SARAH VOS’ w/ DEAD HORSES

>>>>> Most musician’s early influences are in some way tied to family in some way, is that true for you too?  Absolutely. Both of my parents are very musical; they both sing and play piano and organ. I grew up in the church so there was a strong emphasis on hymns and psalms and singing in general. I was also in a handbell choir in middle school! The choirs taught me about music theory and performing with others in time and in dynamic. ​

>>>>> As kids, many creative types often flounder a bit until they find their muse as it were; was this true for you at all?  I’m still floundering in many ways. There was, however, a definite switch for me during adolescence where music naturally became central to me over any of the other activities I was involved in. It wasn’t until my twenties when I decided to pursue music fully, and that helped me feel a lot of fulfillment. I had spent my college years trying to figure out how I could play music instead of what I was doing. 

>>>>> What singers did you try to emulate when you first started singing / writing / playing and what was the first tune you learned to play and sing on guitar comfortably enough to play for others?  I never consciously tried to emulate anyone while singing or writing or playing. When I first got a guitar- around ten years old or so- it was a vehicle for me to write songs. I taught myself how to play by looking up guitar tabs to songs I knew online. I’m really not sure what the first tune was that I played and sang in front of others, but I think one of the first times I played in front of others was at an open mic that I asked my mom to take me to because I wasn’t old enough to drive yet. I remember being pretty terrified but excited because I always knew while writing that I wanted to share too.

>>>>> What was your first album purchase and concert viewing respectively and how do you think they may inform your music or general approach today?  My first album purchase was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” by the Beatles. So epic! I bought it on cassette, and I would listen to “A Day in the Life” over and over again. It’s interesting how that’s two different songs melded together. I’ve done the same thing in my writing many times.

>>>>> Some who hear Dead Horses may find the songwriting, beyond folk, as decidedly southern: where does being from the Midwest & Milwaukee figure in to that mix you think?  I think it might be related to how I grew up listening to old gospel hymns. 

>>>>> How does the songwriting process work for you and Dead Horses; has it evolved or do you have a tried and true formula at this point?  No real formula per se. I usually have the skeletons (or more) to songs and I bring them to Dan and we work on them together. It’s always evolving and I welcome that.​

>>>>> How do you get in the right mindset pre-show or is that not a concern for you day to day?  Funny you should ask, as I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. It’s so important to be flexible because you never know what you’re going to have to work with from show to show or festival. Maybe you’ll have a quiet place to warm up in, maybe you won’t. A couple of weeks ago we drove five hours to a festival, got out of the van and immediately took a golf cart to do a session on a porch, and then we rode back to our stage where we played a full set

I am curious about how it might help to spend time getting in touch with body before a set- meditating, stretching, breathing. ​Some of the best advice given to me were “Use your nerves.” I really appreciate the nerves I get before most shows, because they serve as a source of energy and a tangible recognition by my body of what’s about to take place. 

>>>>> The ‘Critically Acclaimed Album’ seems to remain the spark point in the Americana scene for artists looking to make it to bigger stages: How do you manage / ignore the pressure to ‘one-up’ your prior release?  I feel that I’m at the beginning of my career and that there are many records to come. I think there will be ups and downs in how people perceive our work and also how I will feel about it. I think it’s great that anyone is paying attention to the writing because it’s one of the most fun parts for me.

>>>>> Could you ever see yourself doing a big Nashwood-type presentation were you to headline the Sheds soon? Is that a fear as you’re name grows; preserving what you have without compromise to keep climbing?  I do definitely have a strong attachment to this desire to stay “authentic.” I have been asking myself what that really means, as it has caused me some inner conflict. I think you have to do your best; decisions are often not black and white. Things that we hang onto with our whole being are often ego-based, but a level of integrity is so important- especially in this field. 

>>>>> You encounter a lot of great young, new artists on the road: when you meet those you really believe in, do you engage them? and what sort of advice do they tend to seek form you?  Definitely! If I can. Today someone was asking me about how to get rolling with music. He’s a great player but doesn’t play out ever. I told him it’s a community and you’ve got to get involved! Find some people you want to play with who are playing music you’re interested in.

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THE NEW ZEITGEIST

——- Duo musical couples seem to be rarer and rarer these days, was the potential to work together on music part of what brought you two together? 

Eddy: The first night we met was at a singer/songwriter open mic in Wrigleyville. Jen was expecting to meet a friend. That friend never showed and I eventually offered her my guitar so that she could perform after she noticed me performing and turning her way from two feet away over and over. After some good conversation, I offered her a ride to the train station downtown since I lived close to there. I mentioned that we should make some music together sometime and she gave me her MySpace card. The rest is history.

Jen: Strictly…at 1st J Eddy also possessed the alluring quality of a man of culture. I wanted 2 things in a man that were not easy to find:  1.) Finding a rock star to do music with 2.) Marrying the musical rock star

—————- Your personal musical influences seem as incongruent from one another as possible yet they find a comfortable balance with The New Zeitgeist, did it take time to develop its cohesion or was it immediate? 

 Jen: Ha, really?  There was immediate chemistry, yet as we explored places we had never been between his twangy-blusterous grit and my tailored velvet, our songwriting individually wandered untested roads, and our sound became more intimately entwined.  I suppose what helped our unlikely and risky launch is the somewhat later exploration in my 20’s of my personal music taste and, therefore, probably the largest genre evolution out of the two of us.  For me, mostly Church Gospel songs to uh, rap and punk in middle school, then indie folk, and finally, what we identify loosely as roots/Americana now.  I was definitely at a point in my music where I wasn’t being challenged creatively and feeling a musically plateau as a solo artist just before we met.

Eddy: Jen had such a remarkable natural ability to sing amazing harmonies. When we met, I was asking her to accompany me on my old material and she made it ten times better! She was working on her sound at the time and wasn’t sure she wanted to abandon that and start a new band. We started the first album in the summer of 2103 and released it in December of 2014. That was The New Zeitgeist. We met as acoustic artists but she had encouraged me to return to playing electric guitar and, I couldn’t have been happier getting back to my rock roots on our second album which was released in summer of 2017.

————— How does the writing process work for you? does it vary song to song? 

Jen: I’m really great at listening for arrangement and structure (Evaluating Eddy’s songs), but Eddy’s also greatly improved the musical riffs of my songs. I’m currently trying to expand my writing process beyond waiting for the inspiration of that flaky muse, but traditionally it’s very lyrically dominant for me and the melody drives the song.  The voice creates the music and the instrument, many times comes later.  Since my main instrument is my voice, I feel if you have a strong melody you have a strong song.  We’re also opening up our songwriting experience to collaboration in smaller ways, but not necessarily co-writing.  We’re both very dominant songwriters and I think it’s an intimate and personal experience for each of us.

Eddy: I am not at all disciplined as a songwriter. I listen for the music in my head. Either I will find a hook or a riff that I like, or stumble across one while practicing guitar. It may be a thought or an idea. I think choruses are meant to connect with. If I find one, then I try to write a song around it. I do enjoy using a word processor, using word documents to create a poetic structure, and then filling it in around the hook. I still will write down a phrase on a piece of paper if it comes to me. When I was at NIU in the late 80’s, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop with the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks. I read a song of mine to her and she responded with something I have taken to heart until this day. ‘Revise, revise, revise.’ I try to practice that.

————— Is there a tune of yours that you feel is the quintessential representation of who and what you are?   

Jen: Definitely “Desert Rose,” since it’s the most original on lyrics and music, and a classic sappy love tune. I never wrote a personally real or convincing love song before that, and also pushed myself to write outside my genre zone of comfort—an ode to classic country. 

EddyOf my songs on our recent album, “Myths and Mortals”, I have a difficult time choosing one.  I think it has to be “Lack of Linear Thought”. It is my 60’s dream pop song. The cast of characters playing on this track includes Alton Smith on the Farfisa, whom I think takes it over the top! I was playing though a sweet little vintage Supro amp on most of the album and made the most of it on this track, too!

—————- The New Zeitgeist has a lot in common with the late 60’s folk movement in terms of lyrics and messaging: were your parents hippies? What did you grow up listening to in the house? 

Jen: My Dad was definitely a “Jesus Hippie”!  Definitely no for my mom!  They were opposites musically as he would have the oldies playing in the car and he was especially a lover of classic folk like Dylan while my Mom preferred Italian opera.

EddyMy dad was definitely not a hippie, but he did appreciate the pop music of the 60’s era. His favorite groups were The Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, The Ventures, and The Animals. He would say that once The Beatles went to see the Maharishi they became too “out there” for him. I remember my parents having Elton John’s Greatest Hits, Jim Croce, and the red and blue vinyl Beatles Greatest Hits. The blue album, which included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, was my favorite, of course! My mom and dad listened to the radio with us a lot throughout the 70’s and the 80’s. My mom wasn’t a hippie, either. She liked to dance to good music and we would watch American Bandstand. Her favorites included Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. On a further note, my grandfather was an accomplished accordionist and he performed with my father on drums at VFW halls around the SW suburbs. We would hear them practice often and that would include hearing a lot of polkas and waltzes. I loved it! Hearing that made me want to make music, too!

—————- Would you guys ever consider expanding the presentation to include a full band and, if so, what would be your instrumentation wish list?   

Jen: Oh, yes! The recent album Myths and Mortals (2017) was the real creative impetus for our dream instrumentation at every turn.  The opportunity to work with some really great Chicago musicians, including Gerald Dowd (drums), John Abbey (bass), Alton Smith (organ), Nora Barton (cello), and Austin pedal steel extraordinaire Lloyd Maines, strengthened us to be tighter musicians and more intimately entwined as a duo.  A lot of those songs inspired Pedal Steel, Bass, and Percussion to be added to our duo’s mandolin, acoustic, and electric, but I can see also stripping it down to an even more simple roots package with an upright, chains/rattles, and dobro.

EddyFor me, there is nothing like playing in a great band situation. Jen was very conscious of the different sounds she wanted when planning ‘Myths and Mortals,’ and those included a rhythm section. She insisted on the pedal steel and after hearing the initial takes in the studio, I was convinced of almost every idea she had. Playing with the truly great musicians that performed on “Myths and Mortals” was a dream come true and I would wish to bring them together again in the future if possible.

——————— What were the first 3 albums (for each of you) you purchased as a kid? Which is the best? 

Jen: I probably didn’t purchase my own music until I was 12.  My very 1st, ahem, (cassette!) was The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” with the cartoon cover…I mean, hey, I grew up in Florida. J Then to CD’s, Grammatical Revolution (1999) by Christian hip hop group named Grits, and definitely my most memorable album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek (2001) from punk-rock band Reliant K, which is very worn and whose several albums really motivated my learning of guitar chords.

EddyThis has been challenging to remember. My parents were in the habit of occasionally purchasing a new album. I remember receiving as a gift the album ‘Double Vision’ by Foreigner in what must have been the Christmas of ’78. In the following year with my own money for the first time, I must have wanted to buy a Kiss record, but my parents “encouraged” me to buy something else first, so I bought the first Foreigner album and then the Ace Frehley solo album! I think the third album I bought was ‘Double Platinum’.

——————– What do you guys like to listen to together these days if you are going to pop on an ‘album’?

Jen: Hmmm…it’s not that easy!  It depends on mood, flexibility, and activity—like driving, or…other things!  I think Zep has done us no harm, some Johnny Cash, some Neil Young, or even U2, but usually it’s nothing newer than the 80s or 90s. J  I’m embarrassed to admit how much we just listen to our album!

EddyIn the car, Zep is our go to, or 93.1 WXRT. At home, it’s U2.

—————- What’s the best thing about Chicago and ‘our scene’? 

Jen:  I’ve found that it’s sometimes the less appearance-driven and smaller profile neighborhood dives that have the strongest music influence because they operate more at a community grassroots level and are not caught up with ticket sales or official advertisement.  While we greatly respect some of the finest names in Chicago’s music scene, some of the best recent times for us have been the meaningful connections we make up-close like Lizard Lounge’s 2017 Ugly Sweater Party singing ‘Silent Night’ to be followed by an outstanding woman just from Ireland jumping on stage to belt a cappella a traditional tearjerker.

EddyI really enjoy all the different little bars and the different music scenes at each one, especially those places that haven’t changed much since the 90’s or at which no more that ten people regularly attend! Also, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the singer/songwriter scene there has been really important for us, and we really appreciate all the great people and musicians that we’ve had the pleasure to get to know there. We attend a lot of shows that the people we’ve met at the Old Town perform.

A new show bubbles up in which musical duo couples compete for the affection of millions of young Americans. In the finals, you are forced to dress up like and perform a couple classic couple duo number by Donnie & Marie, Captain & Tennille, Sonny & Cher, Paul & Linda McCartney, John & Yoko, Stevie & Lindsey, Ike & Tina or any other of your choice, what songs do you chose and which do you think you could pull off best?  

Jen: That sounds like loads of fun…well, my 1st instinct is to be our real-life heroic couple, Piggy and Kermit.  However, there’s a history behind the song “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher being played at a party in our pre-dating hangouts which really sparked the idea of getting romantically involved with Eddy.  We also walked up the aisle to that song. J

Eddy: It was at my long-time buddy Jeff’s birthday party singing karaoke in the summer of 2011 at which Jen and I sang “I’ve Got You Babe”. I think that would be the one!

WILL KOSTER w/ TROUT STEAK REVIVAL

Will-KosterWhat were the first few albums you ever bought with your own money and do you still enjoy them today?  I remember really grooving to Michael Jackson at an early age and buying the cassettes “Bad” and “Dangerous.” I would crank my boombox and try to do the moonwalk. MJ is still the King. The compositions, performances, and production on his albums are still among my favorites.

How long have you been singing and what artists did you like to emulate most as a kid?  I started singing when I moved to Colorado in 2005. I started singing a lot of blues songs and wrote songs occasionally. Casey our bass player and I lived in a mountain cabin for a while and we dove into a bunch of artist’s musical catalogues. We would end up learning a lot of the songs we were jamming out to. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Neil Young to name a few. 

Trout Steak Revival are helping lead the charge for the ever-growing ‘new grass’ movement and yet for so many it’s a brand new experience; What do you feel Trout Steak’s brings to the genre or are you more purists than anything else? I feel like a huge part of new-grass and bluegrass music is the strong community vibe. We love being a part of the bluegrass family. I hope that what we are bringing to the genre is honest and full of fun and love.

Did you grow up with bluegrass or was it an acquired taste?  I heard of bluegrass music my freshman year of college. I went to Indiana University and a friend from West Virginia who plays fiddle, invited me to Louisville, KY for the IBMA’s. It was quite the introduction to bluegrass watching the greats perform and witnessing the organized chaos of thousands of musicians hanging out in a hotel. My first bluegrass jam went pretty bad because I only knew how to play blues solos… a new friend told me I should get a Dobro because I liked to bend notes so much….. and so I did.

Would you like to sing more lead with the band? is that something you have to fight for being in an outfit where everyone can sing so well?  Sharing is caring.

What’s the bands approach to songwriting? (how do you come up with songs? you guys had mentioned you were a democracy when we me that night at BK) We approach songwriting in a very honest and collaborative way. We typically start working on a song when someone has some lyrics, a melody, and some chords. We will start playing around with the ideas and see how the band can support the song the best. We usually will add a few chords, come up with instrumental melodies, figure out harmonies and things of that nature, as a group.

In terms of lyrics, do you feel you guys have a message (ie – what are you guys really about?) Lately our songs have been pretty uplifting and positive, but who knows….we may go through a dark phase at some point? Mostly, we just want to sing songs that we feel and that are true to us.

Any tips on what it takes to stay focused, fresh and sane on the road?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. don’t drink hotel water
  3. drink good coffee
  4. shower when groovy
  5. pack clean socks and undies for at least a week
  6. to boost moral: come up with famous peoples names to replace everyday words. For example: Can you pick me up a Gregory Alan IsaCoffee? (Gregory Alan for short) or Russels! meaning please turn on the Courtesy Lights (Kurts) in the bus…. It sounds strange, but it helps.
  7. Go swimming whenever possible
  8. grow to love burritos, hummus, chips, and veggietrays
  9. always order the meatloaf
  10. be excellent to one another

Trout-Steak-Revival-Band-FeatureWhat are you guys listening to on the tour bus this year so far? (any surprises?)  The Wood Brothers, The Lowest Pair, Elephant Revival, Fruition, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Deer, Kendrick Lamar, Prince, Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mandolin Orange, My Morning Jacket, Ry Cooder, and Magnolia Electric Company are the ones that come to mind first. Surprised?

Do you think smashing a fiddle on stage would be cathartic, desperate or downright wrong?  I may differ to Bevin on this one. I would cry big tears.

JONAS FRIDDLE

U2tUN19rQUtqTmsx_o_old-mother-logo---jonas-friddle-the-majorityAre you happy with how Use Your Voice turned out?  Absolutely. Working with John Abbey at King Size Sound Labs we were able to really capture the sound of our live show.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording? Philosophy is a strong word for it, but we definitely strive to maintain our personality in the recording process. It can be very easy to make decisions in the recording process that trim away character in the pursuit of perfection.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album or is it all about the single mp3?  I believe in the album. I love albums.  If songs are telling a story or expiring a feeling then it has to be true that the artist has more than one take on the same idea they want to present.  On the other hand…if you’ve got a great single there’s nothing wrong with letting it stand alone.

How does the songwriting process work for you?  I like routine.  Days in a row of uninterrupted time so when the ideas start coming then you can use them right in the moment.  I read an interview with Neil Young where he says that’s the only way to do it. If you store ideas for later you can forget why you had them in the first place.

Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  It feels like they just happen, but I’m sure that’s because something has been stewing for a while.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did  it have on you?  I can’t say for sure what the first one was…might have been George Winston.  I saw Jackson Browne a couple of time solo and that was amazing.  He played for hours taking on request after another.

c927e37cd6502ca7ec57575619efe3eaWhat is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? Playing live is the pay-off so we try to enjoy it as much as we can.  As and independent band it takes a lot of work to book and prep all aspects of a show. So it’s important to press the reset button and lose the stress before playing.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why? Paul Simon.  I saw him perform with his band and I can only imagine how fun the dressing room jams must be.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky, Paul Simon: Rhythm of the Saints, John Prine: John Prine.

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what would it be? Well with that prompt wouldn’t it have to be Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”?

Please visit JonasFriddle.com

REBECCA FRAME w/ ESQUELA

Rebecca FrameHow did Esquela come together?

John ‘Chico’ Finn and Keith Christopher have a long history together. And so, when John wanted to start his own band, it only made sense for Keith to be his partner in crime. While recording Esquela’s first album, “The Owl Has Landed”, I was invited to do some backing vocals. Soon thereafter, Chico asked me to take over lead vocals. Todd Russell, a friend of Chico’s from high school, was a perfect fit on drums for the evolving band. Chico asked me if I would be interested in playing mandolin, which would have tricky since I have never played this instrument.  But, my friend Matt had.  So, enter Matt Woodin. At some point it was evident that we would need a fill in guitar player, since Keith was busy with other projects. Enter Ira McIntosh and Brian Shafer. Early on we had some other players from the city, who were great guys, but it just worked out better for it to be upstaters.

How does the song writing process work for you guys? 

Chico gets inspired by either a funny story from a friend, an article he’s read, or a documentary he has seen, and of course life experience and puts a pen to paper. Sometimes, with the help of Keith, he records a rough draft and sends it my way. I usually stick to the melody he had in mind, but I get to play around with it a little. Later the band gets together and fleshes it out.

 

Esquela has a late 60’s vibe, what’s Esquela about to you?

Does it have a 60’s vibe? That’s cool. Esquela is about getting together and being free to create in whatever way we see fit for each song, and have a good time doing it. Maybe that’s how they did it in the 60’s too.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to singing and what do you hope to put across personally?

I guess I just want to do justice to the songs. And try to convey the feel as best I can.  I wouldn’t say I have a philosophy, I just love to sing.

Esquela_cover (2)Where can producer Eric Ambel’s influence be heard most on Are We Rolling? versus the debut, The Owl Has Landed?

I can’t really say anything about the Owl. I just showed up at the studio in Oneonta and laid down the vocals and the rest was up to the fellas.  But with are we rolling it was awesome to work with Eric in a more intimate way. He took more of a directive role. He’s smart and kind of sneaky. hahaha. example: Eric knows that I like to belt out songs, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s a little much. so for take one he would tell me to give it all I got (just like I like to). then for take two he would ask me to take it easier and softer, which was a little challenging for me because that’s not how I usually “attack” a song. I think we ended up using more of the second takes. They sounded better. He was right. But, he was cool about being right. It was a good learning experience for me. Also, we have a lot of guitar players in the band. Brian, Ira, sometimes Matt…..so I think Eric helped sort out the chaos of who would do what when. Honestly, while they were doing their thing I was bullshitting with Chico and Todd, so who knows what REALLY went down.

What was the first record you ever bought and what’s your favorite thing about it today?

The first album I bought was the Body Guard Soundtrack. I mean, Whitney? come on! she is (was) incredible.  her voice can move you in a way that no one else’s can. simply beautiful and strong.

Who are your musical heroes?

Chico. he just goes for it. I wish I has his courage when it comes to sharing his work.  you want a famous hero? too bad. I stick with my decision.

When did you realize you could actually sing?

Hmmm…when I was in grade school, my friend had a recorder and we sat on my living room floor and sang “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna, which is funny because we were soooo young but we were sooo dramatic about it. then we started our make believe band and would use picnic tables as our stage. I guess the dream was there early. but I guess high school was when I found that I actually had some talent for real.

Was there someone early in your life that encouraged you?

I don’t know if encouraged is the right word. influenced works better for me. My father played the piano every night while I was falling asleep, all the women in my family sing, my sister showed me the awesomeness that is classic rock, and also looked the other way when I stole her SWV and En Vogue tapes. My mom would tolerate me playing her Beatles albums over and over…and over again. I had a wonderful teacher in high school who called me ‘songbird’. that’s encouraging….

It’s said singers get better with time; how do you separate the best from the rest? 

I’m not sure if i agree with that totally. i mean, refining your skills, takes work and time, and yes, you get better at it the more comfortable you are with what you are doing. but, when you are starting your musical journey there is so much enthusiasm, and hope, and drive, and passion. and those things can kind of fade. i think what separates the”best” from the rest, are those who can hold onto the passion that they had at the beginning.

DONALD DUCOTE

url1.0 – Labels aside, the music on Tracks is hard to pin down, is that part of your vibe as a dude?

I don’t think so.  Maybe more now than the years previous.  We started recording Tracks in 2010 and you could take one look at me and figure it out.  Recovering hipster/pothead and you can bet the farm he started off in the suburbs.  Is that what you’re asking?  I have an aloof card that I can play pretty well, and I have, but lately I’ve been trying to shut that down; it’s boring.  I don’t think anybody wants to be easy to pin down.

2.0 – It sounds as if Ancient History has, ironically or not, been a real organic evolution of sorts; how did it come together?

I met Jim Smith, Austin Lemeiux and Paul Johnson while managing a cafe off the Morgan L stop in Brooklyn. They were all regular customers. I got to know Jim because he recorded the final record of my previous band.  He was also roommates with a friend of mine.

Paul lived in my building and we had been wanting to play together for a while.  Once things got situated with Jim he was the first person I called and we worked out the first couple tunes in his living room.

I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but whatever, it’s funny, I asked a co-worker with which customer she would most like to copulate.  She said, “The earl grey guy with all the tattoos that looks fucked up every morning.”  That was Austin and I can’t imagine there being a better-suited lead guitarist for my songs than that guy.  The next time he walked into the coffee shop I asked if he was a musician.  He said that he was a guitar player and he listed Jeff Buckley as his first influence.  We clicked immediately.  The first song we cut was ‘She Gave You the Keys’ in a basement art gallery in Dumbo and it was just the four of us, Jim was behind the board.  I believe we got it in about 3 takes and I remember us listening back and just being very pleased with what everybody was bringing to the table.

3.0 – Is understanding your sound as simple as the mix of your southern roots embracing the indie biosphere of Brooklyn?

I’m not convinced my roots are southern. I think, if anything, it’s the other way around. When I was in 4th grade I had a Garth Brooks tape and a Trisha Yearwood tape, but as soon as Nirvana showed up I was out.  I’ve always appreciated a sturdy song and I’ve always respected country music for being such loyalists to songcraft, even at the expense of any significant experimentation, but I think for me it’s always been the songcraftier end of my indie influences embracing whatever genre has a documentary streaming on Netflix.

4.0 – How did you approach the recording process for Tracks?

I had recorded with Jim Smith on my last project and he approached me about wanting to record some songs without a full band.  We put our heads together and decided to buy an old tape machine and record another record.  We didn’t want a clock ticking over our head and we didn’t want to record in a sterile studio environment.  That was it really.  We were going for natural reverb and mic placement.  We wanted to use tape and we wanted it to be warm and ambient.  We didn’t want a band album. We made a rule that we couldn’t use a drum kit and we wanted to focus our energy on a song by song basis.

Jim found the machine he wanted and he drove it from Detroit to NYC and we just hacked away at it whenever we could.  It took about two years.  I can’t tell you how important Jim was to this record. He’s amazing at what he does and because of it he is very busy, so there were long stretches between sessions, months at a time, to prep the songs and figure out over-dubs.

AncientHistory5.0 – As trippy as it gets at times, the tradition of story telling seems an important feature to your stuff; to what other artist, or artists, might you attribute the influence?

Storytelling is something that comes very naturally to me.  Anybody that knows me will tell you that I love a good story.  As a musician I’ve sometimes felt that I should’ve spent more energy trying to repress the urge to over-indulge my personal experiences but still, love and heartbreak are not topics that I write about very often. On the three records before TRACKS there are probably only 4 or 5 songs between them that are about romantic relationships. When it came time to write for this record I just said, “Fuck it.  Here’s all the shit I’ve been saving.”  Not sure I’ll ever endorse such straight-ahead narrative ever again, not because I think the record suffered for it, but because nothing I have left to purge is anything that anyone wants to hear about. Regarding influences, I’ve always been drawn to the more subtle characters of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith. I like songs that can capture ordinary moments and infuse them with something unordinary, but at the same time Pedro the Lion’s Control and Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker are two desert island records for me.  I don’t know, I have an undying admiration for Jeff Mangum and the words he writes. Lyrically speaking, I would like to adopt a more abstract state of mind going forward.

6.0 – What tunes on the disc are you digging most now that it’s done?

Hmm.  I love four-leafed.  It’s a song that had been brewing a very, very long time.  My buddy PJ (Michael Poulton) played lead for the first half of the song.  I recorded him in my bedroom in the middle of the night.  I remember we were drunk and he was playing slide with a beer bottle.  It’s one of the few songs that isn’t about a female.  And it’s fun to play.  Clover Honey is a sentimental favorite.  I love Austin’s guitar on that one, when it hits the high note halfway through.  He nailed it in one take.  We were working on Subway Dream and I remember telling Jim that I didn’t want lead guitar on the song.  He said ok, then Austin gave me some weed and I went to smoke in the hall.  When I came back Jim and Austin had finished Austin’s guitar part: that warm, burning distortion that just rolls through the song until it spikes into the breakdown.  Jim just smiled at me.  It took them five minutes and it made the song.

7.0 – How do songs come to you: more as ideas or feelings that lead to ideas?

Lyrics are always last.  Melody happens when it happens.  The riff is always first, the progression, the picking pattern, whatever.  The initial musical idea is what puts the key into the ignition.  To turn the engine you’ve got to grab that change, that switch from verse to chorus or chorus to bridge or whatever.  That’s what excites me.  Great changes.  When it comes to lyrics, I draw from the past, which is something I hate about myself.  I wish I could lose the documentarian in me and endorse a sense of fiction, but I find it very difficult to separate myself from what I’m writing, especially if I’m gonna be asked to sing the words over and over again.  I’m still trying though.

8.0 – What was your favorite 3 records in high school?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is not a very culturally diverse place.  If you were in your early teens in the late nineties in Phoenix you didn’t have a lot of access to underground music.  Thankfully, there were a few people that knew how to find it and they ended up saving me my junior and senior year, but early high school was alot of Weezer.  Pinkerton changed my life.  Other than that my buddies and I listened to whatever radio hits we heard on the bus ride to school.

I was working as a prep cook in Scottsdale when I was 16 and one of the line cooks gave me Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  It took me a while to absorb Modest Mouse but Jimmy Eat Word, being from Phoenix, was instant love.   They were a favorite for sure.  Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel were all bands that I listened to in high school but they didn’t really do their damage until I left home.  I remember the line cook saying that he listened to ’emo’ music.  That was in 1998 and I had never heard the word ’emo’ before.  It sounded exotic!  It opened my eyes and got me searching for music, as opposed to just buying whatever I heard on the radio.

So yeah, my favorites in high school were Weezer’s Pinkerton, Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and probably the second Weakerthans LP.  A buddy introduced me to Left and Leaving right when it dropped and for years it never left my side.  My first week of college was 9/11 and I remember being in my car driving to community college when the first tower fell, and ‘Everything Must Go!’ was on the stereo.  Since then ‘Left and Leaving’ has always reminded me of good ol’ high school and pre-9/11 America.

9.0 – What was the first concert you ever attended? did it leave any lasting impression on you today?

I wish I had scalped my tickets.  My second concert was Rancid opening for Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins and I wish that was my first concert.  My first show was important though.

Earlier I talked about my love for songs with good musical changes; the first concert I ever went to was Cheap Trick opening for Meatloaf at what used to be America West Arena in Phoenix.  I’m not sure I’ve ever said this out loud, but I remember watching Cheap Trick play ‘The Flame’ and I remember the changes in that song blowing my mind. First when he breaks into the ‘i’m going crazy/losing sleep’ part, then the way it pounds into the ‘wherever you go’ part.  I fucking loved it.

As you can probably guess, I’m a sucker for ballads.  “The Flame” really got me, the way the parts worked together to form these really heavy moments.  Those are the moments I look for in music.  Those are the moments I want to create because those are the moments that can change the way a person feels.

10.0 – If you were Grammy level stars what you tour stage design look like? 

Whoa. No clue. But pyrotechnics for sure.

SARAH FIMM

1.0 – What’s the best thing about BARN SESSIONS

Perhaps that it’s real, it’s live, and you can see a mouse suddenly appear behind John’s lovely head in the “Hiding”‘ video.  That’s just my personal opinion.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

It was more of a feeling I wanted people to remember.  The entire landscape of music has gone through drastic changes.  I wanted to do a live experiment with talented people to see how the variables would change the result.  It evolved as things do, once my team of amazing artist friends helped it become what it is.  The sum of their talent and personality, combined with other elements, created the sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

When I found a wooden hard drive to go with the Barn Sessions package I was pretty pleased.  There is an overall aesthetic that is particular to each project.  I liked the wood because what people receive is the same material that shaped the acoustic environment where the music was created.   I am a creature who tries to be consistent.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs (originally) and what was your first?

This is a good question.  I would have to say if I really go back in time, I was writing in my head constantly, and piano melodies near my mother’s lap at 3 or 4 years old.  I remember listening to her voice when she would talk to people.  I remember thinking that her kindness created music in people.  I would play things that fit the scene of the room.  I would play to the moods of the people inhabiting the room.  I became aware of the power of simple observation, and began to understand how music was a doorway to change people’s emotional states.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

Stop thinking so much. :)

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

There’s nothing like it at its best and its worst.

7.0 – How did you catch the folk bug originally? 

I didn’t know I had it!  I came from rock. (Older brother-you know:)

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally, or both?

-I work all the time at all aspects of everything I do. My friends tell me I really need to get out quite often luckily.  Playing music, and trying to survive as a musician, are two different things.  They both take extraordinary amounts of discipline and work.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

That’s the hardest question.  If I had to choose, Brian Eno and Harold Budd. It brings me to a state of absolute serenity.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and how did it impact your life? 

I think the first time I was truly impacted was either Tool, NIN, or Tori Amos.  It was all within the same week.  It really changed up the playing field.