Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heather Robb of The Spring Standards Interview

I had a chance to see these guys (and lady) in ATL at the Vinyl recently and they put on a very entertaining show. The trio, made up of James Cleare, Heather Robb and James Smith, each took turns singing and switching up instruments every few songs which I highly respect. Their newest release,"Would Things Be Different", is one of my favorites right now. It is such a diverse album filled with elements of folk, country, bluegrass and rock you would think someone had made you a mix tape! Their flawless three-part harmonies throughout the album gave me chills, of course. Check them out at http://thespringstandards.com/
Here is my interview with Heather Robb:

I had a chance to see you guys in ATL recently and you all seem to have a great amount of chemistry, almost as if you have known each other forever... How long have you guys been together exactly?
We have known each other for a very long time, we started singing together when we were 15 and have played in bands together on and off for the last ten years. So even though the Spring Standards have only been together for 2.5 years, the 3 of us have been making music together for most of our lives. We definitely learned a lot from each other and developed our own way of doing things at a young age, and that's a huge part of the foundation of the band.
How are Spring Standards songs normally written?
We're all songwriters so typically one of us will bring a song to the group and the 3 of us will arrange it together. It's very collaborative, and our shared background plays a big role in the way we write and arrange our music.
Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your new full-length "Would Things Be Different"...
Hmmm... Well the inspirations are all over the place - that's part of why every track is so unique. Each song comes from a very specific place and represents its own idea and contribution to the record as a whole. We definitely wanted to embrace that diversity of sound and let each song stand on its own rather than committing the entire record to just one mood or style.
What was the inspiration behind "Unravel and Unwind"?
'Unravel unwind' tells a very simple story, of 2 people who have been in each other's lives through many changes and challenges. It's a song about friendship and forgiveness and being hopeful that the love between people can be stronger than anything that might threaten to come between them. More than anything it's a song about the importance of honesty.
When I went to import "Would Things Be Different" in to my computer, I noticed that the genre is listed as "Unclassifiable." You definitely have such a diverse sound, how would you say this was achieved?
The diversity of our sound wasn't something we had to work to accomplish actually - it's just happened naturally and we haven't done anything to stop it. I think a lot of times bands think they have to stick to just one sound, but we've never felt that way. We approach each song with a blank slate and know that as long as its coming from an honest place inside us, it's going to sound like us.
Who are some of your major influences?
This list could easily make up your entire article. I'll keep it simple and just say everyone.
How important is it for artists to develop relationships when playing gigs?
I think an artist's relationship with their audience is the most important part of playing gigs. If you're not connecting with your audience then you might as well be a CD in a boom box. The gift of live music in the opportunity to connect with people who are listening to you pour your heart out and feel their support giving you the courage to go even deeper and disclose even more.
How important is social media for artists?
Completely essential, now more than ever. It can be a lot of work keeping up with all of it, but it's such a great tool for independent musicians in particular and it's definitely worth the hard work!
Any advice for artists just starting up?
Just be yourself and do what you do and your audience will find you. Don't wait for some vague, romanticized idea of "success" to make you happy, find happiness in the challenges and struggles because they're going to be your fondest memories someday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dallas Taylor of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster Interview...

photo by Ryan Russell
I have heard stories about the origin of your name, but could you explain briefly how it came about?
We are just big on local history, and it comes from this lady named Ma Baker that was a mob boss in the 1930's. We also used to practice near a little town called Maylene.
You guys have such and original blend of country and hard rock, who are some of your main influences?
I would say for myself AC/DC, Lynard Skynard, The Marshall Tucker Band, Tom Petty, Tori Amos, George Jones, and Willie Nelson.
Dallas, who are some frontmen that you look up to as far as stage presence goes?
I am not sure... when I was a kid there used to be this band from south Florida called Failsafe, and they where one of the craziest bands live. Their singer was so crazy on stage. I really liked how he did not care what the crowd thought, and acted like they where not even there. A lot of inspiration came from just going to a lot of hardcore shows, and seeing how much feeling and passion the frontmen had. It was a different, and a better time back then. I think now it is mostly about trying to fit an image.
What were some of the influences behind your lastest album "III"?
I was big into Tom Petty, and the Marshall Tucker Band, and was just listening to a lot of Southern Rock when we where making III.
You guys seem to be touring constantly, any funny stories or pranks that you would be willing to share?
Too many to think of just one. We are really big on pranks. We love it so much we prank each other. We are a very light hearted band, and try to make the most of it while we are on the road.
Any plans for a new album soon? If so what are you aiming for that is different from the last three?
We should go into the studio in the late fall. We are really going to go for it with this next record. I think it is going to be a new step for us in a lot of ways. We are still in the beginning stages, but I think it is going to be a new direction for us in all ways, but will still feel and sound just like Maylene.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Matthew Mayfield Interview

I first saw this guy play for Needtobreathe last fall in Birmingham, when he opened the show with an acoustic set. I was amazed how his presence was able to hush the sold out crowd almost immediately. Literally, by far one of my favorite performances I have ever witnessed. Mayfield was able to give me, John Anthony Mouser III, chills for a record thirty minutes straight with his raw, powerful sound. I have spent many nights avoiding going home, just driving around listening to "Element", "Open Road" and of course "Better."
Since last fall, Mayfield has put out SIX ep's, has had two songs featured on "Grey's Anatomy" and is currently working on his first solo full length. This Birmingham native is also the former front man/songwriter of a band by the name of Moses Mayfield. Please go and check his site and support his independent releases, because they are truly phenomenal.

You have been incredibly busy over the past year, cranking out an ep a month since December of 2009. Are you going to continue this trend for the rest of the year?
The constant output it something that challenges me as a writer--but I love that. I think it also has allowed me to do something that no one else seems to be doing and the fans really appreciate it. I'm planning on taking a break from recording after we finish the full length--tour/live a little. But that's just the 'plan'. I'm not too good at sticking to those.
So you are currently recording your full length? What are some things we can expect to hear on the future full length?
We are taking 5 from the EPs and 5 brand new ones to make a batch of 10 that is the best batch of songs I've ever released in my 27 years. It's miles ahead of anything I've done in the past. This one has some big choruses, a few mellow moments, and a lot of anthems that people can sing back at me. That's what I wanted to do. I'm not interested in the being the next indie hipster scene or in how skinny my jeans can be. That's not my thing. I'm interested in arenas. That was the magic of the music I grew up listening to. Being a rocknroll front man is all I've ever wanted since I was 10 years old. I give it everything I have.
Any future releases from "Matthew Mayfield and the Blue Cut Robbery" in the works?
I'm sure we will make another rock record. That is such a powerful outlet for a side of me that I don't get to tap into very much on the solo stuff. We just finished 3 videos the Robbery and it's exactly what we wanted: a room full of gear, sweat, and energy.
Can you tell me a little about your involvement with Pledge Music?
Pledge has opened some huge doors for me lately. We've funded a record that rivals most indie label budgets and we've given over $2000 to the International Justice Mission (http://www.ijm.org/). It's win/win for everyone. Fans get something completely unique, the artist gets the dough to make the record they need to make, and the charity (artist's choice) gets a big chunk of what comes in. I never expected it would do this well. I'm honored to be a part of it and to have fans that actually want to be involved.
How has social media attributed to your success and provided you with support?
It's changed everything for independent artists. There is certainly still value in traditional PR (tv, film, advertising, late night, ect.), but to be able to spread the word about the art for free? Come on, that's pretty incredible. If you're making good music, people are gonna talk about it. They'll tweet about it too.
Over the course of your career you have show yourself to be a prime example of a hardworking, self-made musician. What are some specific lessons/suggestions that you have for aspiring artists?
It's been a long ride. I got signed to Epic when I was 21 and did the whole deal. It fell apart and I've gone the independent route. I think my best advice would be to do it yourself, keep your publishing, surround yourself with people you trust, and don't ever believe someone that tells you 'you're the next big thing'. You're not. I'm not. Those people will come and go. The Machine is fickle. Your fans aren't. As artists, we're all just trying to make a living doing what we love. No different from anyone else.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, The Strokes, Patty Griffin, Damien Jurado... The list goes on forever. I'm lucky to have friends who inspire me all the time as well: The Civil Wars, Needtobreathe, Cary Brothers, Matthew Perryman Jones, Jon Foreman. Watching other people teaches me and helps me to carve out my own sound. We're all just recycling on our influences. What you hear is the sound of those artists swirling around our insides and finding their way back out somehow.
Lastly, what is the most ridiculous thing that has happened to you on tour?
Hmm. The road seems to be a vessel for ridiculousness. Makes me laugh. Recently someone stole all the towels from the dressing room while I was in the shower. I found a couple old magazines to fashion as a loin cloth and shuffled myself at least 100 yards to my bag in the car. Gotta love the old air-dry experience.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Anarbor Interview Adam Juwig

Here is a quick interview with guitarist Adam Juwig from the band Anarbor. I had a chance to see these guys in Atlanta a couple of months ago, and they completely tore up the stage. Their albums are packed with energy, just like their shows...Check them out...
Can you tell me a little about your new full length? Did you guys
take a different approach on this album than the previous EPs?

Adam: With our full-length, The Words You Don't Swallow, we had more songs
and options to work with. Instead of just recording 6 or 7 songs like
we've done in the past, we got to take the time to dive into the songs
and get them exactly how we want.
How do you normally approach the writing process as a band?
Adam:Usually someone will come up with a guitar riff or a melody and we
branch off from that. There's not one specific songwriter in our band,
like a lot of bands do. It works well that way for us, with four
songwriters, we have more ideas as if it were just one songwriter.
Who are some of the biggest influences for Anarbor?
Adam: Tom Petty, Jimmy Eat World, The Beatles, RX Bandits, Bruce
Springsteen, the list could go on forever!
How was touring with This Providence, The Audition, The Bigger Lights
and Artist Vs. Poets?

Adam: It was great! We had toured with The Bigger Lights numerous times and
we've known This Providence since we were like 14 so it was cool being
able to tour with bands you were already friends with.
Any bands out there that you think people should be listening to?
Adam: The Gaslight Anthem, Closure in Moscow, Manchester Orchestra, Jimmy Eat World.
What are you looking forward to most about playing Warped Tour? Is
this the first year for you guys?
Adam: Just being apart of it. We all use to go in the early 2000's, we'd
always dreamt of being able to play Warped Tour. We got to play a week
last year and a week the year before, but we are super stoked to be on
the whole thing this year!
What's next for you guys after Warped?
Adam: More touring in support of our new full length record!
You guys have been playing shows together/hanging out since middle
school, what is the most memorable prank/funny story that you would be
willing to share?
Ah man, we've known each other for so long, there's just too many. All
we did on weekends was practiced and got ourselves into whatever
trouble we could get ourselves into. I think the first time I hung out
with Mike, Greg and Slade, we went to a grocery store and took all the
pumpkins and haystacks that the pumpkins were on and built like a wall
in the street so cars couldn't get past, we were running from the cops
back to Greg's within like 5 minutes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Denison Interview

One day I was surfing the pop/rock section of iTunes and happen upon this guy. Caleb Denison's stripped sound catchy melodies and (mostly) soft vocals had me hooked immediately. After some further digging on this guy I realized how diverse of a musician he really is. On top of his solo act, he is also the guitarist for The Shout (Never Shout Never) and Christofer Drew's venture into hardcore, eatmewhileimhot! Check this guy out!

I am a big fan of "the Denison EP"... What was the inspiration behind it?
Denison:I just wanted to make a raw ep. Pretty much stripped down to piano, acoustic, drums, bass... Etc.
Had a great time on that record seeing how stripped down I could make it.
You are apart of several different projects that seem to be completely different. I am just curious who some of your biggest influences are.
Biggest influences would be growing up listening to huge amounts of gospel. Later I discovered bands like Queen, ELO, CCR, then newer bands like Blindside, RATM, and Recover. I think that's the reason why I can write in diverse genre's. I grew up, fortunately, with people putting good music in my hands.
I read that you are recording for a new E.P. due out later the summer/early fall. What will make this E.P. stand out from other recordings/projects that you have been apart of?
This new EP has been a blast to record. The best way to describe it is futuristic-retro I think. It essentially is a rock record, but filled with brass sections, choirs, and other surprises.
It will be released in August, and I'm super pumped for everyone to hear it!
How important is social media interaction for you as an artist?
At this point for any band or artist, social media interaction is super important. Internet is the new music industry, or quickly becoming so. Unfortunately, I'm not super great at it.. But I give it my best shot!
Craziest/funniest moment on tour ever...
That would have to be at the house of blues in Boston. (Laughs) seriously, stepping on stage, my pants ripped all the way down the front. Obviously, there was no turning back. Luckily my guitar tech Big Kat had a ready supply of tape on hand. We spent the first two songs with me playing guitar and him taping my clothes back together!
Maybe that should be filed under most awkward moment on tour..
Solo tour soon?
I will be touring early next year. Can't say too much about it yet, but it will be a really fun tour!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Michael Grubbs of Wakey!Wakey! Interview

Photo by Kimberly Klaer

Wakey!Wakey! is one of my favorite bands right now and is fronted by my favorite One Tree Hill character...Michael Grubbs. His powerful voice is filled with both raw rock and classical elements, which is like no other musician I have ever heard of. When you aren't getting blown away by his voice, he hits you with some amazing piano solos that have a great classical feel to them.
Mike took some time before his show in ATL this past Saturday to sit down with me and Amanda. We discuss his musical background, the new album and shares some laughs at the expense of major record labels....

John Mouser: What is the inspiration behind the new album “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You?

Michael Grubbs: It is just a year of my life. I just went through a lot that year and I made an attempt to write it all down as a way to process it.

John Mouser: I have read before that choosing your favorite song off one of your albums is much like picking your favorite child. What if you were able to choose the child you are most impressed by?

Michael Grubbs: (Laughs)The song that I most enjoy playing right now is "Got it all Wrong". It has been a really fun song to tour on, because we have never placed that song anywhere. It has never been involved with a television show, commercial or anything. Every single audience that we play to sings along and knows every single word. It’s awesome. It is very inspiring to me and very touching every time I play it onstage. I feel very moved that people sing along with that and feel that experience. I would have to say that it is my favorite one to play right now, but as far as favorite one to listen to off the album that changes every second. One day I will be like "Oh, I am really into 'Feral Love' today" and the next day I will love 'Almost Everything'.

John Mouser: How long have you been playing music?

Michael Grubbs: I have been playing since I was five years old, because I was raised in a very musical family. Most families had like a game room, but we had a music room with a piano and a bunch of instruments where we spent a bunch of our time playing.

John Mouser: So were your parents musicians?

Michael Grubbs: Yeah, my father was a singer. He had a day job obviously, but he was a singer. My family was very involved with the Church where they would lead worship services, so that's how I was thrust into things. My mother was also a middle-school choir teacher. I also have a sister who is a very talented singer and does her own music currently as well. We would get up every morning before breakfast and sight read a hymn and it was just kind of the way that we would start each day. It was always extremely musical at our house which was really cool.

John Mouser: You have a unique sound, filled with classical and pop elements. How did that develop?

Michael Grubbs: We didn't really have much music in the house that was pop music, growing up. We listened primarily to classical and religious music, and some oldies. So I guess that is why I am kind of obsessed with it now. Just like if you don't let a kid watch T.V. and then when they get old, all they do is watch TV (laughs). I guess classical music was such a part of my musical upbringing, I even played the French horn when I was in High School. I loved playing classical music on the piano, and one day I found this Billy Joel songbook at the Library. When I was twelve years old I decided that i wasn't going to play piano anymore and so i quit for a couple of years because it was all that we did. So I this songbook and I said to myself "oh, I guess i will try to play a couple of these songs and see how this works." So I started playing through the Billy Joel songbook, then i got the Elton John songbook and I became obsessed with their early works. I was really impressed so that really inspired me. I guess that is how we come around to where I am now, where there is a classical influence but also I really like pops songs. I really like a well structured song, so i guess that all went into a washing machine and became Wakey!Wakey!

John Mouser: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians in regards to connecting with fans, maintaining a fan base and touring?

Michael Grubbs: Yeah, I think that the one thing is that you should make sure to touch your instrument every single day. Like the first thing you do after a long day, you should walk over to your piano, or your guitar, or your violin or cello and just touch it. It is the thing that will get you in the process of just maintaining your priorities. The first thing is that you are a musician, and then everything else happens. Or you are an artist or you are a painter or whatever your art form is. After that you should get a job that is the most flexible job you can, where you can make the most money. For me that job was bartending, so that you can support what you want to do and save as much money as you can. To get to here, there is a long process where you don't get paid and a long period of time. You are also working too hard to get a day job. Then just don't give up, keep going. If you want to maintain your fan base, then have a twitter account. Have a Myspace account. The other thing is, don't try to do everything yourself. If you can get a manager, that’s great. In the meantime you have friends and you can talk to them and be like can you help me out with this? And they probably will because working with musicians is cool, and its fun and you travel, and you hang out in clubs and you talk to really pretty girls. Don't try to do everything yourself, because it is a lot to take on. Never, ever expect that a major label is going to come down and swoop you up and save you. Just plan to do all the work yourself. If something happens, then that is fantastic. If it doesn't, then you are ready and prepared to do it the right way.

John Mouser:You mentioned Twitter and Myspace, how important is social networking to working musicians?

Michael Grubbs: I think that it is of upmost importance right now. Everything has changed, everything is changing. When we go on tour we get in the van, we turn on the air conditioner and we plug in the GPS(laughs). I can't imagine touring back in the day like Tom Petty, where the directions to the venue are like "When you pass the third bush on the right..." We have all these things working for us like Twitter, Myspace, Facebook (and probably what comes out next week and replaces those next week) are all very vital ways to communicate with people and show them who you are. I think that I and my band mates are the most fun people to hang out with in the world and we have a blast each time that we go out, so why not show people that? Why not hang out with them online? Like do live-streaming shows where we are just talking, hanging out, playing piano and doing little solo things. Be as accessible as possible, because why not? The people that listen to and enjoy our music are the people that allow me to live this crazy awesome life right now, so talk to those people and stay in touch with them.

John Mouser: You have been on a hit show, your album is climbing the ITunes charts and you are now getting some radio play. You seem like a down-to-earth kind of guy, so how is it that you stay centered?

Michael Grubbs: I think that it is very important that you assume that it is going to stop tomorrow (laughs). The other thing is that I am never in the mindset that "I am finally getting what I deserve". I am in the mindset of "Wow, how lucky am I to be here right now?" That and my friends that I am extremely close to (some of them I have known for over fifteen years), and we all try to talk as much as possible. They call me "One Tree Mike" and "Chad Michael Grubbs"(laughs), so they make fun of me and keep me centered. It’s fantastic.

John Mouser: When you were on One Tree Hill was it weird going from shooting the show one day and then touring with Wakey!Wakey! the next?

Michael Grubbs: Yeah, it is very weird. Touring is a very DIY (do it yourself) kind of thing. You figure it out as you go. When we roll into town, we don't exactly know where we are going to sleep that night. If our friends show up, and people that we know and they are like, "Hey want to come crash on our couch?" and we are like "Sure! Why not." We will go and spend the night; otherwise we will go out and get a hotel. We don't stay in a four star hotel executive suite room, and that's where we stay when we are shooting One Tree Hill. We travel in a fifteen passenger van with a big trailer on the back of it. When its One Tree Hill I fly first class, and people are like "Mr. Grubbs, can we get you a drink today?" I am like "Oh certainly!" Here on tour I'm like "do you think I am going to shower today? I'm not really sure?" They are two very different worlds. One thing that I think is important to remember, I was a musician ten years before I ever acted. The strange thing to me is the first-class stuff. The stuff that I am totally comfortable with is just sweating in a green room like this. This is my jam; I am totally comfortable with this. I can get used to first-class, but this is what I'm used to.

John Mouser: How has your role on One Tree Hill and your songs being played weekly affected the band?

Michael Grubbs: It is just astounding. One Tree Hill fans are the best fans in the world. If a song is played on the show and they like it, they will go find it. They will research and they will do whatever it takes to find that song. They will get it, they will play it and they will love it. It is so awesome; they are so supportive that I cannot believe. Here we are in Atlanta and the last time that we played here I played to like twelve people. Tonight there are hundreds of tickets sold at pre-sale. It’s the best thing that could possibly happen, exposure wise.

John Mouser: If it is a perfect day and you are in your car and you have the windows down, what are you listening to?

Michael Grubbs: Well it depends on what I picked up that morning and what mood I am in. I am an obsessive music listener and I love finding new bands that I am really, really into. Today, it would be Beach House and the album would be "Teen Dream". It is so gorgeous. It slipped by me at first, but my friend who is also a the manger for one of my all-time favorite bands Grizzly Bear came to me and said that I had to listen to it three or four listens in a row and just let it wash over me. I did that and let me tell you what man, it is awesome. A week ago it was Fever Ray, before that it was the Drums I got really into them. Before that it was the latest Hot Chip album. The most listened to song for me right now is the first some off of the LCD Sound system album, “Dance Yourself Clean." It's so good.

John Mouser: What is next for Wakey!Wakey!, after touring?

Michael Grubbs: Yeah we have been touring for a long time. We have August open right now. We will probably be in the studio recording some new stuff. More videos, more music and more playing to new great crowds. Just more of this awesome thing we are doing. Hopefully we can go tour in Europe? I have been one time to Europe, so traveling through Europe has always been a dream of mine. Our bass player is German, so she is dying to go to Germany, because she wants to make fun of us in German in front of other people (laughs). Which I am totally down with, because I enjoy being made fun of quite a bit.

John Mouser: Have you gotten any bites from major record labels?

Michael Grubbs: Yeah (laughs). The four major labels in the U.S. have called us in the last two weeks. That was just really funny to us, because we played our music for all of them like a year ago. They were like "this really isn't our thing" and now they see it on Sound Scan charting well and they are really excited about it. I mean I wish they would just be a little more forthcoming, because it is a little too obvious. I wrote that "the letter to a major record executive" on my blog as a joke, and it got re-posted more than anything I have ever posted (Laughs).

John Mouser: Would you be down with going with a major record label in the future? Or do you see yourself staying indie?

Michael Grubbs: It’s a really complicated thing, it really is. I have railed on major labels for a long time; a lot of them are really just dinosaurs. They have a really good place cataloging long-time successful artists. Like Madonna on an indie label just doesn't make sense. Bono on an indie label just doesn't make sense. Wakey!Wakey! is kind of a tough thing. I don't know if its indie or if it is major. I don't know what the market is for it. I got into music because think it is something that like really connects to people. I know that this sounds like the most pretentious thing in the world, but it can almost me healing when you have an album. I remember going through a really bad breakup and hearing the song "Get Better" and it literally healed me. I think music is really popular that way and I am not in the business of music to play to a small pretentious crowd. I am in the business of music to just have as many people as possible hear the songs, because that is what they are for. So if we decide to go with a major label probably a lot of people will laugh at me and say "Look at these guys!" There would probably be awkward meetings with executives where they are like "Didn't you say that we suck?" and I will be like "yeah, you do." Right now I want to do what's best for the music. What I think is best right now is for me to stay indie for a little while. Which is totally cool with me. I love family records; I love Timber Street and Mark Schwann. I think that my manager Wes Verhoeve is a visionary. He is just fantastic. I just feel so lucky to be here. Also, no one tells be what to do, no one tells me what to wear, no one tells me to cut my hair. That all rhymed (laughs). That could be a really bad country song. Yeah, but I really like the whole Indie thing and hopefully we will stay with it for a little while.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cary Brothers Interview

So man, you just finished up touring in Holland. Have you played there before?
We just wrapped up the Holland tour a couple days ago, and it was pretty amazing. I had been there before on the Hotel Cafe Tour in Europe, and this time I was playing shows with Laura Jansen, an LA girl who grew up in Holland and is having quite a bit of success over there. I've been a bit spoiled playing to my audiences in the states, so it was a great and humbling challenge to start over in another country. Good news is that response was great, and I signed a record deal there with Sony by the time I left, so I get to go back this year for the record release and more shows.
Is this your first time touring overseas?
I've done a couple tours in Europe before. A few shows on my own as well as two runs with the Hotel Cafe group. It's amazing how, even though few of us had record deals over there, the presence of our songs on the internet was strong enough to bring out some good crowds who actually knew a few of the tunes. The web really does make the music audience a global community - when I send a tweet, I get responses from Kansas City all the way to Singapore. It's changed my goals as far as touring goes. I wanna play everywhere now.
Your new album "Under Control" was recently released. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind this album?
Well, I had just gotten off the road from four years of touring and needed to rest up a bit. I didn't want to make a record just because it was time to do that. I took my time and just lived life in LA with friends, and with the election and a lot of change in the country and in my own life, slowly I realized I had a lot to write about. I also realized that I wanted to take charge of my career a little more and bought my way out of my record deal. That took about a year, so in that time I was able to make a record without anyone over my shoulder demanding singles or a certain sound. It was very liberating.
Two of my favorite songs of yours are "Ride" and "Something About You". Can you briefly explain the meaning/inspiration behind these songs?
As with many of the tunes, Ride was about a girl. It was really about having been in a relationship where everything was fine when we were alone together but that had problems when the world around you got involved. A part of me just wanted to run away with her and leave everything behind. That's obviously not realistic and therefore it was doomed to failure, but the romantic element of it fit well with the music I was writing at the time. Something About You is an old Level 42 song that I loved when I was a kid. The original version had very 80's production to it, but I always wanted to record a version that really brought out the lyrics - there's a great love song in there lyrically that was just waiting to come out. Once I found a way to make it mine musically, I was able to fit it on the new record.
Can you tell me a little about your collaboration "Here on Earth" on the new Tiƫsto record Kaleidoscope.
Working with Tiesto is so much fun because the dance/trance world it's an entirely different beast musically. He sent me a few different musical ideas and let me have free reign over melody and lyrics. I spent a brief period of my youth in club culture, so I just thought about what I would want to hear on a dance floor at 3am - a song that's just insanely emotionally uplifting - and the rest was easy. I was very focused on making sure that the melody was strong enough to live with or without the dance beats and programming.
How do you normally write a song?
I'm not the kind of guy who walks around with a notebook writing lyrics. For me, melody and song structure come first and foremost. Unless the melody gets stuck in my head, I'll move on. Once I have the musical idea pretty firm, I just try to write words that are incredibly honest and relate to my life on that given night. I'll sit with the music on my headphones and pen and paper all night long until it's done.
I have always wondered how you got hooked up with Zac Braff? By the way, loved your performance on Scrubs.Classic.
I have never been more terrified in my life than shooting that episode of Scrubs. I got a call from the producer of the show who was a fan of "Blue Eyes" and wanted me to come sing it at the close of that episode... the next morning. I'm just glad I didn't look like too much of an idiot.
As for Braff, he and I were buddies in college and then became good friends when we were both struggling artists in LA - he was waiting tables and I was playing open mics and working odd jobs. We always had a great deal of respect for each other creatively. I helped him with ideas for the Garden State script, and he was always the first person to hear my new tunes. Garden State was such a blast because we got to work on this little movie together that became such a huge success with both the film and music.
Who are some of your bigger influences?
I was a child of the 80's growing up in Nashville, TN, but instead of just accepting the music around me - country, mostly - I actively sought out bands in the UK and Europe - The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc. Peter Gabriel was a huge influence, vocally and musically, though he is and will always be leaps and bounds above anything I could do. With both him and U2, I was drawn to the passion and massive dramatic sweep of the music. In the US, the indie scene was really growing, and early IRS Records-era R.E.M. records were unlike anything else. They were a Southern band, but they weren't afraid to call out social injustices and musically found a way to be both Southern and wildly adventurous. It made me feel like music was something I could do as a kid in the South.
Any musicians you recommend?
I just got hip to Yeasayer. I like their older stuff but the new, New Wave-influenced Odd Blood record is really badas. I still think My Morning Jacket can't be beat as a live act. William Fitzsimmons is a friend, yet beyond that he's making some beautiful timeless stuff for those who are into Bon Iver and the like. Temper Trap is getting played a lot on my iPod. Best singer/songwriter I've seen in a while is Matthew Mayfield, and that guy is putting out an EP a month, so you're bound to find something you like among all that material.
What's the funniest thing that you can think of that occurred on tour over the years?
Well, being told to shut up while playing a really mellow song on stage back east by a bunch of guys watching the World Series was pretty funny in retrospect. There are a lot of things I can't really put in print, but I had quite a laugh shaving off my guitarist's beard live on stage, mid-song, in front of a sold out crowd in London. It was a dare, and I'm usually up for that sort of challenge. Best part was that, because of power issues, the electric razor was cutting at twice the speed as it should have, so if he so much as flinched, we would have lost him - and the audience knew it. They could tell by the look on his face that things were not right. I get points for added difficulty by having a few Jack & Cokes in me. The bewilderment on the audience's face was worth the whole thing - definitely not what they expected to see at a singer/songwriter show.
So what's next for you, after the Holland tour? A U.S. tour?
I'm going to announce US tour dates this week, I hope. There are a couple more shows I want to add to the schedule before the announcement. I'll be all across the US in July and August. Then I think more Europe and Canada. Then come back and hit all the US cities I'll miss on this tour.