, listeners feel connected to the music. You have to give them permission and freedom to experience it fully. I think above all else, performing solo has forced me to open up with people in a way that I didn’t in a band.

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Lanman
: People never believe me when I tell them I’m an introvert, especially when they hear I did 120 performances in 2017 ranging from 10 person audiences in small apartments to performing for thousands in the Fargodome. But the perfect conditions for writing are when I can completely disappear from the world and get engrossed in my own thoughts without distraction. I actually “write” a lot of ideas when I’m driving late at night when there’s no one else on the road and I can just sing out lyric or melodic ideas into the darkness. My dream environment if I ever get this lucky would be to own a ranch somewhere like Wyoming with a studio where I could disappear to every winter and write for large stretches of time between stints on the road.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed about my creative process is that it usually happens when I have the freedom to experiment and burn up time. If there’s a deadline looming or other obligations, I find it really difficult to do meaningful work.

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old James think about the music that his future self is currently writing? Would he be surprised by where your musical path has taken you?
Lanman: Definitely! 10-year-old James didn’t even know music was an option. I didn’t pick up a guitar and even start singing until I was an adult so I think 10-year-old me would be amazed to see that this is where I ended up and probably a bit horrified by some of the quirks living this way presents. He would be like, “Are we going to be homeless? We look pretty happy but we live in a van?” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lanman
: Having the realization that I didn’t have to be performing in arenas in order for me to be able to live the dream of being a full time musician. The moment I quit compromising the life I wanted and sold everything to live into a van and pursue music full time is a moment I’ll mark as one of the great treasures of my lifetime.

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?
Lanman
: That’s a scary question! I think I would because I believe our fates aren’t set in stone and I would take the opportunity to get the hindsight we always wish we had. Taking the leap I did and re-approaching what it means to be a ‘successful musician’ for myself meant putting more emphasis on realities instead of fantasies. I really believe that if you put in the work consistently, you’ll go farther than you could have ever imagined. If things didn’t go as planned in the future I would want to know why, so I could do something different.

But on the other hand, if you told me the future was unchangeable then I wouldn’t want to see it. The biggest lesson I’ve kept close to heart since starting this journey is to do away with expectations. Accept the losses and savor the victories but let myself enjoy the journey as it comes. As cheesy as it sounds, life really is all about the ride. If I can’t change the future then at least I have control over the present and what I choose to do with it moment to moment. For me, that freedom will always outweigh the setbacks.

The latest track from “Mosaics” drops today here!

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Listen Up

Claude Fontaine

ClaudeFontaineFeatured
Photo By: B+

Marketing a reggae-meets-bossa nova record to the masses is no easy feat in the digitally-driven world of 2019, but Los Angeles-based Claude Fontaine isn’t letting the present influence her future as she searches for inspiration in the past.

The singer/songwriter first found her creative calling while living in London and frequenting a local record store where she would listen to vintage vinyl, experiencing sounds that she had yet to be introduced to. Falling head over heels for those genres with roots planted firmly in Jamaica and Brazil, she set out to create her own throwback record, eventually returning home with a newfound musical motivation. The end result is her beautifully-crafted self-titled debut, available now on Innovative Leisure.

We recently sat down with Fontaine to discuss seeing her dream through to the end, grappling with stage fright, and why her nickname was “fantasy child” growing up.

TrunkSpace: You recently released your debut album. Do you feel pressure to make a splash with this particular collection of songs given that for many people, this will be their first introduction to you as an artist?
Fontaine: I hope that people connect to the songs, of course. But it’ll be interesting, these particular styles of music have been lost in the ether for quite some time now, so perhaps the songs will need to seep in rather than splash for people to become reacquainted.

TrunkSpace: What goals did you set for yourself when you first decided to make this album a reality and do you feel like you accomplished them now that you’ve called wrap on the writing/production side of things?
Fontaine: What was most essential for me throughout was to stick to a dream I saw very clearly from day one, and to figure out how to translate that dream into something real. Sometimes that meant a few attempts in certain areas, and there was a lot of experimentation along the way. After all, it was my first time approaching this kind of music and it was a significant learning process. I was lucky enough to have a producer who has a great understanding and affection for the genres as well, and he supported my relentlessness to make the record sound like it was perhaps something lost long ago. Through trial and error I hope we got pretty close.

TrunkSpace: Some amazing session players stepped in to work on the album. What did you learn from them and their collective experience, either through asking questions or observing from across the room?
Fontaine: What I was most inspired by was the otherworldly spontaneity of their imagination. The freedom and inventiveness they were able to channel through their musicality is something I’ll always aspire to and was truly moving to watch.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fontaine: Holding the record in my hands. I made this album with the intention of it living on vinyl one day. Two definitive sides, Reggae on side A, Bossa on side B. From having a mere idea, to touching a round piece of wax, a relic of sorts, that preserves the stories close to my heart, I think that’s been the most fulfilling.

TrunkSpace: The album has been called a love letter to classic Reggae and Brazilian music. Do you think your next album will have the same feel and vibe, or will it be a completely different take on a completely different set of sub-genres?
Fontaine: I feel I’ve barely chipped the ice. There’s so much I have yet to explore in both styles. Though I’ve done a lot of my homework, both genres still feel so relatively new to me. The love letters have only just begun.

TrunkSpace: Would 10-year-old Claude be surprised by this album? Would your past self have anticipated this musical path?
Fontaine: I’ve been a passionate and imaginative person my whole life, deeply inspired by the outside world from a young age. My parents nickname for me growing up was “fantasy child”. I was always dreaming, so this album feels quite in line.

TrunkSpace: Where are you most at home in your creativity? What conditions – external and internal – do you need to be able to sit down and write?
Fontaine: At home, in a certain stillness; almost a meditative quiet. Typically with tea by my side. I wrote this whole record at my breakfast table, paper and pen in hand. Always by hand.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Fontaine: I would say in my live show. I’m prone to crippling stage fright. It’s something I’m working through but being a shy person, it’s where I’m most critical of myself as an artist.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Fontaine: Signing with my label and receiving the opportunity and creative freedom to make the record I sought out to make. I’m still pinching myself.

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?
Fontaine: I don’t believe I would. The unexpected is what I find makes life most exciting. Plus the future has never intrigued me as much as the past.

Claude Fontaine’s debut album is available now on Innovative Leisure.

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