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Opening Act

Luke Hogan

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Artist: Luke Hogan

Socials: Facebook/Instagram

Hometown: Portland, OR

TrunkSpace: You built the studio that you ultimately recorded your album in. Walk us through what that initial moment was like when you went from starting out in that space as a carpenter to returning to it as a singer-songwriter? Did it feel like you had traveled full circle?
Hogan: It was really cool to get to work in a space I had created, and with the person I had created it with. (Tomas Dolas, “Thank You Stranger” producer.) Anyone who’s ever been to a recording studio can appreciate how important it is to be comfortable with the space and the people you’re working with – I certainly had that luxury this time around. Also, it was fun to pop by when other bands were working in there – everyone seemed to really enjoy working in the studio we made.

TrunkSpace: As we mentioned, you’re a carpenter by trade. At this point, as you gear up to release your debut album, do you still see yourself as a carpenter first? Has there been an internal transition for you in terms of how you see yourself as your focus has changed?
Hogan: I am really trying my best to make the transition to seeing myself as a musician first as we speak – mostly it’s just been reflected in my paycheck – but I am spending way more time on music stuff, booking, gigging more, etc. The process of putting out this first record has forced me to focus on things like that. Right now it kinda feels like I have two part-time jobs.

TrunkSpace: How long had “Thank You Stranger” been itching to get out of you? Was this a long and winding journey for you to see the album become a reality?
Hogan: I certainly wouldn’t argue with that characterization. Some of these songs have been around for a really long time – “Nothing Special,” the closing track, is from 2004. But there are also newer songs on the record that didn’t exist when we started recording, so I’m glad we didn’t rush. Moving across the country to LA, then back home, then back to LA, then up to the Northwest, with plenty of detours along the way, all these events were part of the process of making and putting out this record. So yes, I suppose it has been a bit of an adventure. And it’s still actually not out yet…

TrunkSpace: For first-time listeners, what would they learn about you as a person and as an artist in sitting down to listen to “Thank You Stranger” in its entirety?
Hogan: Hopefully they don’t just think I’m some sad bastard. I think overall this record is really about trying to find your place, which is something most people can identify with, so ideally listeners would be able to find some common ground there. Hopefully they hear somebody who’s trying his best to make it all fit together in an honest and thoughtful way.

TrunkSpace: You have said that you connect with records on a very personal level. As someone who builds those connections with music, is there something kind of thrilling to putting an album out into the world knowing that you could be paying that same feeling forward – someone could be connecting to your music in the very same way?
Hogan: For sure, that’s really the point for me. I really enjoy writing, performing and recording but the end goal is to create something that people connect with. If there was some kid in high school who was just starting to write songs and he took influence from my record, that would be amazing.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Thank You Stranger” and how it all came together in the end?
Hogan: I’m really proud of all the people who helped make this record a reality, whether they played on it, made artwork for it, produced it, whatever – everyone did an amazing job and for very little compensation, if any at all. They know who they are. In terms of the record itself, it definitely feels to me like it tells a story, and certainly captures a very transformative period of my life. I’m really happy with the variety of instrumentation as well – some songs are full band, some more minimal. I think we really used the studio and all that it had to offer to its full potential. Right now, at least, it really feels like I made the record I wanted to make.

TrunkSpace: If you weren’t on your current path with “Thank You Stranger,” would creating music still be a part of your life, even if you weren’t sharing the results with people like you are now?
Hogan: Definitely, music was always more than just a hobby even when I was just writing songs at home and not really sharing them with anyone. It’s always been a big part of how I identify myself.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Hogan: It’s always been my goal to excel as a lyricist, so I suppose that’s where I am hardest on myself, but really the whole writing process is what I take the most seriously. But part of taking your writing seriously also involves trying not to take it too seriously, so there’s always that.

TrunkSpace: Music is a passion. Carpentry is a passion. Do the two ever intersect for you? Is there anything about the two – crafting something out of nothing – that excites the same part of your brain?
Hogan: Yes, obviously building Studio 22 and making this record there is a very literal example of the two intersecting, but on another level, for two things that are such a big part of one’s life it would be foolish not to expect them to intersect in many other ways, even ways you don’t necessarily see play out before your eyes. It would be interesting to find out which parts of the brain are excited by more physical, concrete creativity (like carpentry), as opposed to more abstract creativity, and if they overlap at all.

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?
Hogan: At this point, I think I’m all in, so yes. I’m hoping for the best.

Thank You Stranger” will be available this Fall. Hogan’s latest single, “Windowpane,” is available now.

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Opening Act

Cosmo Gold

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Artist: Cosmo Gold

Socials: Facebook/Instagram/Twitter

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Members: Emily Gold, Peter Maffei, Stephen Burns, Mike Deluccia

TrunkSpace: Your debut EP was released on June 7. Did the band feel any pressure in delivering on the songs in a way that served as the best possible introduction of Cosmo Gold to the masses? Did that “This is our first impression…” focus ever trickle into the process?
Gold: Naturally, we wanted to make a good impression but when we initially began the writing process we didn’t even know we were going to be starting over as a “new” band. This project evolved from my previous band, Velvet, and the songs just seemed to organically become this other thing. So I’m not sure we would have done anything different if it had been, say, our second or third release. However, I think track listing and choosing the order of the singles was subject to that focus.

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what do you think someone might learn about Cosmo Gold through the music itself?
Gold: I think the wide variety of our influences will come through.

TrunkSpace: What would your 10-year-old self think about the EP? Would she be surprised by the musical journey you’ve traveled thus far as an adult?
Gold: I would be proud of how far my musicianship has come but I’m not sure I’d be surprised. I loved super lush, dramatic kind of arrangements even as a kid and would make Garageband tracks in middle school using all the strings, drum loops, etc. It was basically a primordial version of how I like to make music now.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to Cosmo Gold songs, are they ever truly finished? Is what we hear on “Waiting On The City” the same version of the songs we’d hear in a live setting a year from now, or do you find yourselves always tinkering and tweaking?
Gold: Who knows! Always open to growth if a better musical choice bubbles up through performance or if we had different resources or sonic limitations. If we somehow played the Hollywood Bowl, for example, you bet your ass I’m getting a full orchestra and choir with like three extra guitar players.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Gold: The final arrangements. My band and I were pretty meticulous about every element – we ripped some of the songs apart and re-recorded/rewrote parts. “Carnivore pt. I (Beautiful Day)” and “Carnivore pt. II & III” is especially fun to listen through and remember all of the choices we made. We thought about that one a lot and I’m really proud with how it turned out.

TrunkSpace: You’ve all been involved in other projects over the years. What is it about this one and its members that fuels your creative fire?
Gold: I think our commitment to communication and collaboration. We all have a say in the creative and musical direction of the band, which is both exciting and challenging. Also, we are like family. We live together and hang out all the time so it doesn’t feel like the band is separated in any way from the rest of our lives.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Gold: Live performances. If we have a weird set I have a hard time not being bummed about it. But, I now also see it as an opportunity for growth.

TrunkSpace: Many musicians say that music is a form of therapy. Is it that way for you? How has creating music helped you navigate this wild ride we call life?
Gold: Absolutely. I don’t know how people get through life without expressing themselves creatively. Writing songs is cathartic for me. It takes a complex emotion and puts it into a neat three to five minute thing that exists outside of the brain. It’s very satisfying.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far?
Gold: Working on this record.

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?
Gold: Yikes! Seems like a freaky Butterfly Effect type of situation!

Waiting On The City” is available now.

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Opening Act

Tanbark

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Artist: Tanbark

Socials: Facebook/Instagram/Twitter

Hometown: New York, NY

Members: Chloe Nelson and James Jannicelli

TrunkSpace: Your latest album drops today. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you gear up to release new material into the world?
Nelson: Certainly a mix of nerves and excitement, but also a sense of relief. There’s a kind of unsettled feeling that goes along with living with this unreleased music for so long, but every day that the release gets closer, that feeling goes away a bit.

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?
Nelson: It can feel that way. But it’s amazing how, once you start to find where you fit into that landscape, you realize that it’s not so much one big crowded landscape, but lots of little mini-landscapes that don’t seem nearly as overwhelming. Being in New York has been so much fun because, of course, there’s everything here. Incredible jazz players, bluegrass players, rappers, DJs. It all enriches the music scene, but it’s so varied that things don’t crowd each other.

TrunkSpace: There’s so much to love about your new album, but what we enjoyed most was that it has a complete front-to-back feel to it… like an album produced in the 1960s. Was that something you set out to achieve when you first started to put the record together?
Nelson: We definitely wanted that sort of thing from the beginning. We love albums and that’s just kind of the world we come from. But I think the album kind of naturally took shape during the writing and recording process, rather than being planned out. The songs are written separately from each other over years, but then recorded all at once over days or weeks. So maybe there’s two songs that could be done with a similar feel, but you end up doing one of them softer or faster or with a different arrangement, because you’ve already recorded a few of the others and you can suddenly see a new way for this one to fit in.

TrunkSpace: Beyond writing and recording the music itself, what was the most enjoyable aspect of bringing the album to life? What is something that the average person may not consider, that in the end, you look back on fondly in terms of the process?
Nelson: The demo’ing process pushed us in a couple directions, and it felt serendipitous when things finally fell into place. For example, we picked up my grandfather’s classical guitar and created a delicate strumming pattern for “Ragdoll Blues” that we ended up keeping for the recording. Then, the actual recording process involves moments of downtime and introspection, and it was great hanging out with our fellow musicians and engineers. Having lunch together, talking about music, seeing what everybody else is into at the moment, what they’re excited about. All of that stuff really ends up feeding into the music, and it’s fun to look back and see how much the album is a product of that particular moment with those particular people.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Nelson: I am really proud of the vulnerability that you can hear in the album. We tried to reference a mellow Laurel Canyon-esque musical landscape, but ground it in personally meaningful songs.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lyrical snippets – the kind that make us curse the universe for not coming up with ourselves. What is a favorite line of yours off of the album and why?
Nelson: Probably the first lines from “Châtelet.”

The way you hold your pen/ You make the men go crazy/ Tell you over again/ A philosopher is not a lady

The song is written from the perspective of Voltaire, and it is addressing his lover (and one-time protegée), the great thinker and physicist Emilie du Châtelet. I was reading a biography about their affair, and I was struck by how ahead of their time they were and also how Châtelet was limited by being a wonderful mind in a woman’s body. I love thinking about the repercussions of putting pen to paper and what that meant for them.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourselves as artists?
Nelson: We’re always working on being better musicians and writing the most honest songs possible. It is definitely hard to finish one song, let alone a whole album.

TrunkSpace: What has music brought into your life that you would have never expected? Has there been a benefit or side effect that you would have missed out on had you not pursued this path?
Nelson: The musicians we meet. We’ve had evenings where everything just sparks, whether that is in our rehearsal space, in the studio, or on stage. Those connections are magic.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far?
Nelson: It is hard to pinpoint one thing, but I love the tangibility of finishing and releasing a song that has been brewing for years. Every time it is exhilarating!

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?
Nelson: Yes – why not? I’m looking at my tea bag right now and it has a Lord Byron quote on it: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods.” You never know what magic is in store (or what perils!), but hopefully we can continue to share our music and meet more like-minded spirits.

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Opening Act

The Great Palumbo

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Artist: The Great Palumbo

Socials: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Members: Peter Campbell, Harrison Hall, Will Stevens

TrunkSpace: TrunkSpace premiered your latest single, “World is Wide,” a day before it officially dropped on April 26. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you release new music to the masses?
Campbell: It always gives me anxiety. I’m a pretty anxious person anyway, so that is definitely heightened during the run up to a release. But, by the time the release actually happens, the song is what it is. I’m proud of and believe in every song we release (otherwise we wouldn’t release them), so I just try to focus on what I can control. And the validation of seeing something go out into the world that has just been sitting in my Google Drive for eons feels really good.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to avoid assigning expectations to singles and/or albums? How do you separate the creative from a desire to capture as big of an audience for the art as possible?
Campbell: It’s been difficult in the past, but it’s getting easier. In the end, all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and appreciate the small victories as they come to you.

There’s a saying I hear around the songwriting world. “Don’t write for anyone; write for

someone.” I think about this a lot.

Yeah, I want to capture as big an audience as possible, but in writing, I think it’s important to put the blinders on. Be yourself. Be real. Be specific. Be vulnerable. Not every song will resonate with every person, but trying to write what you think people around you want to hear is a great way to make sure your writing doesn’t resonate with anyone. All you can do is pour yourself into each song, and have faith that you’re not the only person who feels the way you do. Because you definitely are not.

So when it comes time to release the song, all you can do is put it out and hope for the best. If it was written from a real place, it will find an audience.

TrunkSpace: “World is Wide” is from your forthcoming EP, “Into the Dark,” which is set to be released on June 7. What did you hope to accomplish with the EP as a whole, and now that you’re in the final stretch of seeing it all come together, do you feel comfortable that you accomplished those goals?
Campbell: There’s a lot that I hoped for, but the only hard-set goal for this EP is to establish a “basecamp” for this project. This is our first set of releases, so prior to this, we were in sort of a pre-existence. Just being on the map with something that we can be proud of is huge. And even though it’s not June 7 yet, I already feel like this is something that is being accomplished.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the upcoming EP?
Campbell: The run up to this EP was LONG. I relocated to Nashville to officially start this project a little more than three years ago, and in that time I have had to work through a lot. Relocation carries with it inherent challenges already (money, community, etc.), but also, plugging into Nashville’s music scene doesn’t happen overnight when you’re starting from scratch. I have learned SO much since being here, and seeing this project come to fruition after all that time is extremely validating. Bringing it to life took a lot more time, money, and work than I ever imagined, but now that we’re here, I feel proud to have stuck with it and followed through on this vision. It’s been an empowering experience, and I feel poised to build this project into something really cool.

TrunkSpace: The seed of The Great Palumbo was first planted in Hanoi, Vietnam. Would the band exist today if not for that personal and creative journey? Would your artistic path have been dramatically different?
Campbell: Hm, good question. It would definitely exist… but it would be different, because I would be different.

This is not to say that I became a different person than I would have otherwise been, but I feel like I’m a lot further down that path today than I would have been if I had stayed at home. I’m a big advocate for people living in foreign cultures for extended periods of time because it massively accelerates personal growth. I have a lot to say about this but I’ll do my best to stay on topic…

So – to bring this back to music – my stylistic sensibilities have definitely gotten to be more eclectic through my travels, but that’s surface-level. To delve a bit deeper, I don’t think I started to seriously do business with who I am and how I related to the world around me until Hanoi.

This process is still ongoing for me, and it heavily informs my writing. There is definitely some unpacking of this stuff on the EP, especially around the themes of spirituality and belonging.

TrunkSpace: The band is currently based out of Nashville. For decades it has been a city associated with country music, but there is so much happening there right now that it has become a genre melting pop. What is it like creating in such a creatively rich city? Does that energy feed your own drive?
Campbell: Oh man, I could gush about this for hours. You’re right, Nashville has traditionally been “the mothership” for country music, but there’s SO much more going on here now than just that. The amount that is happening in this city on any given day of the week is staggering. This is a place that punches well above its weight class.

As a musician, moving here can be a bit overwhelming. The level of talent here is off the charts, so it can definitely be intimidating at times, but it also forces you to constantly be growing and improving. Now that I’ve got my feet under me, my day to day is really exciting when I’m fully engaged with what is happening here. It’s a really special community of people, and this talent pool has had a profound impact on this project already. The level of musicianship and professionalism that has been poured into this project already has been really humbling, and we’re excited to be pushing deeper as we move forward!

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in a band that you couldn’t achieve in a solo capacity?
Campbell: This is an interesting question. The further into this I get, the more I realize that it takes a village. Even artists that are “solo” on paper, often have teams of people working with them that can closely resemble what many might call a “band.” There really aren’t many artists that are truly solo, and being one of them was never something I really aspired to.

One big thing I personally get out of it is a sense community and camaraderie. It feels good to be a part of a team. But more to the point, this is not a project that is reflective of the talents of just one person. Even from the outset, it was clear that some form of collaboration was always going to be part of the deal, so it was important to me that the project be structured in a way that was reflective of that, and would accommodate some evolution through time.

TrunkSpace: We talked briefly at the start of the conversation about finding a balance between the creative and the commercial. What are your long-term hopes for the band? What is the best best case scenario for The Great Palumbo?
Campbell: Of course I want this project to be rewarding, profitable, etc., for everybody involved, but ultimately that was always going to be a secondary goal.

The best case scenario is that the music we are making connects with tons of people all over the world, and we get to travel to share that music with them and see the impact of what we are doing in real life. That connection is where it all needs to start and what it all need to come back to.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Campbell: Being an independent artist is funny because sometimes it feels like 95 percent of what you have to do to get your project off the ground doesn’t have much to do with your art. It’s mostly repetitive, administrative, financial, logistical, etc. Some people love the nuts and bolts of this world, but for me, it’s all worth it for the magic that happens the other five percent of the time. Late nights in the studio, creating something from nothing, breathing life into ideas and feeling how those ideas connect everybody in the room. This will always be the highlight for me.

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?
Campbell: Oh for sure. If the information is available, I want it in my brain.

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Opening Act

Cricket Blue

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Photo By: Monika Rivard

Artist: Cricket Blue

Socials: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

Hometown: Burlington, VT

TrunkSpace: Your latest album, “Serotinalia,” dropped May 10. As artists, is it difficult relinquishing control over your work and releasing it into the world? Does it ever feel overwhelming?
Heaberlin: Honestly, it feels nice. We started working on the album a year and eight months before the release (and started writing the songs years before that in some cases) and it feels great to be out of the stage where we would listen to the same song we’d heard a thousand times saying, “At two minutes in, did I say the word ‘garbage’ too strangely? Should we swap it out?” or “I know I thought the trumpet was too quiet last listen through but now I think it’s too loud.” It feels good to think of the album as a whole, finished thing, rather than under a microscope. It’s much better that way! And we’re so happy that people are interacting with the album now in their own ways.

TrunkSpace: The title of the album is so interesting, and we wonder, are these songs – the messages and meanings behind them – a response to the environment we’re currently living in? Would these songs – COULD these songs – exist if the album was conceived in a different time or place?
Heaberlin: That is such a great question! I mean, the title of the album and the fires in some of the songs invoke the idea of forest fires, and it just so happens that the country was devastated by forest fires as we were recording. If people want to connect those things we certainly welcome them to, though that was not our original intention. But I think our subject matter is more about individuals’ emotional landscapes than physical landscapes or even political landscapes. I won’t speak for Taylor, but a lot of the characters I put into my songs on this album are struggling with validation; they are women who are able to be validated only by things that make them feel unsafe or sad or angry or guilty. I certainly couldn’t have written about that subject outside of the cultural climate we’re in, but I think that’s a paradox women have lived with for a long time culturally, and it’s going to be very slow to correct. Like, I’m pretty sure it’s too late for my generation. But I hope, you know, 20 years down the line that young women will find that idea un-illuminating, and sort of heavy-handed. So in that way, I hope it is a product of its time.

TrunkSpace: The album is a literary journey in song form and was inspired by the likes of Alice Munro and Dylan Thomas. With that said, do you view each song as a chapter of the story, or is each song it’s own book?
Heaberlin: When we were writing the songs they were each their own individual “books” as you say. When we started placing them together and choosing our song order, there were certain resonances with some songs, and it started to be fun to view them as different perspectives on the same situation. For instance, if you think of “June” and “Psalm” being about the same breakup with different degrees of intimacy and self-denial happening in the narration, they layer together nicely – like the narrator is going through the various stages of grief. My favorite pairing of songs, though, is “Corn King” into “Little Grays.” “Corn King” is all about the inevitable demise of John Barleycorn when he is burned alive as a sacrifice to his lover, the deified earth. He dies to become the soil that holds and nourishes her new seeds, and there’s this implication that he’s erased again and again every year and he’s just as naive every cycle and the whole thing is quite tragic. “Little Grays” is a song I wrote about feeling elated and moved upon finding a favorite pair of scissors I thought I had lost when my house (actually) caught on fire. But if I pretend that the fire in “Little Grays” is the same fire that’s in “Corn King,” it’s an alternate ending to “Corn King” from an outside perspective that says: “Look, you’re okay! That was scary and I am so glad you’re alive! I love you!” It’s nice because the two songs contrast each other musically: “Corn King” is the most complicated song and arrangement on the album and it’s 12 minutes long. “Little Grays” I wrote basically in one sitting, it has no arrangement or even harmonies and it’s not even two minutes long.

TrunkSpace: The amazing thing about music and art in general is that the same piece of work can mean different things to different people. Does that also apply to both of you? Does this album and the work you both put into it mean something different for each of you? Does it represent different things?
Smith: Inevitably, I’m sure we each connect with songs the other person has written in a way that’s different from how the writer does. We do spend a fair amount of time trying to explain to each other where we’re coming from with something we’ve written, both in terms of what we were feeling or thinking about when we wrote the song, and what we’re hoping the song accomplishes for the listener. A lot of that happens while we’re revising, so often I’ll come to Laura and say something like, “Here’s what this line means, or what I want it to mean, but does it actually succeed at that?” And then she’ll think about it and give some suggestion that’s better! So sometimes she ends up putting in the meaning that I was trying to. Or sometimes, after talking about it, we’ll decide it’s better to go off in some totally different direction. So, in short: we do try to align our visions, and sometimes that’s because we’ve collaborated closely on some aspect of a song, but no doubt even in the final product Laura and I have different interpretations of and connections to the songs.

For listeners, I think the songs likely “mean” as many different things as people who listen. Actually, I often don’t think about what a song “means” as much as what a song “does,” since “meaning” kind of sounds like it should be unitary, but there’s nothing strange to me about thinking, “The song does this thing to Alice, and this other thing to Bob.” The magic isn’t in the music itself, right? The spark goes off at the intersection of the song and the listener.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Heaberlin: We are really happy with the album, and so pleased to have gotten to work with so many amazing people on it. (Beehive Productions for the recording, the additional musicians we brought in are all amazing, our album artwork artist, etc.) One thing I think we are both really proud of is that we really did so much of it ourselves. We wrote all of the arrangements for the other instruments ourselves, and Jeff from Beehive allowed us to do a lot of our own editing on the album. We had the luxury of time, which helps a lot, but I would say that our level of involvement in every stage of the process is pretty unusual. And we learned so much along the way!

TrunkSpace: We talk with musicians all of the time about how albums become chapters of their lives – yearbooks that look back on their lives and spotlight moments in time. With that being said, what do you think “Serotinalia” will mean for you 10, 20 or 30 years from now?
Heaberlin: Wow, well that is hard to predict. I think that the release of “Serotinalia” marks the end of our early career. We put out two EPs before this and we did a fair amount of touring, but I hope that this new album will mark the beginning of the meat of things for us.

TrunkSpace: You both met in an a cappella group. Was it creative love at first sight? Did you instantly click on an artistic level?
Heaberlin: Well, yes! We absolutely did! We were both doing our own songwriting thing at the time, and so that was an immediate bond between us. I think our friendship was truly sealed one evening a couple weeks after I had joined the group (Taylor was a semester ahead of me at school) when we were at some fun party our a cappella group was throwing and Taylor and I found ourselves in a different room from everyone else discussing what Jeff Mangum’s best lyrics were on “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” We each music directed the group at various times, and when we were recording our a cappella album I was music director and Taylor was general manager, so you could say “Magic House” by the Middlebury Mamajamas was truly the first album we put out together.

Photo By: Monika Rivard

TrunkSpace: Has where you’re based – Vermont – directly influenced your music and writing? Does a setting infiltrate the process, even on an organic level?
Smith: There is something kind of stuck-out-of-time of parts of Vermont. There’s plenty of opportunities to wander and encounter long stretches of unbroken forest or farmland, old graveyards, tiny towns with one store, weird idiosyncratic local landmarks. I do think it’s fertile ground to get the imagination humming, especially for the sorts of characters and situations that pop up on this album. A few of our songs do (in our minds) take place at literal places near where we live, though we don’t name them outright.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far?
Smith: Honestly, I think it’s probably putting this record out! But we’ve already talked a bit about that. Perhaps more specifically: I think getting to write for, practice with, and perform with the incredible musicians who recorded with us on “Serotinalia,” especially our string trio, has been a very long-time dream come true. Laura and I enjoy playing as a duo very much, but while I’m writing a song I often sort of hear a ghost version of the True Arrangement in my head — little countermelodies in the background, how the bass end would enter or fall or go silent, the timbre of a trumpet on this riff or whatever. Having a little “orchestra” this time around, and so getting to learn how to translate the vague sonic impressions I had into something concrete that actually sounds good and is playable was really new and challenging but also incredibly rewarding, and we really lucked out to have found players who just totally nail 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: Oh, probably not! Feeling like our goals are either a) hopeless or b) a foregone conclusion both seem like they’d sap some of the adventure out of the thing. That space of not knowing what to do or what will happen next is where you’re able to have fun.

Serotinalia” is available now.

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Opening Act

Mason Ashley

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Artist: Mason Ashley

Socials: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

Hometown: Tomball, TX

TrunkSpace: In sitting down to listen to your music for the first time, what would someone learn about you through the music itself?
Ashley: I think first of all, they would discover that I’m moody. Also, I think I’m a little bit cynical. I tend to be drawn to darker emotions but I like to play off them and make them seem lighter. I’ve realized even if I write a love song it always has some little hint of sarcasm or cynicism in it. I’m a bit dramatic, I think.

TrunkSpace: You started performing when you were 12 years old. Would 12-year-old Mason be surprised by the artist you are today?
Ashley: I think she would be! I honestly don’t think I ever thought I’d be writing the songs that I’ve written. I think she’d lose her mind over a few of the things I’ve accomplished. I’d like to think that young Mason would like older Mason’s music… but I guess I’ll never know!

TrunkSpace: You recently released your new single “Ever Had You” and the music video to go along with it. When you release new material into the world, what emotions do you juggle with? Is it hard to let go of something that you put so much of yourself into?
Ashley:There’s something very fulfilling to release a song knowing that it’s finished. Putting a song out there is kind of like closing whatever chapter of life I was in while writing it. It’s definitely not always easy though, especially when it’s a very personal song. There are tracks that I’ve sworn I’d never release because they were too close to me… “Ever Had You” was one of those songs.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Ashley: I can be pretty picky about my writing. I like to feel that a song has said everything I want to say and I can be pretty hard on myself if I can’t get it exactly where I want it. I’ve actually been trying to let myself write more relaxed lately and just see what comes of it without worrying about saying every single thing that’s on my mind. After almost 12 years of writing songs I’ve just realized you can easily write more than one song about certain topics or emotions.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult in this day and age – when social media trolls are so common – to be vulnerable as an artist and pour yourself into your music? How do you stay focused on the positive and block out the negative?
Ashley: I have always thought of music as a form of self-therapy. It is a way to put my thought, fears, truths on paper… and if other people relate to those feelings, then great. If people don’t relate to those feelings, that’s okay too. It’s so easy for the social media generation to hide behind a screen and say anything they want, no matter how inconsiderate or even hateful it can be. I have never and will never let anything anyone says affect the way I write music, though. And the positive comments always majorly overshadowed any negative.

TrunkSpace: We talked earlier about 12-year-old Mason and how she would view your musical journey today. What would you like to see from, say, 40-year-old Mason and how she has grown as an artist? What do you hope the future holds for you and your creative output?
Ashley: I just hope that she’s still in love with music. I have always loved writing and loved the feeling I get when a song is finished. I hope that 20 years from now I still have the same passion for it and that it’s still therapeutic for me. Everything is about numbers these days; how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get, how much money you make, how many streams you get… and I kind of feel like it could get worse from here. I’ve always cared about how music makes me feel and how my music can make others feel. I hope I never get caught up in numbers and still just love the raw and vulnerable magic behind what music is.

TrunkSpace: Where and when are you the most creatively inspired?
Ashley: Inspiration hits at very random times for me. I can be driving in my car and have something pop into my head. I do always notice though, when I travel I tend to write a lot. My mind has gotten in this weird little routine recently of writing songs from an airplane. I think the more that I see and experience, the more content I have to write about.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who has to step away from music at times in order to refuel the creative tank? Can you envision a day where music is not a part of your life?
Ashley: I don’t like to force myself to write, so there are times when I take a step back and wait for ideas to come to me. I actually have had mini-panics over the years when I occasionally get writer’s block. I’ll think, “This is it. I’ll never write another song. I’ve run out of things to say.” But I honestly can’t imagine a time when music isn’t a main focus of my life. Music has always been and always will be a part of who I am and I never see that changing.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Ashley: I have been lucky enough to already have some great highlights in my career. I couldn’t believe reaching over 1 million views on YouTube last year… and then almost 5 million views on “Ever Had You” this year. I got a little freaked out to know that someone used one of my old tracks in their wedding. Last year I got to attend my first award show. When I was sixteen, I heard my song on the radio for the first time. Honestly, every time I get a message from a stranger telling me that my music meant something to them is a highlight. I really don’t think I can easily pick just one.

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?
Ashley: I don’t think I would. As tempting as that would be, I believe that things happen the way they’re supposed and I wouldn’t want to change anything if I didn’t like my future. Life is about now. Music is about capturing moments now so that they can live forever and I wouldn’t be able to focus on now if I knew what was coming.

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Opening Act

The NTWRK

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Artist: The NTWRK

Socials: Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Spotify

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Members: Ryan Moore, Brandon Monsta Brown, Chris Stanz, Danielle Kinoshita

TrunkSpace: With three producers in the group, each with their own creative POV, how do you strike a balance with your collective input? Did everything just click right away?
Moore: Before, Brandon (Monsta Brown) and I have been producing together for almost a decade and (Chris) Stanz and I have been producing together for the past four years. So over time we got to understand each others styles, which made our chemistry pretty solid. Even though our range of styles differ from time to time, we focus the intentions of making the best possible product that compliments the sound we’re trying to get across. Everything is built on trust.

TrunkSpace: What was the core idea and goal with The NTWRK when it was first conceived, and has that focus shifted or grown at all as time has gone by?
Moore: We started off as a music production team. Our goal was to write and produce songs for up and coming and major artists. After some disappointments in getting our songs pitched we decide to release the songs ourselves as artists. If the door won’t open you have to build one yourself! Although we’d still like to write and produce songs for other artists. That definitely hasn’t changed.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most surprising part of this journey so far for you, not only in the experience but within the music itself?
Moore: How much we’ve learned along the way in doing it ourselves. There’s so many factors involved in releasing music. The feedback we’ve gotten from our family and friends has been more than great.

TrunkSpace: The group has dropped a couple of singles to date, including “Today.” Is there a plan for a full album in place or do you anticipate focusing on singles?
Moore: We actually just dropped our fourth single, “Bad Place,” which was released on March 1st.
Stanz: Our current plan is focusing on singles. We love the rush of dropping a song every other month or so as opposed to binding ourselves for months on end to a single arching concept.

TrunkSpace: What are the benefits to releasing singles in this day and age as opposed to full albums? In a lot of ways it feels like the industry, at least on the artist side of things, is shifting back to the dawn of mainstream music where singles were the focus.
Moore: For us it makes releasing music more consistent, which is mandatory in this day and age. It gives the flexibility to collaborate with other artists as opposed to solely working on our project. Releasing singles back to back seems more beneficial for us at this moment as we’re building a core fan base.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a group setting that you can’t achieve as a solo artist? Does the creativity of the collective fuel the creativity of the individual?
Moore: Yes, absolutely! Four heads are always better than one! Whenever one of us is stuck on an idea we’re creating for the group, we have three other minds to add in their creativity. When we send an idea to someone in the group and they add in whatever instrumentation they contribute… it usual inspires the next person who can hear something new and then it becomes a creative collective cycle.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest hurdle that artists face today with not only building a fan base, but maintaining it as well?
Moore: Getting their attention and staying ahead of the game creatively. There are so many great songs out there – not to mention other forms of entertainment – competing for three to four minutes of time out of someone’s day.

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Moore: It varies between working in our individual spaces and meeting up at the studio. Usually we work at home when we’re creating ideas and send them back and forth. Sometimes we’ll meet up with each other to go over specific ideas. The studio is where we hash everything out.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of creating music that you can’t achieve by being a listener alone?
Moore: The satisfaction that the music we create can influence the lives of people and hopefully make their day a little better.

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?
Moore: No, we wouldn’t. We’d like to enjoy the journey and each step of the way, no matter how long it takes.

 

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Opening Act

Ashrr

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Artist: Ashrr

Socials: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Members: Josh Charles, Steven Davis, Ethan Allen

TrunkSpace: Ashrr formed in early 2018 and you will already be releasing your debut album, “Oscillator,” just over a year later on May 10. Creatively did everything just click right away when you first came together musically?
Charles: It was instant chemistry when we met and started working together. We just started writing songs and a real camaraderie developed which made it very apparent to us that this was very special.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us a little bit about what the creative process was like leading up to “Oscillator,” especially with it all coming together so quickly. Were you continuing to bring new material to the table while laying the foundation for what the album would ultimately become?
Charles: Our process involved Ethan (Allen) and myself working together in the studio to create feels, sounds, grooves – and melodic ideas would emerge from our subconscious (nonsense lyrics) until we all got together and wrote the lyrics to the songs. It was a year in the making so I’m not so sure that’s quick…

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Charles: When you listen to “Oscillator,” there’s a cohesive sound and feel that works on both a musical and lyrical level. We’re just so proud of the material and all the work that went into making the album.

TrunkSpace: The band recently released the single “All Yours All Mine.” What does that track say to listeners who are hearing Ashrr for the first time? Why did you choose that particular song as the tease of what’s to come?
Charles: We call that song an electrified public service announcement because of not only the lyrics, but the music has a vibe that goes throughout and really becomes hypnotic and draws you in as a listener.

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in a band that you couldn’t achieve in a solo capacity? Does the creativity of everyone else fuel your own creativity?
Charles: You can’t rely just on your own gut instincts and there has to be a consensus among the band in everything we make. In other words, we have one rule, “Don’t make anything that we wouldn’t listen to and that isn’t good.”

TrunkSpace: You guys all have very different musical backgrounds. How did those different creative points of view influence the collective Ashrr sound?
Charles: We’re all adults and that helps when discussing things we like or dislike, allowing for creative energy to flourish without confrontation. Everyone has a very strong opinion about what we like and we’re in a safe space where we’re able to express how we feel and somehow always reach a compromise without sacrifice.

TrunkSpace: Is the Ashrr sound set in sonic stone or do you envision it branching out into something uniquely different as time goes on? Will the next album be a departure from “Oscillator” or more of a companion?
Charles: I think we’re always going to challenge ourselves to produce the best art we can possibly make and we have such a wide array of influences that it’s limitless to what we’re capable of making in the studio. The live band will be used more in the next recordings but each song on “Oscillator” sounds different, so I think our sound is really starting to emerge in a beautiful way.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Charles: I’ve had some great moments as a solo artist including recording and performing with my heroes, including John Oates, etc. I can say right now I’m so excited about our band and I can’t wait to get on the road and take this music to the people.

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?
Charles: I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, so YES!

Oscillator” is available May 10.

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Opening Act

Bella Dose

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Artist: Bella Dose

Socials: Instagram/Twitter/Facebook

Hometown: Miami, FL

TrunkSpace: When Bella Dose first came together to create music, what was the initial goal and has that goal morphed and grown since those earliest days of the group?
Bella Dose: The initial goal was to first find our sound and figure out who we are in terms of music. Through trial and error, we were able to discover and craft a unique

global sound that caters to a universal audience.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest surprise on this musical journey thus far for each of you? What is something that has occurred as a result of your music that you could have never planned for?
Bella Dose: The biggest surprise on this musical journey thus far for each of us has been our strong sisterhood and bond that we’ve developed. We’ve become one with ourselves and our music. Also, the amount of love and support we’ve received in such a short amount of time as a result of our music is definitely something we could’ve never planned for.

TrunkSpace: Is there something artistically inspiring about working together as a group that you couldn’t achieve as a solo artist? Does creativity inspire creativity… and by that we mean, do you feed off of each other in the quest to create and entertain?
Bella Dose: There is definitely something artistically inspiring about working together as a group because we are able to share our own individual ideas that have the ability to come together and fit like puzzle pieces. We always feed off of each other’s energy, which we feel is a very important part of being in a group. We are always open to listening to each other and work as a team, which is what we hope to portray through our music.

TrunkSpace: Often times pop groups get labeled as “manufactured” artists and aren’t known for writing their own music, but you four do exactly that. Can you walk us through what your writing process looks like and how a track goes from inception to completion?
Bella Dose: Our writing process starts off by creating a concept that we’ve all been through so that others can relate. We inform the producer of our concept and the beat is created around what we’re feeling. We then brainstorm melodies and add on lyrics to finish off the song.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the music itself, what do you enjoy most about being a part of Bella Dose? Is it shooting the videos? Is it performing live? Something else entirely?
Bella Dose: What we enjoy most about being a part of Bella Dose is honestly every aspect of it. From shooting videos to live performances to meet and greets to traveling the world, everything we do plays a role in this journey and how far we’ve come!

TrunkSpace: Having a visual brand is such a big part of music these days. How would you describe the Bella Dose visual brand in just a few words?
Bella Dose: We would describe the Bella Dose visual brand as fun, trendy, cultural and chic!

Courtesy of International Hub Records

TrunkSpace: You’re all from Florida. Does a location impact a band or the music they produce, and if so, how have the towns and neighborhoods you grew up in directly impacted your creative POV?
Bella Dose: Being from South Florida, the towns and neighborhoods we grew up in have definitely impacted our creative point of view because we are surrounded by our Latin culture. We always want to incorporate our culture within our music and we have a lot of pride in our Hispanic roots and being where we’re from.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Bella Dose: Never! Music is always something we include in our day-to-day activities. Even if we weren’t artists we would make sure to be a part of the music industry somehow.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artists?
Bella Dose: We are hardest on ourselves when it comes to vocal arrangements. When we sing live we want to make sure every harmony blends with one another and deliver the song to the best of our abilities. When it comes to videotaping a cappellas, we will not stop until we feel we’ve delivered perfectly. Which means we will do 30,000 takes if we have to in order to get the best one! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Finally, if we were to sit down with you again one year from now, what do you hope we’d be talking about? In other words, what would you like Bella Dose to accomplish in the next 365 days?
Bella Dose: A year from now, we hope to have at least one song appear on the Billboard Top 100 Chart! We hope to go on our own tour, and have performed at major events!

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Opening Act

I Am Casting

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Artist: I Am Casting

Socials: Facebook/Twitter

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

TrunkSpace: We’re about a week away from the release of your debut album, “Carnival Barkers.” What emotions are you juggling with as you prepare to unleash it onto the world?
Guerra: Teaspoon of excitement, tablespoon of apprehension. I’m trying to stay connected to the really positive experience of writing and recording the album. Not easy to do, as the writing/recording memories fade and the release is imminent, but definitely healthier for me than getting too focused on others’ reactions (or lack thereof) to the release.

TrunkSpace: The album seems like a very personal journey for you, both creatively and in the production process itself. Is it difficult to let something so close to you go and relinquish that control once it has been released?
Guerra: The development of the particular process that ended up working for me, both in terms of songwriting and production, is something I anticipate taking forward with new material. I’m a bit surprised to find it’s actually not been difficult to put a bow on this particular collection and “send it out into the world,” so to speak. Perhaps having control of the process somehow made it easier, in fact, to let go – as in, “You (the listener) may not like the cake I made, but I’m pretty sure I made it the way I like it.”

TrunkSpace: You wore many hats in bringing “Carnival Barkers” to life. Are you putting more pressure on yourself in terms of the album succeeding and finding an audience because you’ve had your hands in so many facets of it coming together?
Guerra: It’s definitely the case that because I wore so many hats, very few other people have any skin in the game. I’m trying to find an audience, then, without many others invested in the same goal. More work necessary to get the word out, as a result, and longer odds of breaking through in some meaningful way. That said, I don’t know if I’m putting more pressure on myself than I would have if I’d worn fewer hats (e.g., if I’d written and/or performed the tunes, but not produced the album) – I tend to over-own responsibility, in general, so whatever pressure I feel is probably amped to a level similar to that I would have experienced absent a hat or two.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Guerra: I believe “Carnival Barkers” has a real “album” vibe to it – there’s connective tissue musically and lyrically/thematically, consistent with the goals I had as I began the project. I feel pretty good about that. I also feel good about being open enough to make some significant changes in how I write and create music (old dog, new tricks kind of thing).

TrunkSpace: Is “Carnival Barkers” an album you could have created a decade ago? And by that we mean, how much of the times (and how the times have sculpted your creative POV) went into shaping it?
Guerra: No, I couldn’t have made this album a decade ago. First, with regards to the music, my writing has become increasingly integrated with the tracking (recording) process, and percussion/rhythm parts are usually developed and tracked hand-in-hand with (or even ahead of) chord progressions and melodies. These changes definitely impact my choices about the progressions and melodies themselves – I don’t believe I could have written a song like “Flood” using my former approach. Second, the lyrical content and themes of “Carnival Barkers” would not have been salient to me a decade ago. The lyrics to these songs were all written between mid-2016 and late-2017. Early in that writing period, I decided to tie the songs together, conceptually, using themes I found to be especially relevant to the political moment. So songs like “Charmer,” “Wolf” and “Lullaby” might be thought of as variations on the Pied Piper story. “Flood” and “Window” are about the exploitation of prejudice and fear of the “other” for political gain. “Helpless,” “Muggers” and “Seams” try to capture, in different ways, the experience of powerlessness. Most of the songs are about malignant influencers and/or those impacted by them.

Photo By: Alex Boerner

TrunkSpace: Would the young Cole who first picked up an instrument be surprised by your musical journey thus far? Would “Carnival Barkers” be a departure from the music he thought he would one day make?
Guerra: Yes, really surprised by the path taken. Young me, from childhood through very early adulthood, would have thought that if future me was involved in the arts, it would be as an actor or director – I’d been doing theater-related stuff for years. I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to piano as a kid, but I don’t recall thinking that those lessons were setting me up for some career choice. Even after picking up guitar late in high school, it wouldn’t have struck me to “make an album,” though I loved music. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, coinciding with another major vocational pivot (to grad school for psychology), that I began to write songs with any frequency and view myself as someone who might do that over a longer span of time.

As for the type of music I write, I can make out a bit of a fuzzy line between the musical tastes of teenage me and the music on “Carnival Barkers,” but I’ll spare you the list of “influences.” Suffice it to say that young me might have heard “Carnival Barkers” and thought, “Sure, that makes sense.”

TrunkSpace: How long did it take you to discover your songwriter’s voice?
Guerra: Though I didn’t start writing in any meaningful way until my mid-20s, I’m sure that my songwriting voice has some roots in the music that most spoke to me in the preceding years – I’ve valued music over lyric for as long as I can recall, tend towards unusual and sometimes busy (for alt-pop, that is) harmonic structure and chord progressions, and largely avoid narrative exposition. On top of that base, stuff has changed pretty consistently, enough so that I think my “voice” continues to evolve, though I don’t know how visible that is to the outside world.

TrunkSpace: Which would you personally prefer… writing one album that the whole world adores, or writing a career’s worth that only a select group of people treasure?
Guerra: Artistically speaking, the career gig, every time. And practically speaking, I don’t write music that appeals to large swaths of people, so hard to even contemplate the adoration bit. I’ll take any option that gives me more time engaged in the songwriting and recording process. Of course, nowadays the “select group of people treasure you” path will likely require that the artist have some other means of surviving monetarily.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could just ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Guerra: On first blush, main upside I see to the glimpse is that if it’s positive, perhaps there’s a boost of confidence as expectations soar. “Hey sure, of course I’ll reach out to Musician X and Producer Y, since I’ve seen a future where those two are collaborating with me.”

Too much downside, though – I can see being de-motivated whether I get glimpse of shit journey (obvious reasons) or cool outcomes (I mean, how much do I need to work to obtain a fated outcome). Main hiccup to the idea of glimpsing my 10-year music outcomes/status, though, is that I get most pleasure out of process – that moment where I figure out some cool way back from the bridge to the verse or the one where I hit on some arrangement idea that makes the tune or the one where I can tell that the musicians I’m sharing the stage with are feeling it – and I’m not sure the 10-year outcome instructs me much about how to navigate all that.

Carnival Barkers” is available February 22 from Cleave Recordings.

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