11 Questions with… Chad Wells

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nWe could not be more excited about an ’11 Questions with…’ column, then we are to have songwriter, guitarist, singer, visual artist, philosopher, tattoo artist/business owner and Revered — Chad Wells! He graciously answered these questions a few months ago. To call Chad a renaissance man is to understate all of his gifts. As with all of the musicians who are so kind to participate in this effort, we want to publicly thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions!

Chad has a lengthy music resume. His time in COH, The Jackalopes, Cricketbows, Wells & Watson and more has given him the opportunity to make some of the most creative atmospheric psychedelic punk rock this side of… well, to be honest these projects are incredibly unique and comparisons just end up showing that the writer’s reach exceeds their grasp.

We have been fans of Cricketbows since their fantastic album, ‘Diamonds‘. That record careens across classic rock to country to an excellent Monkees cover (Porpoise Song) to straight-forward rock and roll (All the Way Down and Kiss Alive) to psychedelic rock (Little Tiny Houses and Landing on The Moon) and tremendous emotional territory in-between all of those genres. Chad’s music has evolved over time from in your face, direct punk made with an eye toward embracing the emotions you are feeling to reflective psychedelia and folk rock in the Wells & Watson duo. And unlike this writer, Revered Wells’ reach is easily within his orbit.

GEA - dr j guest lecturer finals-13If you do not know the music of Cricketbows then I am excited for you! There is significant music discovery in your future. What started as a solo project transformed over several records into a full band. In fact, the excellent ‘Diamonds‘ which was recorded in 2014 with Grammy winning Producer Brian Olive (Soledad Brothers, The Greenhornes) was the first full length record as a complete group released in 2015. The following EP ‘Communion‘ incorporated pop music intro the band’s repertoire in songs like ‘Beat of My Heart‘. During the challenging year of the pandemic, Chad was even able to create a set of dystopian electronic singles under the moniker New Way Vendetta. Check out the 80’s homage in ‘Light as a Feather.’

197532652_1256634581459071_4922346402199669240_nThe latest Cricketbows album ‘Raised on Rock and Roll‘ raises the stakes higher. While maintaining the sonic elements of their previous recordings, ‘Raised‘ questions the nature of connections that we all too often take for granted. What is it to speak like ‘Electric Guitars’ as Chad sings in the title track? What does it mean to pretend that you care for others when you really do not (‘Saccharine Sweet‘). Remember when you would listen to music when you were supposed to go to sleep but the thrill of discovery kept you awake? The song ‘Raised on Rock and Roll‘ explores the consciousness shaping experience of hearing music that is part of your identity for the first time. Not putting on the cast off identity of your parents and family, but a sense of who you are in music that is not reducible to what others around you are doing. This is so powerful for those of us who had to work to discover music in the pre-Internet era. Even if that experience occurred under the covers when you were supposed to be sleeping. And now when we can hear almost anything at any time in any place, finding music you can call your own is just as life affirming.

Shaped not only by the pandemic but the search for the most captivating melody while still holding the idea of experimentation in their hearts, Cricketbows capture the challenges of identity, social bonds, the faces we show to others and the faces that make us who we truly are as people, as citizens, as family.

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Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest Cricketbows record?

Chad Wells (CW): We started writing the songs that would become the new Cricketbows record around the same time that our ‘Communion‘ EP came out (Fall 2017). I’m kind of always writing and to collect my ideas, I use everything from quick iPhone video and audio recordings, to scraps of paper and napkins. Generally, these ideas make their way to the band slowly – a song at a time – and we work them up in rehearsal, play them live for a while and eventually we feel like we have enough material to record an album and we go do that. In this case, Zachary Gabbard of The Buffalo Killers had Produced our EP ‘Communion and almost as soon as that collection was released, he called us back to the studio to start working on the next release before we had even had time to start really working on any new material. So, the songs for “Raised On Rock And Roll” were culled from existing demos I had laying around in various states of non-completion and we also chose a couple songs that we had been playing live for some time that I had released as Cricketbows before the band really existed. We went into the studio at Howler Hills (Gabbard’s studio) but the sessions didn’t end up on the final album because the songs just didn’t feel like they were fully together yet. So we took the songs on the road, playing as many shows as we could and we continued reworking the demos in our rehearsal space and we hammered them into shape. Once we finally had a tight set of songs together, we went into the Candyland Recording Studio in Dayton, Kentucky and laid down the tracks that would become the album.

Dr. J: In the past you worked closely with your bandmates in Cricketbows, did the coronavirus/Covid-19 situation change how you wrote and worked on the record?

CW: The record was fully written and recorded prior to the Pandemic so it didn’t really affect the writing or production of the album. It did monumentally delay the release of the album and the mixing process had to be done remotely. Whereas in the past we would sit in on mixing sessions with an engineer and sort of have our hands on the board and our suggestions acted upon in real time, in this case we would get mixes from Mike Montgomery  via email, listen and send him back notes about what to turn up, what to turn down, what to EQ differently and things like that.

Dr. J: ‘Raised on Rock and Roll is a song that lists several artists, albums and lyrical imagery from several classic rock and roll songs, did you set out to address these particular artists/musicians/creatives when starting to work on that song?

198296616_331569131788983_7778535060744588242_nCW: I definitely didn’t start with a list or motive to include all of those specific artists, songs or albums. I had the first line “I speak electric guitar, in fire orange and bright blue” which was a nod to the fact that Aarika and I both suffer from or are gifted with a bit of Synesthesia – a condition where sounds may be experienced in the brain as a color or shape or taste instead of just as sound. From  there, I wanted to expand on that line in a direction that talked about how my mind works the way it does because I was raised in a world where Rock And Roll music was not just a backdrop to life, but was an important element of life. We weren’t religious really and we weren’t sports or military people. Everything that a so-called “normal” person might get from those family traditions and lifestyles, I got from Rock And Roll – so I tried to touch on some of the cornerstones and recurring images and symbols of that part of my upbringing. So I reference the “lightning” of “Elvis and Bowie and Frehley” as well as referring to The Beatles as the “Saints” I say prayers to along with nods to everything from Fats Domino to Pink Floyd.

Dr. J: ‘Kentucky Mountain Lady also addresses love and personal connection – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and the feel of the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address love or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

CW: I wrote that song after a road trip down to Menifee County, Kentucky with my wife and my Father to visit the final resting place of my Grandfather, Bethard Wells. While we were there, we drove around the area where my paternal Grandparents grew up. The smells of those woods and the beautiful fog filled hollows between the hills and mountains was extremely inspiring to me and left me with a yearning to get back there. I imagined a world where my wife and I could live and love and survive on the fruits of what that land provides. I tried to paint a pretty straightforward picture of that magical area and how the environment itself could be a sort of rural utopia perfectly suited to living a life with someone you love outside the rat race of the city.

Dr. J: How did ‘Kentucky Mountain Lady come together musically for you?

CW: I tend to play with a few alternate tunings and one of my favorites is called “open G”. When a player that’s used to playing in standard tunings, sets their instrument up in an alternate tuning, they tend to find and unlock creative ideas that they wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon in the standard tuning. Chord shapes are different and note relationships between the strings are different.  So I had stumbled across these very jazzy, warm chords that ended up being the verse chords of the song. Open G lends itself to a very country, bluesy, rural folk sound so the sound of the tuning and playing around with different droning patterns with moving melodic patterns was the perfect bed for the song. In hindsight I hear a lot of Joni Mitchell influence in the song and music and it also feels very similar to “Echoes” by Pink Floyd – as does our song “Raggedy Hillside” which is also in Open G.  I think that the experiments with Americana style music by Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills And Nash and groups like that have always been some of my favorite music but I rarely wrote anything in that style until Cricketbows came together and we just sort of drifted into that kind of sound together as a band when we started using less distortion and effects and started playing a lot more acoustic music and using very clean sounds.

a0037514624_10Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

CW: My inspiration to create is compulsive. I communicate better with lyrics and sound than I do just trying to talk. I listen to a ton of music and when I hear something that gives me an emotional response, I am often inspired to try to recreate that response myself with my own music. I’m not talented enough as a player to just learn someone else’s song and get the emotional response that way, so I experiment and fiddle about until I find things that speak to me. Also, playing with the players in Cricketbows is so inspirational. I can play two notes and everyone will join in and play along and expand a song into new territories through improvisation that is really amazing. The average listener, just happening upon one of our jam sessions would believe that we had written and rehearsed something a million times because it’s so cohesively fluid – but in reality we are probably playing the thing for the first time.

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from ‘Diamonds’ to the ‘Communion’ EP to the most recent album)?

CW: Cricketbows has always been about being honest. My previous bands were always sort of me playing a character or a role that is about the theme of the band. In Cricketbows I found a place where I could write from my heart and soul and not worry about what the audience might think. As we’ve progressed as a group, I think that we’re developing a sound that is pretty hard to pin down but it’s also extremely recognizable in some way. Our disparate influences come together to form something that’s all at once new and exciting but is also steeped in the traditions of what I can only call “Classic Rock”. Cricketbows is psychedelic but we tend to stray away from the trappings of typical psychedelia. We’re not using silly voices and effects that sound like we’re other-dimensional ghosts. We’re not using a bunch of effects that make the guitars go “WAHWAHWAHWAHWAH”. We’re using ultra clean signals and real voices with minimal effects. It is far more relative to early Elton John, Blind Faith, Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac than it is to MGMT. or King Gizzard or whatever modern psych is. I guess in the simplest terms, we’re more like “The White Album” than we are like “Sgt. Peppers”.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after ‘Raised on Rock and Roll‘?

198345642_792918058089540_3023201045980744783_nCW: I have no idea how we’re going to move forward with a new record in the current state of the world. I hope that vaccines work and that we’re eventually able to be in a room together again. If not, it’s going to be some interesting home recording stuff. We have been playing around with some cover songs recorded remotely. We released a Black Crowes (“Good Friday”) cover back around the beginning of the Pandemic and lockdowns and it was pretty fun and interesting. We have a couple others in the can that we may or may not release. One is a cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” that is pretty fun. Side projects are also a thing. Aarika and I do a couple different projects together that work well as far as remote recording and things like that – New Way Vendetta, a new-wave influenced electro-punk band and Wells & Watson – a darker Americana themed acoustic project. We have plans to release a bunch of stuff under a bunch of different names in the near future. As for Cricketbows, we’ll just be patient and see where it all goes.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?

CW: “Ride Or Die” from the new album is my favorite to perform as it has a country-gospel intro with lots of harmony and prettiness and then kicks into a beefed up glam punk song that is a really strong, tight rock song.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

CW:  I think this new music is about honesty and love. Be true and do love stuff!

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

CW: It’s very hard. It’s hard to watch the people who are out trying to play shows and do stuff as if Coronavirus is not happening – or as if it’s worth the risk. We haven’t been in a room together as a band during this whole thing. We haven’t played a note in the same room together as a band in over a year now but I sit at home and watch all kinds of people who are still cramming into studios and onto stages together. I know how little these players get paid to perform. I know how few people are coming out to see them play. Music is my life to the degree that I’ve risked everything to do it. Gone broke trying to do it. Passed on jobs and money and all kinds of opportunities to do other things because the music was more important than anything else. But I’ve seen what the virus has done to friends and members of my family who got it – and if my music was responsible for one single Coronavirus case it would absolutely destroy me. People who are playing shows will say that they’re being careful, but what about the people who might come to your show that aren’t being careful?

So here we sit, not playing any album release shows. Not booking anything for the future and hoping that it’ll all go away. In the meantime, I’m trying to use the time constructively. I’ve learned new recording programs, I’ve learned to do animation that we use in our videos and I’ve focused on a lot of the behind the scenes, nuts and bolts parts of our online presence and band management stuff that usually gets overlooked.

You can follow Chad Wells and Cricketbows on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @cricketbows     Instagram at Cricketbows

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube at CricketbowsOfficial

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Revered Wells for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Cricketbows’ Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Chad Wells and Gabrielle Elizabeth Studios photography.

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11 Questions with… Jeffrey Dean Foster

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nIn our latest installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column, we are excited to feature Jeffrey Dean Foster. We reached out to him a few months ago with 11 questions for this column. He is a gifted songwriter, singer, guitarist and more. We want to publicly thank him for taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions for us here at YTAA!

Jeffrey has been making some of the most thoughtful and energetic  music being made anywhere over four decades. His music encompasses a compassion that is direct and reflective. Jeffrey is able to create rock, folk, alt-country among other genres that feels inviting and invigorating. His touch with a lyric demonstrates both his fresh insight and a call for recognizing the connection and community that we all have a place we can call home together. Add the swirl of electric guitars, bass, drums and keyboards to the mix and then the music feels like an invocation!

518c4deebc145.imageJeffrey Dean Foster has been making music in a prestigious list of bands for quite some time: The Right Profile, The Carneys and The Pinetops are on his resume! He has had an active solo career as well. The Right Profile was sought after and signed by Clive Davis for Arista Records. In these groups and in his solo work, he has created music that tells stories about the social bonds that hold us together even when we do not feel that comfort. His latest record, ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ is being released on vinyl this weekend for Record Store Day (on Saturday, June 12 this year). All proceeds from vinyl sales will go to support The Shalom Project based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – an organization that supports families in need. Chris Stamey, The Veldt and The Backsliders are all releasing EPs for The Shalom Project as well. On July 30th ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ will be made available on CD and on all streaming platforms.

173672123_5328147950588488_6160351963110197999_n‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ channels an inner dialogue over how to combat cruelty and a loss of compassion. Like so many of us, Jeffrey Dean Foster watched the social protests following George Floyd’s murder and he felt the need to respond to the inhumanity and hostility of that senseless death. ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ is a musical response to that loss. While wide-eyed and recognizing the challenge in creating change and reimagining healthy communities, the songs on this record move between an almost pastoral, agrarian feel to passionate Big Star and Kinks influenced rock and roll. Several of the songs, while hopeful, carry the weight of the difficult worlds we find ourselves challenged to change and remake.

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Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest music?

Jeffrey Dean Foster (JDF): I never really stopped writing but this past pandemic year did give me some impetus to focus a few things. Having the world kind of stop and be still had it’s good points.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, what led to your recording with them?

JFD:  I’ve known them for 35 years. Dixon was one of the first “rock stars” that would talk to me when I’d go see his totally rocking band Arrogance. They had really great songs AND they were gloriously loud in the clubs. Mitch produced the very first record that I ever made around 1982. Since then Mitch and Don have been involved in almost every record I’ve ever made in one form or another. Dixon produced a tape that ultimately got my first band [The Right Profile] signed to Arista Records. Mitch has mixed my last two albums (‘Million Star Hotel’ and ‘The Arrow’) They are just trusted friends that I can call on for musical or life advice.

Dr. J: Tell Somebody is a personal favorite, so I am naturally curious about it. The song is compelling and driving musically. The lyrics seem very optimistic. Did you set out to write a song about human connection when starting to work on that song?

JDF: I think I was alone at home one night and some fave musician had just died. That of course is going to keep happening with more and more frequency as time marches on. My last album The Arrow seemed to have a lot to do with mortality and we lost a lot of friends in the years leading up to it. Most of Tell Somebody came really quickly as just a wake up call to reach out to your pals  and loved ones before you can’t.

Dr. J: Headin’ Home also addresses other connection and the comfort of home – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and feel of the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address connection, love, and community or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

JFD: Headin’ Home was definitely a product of the pandemic lock down way of life.  I just started playing and singing about homebound snapshots.  It’s a bit of a laugh. I recorded it all real quick and then made an entire video on my iPhone in several hours. It was pretty tossed off but it kind of inspired me to see that I could do that, record something at home that folks might wanna hear.

Dr. J: How did the ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ record come together musically for you?

JDF: After week after week of police brutality last spring and summer I wanted to get something out of me. I didn’t know if anyone would ever hear it or even if they should hear what a white singer songwriter had to say about any part of the black experience. I thought a lot about that and almost thought that it shouldn’t see the light of day. After talking to some friends I came to terms with it. Michael Kurtz from Record Store Day heard the song and came back with the idea of putting it out as a vinyl EP for Record Store Day. We decided that it would be a benefit for The Shalom Project where I work. I help run a free medical clinic, food pantry and clothing closet there. We even talked some of my other NC friends into contributing an EP for the cause. My old friend Tabitha Soren of MTV News fame had the perfect photo for the album cover too.

IMG_6910Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

JDF: I live out in the woods on a lake and every window I look out shows me some kind of nature and wildlife. I don’t end up writing songs about that wildlife but I think it makes me feel part of something larger than me. A lot of my songs can be pretty internal and puzzling and I like that. The songs that are making up the ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ record are probably the most straightforward and external that I’ve written. More outward looking than inward.

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’)?

JDF: I’m not the one to tell you much about the songs that I come up with. I’ve think people that I like write songs because they can’t talk about the ideas or emotions in them. I’m totally fine with art not spelling things out for me, whether it’s Bob Dylan or David Lynch.  I’ll tell you one bit of trivia though. When I was writing and recording I’m Starting to Bleed I wanted something almost like a Smokey Robinson song but with a healthy shadow of dread. Of course, I can’t come anywhere close to Smokey but that was something to shoot for.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after I’m Starting To Bleed? You can read an early review from The Big Takeover.

JDF: I have some other tracks already mixed and I’d like to finish a few more and make a new full length JDF album. ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ feels like a kind of special record. Everything about it could have only happened in this weird time of 2020/2021.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?

JDF: Well nobody is performing much these days. I have a song called ‘So Lonesome I Could Fly’ that I’ve probably played more than any other. It’s had a full life, from being covered by Marti Jones to being included in the soundtrack to the Ang Lee film ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’  I still don’t get tired of playing it.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

JDF: Any message that listeners can tune into is fine with me. If they feel anything, you’ve succeeded in some way. I just know that music that affected me during my life just got under my skin and now is just part of me. I mean ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by The Kinks might as well be tattooed on me. It’s that much a part of me.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

JDF: I’ve done some streaming shows that some very professional and careful people having arranged. Playing on good looking stages and filming and recording the happening and then beaming it out to the internet. I have no desire to try and take some dumb shortcut and try and get folks packed into a club scene. I’m comfortable out here in the woods too!

You can follow Jeffery Dean Foster on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @songboyfoster     Instagram at JeffreyDeanFoster

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Jeffrey for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Jeffrey’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Jeffrey Dean Foster.

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11 Questions with… Kyleen Downes

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nIn our tenth installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column, we are excited to feature Kyleen Downes. She is a gifted songwriter, singer, guitarist, pianist and ukulele player. We want to publicly thank Kyleen for taking the time out of her schedule to answer these questions for us here at YTAA!

Kyleen have been making some of the most open and energetic yet introspective music in the Dayton Music Scene. She has a clever way with words that inspires listeners while not feeling calculated to produce a particular feeling. Kyleen is able to turn a phrase in a way that is direct and welcoming. Her insightfulness allows a listener to see themselves and their experiences cast with an unfailing honest optimism and generosity of spirit that opens the heart.

a2299765261_10Kyleen has been making music since 2009 when she took inspiration from the social bond of those involved in the Dayton music community.  This sense of attachment and commitment led to 2016’s ‘Maybe Sometimes.’ This first collection of songs from Kyleen demonstrate her range as both a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.  The seven songs on this album stretch across a continuum of personal reflection (‘Things Change‘) to the accessible optimism of finding those splendid moments with those you care about (‘Perfect Ending‘) and the percussive staccato of ‘Talk Like You Don’t Know‘.

a3999839670_10Kyleen’s next record in 2018 was the enthusiastic ‘Friends‘ EP. Kicking off with the driving ‘Exhale‘ and then flowing into the rocker ‘And So It Goes.’ An excellent One-Two punch. The upbeat attitude on ‘Goes‘ pulls one into a happy space. The next two songs, the confessional ‘Six Years‘ and imaginative ‘In Dreams‘, showcase creative guitar work and inventive lyrics. The album demonstrates her humor and continuing evolution as a songwriter. ‘Friends‘ marks Kyleen’s collaboration with producer extraordinaire Patrick Himes. Himes’ analog approach to recording allows the songwriting to stand on its own in a way that digital recording all too often interferes with. Instead of approaching recording the music in an overly serious manner or in a heavy handed way, Downes and Himes establish an accessible palette that still explores deep and real emotion. The delightfulness of the album is a strength. The partnership with Himes will lead her to the most recent album ‘Come On Sit Down.’

a1895125481_10Come On Sit Down opens with the community jam ‘Give Up The Ghost.’ The handclaps and percussion drive this sing along! The next song, the single, ‘Last Drop‘ demonstrates the strength of Kyleen and her band. They can move across genres, styles and arrangements surprisingly easily without feeling contrived. Authenticity is a rare pleasure in popular music. Kyleen’s background in music and as a guitar teacher/instructor are consistently illustrated on this record. The background vocals from a Dayton Power trio of vocalists — Khrys Blank, Amber Hargett and Heather Redman elevate ‘Last Drop‘ into a remarkably evocative ending. All My Life leads the record into personal reflection which is then followed by the poppy Keep Your Ways.’Tiny Little Table‘ courses with an electricity and humor that are distinctive to Kyleen Downes. The album closes with the meditation on thankfulness of In The Dark.’ Consistently, Kyleen’s lyrics are descriptive, accessible and deeply affecting. If you have had the opportunity to see her perform, you know that Kyleen’s stage presence is charismatic.

Kyleen Tiny TableDr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest album Come On Sit Down?

Kyleen Downes (KD): I had written a few new songs in 2018 and started working on them with the band.  I booked some studio time in November of 2018 and unfortunately, the band hadn’t had enough rehearsal prior to going into the studio.

I went to the studio solo and brought in two low-key songs, In the Dark and All My Life. I had initially thought of releasing a few singles but once the band started recording in 2019, the song list began to grow.  So I figured I’d hold out and do a big sha-bang of a full length LP to be released on vinyl (a first for me!) I really liked the idea of combining songs I worked on with the band, with the songs that I fleshed out in the studio with just myself and my producer Patrick Himes.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio, what led to your recording with Patrick?

KD: Patrick reached out to me several years ago, just to say hi and introduce himself.  Which is a great example of just how cool Dayton musicians are! I knew of his work through Paige Beller when he worked on her live album, Live and a Person.  After seeing her show and hearing that recording, I knew once I had material to record I wanted to work with him.  It’s an added bonus that he records analog, or to tape, because that was a new experience I wanted to try!

Dr. J: ‘Myself’ is a personal favorite, so I am curious about it. The song is compelling and driving musically. Yet the lyrics seem to address loneliness. Did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of human connection when starting to work on that song?

KD: I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of this question, it’s almost like you knew my state of mind when I wrote it!  I was spending a lot of time by myself and with my thoughts.  Even after spending time with others I was coming home to just me.  I had recently gone through a very challenging separation after a long relationship.  I was desperately trying to find security within myself, because I was realizing how it can be unhealthy to have it only come from someone else.

Dr. J: All My Life also addresses other connection – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and feel of the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address connection, love, and relationships or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

KD: That song came out of strumming chords in waltz time, which I wonder if that made me feel a certain sweetness about it when the lyrics started to flow.  It’s definitely rooted in the sense of connection you feel when you realize you’ve longed for a certain feeling all your life and now that you have it, you must not take it for granted.

Dr. J: How did Myself come together musically for you?

KD: Funny enough, it came to life after opening my front door and hearing a melodic squeak from the hinge.  I hummed it and went down to my basement to harmonize it on the guitar.  Then I let the lyrics flow.  I was so caught up in this song, I wrote some of it while sitting in my personal finance class, haha!  The song was originally an acoustic song, but when I was prepping to take it into the studio, I really wanted to play around with amping it up.  I started by playing it on the electric guitar and then adding some guitar parts.  I heard a song on the radio one day and used that for my drum inspiration.  I’ll be honest, it still feels like a puzzle to me, so I’m really happy to hear it resonates with you!

0019634116_10Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

KD: Through listening to music.  As a kid, I loved singing a catchy song or letting music transport my daydreams.  Then once I started playing guitar, the sound of it inspired me to create different musical ideas.  So often, I will come up with an idea after or while listening to music.  If I connect with the vibe, I like to channel my own version of it.  And undoubtedly if there is a guitar in my hands, I end up playing something that catches my ear and I want to start fleshing it out (which can sometimes lead to late bedtimes, ha ha!)

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Friends to Come On Sit Down)?

KD: I describe my music as sonically approachable.  As I’ve progressed, I’m getting more comfortable with taking risks and I feel/hope my music has become a little more candid since the beginning of my journey.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Come On Sit Down?

KD: I have several thoughts on future projects BUT I know I need to focus on the material first.  There are several songs I am excited to finish.  I think once the music comes to life, the projects will reveal themselves more clearly.  I’ve also lost a few songs along the way because they get pushed aside once a project starts.  I plan on finding them though! (They may have fallen under my couch, who knows!?)

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

KD: I LOVE performing Tiny Little Table, it has SO much fun guitar stuff. I have a looper pedal which allows me to layer different guitar riffs and solo.  I use my looper to harmonize vocals as well, which is a new skill for me.  When I am playing with my band, Six Years will forever energize and empower me!

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

KD: We are all human and we are only human.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

KD: I’ve taken this forced downtime to put effort into my website, creating a virtual store, and performing some livestream shows.  I’ve learned a lot about the different technology available that can help me be more creative and produce new content.  I’ve also been maintaining a consistent newsletter.  I used to get so overwhelmed about writing a newsletter, but now I’m so happy about being able to engage with people, it’s become a fun part of my month!

You can follow Kyleen Downes on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @KyleenDownes     Instagram at KyleenDownes

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kyleen for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Kyleen’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Kyleen Downes and Gary Mitchell.

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11 Questions with… Todd Farrell

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nIn our ninth installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column, we are excited to feature Todd Farrell Jr of Benchmarks. Todd is the main songwriter, guitarist and vocalist for the Nashville based band. We want to publicly thank Todd for taking the time out of his busy day to answer these questions for us here at YTAA!

Benchmarks have been making some of the most thoughtful and passionate rock and roll of the past several years. Lyrics that elevate the listener to personal introspection rather than confound. Todd’s lyrics about the past, community, connection and challenges of everyday life reached an incredible level with the band’s album Our Undivided Attention in 2017.  The band returned in August 2020 with the exceptional Summer Slowly.

Benchmark’s first album in 2015, American Nights, set the field for their energetic and reflective songs. The album included compelling narratives that were both relatable and organic. The record featured ‘Roman Candles,‘ ‘April Fire’, ‘American Nights’ and ‘Paper Napkins.’ The last song being revisited in 2017 on Our Undivided Attention. As Todd sings on ‘American Nights’ “It was a middle Tennessee Summer, It was 102 degrees, we had everywhere to go and nowhere to be, there’s a million ways for people, to get to where they go, some prefer a ladder, we prefer the road, let’s get out of here while we still can, lets get out of here while we are still alive.” Much like songwriters who capture the experience of being both free and stuck in place at the same time, Benchmarks have a way with feelings of alienation and connection. Their music recognizes that the bond we have between us is fragile and constricting at the same time. The songs on Benchmarks records realize the simultaneous dream and nightmare that comes from carrying along with us where we think we belong.

The band followed American Nights with the stellar Our Undivided Attention. The album opens with the evocative ‘This Year’ and launches into the poppy ‘Frames’ and then the other eight songs explores the emotional terrain of life, challenges of making and touring music and revisiting the ups and down of childhood and friendships. The album closes with the optimistic and impactful ‘Next Year’ with the chorus we need to hear: ‘I know next year, things will be better.” The lyrics are extraordinarily descriptive, clever and absorbing. Recognizing that we are our own worst enemies and coming to terms with that in a way that is not dismissive remains the lyrical superpower of this band. 2018 led to a split release with Bud Bronson and The Good Timers that included The Good Fight.’ Almost two years later, Benchmarks released their latest record, Summer Slowly.

With Summer Slowly, the band explore nostalgia, regret and memory using elements of punk and rock and roll to convey introspection and reflection without compromise. The swirl of the guitars, the passionate drumming, and innovative bass lines come together to musically support the themes and narratives that are the heart of the lyrics. The songs are not about stories, they are about feeling and understanding our experiences. A welcome indie rock sensibility emanates from this record.

Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest album Summer Slowly?

Todd Farrell (TF): I started writing this record before the last one (Our Undivided Attention) even came out. I was on the road with Two Cow Garage a lot, and kind of unsatisfied with much I was doing musically. I wasn’t very satisfied with the last Benchmarks record, and I felt like I was limited in what I could do with Two Cow. After walking away from that band, I took a guitar gig on a tour with my friend Sammy Kay supporting the Creepshow for 6 weeks in the US and Canada in the Fall of 2017. On about day 4 of this tour, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, which made an already long tour even longer. I did a lot of thinking and soul searching on that tour, trying to figure out what makes me happy, and what wanted to do, and what kind of father I wanted to be for my kid. Simultaneously, watching the continent change from Summer to Fall from a van window influenced a lot of the imagery and shaped the overall theme. I was also listening to a lot of music that may be outside the normal realm of what people probably associate with this band… lots of black metal, synthwave, dark pop, etc. I loved the textures and melodrama to it, and wanted to apply those moods and sounds to what Benchmarks does. I also wanted to embrace playing big dramatic guitar solos again. All of this sort of came together at the same time, and when I got home from that tour, I had a good outline of what I wanted to do with this record.

Dr. J: What is your approach like in the studio? What are your biggest challenges when creating new music? What is the biggest reward for you when making new music?

TF: Because we record ourselves in a very limited environment, the studio process can take… some time. We recorded the drums in a cabin west of Nashville, and the rest of it in Jack’s (drums, co-producer) bedroom. I know a lot of people joke about the DIY thing, but we literally built an amp box out of plywood and foam, and a vocal booth out of PVC pipe and moving blankets. Part of the studio approach was literally “making” a studio with power tools in my garage.

Because of this, our biggest challenge is probably knowing when to stop. Because everything other than the drums was an overdub, it meant we could add a thousand guitars to a part if we wanted to. We set some rules early on though… no more than 3 guitar tracks at once, unless it’s a guitar solo. The other challenge is just time. During the time we made this album, band members got married, had kids, worked their jobs, moved, changed jobs, not to mention going on tour and playing shows and dealing with other band and life related issues. Trying to be a good partner, parent, and friend while trying to handle making a record is incredibly challenging.

However difficult, finally getting this one out has been incredibly rewarding. There’s, of course, all the superficial stuff like blogs putting us in their “Top 10 of 2020” etc, and I would be lying if I said we didn’t read that stuff. We do, and it’s really amazing that people responded to the record in a way that influenced them to set it in such high esteem. More importantly, I’m very proud of this record because it very clearly captured a moment in time for me. This is something I will be able to show my children, if I never make any music ever again, and say “this is what your dad’s art sounded like”. I think I finally said (both lyrically and musically) what I wanted to say in a full record. The timing of its release was also interesting. The messages in the songs (very much about change) came at a time in this country where we’re dealing with the pandemic, experiencing a new surge in the fight for racial justice, and all the other socio-political issues happening all at once. People were able to relate and find comfort in the songs while dealing with a very real and at times terrifying reality, and I’m very proud and happy that people were able to feel some sort of sanctuary in it.

Dr. J: Technicolor is a powerful song for those who seek human connection away from the technology that we use every day; did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of social connection outside of screens when starting to work on that song?

TF: “Technicolor” is one of my favorite songs on the record for many reasons. Of course, the technology aspect is there. I was (and am still) having a love/hate relationship with social media and my phone. If I had the guts, I’d switch to a Nokia brick and go about my day, but I realize I have other needs and uses for a smartphone and all the things that come with it. I still don’t really have an answer, other than deciding that my happiness is not determined by how many Spotify plays my band gets, or how many likes a post gets, or even how many tour dates I’m able to post about. If I had a manager, they would hate to hear this, but I’m happy to just be able to make music and not feel the need to push it into people’s faces. If people like it, they like it. I’m not here to force my friends to consume my art just because they’re on the same digital platform that I am. I just want to make cool shit, put it out there, and hopefully it makes someone out there feel good.

Dr. J: Summer Slowly seems to address themes related to isolation and the vulnerability of community – whether self-imposed or a result of social lives that we do not stop and think about. I am thinking songs like The Good Fight, Technicolor, Our Finest Hour, Holding on to Summer, The Price of Postcards all raise questions about connection and community, would you say that a fair interpretation? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address how we are connected to one another or did the songs evolve from other concerns?

TF: Absolutely. I think we take for connections and relationships for granted in effort to achieve some sort of social status. I think we’re pretty conscious of it too, but we don’t really care because we’re all starved of true companionship and interaction, so we need the endorphin rush of the “like” button. As I said previously, I am certainly guilty of this too.

Dr. J: How did Our Finest Hour come together musically for you?

TF: “Our Finest Hour” started as an effort to write a Japandroids type song. I wanted something with a quick drum beat and a very anthemic chorus about good vs evil, etc. The key change guitar solo is one of my favorite moments on the album. I was playing it in my living room on an acoustic guitar shortly after the 2016 election, and the women’s marches and the immigrant marches were starting, and the lyrics sort of came from my thought process on what I want to say that might help the cause, and what I want to say that might actually hurt the cause because of who I am. I wanted to make very clear that as a straight, white, male person who wants to be considered an “ally”, I did not want my words to take the place of those who are less privileged than I am. I just want to try my best to fight, but be conscious of those I’m fighting for, and have conversations with them before I just open my mouth. It was difficult to construct the words to properly convey what I was trying to say, but I think I at least got close.

Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

It’s a cliché answer, but life and the human experience. I think the most interesting stories aren’t necessarily about these big and bold characters or events that everyone has heard about, but everyday thoughts and emotions. Lyrics usually stem from a conversation, or a phrase of some kind that I overheard and made me think about what it means. The music comes from an emotion or feeling, and wanting to fully unpack it into riffs and melodies.

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Our Undivided Attention to Summer Slowly)?

TF: The band has a lot of inside jokes as to what kind of music we make, like “arena emo” or “blackened pop punk” or “post orgcore” etc. I think Our Undivided Attention is an interesting experiment in us trying to figure it out. I think half of that album fits nicely with what we do now, and half of it sort of missed the mark for what we were trying to do. At current, we’re a rock band because we play distorted guitars and bass and drums. There are pop elements, there are punk elements, there are Iron Maiden guitar solos and Taylor Swift hooks (I mean, we wish). With this album, we tried to sort of throw the parameters out the window and just make cool music.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Summer Slowly?

TF: At current, I think I’m going to take a break from Benchmarks. With the pandemic still in full force, there are no tours or shows to happen anytime soon, so I’m going to take the opportunity to focus on some different projects. I’ve sort of unintentionally started an internet melodic black/death metal band, so I’ve been demoing that. I have a lot of songs that don’t necessarily fit into the Benchmarks format, so I may try and put them together and release some solo material. After it took so long to construct this album, I want to try and do something completely different and just put out as much music as I can, as it comes up, regardless of how it fits together genre-wise. If I write a metal song, I’m going to record it and put it out there. If I write a folk song, I’m going to record it and put it out there. No sense of waiting anymore. Hopefully we all survive the next year or so, and maybe I’ll be ready to put together another full-length Benchmarks record.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

TF: This is a hard one, because Summer, Slowly contains so many of my favorite songs, but almost none of them have been performed live, and certainly not since the album has been out. On the Our Undivided Attention tour cycle, we often closed with “Next Year”, and it was really fun to have the anticipation build to the crescendo of that song. It’s a fitting parting song, and usually some of the other bands and members of the crowd would jump on stage with us and sing the lyric “I know next year things will be better”. It sort of captures the intention of that song. We’re here, and things are loud and noisy and messed up, but we’re all together.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

TF: What I hope we capture in our music is a sense of belonging and companionship. We’re not the best band out there, but we’re not in it to be the best. Whether it’s aggressive or contemplative, we just want to make music that makes us feel good, and hopefully makes the listener feel good too.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

TF: What I hope we capture in our music is a sense of belonging and companionship. We’re not the best band out there, but we’re not in it to be the best. Whether it’s aggressive or contemplative, we just want to make music that makes us feel good, and hopefully makes the listener feel good too.

You can follow Todd Farrell and Benchmarks on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @benchmarksmusic     Instagram at benchmarksmusic

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Todd for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Benchmarks’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Todd Farrell/Benchmarks.

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11 Questions with… Kyle Melton

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nAfter a hiatus of a few months, we return with our eighth installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column. We resume these articles with an interview featuring Smug Brothers‘ songwriter, guitarist and singer Kyle Melton. We want to publicly thank Kyle for taking the time to answer these questions!

Smug Brothers have been a prolific and active band without sacrificing quality. The vision for Smug Brothers is reflected in the interests, lyrics and approach that Kyle Melton has crafted for the group. The development of this band parallels the songwriting focus.

Smug Brothers begin in 2005 with the exciting debut record, Buzzmounter. This record featured the driving Valentine Chapel. In the beginning the band’s music was written by Darryl Robbins [The Motel Beds, Overthought Musik‘s numerous side projects] and the vocals and lyrics were created by Kyle Melton. Over time, Smug Brothers transformed into a cohesive band adding several musicians and artists into its indie rock sensibility.  The eventual addition of Ex-Guided By Voices and Swearing at Motorists drummer Don Thrasher on drums and percussion and the departure of Darryl Robbins transformed the band. The addition of guitarist Brian Baker [Brat Curse] and then Scott Tribble added sonic texture to the group’s sound. Several talented bass players have participated in this project over the years including Marc Betts, Lurchbox’s Larry Evans and the current bass playing of multi-instrumentalist Kyle Sowash [The Kyle Sowashes]. While additional lineup changes have influenced the sound over the years, the vision for the project has stayed true to an imaginative concept for the most impactful and concise indie pop sound.

SBBMThe band has been incredibly active from 2005 – 2019, releasing several excellent Midwestern indie rock album including the fantastic On The Way to the Punchline, the powerfully inventive Woodpecker Paradise and the amazingly accessible and catchy, Disco Maroon. In a just musical world (do not hold your breath waiting!), Disco Maroon would have produced top 40 singles with ‘Hang Up’ and ‘My Little Crowd Pleaser.’

In 2019, with the record Attic Harvest the band released its first record on vinyl — which is an important achievement. The group also released Serve A Thirsty Moon in that same year which speaks to their productivity! And to add more fuel to the idea of productivity — in the past challenging year because of the pandemic — the band was still able to release two terrific EPs, Room Of The Year and Every Surface Under Heaven and the single ‘Flame Verbatim.’ 

Originally formed in Dayton, Ohio and then Smug Brothers HQ relocated to Columbus, Ohio, Smug Brothers  have released some of the most catchy, interesting and melodic Midwestern indie rock and roll in… well, the Midwest and beyond. 

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a2655189097_10Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing the latest album Room Of The Year?

Kyle Melton (KM): Much of Room of the Year, as well as ‘Flame Verbatim’ and Every Surface Under Heaven, was written between fall 2018 and fall 2019. I was working from home during that year and had a guitar handy a lot of the time. We whittled down a batch of about 100 songs to 30 or so that we liked best, then set to work recording in December 2019 and got the 12 songs that appear on these three EPs before COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t get together to work on any more.

Dr. J: What is your approach in recording? What are your biggest challenges when creating new music? What is the biggest reward for you when making new music

KM: For these three most recent single EPs, we stuck with our tried-and-true method of Don [Thasher] and I getting in a room together and hashing out a rhythm track to build off. With the COVID-19 situation this year, we had to figure out how to get [Kyle] Sowash to record his bass parts from where he is. Scott had done a lot of work from his place and sent it over with Serve A Thirsty Moon, so we had that dialed in. For us, the biggest challenge is making time to get things done. As you get older, there are a lot more obstacles to getting music done than when you’re 25. I think there are levels of rewards: when you know you have a good basic track with a good energy you can build up, when everyone’s parts get added and the picture becomes more complete, when you add the extra touches to flesh it out, when you have a final mix/master that is what is going out. The whole process is still just such a buzz, really.

Dr. J: Freshman Zephyr is a fascinating song. There are some of the classic elements of the band and some exciting experimentation. In particular, for me, the use of electronics/keyboards adds an unexpected dimension to the song. When I expect a guitar part to come into the mix, a keyboard/electronic part does instead. Did you set out to explore a more expansive sonic feel when starting to work on that song?

KM: We’re always trying to figure out how to expand what it is we sound like, so I think Freshman Zephyr is in that lineage a bit. Scott really turned us more toward adding keyboards in a way we didn’t previously, so that’s largely his contribution. We rarely set out to do anything more than whatever the song asks us to do, really. It’s usually pretty obvious if something is going to work for a song or if we need to push out past ourselves to figure out what the song needs. And we typically know when we’ve found something we all like.

Dr. J: Room of The Year seems to address themes of existence apart from the technology that we have become Sbrosso comfortable using without asking what it means to be so dependent. I am thinking Radiator One, Good To Know Your Axis and Freshman Zephyr lyrically raise questions about technology. Would you say that is accurate? What themes were you addressing?

KM: Sure, there are flashes of coming to terms with technology in a lot of what I write. I think it’s just so prevalent in our current lives, that kind of thinking is going to be part of what I’m talking about. I have a very love/hate relationship with technology, as I’m sure a lot of us do. But I think we’re all working to find where we strike a balance between the benefits and whatever our humanity is. Where is your axis, you know?

Dr. J: How did Freshman Zephyr come together musically for you? How does that compare with Good To Know Your Axis?

KM: I think those songs have very different base identities: Freshman Zephyr is more in the pop house and Good to Know Your Axis is more in the postpunk range. So, from that standpoint, we would work on them with very different ideas in mind; you can’t really do the same kinds of things with both of these songs. We built them up in a similar way, but the four of us have developed a good unspoken language of what different types of songs would ask you to do.

Dr. J:  Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

KM: I always have the itch to make music. The struggle is getting it down on the phone or on tape in a timely fashion. The inspiration is everywhere, really. Listening to what other people are putting out is always inspiring. Going back and digging on things I’ve heard countless times but finding one new nuance, that sets off an idea. Things people say on TV or the Internet or in a text message. All of it has potential to trigger me to get to work.

a0679371235_10Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Attic Harvest to Serve A Thirsty Moon to Flame Verbatim and Room of the Year)?

KM: I have to feel some kind of energy from the connection between the words and music to get things going. I tend to write words and music separately, so when I try and put them together, I’m hoping there is a cool thing that happens. And there’s a big range, so that’s helpful. The biggest thing for how I work and how we’re able to function as group from Attic Harvest up through these new EPs is sharing demos in advance with the group that gives us a better idea of what we can work on and a sketch of an idea. When Don and I started playing together back in 2008, I would just throw a song at him totally cold and we’d come up with something. He has a little more advance idea now, which he says he likes a lot more. I think a lot of how I put songs together is fundamentally the same as I’ve done for a long time: pick up a guitar, throw some words out, and see what comes together. I raise the sails and hope for a strong wind to get us somewhere new and interesting.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Room of the Year?

KM: It’s hard to predict what we’ll be able to do in the next year, as COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. We have some things we’ve already started working on, so we’ll have to see what we come up with next. I think we’re all game to approach things a little differently, since we’re just not really able to do things the way we normally would.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

KM: Well, we didn’t get to do any shows this year, so this isn’t really a current view, but Investigative Years [from On The Way To The Punchline], Reminding Penumbra [from Attic Harvest], and Hang Up [from Disco Maroon] have always been very enjoyable for me. They all have different things going on, but they’re fun to sing and the band typically gets a good headwind going behind each of them.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

KM: I think there’s a hopefulness in this most recent batch of songs. Always keep looking for new ways to engage yourself and the world. Remain open to possibilities. The world is a lot more than most of us realize. Enjoy the ride, you know?

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

128173312_10157765610728404_8864351974159478428_oKM: Not playing shows has been a real bummer this year. First year since I started playing in bands in 1992 that I won’t do a single gig. But there’s always time to work on music and I’m grateful the four of us figured out how to work remotely to keep the ball moving. I miss “the Brothers,” but we did a Zoom call recently just to have a hang. That’s what band practice is like in 2020.

You can follow Kyle Melton and Smug Brothers on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @smugbrothers     Instagram at smugbrothers        Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kyle for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Smug Brothers’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos care of Kyle Melton.

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11 Questions with… Kailynn West

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThe seventh installment of 11 Questions… comes courtesy of Kailynn West of Tiny Stills. It is difficult to separate Tiny Stills from her vision!

In 2015, after an unexpected situation left an opening on a national tour with Anthony Raneri and John-Allison Weiss, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Kailynn West stepped in at the literal last minute to finish the tour with her power-pop project Tiny Stills.

LA-based Tiny Stills have released some of the most engaging and catchy emotional indie power pop beginning with a series of terrific songs and albums including the excellent “Falling is like Flying” from 2014 and the independently released “Laughing Into the Void” in 2018!  Recently, the band has released a series of compelling and catchy singles!

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104164797_1857630154373724_1517628563165917919_oTiny Stills arose from intense personal experience as a direct response to West’s experience being held up at gunpoint in 2011 and as a way to work through the inevitable social fallout that occurs so often after traumatic experiences.  Tiny Stills craft honest and intense songs with powerful guitars and inescapable melodies that pay homage to early ’90s and 2000s indie and pop-punk. At the end of the day, Tiny Stills and the music they make is an effort to remind you that even the worst days have a silver lining, that at the very least you are not alone in an overwhelming world.

a4066922409_10Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released song, “Craigslist Bed“?

Kailynn West (KN): It started as inspiration after a most recent breakup. I had to move out of my apartment and start over. Specifically – I didn’t have a bed. The apartment I now live in (a garage, with a bathroom, literally.) came with a bed that the previous tenant left. I was otherwise going to look at craigslist beds because I didn’t have one at the time, but I ended up just keeping this one. It all worked out! But it was definitely the inspiration behind the song.

Dr. J: Tiny Stills evolved out of a personal experience for you, can you describe that experience and how it shaped the formation of the band?

KW: I was held up at gunpoint in about 8 years ago in Los Angeles. After that, I had a hard time relating to people and connecting. People couldn’t understand what I was going through, rightfully so, and I was dealing with coping with trauma and PTSD. I lost a lot of friends and my social circle during that time, and so I started writing music to try to work through some of the pain I was feeling trying to function. Tiny Stills was originally a solo project, that has morphed into a band. I’ve found that sharing
my story helps me connect with people, so I try to write honest songs.

Dr. J: “Craigslist Bed” is a meaningful song for all of us who deal with challenging relationship and the breakup of relationships; did you set out to address those concerns and challenges of when starting to work on that song?

KW: 100 percent yes. Particularly the bed, and do have a key ring with a million keys on it and I don’t really know which ones I need to keep at any given time.

a1000195355_10Dr. J: A previous song “Everything is Going Great” is a powerful song for the current moment we all find ourselves in today. Do you think that is a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? Can they apply to the world today? Or would you say the focus should be more internal to the individual?

KW: I think songs are meant to be interpreted however feels best for the listener. For me, this song was about an internal battle of trying to pretend everything was OK, but I do think that’s a very universal experience, and definitely applies to today- mostly because the title of the song is sarcastic!

Dr. J:  How did “Everything is Going Great” come together musically for you?

KW: It came together pretty fast. I actually do a “song origin” on my patreon where I break down the different levels of demos- from the very first voice memo, with different lyrics and melody, to the demo we took into the studio, to the final version. It evolved pretty naturally, but it did start in a different place than where it ended up.

Dr. J:  Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

KW: I have something I need to get off my chest.

a4048710410_10Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from the album “Laughing Into the Void” to the current single “Craigslist Bed“?

KW: I’ve gotten better at self editing. With “Laughing Into the Void” I wrote a song and it was done. Now I go back and I’ll rework the chorus multiple times until it says exactly what I want it to say, or until I can’t get it out of my head. “Craigslist Bed” originally had a completely different Chorus! I do a “song origin” breakdown of that one on Patreon too. I’ve just gotten more critical of my writing and where I want the song to land.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after “Craigslist Bed“?

KW: We have new music coming out basically every month. Our next two singles are coming out August 7 and September 25th. They are two songs that were meant to be on the EP we were originally planning on releasing on our EP in April 2020! The second single is called “Resting in Pieces” and the third single doesn’t have a title yet!

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

KW: My favorite song to perform right now is “Small Talk” because it’s a straightforward fun pop/rock song and when the band comes in live, we feel huge.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

KW: That just because you’ve failed at something, it doesn’t make you a failure.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

a2642919434_10KW: I’m spending time working on myself. It’s leveled the playing field – No one can tour. We only have our songs now. I’m honing my craft and trying to elevate my work so it’s more than just noise. I think you have to practice being honest with yourself, and this is one of those difficult times when no one can really ‘look away’ we can only look at the problems we’ve created for ourselves as a society. I don’t like saying that we’re going to ‘get a lot of good art out of this (quarantine/the COVID crisis)’ because artists are under the same kind of pressure everyone else is, and our industry was collapsing years before COVID. Touring was one of the last ways musicians could make money. Artists can’t survive on streaming royalties- please directly support the artists that you like if you want them to continue making music. Between the death of album sales and now touring, we sure could use a break. I just want to survive this in more ways than one.

You can follow Kailynn West and Tiny Stills on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @tinystills     Instagram at TinyStills     Links     Spotify    Bandcamp

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kailynn for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Tiny Still’s Bandcamp page! Thanks again! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos care of Kailynn West.

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11 Questions with… Charlie & Amanda Jackson

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nOur sixth installment of 11 Questions with… features one of the best songwriters in the Dayton Music Scene! Charlie Jackson burst onto our consciousness with his solo record ‘These Days’ (released in late 2015-early 2016) that featured some of the most well crafted, mature and relatable songs about the problems of real life. Wanting a broader sonic textures for his songs, Charlie recruited Denny Cottle, Ricky Terrell and Brad Bowling for ‘Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway‘ which released their eponymous titled record in 2018. A terrific EP called well… ‘EP’ followed roughly a year later.  Anyone who has had the good fortune to be able to attend some of those lives shows know that Charlie was often joined on stage with his amazing vocalist spouse, Amanda, who added not only vocal harmonies but some fantastic singing of her own to those songs and a series of classic country covers. In a more just world, these songs would be at the top of the country charts!

We especially wanted to catch up with Charlie and Amanda as they are preparing to release their first record together. The release show will be happening on July 25th at the Yellow Cab Tavern which has done a terrific job of continuing to be a safe source for local music during the pandemic.

As always we wish to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Charlie and Amanda who took time out of their busy schedule to answer 11 questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA! We appreciate learning about how these terrific songs came together.

a0726141733_10Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you both started recording your latest record, The King & Queen of Dayton Country?

Charlie & Amanda Jackson (CAJ): We actually first started recording in Feb 2019 after just having our first show in Dec 18. After both of us (understandably) had some issues, we decided that we (and the songs) weren’t quite ready to be in the studio yet. So, we practiced a ton, and played a lot of shows and got more familiar with the material. In November of ’19 we went back in with Patrick, but the songs had all changed and evolved enough that we just started over from scratch. We had two full sessions in Nov, then another in January with Patrick and David Payne, and then a final one near the end of February with just David at the helm.

26239520_2226642254027923_4918144062901090525_nDr. J: You have worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio for several years, what first led to your recording with Patrick? How has that relationship shaped your music?

CAJ: Yes, Patrick mixed the first Railway record, and he had done such amazing work with so many artists in Dayton, I knew I really wanted to work with him in a broader capacity. We had hung out with Patrick quite a bit at shows and the Slovak Club so he had heard us play, and got to know us on a personal level. We had talked with him about what we would want a potential record to sound like, so we already had a head start toward making the album we really wanted.

a1952434078_10Dr. J: The King & Queen of Dayton Country is a very different record than E.P. and Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway, how do these records compare? What influenced your work on each of them?

CJ: The two projects definitely have quite a few similarities and differences. The work I did with The Heartland Railway is far less country than this new album. My writing has always leaned more on the country side, but while working with the guys in the Railway it took more of a rock vibe to it. I have said before, we were a rock and roll band playing country songs. This new project certainly leans more toward a classic country/americana sound. Amanda and I both listen to a LOT of old country music. Like, the old stuff from the Sun Records days, 50’s and 60’s country. Stuff like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Patsy Cline. This really influenced our sound more than it did for the Railway. I have always been a big proponent of letting things progress organically.

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With the Railway and with this new album. I don’t try to tell the other players what to play or how to play it. I’ve told all of them, that I’m not going to tell them how to play their instrument when they’re better at it than me. I didn’t have a bullet-pointed list of what I wanted, or where and when I wanted it. I let them feel it out and flesh it out. I could’ve said I wanted a straight Nashville sounding Tele lead guitar on the album, and it probably would have ended up sounding very Merle Haggard and I would have loved it. By stepping back and letting Casey breathe with it, he gave the lead guitar a very Knopfler-esque quality that I wouldn’t have asked for, but I absolutely dig. My songwriting across all three releases, I think, hasn’t changed a whole lot, I feel like I’ve evolved as a writer but every release combines new material with songs that I’ve had for a decade or more, and they all seem to fit together nicely. Amanda and I are even breathing some new life into some songs I wrote about 13 years ago, and they’re turning out great. Its all about letting it breathe, and seeing where it can go.

GEA - drjwudr 3.28.17 finals-51Dr. J: ‘Call This Home’ – the first single from The King & Queen of Dayton Country – addresses forms of love and support that someone finds at home – is that a correct interpretation of the title? If that is correct, did you intend to address how difficult it is to make a loving home or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

CAJ: The song absolutely reflects love and support found within a partner. We didn’t intend to address difficulties in making/keeping a loving home. Every partnership requires communication and work, but when love is there, it is just there. We do fuss at each other and we playfully argue but in our 17-years of being a couple we have never truly fought. Our love and communication have kept the big blowouts at bay.

Dr. J: How did the song ‘Call This Home’ come together musically for you?

CJ: I wrote the chorus first; I had no idea what direction I wanted for the verses yet. I told Amanda I wanted her to write her verse. She (of course) told me that she couldn’t write a verse, but then started sending me lines. They were just some insight to how she feels and how she thinks. I used those lines to craft her verse. Her verse was written before mine. But this was the first song that Amanda really had a hand in writing.

Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

Charlie Jackson 1CJ: I can draw inspiration from just about anywhere, but my biggest muse has definitely always been Amanda. In the love songs (even if they aren’t autobiographical) I use her as the focal point of the love itself. For the sad songs and the heartbreak songs I recall back to our times apart in the rockier years of our early relationship, or I look at what I now know I would be missing out on if that love wasn’t there. Now, with this new level where I’m writing songs about her and for her to sing, she’s even more of a muse than she already was. Not just lyrically, but even the way I arrange the music revolves more around her. I write in keys that showcase her as much as possible. When I can coax her out of her shyness and get her to sing out, especially in her higher register, she has this natural vibrato in her voice that is just beautiful.

0016080444_100Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from These Days to Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway to The King & Queen of Dayton Country)?

CJ: Ok, first let me just say that I think it’s hilarious that you even put ‘These Days’ in with the others. Those are really just demo tracks, at best. I really didn’t know what I was doing with any of the 4 home recorded albums I released.

Anyway, I like to think of my music as honest and relatable. I try to lean more on being clever, I don’t usually delve deep into poetic symbolism and imagery. It’s a little stripped down, a little raw. Maybe it draws from the years in Punk Rock, but I like to get to the point and make it clear. I like to tell a story.

96112891_2270047886637202_1346419578112049152_nDr. J: What is next for you musically? Do you have plans to record again with The Heartland Railway? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project?

CJ: Up next, I’m really looking to record a solo record. I don’t know how many songs yet, more than likely just an EP. I want it to be much more stripped down, kinda like Nebraska, or Southeastern, or Cheaper Than Therapy. Not much more (if any) instrumentation than just me and an acoustic. Kind of a ‘back to basics’ approach.

Amanda and I also already have several songs on deck for a second Charlie & Amanda release. Some brand new, some of them are songs that I wrote at the very beginning of my journey into country music writing. We really have the advantage of the fact that before the Railway got together, I already had 4 self-released albums worth of songs in my back catalog. Amanda has taken over the duties of figuring out which of those lend themselves to a duet format, and figuring out who should sing which verse, changing pronouns so it makes sense, etc. So, we have plenty to call back on.

I’m really focusing as much as I can on this project. We have been practicing with the other players and I’m loving the band format with Amanda in the mix. That being said, while a Heartland Railway show in the future wouldn’t be off the table, I really see this project, with Amanda at my side, is really the direction I see myself moving forward.

47574998_1930907883884539_3649514156148654080_oDr. J: What is your favorite song to perform with Amanda? What is your favorite song to perform with the Heartland Railway? What makes it a current favorite in your performances? Do you enjoy Live Streaming?

CJ: My favorite song with the Railway, definitely ‘Sugarbeet‘. Such a fun song to play, plus it has like 4 guitar solos in it. Just a barn burner.

With Amanda, from the record, my favorite would have to be Oasis. I love the way our harmonies intertwine on that one. My favorite one to sing with her, however, would have to be one of our new ones named Carolyn. She really belts it out, it’s a whole lot of fun. Once the world opens back up, I promise it will be a regular addition to the set list.

I do enjoy Live streaming to a point, but I really miss the interactions. That was one of my favorite parts of the show. Hanging out, laughing, raising a beer. There really is no virtual replacement for that.

96255009_2270047959970528_8107203026961301504_nDr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

CAJ: Laughter and love. Its really something when you not only share a household, and share love, and share a life with your Partner, but now sharing our music together, and sharing it with others. Being a little bit vulnerable and sharing some of the truths about life and love that we’ve learned. It really helps you connect. We’ve heard people say that our voices blend so well together, and we like to believe that it’s a direct result of us trying to be so in tune with one another on every level, that it really comes forward in our music. We are not overly private people and we share real life within our songs, some of the real-life issues are hard ones that we deal with every day or issues we have overcome. We hope people can look at those and understand that regardless of what life throws at you there are always ways to help you move forward in life. One of the ways to get through muddy situations has always been, and will always be, love and support. We offer that to each other and others.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

CAJ: It’s a really weird time. Especially for those in the entertainment industry. Amanda and I are lucky that this isn’t our regular gig. We don’t depend on our music to help finance our daily life. Amanda works from home, so she hasn’t missed a day over the virus, my work has been a little spottier than usual, but I’ve still worked more than I’ve been off.

We have definitely missed the shows and all of our friends through all of this. Now, on the cusp of releasing out debut album, with the Covid numbers getting worse, we are definitely afraid that our release show won’t happen the way we have planned, and that certainly bums us out. But we are healthy, and we have each other. So, we can’t complain too hard.

Thanks again to Charlie and Amanda for taking the time to answer these questions! All pictures and images courtesy of Charlie & Amanda Jackson.

Charlie & Amanda on Facebook   Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway on Facebook

Charlie & Amanda on Bandcamp

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11 Questions with… David Payne

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThere are always those key individuals in any town who give of themselves to help make the music community stronger. David Payne is just such a fixture of the Dayton Music Scene!

Since he arrived with the achingly beautiful solo albums, ‘21‘ in 2009, he has spun a series of tales about life and music. David recognized the vibrancy of the Dayton music scene with an album of cherished covers ‘Dayton, Ohio‘ in 2017. That same year he released another solo record ‘Cheaper than Therapy‘ which spoke to the powerful healing that lies in making music.

David’s latest solo record ‘Orange Glow‘ was released last year. And that is not the half of his musical productivity. With Kent Montgomery, Tom Blackburn and Matt Oliver — The New Old-Fashioned — he released a stellar debut in 2012. Low Down Dirty Summer Nights was released by the band in 2015. And the captivating energy of the band was obvious to the crowds at their shows. In 2018, the band shared their most recent impressive collection of music, Smalltown, Midwest, USA. Of course, a slew of singles and a fantastic shared ep with The Repeating Arms, Hilltops and Highways is also part of the music that David has been involved in creating.

a2100498429_16Most recently he has released an EP of local music covers with his partner Heather Redman called ‘Stay at Home‘. Their two voices glide and slide along as if they have been singing together their entire lives.  Listening to their interpretation of these songs is a joy.

As always we wish to thank David for taking the time to answer these questions! We appreciate his answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA! We cannot say this enough — thanks again for taking the time!

Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started recording your latest record, Stay Home (with Heather Redman)?

David Payne (DP): Well, when the stay at home order went into effect Heather and I both started missing our friends and the Dayton music scene immediately. I had just finished up my first month of running my own sessions at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton when this all started and I really wanted to keep working.

So, I gathered the small amount of recording gear I had at home, Heather and I both picked a few of our favorite songs written by our friends, and started recording some covers.

We didn’t think of it as anything other than a fun project that would keep us busy and that our friends might enjoy. The response we’ve gotten has been a totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise!

Dr. J: You have worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio for several years, what first led to your recording with Patrick? How has that relationship shaped your music?

a3300088116_10DP: Well, The New Old-Fashioned started recording with Patrick back in 2011 or 2012. I had met Patrick back in 2006 and was a big fan of his old band, Flyaway Minion. By the time TNOF was ready to start recording, Patrick had relocated to Nashville and was running the studio down there. I heard he was looking for bands to record and it seemed like a really good fit for what we were doing. I was a big fan of his previous work like the Minion records and Shrug’s Whole Hog For The Macho Jesus to name a couple, so I was excited to get to work with him.

Patrick has helped shaped my music in just about every way you could think of. When I first started going to Flyaway Minion shows, I was 18 and hadn’t been to very many shows at all. Before then my idea of what a modern rock and roll band was we’re bands like Green Day and Weezer. This huge, most likely unobtainable, pipe dream. What Patrick and Flyaway Minion showed me was there were rock stars right here in my home town and that I could make classic records and play killer shows right here in Dayton.

69872267_2877973685565015_8034193719710187520_nThe other most important thing I learned from Patrick is that we can make classic sounding records the way our heroes did. Modern recording is very convenient and while I think that’s mostly a good thing, it’s easy for the romanticism of making records to get lost in the convenience. Everyone has their own way of making records and every way is valid, but the way we make records at Reel Love helps capture all the things I enjoy about making records. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work with and study under Patrick. He’s taught we almost every thing I know about making records, which has become something I’m very passionate about. I’m forever grateful for that.

Dr. J: Stay Home is a very different record than Orange Glow (your last solo record), how do these records compare? What influenced your work on each of them?

DP: Orange Glow is a very personal record that I made with Patrick at Reel Love and making it was a very cathartic experience. Stay Home was recorded for fun at home on my iPad and is all songs written by our friends. Ha ha!

I’d say personal experience and Willie Nelson we’re probably the two biggest influences on Orange Glow. The pandemic, the subsequent shutdown, and the infinitely inspiring Dayton music scene were what influenced Stay Home.

Dr. J: ‘Outta Town’ addresses forms of self-doubt or concern with a band or a relationship lasting – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address overcoming doubt or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

DP: Yeah, I’d say that’s accurate. I wouldn’t say I was trying to address overcoming that doubt as much as I was just trying to express how the doubt made me feel. I guess it just kinda ended up that way do to the reflective, sort of tongue in cheek angle I took when writing it.

Dr. J: How did the song ‘Outta Town’ come together musically for you?

DP: Orange Glow is a pretty heavy record. I was at the tail end of a really difficult period in my life when I was writing those songs. I was reflecting a lot and feeling a little self isolated. I wanted to write a song that still dealt with those feeling but from a hopefully more humorous and lighthearted way. I wanted it to be a brief moment of levity in an otherwise serious record. I think bringing in a bunch of my rowdy friends to sing on it with me helped drive that idea home. We had a blast that day too!

Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

DP: Of course it can come from anywhere, and often unexpectedly, but I think conversations with people are where I get the most of my inspiration for songwriting. It could be a whole in depth discussion or sometimes just one thing someone said that sticks with me.

a0785063098_10Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Cheaper than Therapy to Orange Glow to Stay Home)?

DP: That’s a tough question to answer and probably best left to outside perspective, but If I had to describe it, I guess I’d like to think that first and foremost, it’s honest.  As far as the sound goes, I think it sounds a lot like where I’m from. My own personal take on what the Midwest sounds like, I guess.

I don’t know that my process has really changed that much other than I’ve gotten a little better at it, I hope. Although, I do look to outside perspective a lot more these days.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically as a solo artist and as a member of The New Old-Fashioned? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Stay Home?

DP: I’m always writing, and although I haven’t found the shut down to be a very creatively inspiring time, I have written a handful of things.

a3987746246_10We’re almost done with the next New Old-Fashioned record which is a companion EP to our last record, Smalltown, Midwest, USA. It’s a couple songs from those sessions and a couple new ones. We’re excited to get it out, whenever it seems appropriate to do so, I guess. Kinda hard to know what to do right now.

As far as solo stuff goes, I tend to plan that out a lot less than I do with the band. That stuff seems to kinda just happen. I’ve got a few things that I’ve written recently that are more personal and I’ve also been working on some more character driven, concept sort of stuff that’s leaning a little more towards traditional country. Anyway, we’ll see what comes of any of that, but I’ve got some wheels turning.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances? Do you enjoy Live Streaming?

DP: Favorite song to play with the band is Kid 2000. It’s just got a lot of energy, it’s relevant, and it’s just fun to play. All Over Now, from the first TNOF record is always fun too and has been a staple in our live set for years. It’s one of Kent’s songs, so he sings it and I just get to play Chuck Berry riffs and goof off with Tom and Matt. Ha ha.

Whatever I’ve written most recently is usually my favorite thing to play solo, but a fun one to play from Orange Glow is, What I Mean To You. The finger picking is fun and it’s my only solo song with an actual guitar solo!

I really have enjoyed the live stream stuff I’ve done, but it sure doesn’t beat playing in front of people. I feel like it was fun for a few weeks, but it got kinda old pretty quick, for me at least. The comment sections are always fun on those.

11823081-1143573845671683-4996563248581076865-oDr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

DP: I hope ‘Orange Glow‘ helps someone going through heartbreak know that a lot of people understand what that feels like, that they’re not alone, and that there might just be a little light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re in that space, it’s hard to believe people when they tell you it’s gonna be OK. I think songs that express how you’re feeling can be really helpful in hard times.

With Smalltown, Midwest, USA, the grandest hope would be that it might make someone show a little more empathy for someone who has it harder than them. I suppose a more realistic hope is that people that do work hard to show kindness and empathy, know that they’re not alone and that we stand with them. I like to think that record is ultimately about trying to understand people.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

As a musician, if I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve adapted very well at all. I’ve never been very good at digital media or promoting and distributing my music online, for better or worse. Hats off to those who are!  I’ve always enjoyed the classic approach of trying to make records that sound timeless, then playing the songs live in front of people, and hopefully selling enough copies to make the next one. Rinse, repeat. That model was already dated and out the window before the pandemic. It’s kinda just dead right now and who knows when we’ll get it back. That’s the hard part. I have been able to continue to do some work in the studio, although not as much as I’d hoped to being doing this summer. I am optimistic that when the time comes, people will need live music more than ever.

From a personal standpoint though, it’s forced me to slow down, and spend more time with my fiancee and our little girl. Which has been great! We’ve gotten a lot of family time we wouldn’t have had otherwise and I think it’s made me a better partner and Dad.

a2033241784_16My entire identity has been wrapped up in being a musician, performer, and songwriter since the moment I got my first guitar. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. So, I guess I’ve been going through a bit of an identity crises trying to figure out who I am outside of music.

I miss playing loud sweaty rock shows and seeing my friends. I can’t wait to get back to that, when it’s safe to do so.

Until, then I’ll just keep holding on tight to my family, writing as much as I can, and enjoying the brief time I do get to spend with friends in small groups. I can’t wait to see everyone at the rock show and give out a bunch of sweaty hugs. I hope everyone takes good care of themselves and each other in the meantime.

Thanks again to Mr. David Payne for answering our questions! All pictures used courtesy of the artist.

David Payne on Bandcamp    The New Old-Fashioned on Bandcamp    TNOF on Twitter

David Payne on Facebook    The New Old-Fashioned on Facebook    Magnaphone Records

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11 Questions with… Nick Leet

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis latest interview with songwriter, singer and guitarist Nick Leet of the Minneapolis band High on Stress is the fourth installment in our 11 questions column. High on Stress have recently released their incredible record ‘Hold Me In.’ As frequent readers of this ‘blog on our radio show know well, this record is a highlight of musicianship and uncompromising lyrical word play that draws accurate picture of real life.

Taking time to reflect on the creation of art and music is critically important in these challenging times.

As always we wish to thank the busy musicians and artists for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA! We greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn about the process of creating music from those involved in songcraft.

Nick Leet
Photo by Paul Lundgren

Dr. J:  What can you share with us about when and how you started recording your latest record, “Hold Me In”?

Nick Leet (NL): High on Stress started in 2003 and ended in 2014. We released our final album (at the time), “Leaving MPLS” the same night as our final show at the Parkway Theatre in MPLS which happened to an unbelievably memorable show. I hold that one close to me. I drove home that night exhausted and proud but also excited to do something else. I played in a couple of bands for 4 years (Pasadena ’68 & Dakota Shakedown) but somehow we were lead back to High on Stress in 2018.

We re-released our debut album “Moonlight Girls” on vinyl and started to write and record the new record. I could feel there was something special happening with these songs. The band needed a break when we called it a day but we came back stronger and better than ever with this album. Super proud of it.

Dr. J:  The band has evolved over the years. How has the changes in the relationships between the band members affected the music? How have those relationships shaped your music?

NL: “Moonlight Girls” (2005) was recorded with a different line-up. Ben “Country” Baker was on guitar and Jon Tranberry was on bass. Jon left the band the year after it’s release and Ben Baker moved to China during the making of “Cop Light Parade”. Jim Soule joined on bass and brought some high powered backing vocals. Chad Wheeling joined the band and brought his rock guitar background with him. Ben’s style was very country based where Chad is allergic to acoustic guitars. The style has evolved to more of a power pop rock n’ roll band but we’ve never lost the Americana side of it. Mark Devaraj has always been trusty behind the drum kit. He also specializes in great ideas and suggestions.

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Dr. J:  “Hold Me In” is a very different record than “Leaving MPLS”, how do these records compare? What influenced your work on each of them? I’m glad you noticed that.

NL: I’m a big fan of “Leaving MPLS” but it really is the sound of a band facing it’s ending. It was a difficult and stressful record to make. I think the difference really is found in the years between. We all went off to play with some different people. When we got back together it was fresh and exciting and we all had new perspectives. I truly felt like “Hold Me In” was going to be our best record from the moment we started. You could feel that positive energy throughout the process.

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Nick at First Avenue 2010. Photo by Steven Cohen

Dr. J:  ‘Wish This Moment Gone’ seems to address loss or concerns with loss – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address a sense of loss or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

NL: “Wish This Moment Gone” addresses my feelings on the current state of the country and humanity. We have eroded into deeper resentment, division and outward racism. It’s my hope for better things in November.

Dr. J:  How did the song ‘Wish This Moment Gone’ come together musically for you? A friend commented that Trump was asking America to hold his beer. That comment inspired the song and it wrote itself very quickly. We were very fortunate to have our friend, Laurie Lindeen, from Zuzu’s Petals join us on backing vocals.

Dr. J:  Where do you often derive inspiration to make music? I’ve thought about this a bit over the years.

NL: Honestly it’s not something you plan. It’s something that keeps me grounded and helps rid myself of negative energy. It’s not a hobby and never will be. I don’t feel whole if I stay away from it for too long. I’m very thankful that I have it.

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Dr. J:  How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from
“Cop Light Parade” to “Leaving MPLS” to “Hold Me In”)?

NL: Power Pop Americana Rock n’ Roll. I’ve always kept one foot in the Replacements and Big Star and one foot in Wilco.

I love music. Whether it’s Babes in Toyland, Nirvana and Archers of Loaf or something like Son Volt or Billy Pilgrim. There is beauty in all kinds of music as long as it’s honest. It HAS to be honest.

Dr. J:  What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Hold Me In?

NL: Oh man. It’s tough to think about. I love “Hold Me In” so much that I just want to hang with it for as long as possible. I truly feel like it’s the record I’ve wanted to make since I picked up a guitar. There will be more High on Stress music in the future. We’ve been writing and recording a few things with Andrew Hyra. There could possibly be an EP or full length collaboration record with him down the line. Who knows, only the time machine will tell.

20108487_10155470533697145_3062558666245833092_nDr. J:  What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances? Do you enjoy Live Streaming?

NL: Favorite song to perform…hmmm. I think that’s a two part answer. “Gold Star” and Eyeliner Blues” from “Moonlight Girls” are up there. I think right now it would probably be “Relax” from “Hold Me In”. I like the instant communication of live streaming. It doesn’t replace being in a sweaty room with drums behind you but it serves a purpose and really allows for more direct communication.

High On Stress Band Photo
photo by Paul Lundgren

Dr. J:  What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

NL: I hope they connect with it. I’m a lyric guy. The music I love the most sticks with me and I find new meaning to the lyrics all the time. That is always my hope. I want to do the same for other people. I also hope it inspires them to rise up and think about others.

Dr. J:  As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

NL: It’s tough. There’s nothing I want more than to get in a loud room with the guys. I don’t think I’m adapting. I think I’m managing but it isn’t easy. I miss it.

Thanks again to Nick for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com.  All pictures and images of High on Stress courtesy of the band and photographer Paul Lundgren and Steven Cohen.

High on Stress on Facebook     High on Stress on Twitter    High on Stress Website

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11 Questions with… Mike Bankhead

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis interview with songwriter, bass player and keyboard stylist Mike Bankhead is the third installment in our series of ‘11 Questions with…‘. This series is an effort to understand songwriting by exploring in some detail the creative process through a deep examination of the recent craft of a talented musician. We hope that we all learn about area artists and the music that they are making. As well as learning about how they are creating music and doing so especially during these challenging times in which we find ourselves. How artists go about creating music, lyrics, themes, arrangements and more will be explored in this regular column.

A hearty thank you to all of the artists and musicians for taking the time to answer these questions for this column! We appreciate you answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA!

Mike Bankhead is a Dayton, Ohio musician who constructs with deliberate care catchy melodic modern rock music that illustrates his gift for vibrant stories about the emotional impact of the decisions we make on our life journey. Mike clearly spends a great deal of time on his craft as his songs capture the just out of reach catchy melodies, inventive chord progressions and energetic rhythms that are fresh and inventive. Mike’s songwriting includes his insightful lyrics that explore the contested terrain of life, heartbreak, love, loss, location and the awful realization that having and not having are equally enthralling.

Mike Bankhead released his debut album, Echo in the Crevices in 2017. He recorded the album at Reel Love Recording Company with well-known Dayton engineer and producer Patrick Himes. The album featured a literal who’s who of area talent, including Brian Hoeflich (Cherry Lee & the Hot Rod Hounds, Flyaway Minion, John Dubuc’s Guilty Pleasures), Tod Weidner (Shrug , Motel Beds), Kyle Byrum (Salvadore Ross), Tim Pritchard (The Boxcar Suite, Shrug, Flyaway Minion), and three-fourths of The New Old Fashioned. Just last year, Mike released a hook-filled exploration of longing called ‘Little Light‘ and the excellent split Defacing The Moon with Brandon Berry of The Paint Splats. And if that was not enough, he most recently — days ago in fact — released his latest single, ‘Promise.’

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Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released songs, Bright Ideas?

Mike Bankhead (MB): Wow, I wrote that long enough ago that I don’t think I remember exactly when. It was sometime after my first album was released back in summer of 2017, but definitely before February 2019 when I went in to Reel Love for a pre-production meeting.   These days I usually write on piano, but this one was definitely written on bass as far as the part you hear the rhythm guitar playing is concerned.  I did use the piano for the hook you hear in the outro, and to double check all of the notes I was singing during the other parts.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio – what led to your recording with Patrick?

MB: Patrick did the engineering work on my first album. Aside from that, I’ve probably known him for about 20 years? At least 20 years.  He’s so very talented, and after the experience of my first album, I know that I’m comfortable working with him.  I didn’t think for a moment about doing this song with anyone else.

Dr. J:Bright Ideas’ is a fascinating song for all of us interested in music composition; did you set out to mirror some of your influences when starting to work on that song?

17155483_1079840295494479_7656602931119695497_nMB: Absolutely. I wanted to write a Bob Pollard song.  If you listen to the song again, you’ll notice it has no chorus.  Part of that was a mild form of protest against “the music business”… so much of the advice that gets thrown at songwriters takes the form of someone saying “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”… First, if someone is bored because the chorus didn’t happen during the first 20 to 30 seconds of a song, thta’s not a person that I think I want to be listening to my music.  Second, how about no chorus at all then? The structure of the song is A A B C.  There are plenty of Guided By Voices songs that are quite brief and have no chorus, but they’re catchy anyway.  With that in mind, part of this was definitely meant as a form of admiration for Bob and his work, I kind of hope he hears it someday.  I like to imagine it as a GBV song, and I can kind of see Bob doing that little hopping dance he does.  The outro is heavily influenced by Fountains Of Wayne.  That lead riff is played on guitar, but it could just as easily have been played on synth, after all, I wrote it on a piano.  You’ll find some synth leads in their catalog.  I also wanted a bunch of harmony vocals in there, which you’ll hear all over Fountains Of Wayne songs.  All of the above to say that I wanted to take some of the things from these specific influences, but end up with a song that still sounds like ME, and I think we were able to get that done.

Dr. J:Bright Ideas’ seems to address hopefulness – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and/or feeling in the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address hopefulness or did the song evolve in that direction over time? If that is not a correct interpretation, is there a theme to the song?

MB: Yeah, I can see why it could be interpreted that way. I’m not entirely sure it started off heading that way. I definitely know that I wanted to write it in a major key, so it’s in E instead of E minor.  That itself is a change for me, I don’t usually write in major keys, I find something comforting in the mood that minor keys convey.  (As an aside, that’s probably very much a cultural construct based on what we as a whole are accustomed to hearing in Western music, but it’s hard to run from all of that musical history.)  Doing this in major lent itself to a, let’s say, BRIGHTER sound, and I think that really supports the title and overall theme of the song. The word “hope” is actually in the B section, so yeah, I’d say you’re on target with the interpretation.

Lyrically and musically, the thing that happened first here was the lyric and melody “tell your teacher I got some bright ideas.”  I don’t at all remember when I came up with that, but whenever it was, I liked it enough to sing it into a voice memo.  At some point when I was writing the songs that eventually came to the studio with me, I went back and listened to a bunch of my old voice memos, and thought this one had decent potential for a song.  I’m glad I picked it, instead of having it still be out there all alone on my phone.  The rest of the song grew from that starting point.

73333452_1884675495010951_4914365222908592128_oDr. J: How did the song come together musically for you?

MB: Oops, I already kind of answered that in the previous question. To give more detail and leave no room for doubt, working from that voice memo I mentioned, I sat down with the bass and built the skeleton of the song… the rhythmic structure, the chords that the guitarist would end up playing.  Next was finishing out the melody, finishing out the lyrics, then double checking with the piano to make sure there were no false steps.  This thing doesn’t come naturally to me like it does to so many musicians.  I really have to WORK to make music, and the way my mind is, I have to understand how something functions in order to use it properly, so i definitely lean pretty hard on what I have learned about music theory when I’m writing.  Specifically when it comes to melody, I find every single note that I plan to sing on the piano, and make sure that it works within the chord structure of the song.  If it doesn’t, I either change the chord that is causing the clash, or pick another note to replace the one in the melody that sounds bad.  It’s definitely not the most organic way to write, and it’s certainly not the most efficient way to write, but that’s my way.  (Insert shrug emoji.)

Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

MB: “Often” is the difficult word in that question, because it’s not a consistent source of inspiration. There are times when there is something I need to say, and I do that by writing a song. There are times when there are feelings that need to be dealt with, and I do that by messing around on bass or piano… sometimes a song comes out of it, sometimes it doesn’t.  (Like David Payne says, it’s ‘Cheaper Than Therapy, though I’m not sure if it’s as effective.)  There are times when I write because I know that I SHOULD, because if you don’t keep writing, you won’t get better.  It’s those times when I try to look at it like a job.  I started my own LLC, a small business around music, so it is very much a second job.  Sometimes on a job, you have to get work done even if you don’t feel like it, so there are indeed times when i don’t feel like writing, but I force myself to write.  I belong to an online songwriting group that has challenges every now and then where you have to write 5 songs in 5 days.  During those challenges, I write whether I’m inspired or not, because that’s the point of the challenge.  Remember when we used to go to shows?  A great show when I’m seeing artists I admire – whether they are from Dayton or a national touring band – a great show has me thinking about writing for the next few days after the show… it’s kind of a like a post-show high for me.  Watching a songwriter I respect do their thing is a massive source of inspiration. I try to learn from the shows I see, from the albums I listen to, from useful criticism, and from advice, if the advice comes from a source I trust.  One piece of advice that I think about now and then came from one of my favorite songwriters, Dan Wilson [Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare].  He’s a Minneapolis guy, so you’re probably familiar with him [Yup! – Dr. J].  He says “if it’s something that you would tell to a friend, it’s something that you can put into a song”… think about the kind of things we talk about with friends… whether it’s our spouse, or close colleague, or lifetime BFF, or someone who is a dear friend that we don’t see so often due to distance.  That’s a lot of material to draw from.

I should also probably add that just because I write a song doesn’t mean anyone else will ever hear it.  I don’t throw away as many ideas or completed songs as I used to, but there are still things that I write that aren’t good enough to be heard by anyone else, and that’s OK.  At the end of the day, I think a songwriter has to write for them-self first.  Write what speaks to you, write what moves you, write something that says what you need to say, write what helps you deal with whatever you need to deal with, be authentic.  Maybe that’s something that nobody else should hear, and if that’s the case, it’s OK.

0020011062_10Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Echo in The Crevices to Little Light to Bright Ideas)?

MB: This sounds like you’re asking for an updated elevator pitch. If you’re not, that’s how I’m going to approach the answer, because I think we artists should always be ready with an elevator pitch.

I make Midwestern indie rock that sounds like a less jocular version of Fountains Of Wayne trying to cover a Guided By Voices song in the style of Superdrag on one of their angsty days.  It usually is guitar-driven, but sometimes features piano.

For how it’s changed since my first album, I’ve been making a conscious effort to write songs that are a bit tighter.  This isn’t a reaction to anyone complaining about long songs, it’s just that I haven’t recently found myself to need 6 minutes or 8 minutes to do what I want to do lyrically and musically.  On my first album, there are some long songs, but there needed to be.  I’ve been feeling less of that need recently. That said, I do kind of want to write a ten minute epic, but I have to find the right music for something like that. I’m also leaning a bit harder on my power pop influences.

a3589681113_10Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Bright Ideas?

MB: I spent February 2019 to February 2020 in the studio. I have 21 songs in various states of having been tracked.  Five of those songs are already out on the Defacing The Moon split.  “Bright Ideas” was also one of those songs.  A bunch more of those songs are going on my second full-length album, which is called Anxious Inventions & Fictions. The album is done, and the compact discs should show up before the end of June.  For the next few months, I’m going to be doing a PR and marketing campaign for the album.  I’d love to hire a company to do that for me, but that’s expensive, so I’ll be going full ‘DIY’.  That’s a great deal of work.  Sadly, I know that I won’t find much time to write new music or even practice my instruments over the next few months.  I’ll try to carve out some practice time here and there.  In order to get any writing done, I’ll have to specifically set writing appointments on my calendar and squeeze in time here and there. I also might release a stand-alone single near the end of this year, and maybe another one next spring.  These would be songs that are already tracked.

Once the album is out, then I will turn attention to another project I have.  I have an outrageously talented co-writer named Ruth who lives in Ipswich, on the East Coast of England.  We have a project called ‘We Met In Paris’ (it works because it’s true), and we have around 25 songs now in various states of completion, and the plan is to keep writing.  No rush here, but we’re definitely going to make an album.  No rush because we want to do it right.  If a song isn’t good enough to go on the album, no worries, we keep writing.  That project is going to have a different sound than my solo work.  It’ll dip maybe a little into indie folk on occasion.  I promised Ruth that I will not make another full solo album until we release a ‘We Met In Paris’ album.  That doesn’t mean I might not run to the studio for the occasional one-off single if I can pull it off quickly, but for a lengthy project like I just finished, yeah, that won’t happen for at least a couple of years.

I’m enthused about ‘We Met In Paris’.  Writing with Ruth feels good.  I see so much potential in the work we’re doing. As long as it keeps feeling good, we should keep writing, while at the same time being sure to make sure we’re making quality art.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances? Do you enjoy Live Streaming?

MB: My favorite song to perform is ‘Promise. Interestingly, that’s the lead single for the next album, and it’ll be out in June. (The single, not the album.)  Part of what I like about it is that it still has that new song shine.  I guess it’s not super new anymore, but I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and playing it is kind of positive reinforcement.  Surely I’m not the only artist that goes through periods of hating everything I create, right?  Well, I haven’t had any of those feelings come up around ‘Promise yet.

I enjoy the Live Streaming very much.  This reminds me that I should do it more often.  I actually get much less nervous doing streaming than playing live in the same room with people.  That said, I miss playing live in the same room as people.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

MB: Honesty. I think that goes for my older stuff, too. Even when the protagonist of a given song is not necessarily me, and even if the song is not meant to reflect an actual real situation (looking at YOU, “Little Light”), the lyrical content should still be honest.  Sure, sometimes as songwriters we write fiction, and that’s OK, as long as it feels true.  I’m probably not expressing this in the best way, but it goes back to authenticity.  When you listen to ‘Bright Ideas, and when you listen to the upcoming Anxious Inventions & Fictions, I hope that you take away a feeling of authenticity.  I wish for people to realize that I’m not trying to chase musical trends or write what’s popular, I am trying to write the music that speaks to me first, and then share my art with others.  That doesn’t mean I will never experiment with playing around with genre or instrumentation, on writing from other points of view, writing in languages that aren’t English… but I wish for people to realize that I’m not pandering to anyone, and that I’m being honest and authentic.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

MB: It’s strange, my life is mostly unaffected, specifically because being a musician isn’t my main source of income yet. I very much wish it to be. There is nothing I would love more than to get a regular paycheck in exchange for writing songs, but I’m not there.  I still have a corporate job.  Since I work that corporate job from home (and I’ve been doing that for a few years), nothing has changed significantly about my work situation yet.  I realize that not everyone can say this, and that I should absolutely reflect on this and be grateful for my situation.  If I were a full-time musician, things would be difficult right now.

The pandemic hasn’t made its way into my art yet.  I’ve noticed that songs about various aspects of the pandemic and its impact have started to be released.  That’s cool if that is what moves a songwriter, but it’s not something I personally want to write about. Maybe in the future that will change, who knows?

I miss live shows.  I can be in a terrible mood, and go see an acoustic performance at Showcase Thursday over at Yellow Cab, and then be in a better mood.  Something about a person and a guitar and a few songs just kind of makes me feel better.  I like the quiet shows.  I like the loud shows as well.

One benefit of the pandemic is that I’ll have ample time to do my promotion campaign for the upcoming album.  I am going to take a week vacation from my corporate job, and of course, I’m not going anywhere.  (Yes, I realize Ohio has opened up, but I’ll still stay at home other than heading to the grocery store, thank you.)  That gives me plenty of time to put in the work.  Not just promotion, but also research and learning more about the business.  I’m also working on getting into sync licensing, and I plan to take some time to run down some leads in that area as well.


Mike Bankhead Music on Facebook     Mike Bankhead on Twitter at @mbankheadmusic

Mike Bankhead on Instagram at MikeBankheadMusic

Thanks again to Mike for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. If you have, a particular picture you would like used in the article, please feel free to attach that as well. All pictures and images of Mike Bankhead courtesy of the artist and photographer Patrick O’Reilly.

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11 Questions with… Seth Canan

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis interview with Seth Canan is the second in our series of ‘11 Questions with…‘. The point here is to learn about area artists and the music that they are making. How are they creating music and especially during these challenging times in which we find ourselves? How artists go about creating music, lyrics, themes, arrangements and more will be explored in this column. We are very excited about the artists who have agreed to participate in this regular series! 

A hearty thank you to all of the artists and musicians for taking the time to answer these questions for this column! We appreciate you answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA!

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We need some back story before diving into the interview with Seth. Lifetime friends, Isaac Schaefer and Seth Canan (pictured here from one of their visits to Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative), started in music by playing local bars in their hometown of Covington, Ohio at the tender age of 15. Throughout High School, they continued to write, play and record compelling music together. While Seth was on his first break from Ohio University, they bumped into their old friend and stellar drummer, Zac Pack, for an unexpected jam. That fun turned into a show. And then from that show they turned into a full-fledged rock band, Seth Canan & The Carriers.

The band released The K Hole Sessions EP in 2016 then in October of that same year their self-titled full length came out. The next year the band released the acoustic Schoonover Sessions and the Pennywise single. In June of 2019, the band released their sophomore album, Strange Forces.

Seth Canan can fool you. His involvement in music goes back far longer than you would suspect. He has been making and performing music since he was a teenager! Of course, one has to wonder about the challenges of being so young and playing in bars and venues where you would not normally find someone at that age. There is no world weariness in Seth even though he has been making music for so long. His humor, good nature and kindness come through in person and in his music. Seth carries a level-headed wisdom learned from spending years in writing and making music. 

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Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released songs, Keep Some Light & Nothing Here Now?

Seth Canan (SC): Nothing Here Now’ was written just before I graduated from Ohio University in May of 2019. The Court Street referenced in the second verse is the same one in Athens, Ohio. Although, I hope for other listeners it’s kinda like in Nightmare on Elm Street 6 how every town has an Elm Street and is, therefore,  accessible to Freddy. Anyways, I was dealing with a rush of emotions looking back on my college experiences. Not only did I go through some painful changes, but my perception of Athens went from the intoxicating magic of a brick-built, Bohemian college town to a much more realistic, and sometimes damning, disposition. After graduation,  I was preparing to come back to my hometown of Covington, Ohio. Similarly, I have such fond memories of my hometown, full of loving and compassionate people. However, I have come to see the much more sinister and problematic sides of it that surely were lurking around when I was still a kid, but was lucky enough not to notice yet. These places that I have felt so close to, felt incredibly distant and strange to me. I didn’t know if they had anything left to inspire me with. They at least inspired one more song for now though. 

0020050143_10Keep Some Light was written sometime in February of this year. I had the first chords of the chorus coming a long for a while before I started really writing it. The only problem was that I kept singing a small part of another song to fill in the spaces. Dr. J, I only share this with you because I know you are a fellow fan [Which is quite true – Dr. J]. But, the very first line of the chorus was inspired by The Who’s ‘Too Much of Anything‘. It turns away from it quickly though so I should be clear from any copyright problems brought on by whoever owns The Who catalog now. But I thought you would enjoy that. Anyways, the chorus came before anything else. I was so happy with it but I was so afraid that it sounded a little corny. I thought maybe it wasn’t the right thing to continue working on.  I even made a Facebook post asking fellow musicians and songwriters what they do when they are faced with the dilemma of using a corny song. I was so delighted to see an outpouring of my peers, some of whom I’ve never actually spoken with, joining in on that conversation. And from the advice I received,  the song needed to be just how it is and I didn’t need to worry about if it’s corny or not. It is what it is. It feels good, it’s valid.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Micah Carli at Popside Recording in Troy, OH, what led to your recording with Micah?

54279518_844150542587995_6985658998640869376_oSC: Micah recorded the first and self-titled Seth Canan & The Carriers album as well as our single for ‘Pennywise’. He consistently does phenomenal work in any genre that might come his way. But, Micah actually mastered the tracks. I had tracked and recorded, mixed, and produced the tracks on my own. After graduation, I started a few Audio/Visual projects (Hayner House Sessions and Trojan City Limits) where I put my music production education to use. I was getting more and more comfortable with my equipment and learning how to trust my ears when I mixed. The band had flirted with the idea of self-recording a couple of times but I just wasn’t confident enough to do so at those times and feared that it would drive me insane. I had such a strong vision with these songs that I couldn’t help but record what I was hearing for them. We did have a couple of projects we wanted to do with Micah with the rest of the band, like possibly a live set in his studio. But, we never moved on those projects as the band became busy.

So, going to Micah for mastering seemed to make the most sense. Mastering is a very delicate, but integral, process and I believe he has a more accurate ear for it than I have.

a4122669733_16Dr. J: Keep Some Light is a meaningful song for all of us dealing with challenges; did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of everyday life when starting to work on that song?

SC: I don’t think I necessarily set out to address the concerns and challenges of everyday life, at least not at first. It began as a feeling very specific to me as it often does. However, I do like to go back and look at how I can rework the lyrics to be more inclusive and inviting for others to attach their own troubles and worries to the song, whatever they may be. 

Dr. J: Keep Some Light also addresses forms of self-doubt – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address overcoming doubt or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

SC: I would say that is a great interpretation of the lyrics. And it is even more fitting that I doubted the song itself from the beginning. But, more specifically to the question, I did intend the song  to be about self-doubt. I wanted to convey someone overwhelmed and shut down by the feeling that everything is either currently falling apart or they’re waiting undoubtedly for it to do so.

Dr. J: How did the song come together musically for you?

SC: It all started with the opening lead-rhythm riff you hear at the beginning. It felt like if Dawes played Celtic music to me. Zac had recently purchased a Gryphon, which has a similar tonal flavor to a mandolin, but set up like a tiny 12-string guitar. I played the intro on that thing and I instantly knew that was what it was supposed to have. As far as drums go, I would come home from work everyday to try and work it out. My neighbors had to be so sick of it. I feel that no matter when I get behind a drum kit, AC/DC’s Phil Rudd is always in mind. Keep it simple and don’t try to spice it up when the song calls for a solid backbone. It’s got to swing and have a feel that makes you have a stank face when playing. I’m not much of a drummer at all, but the part I finally worked out seemed fitting to me. The rest of the instrumentation came as I laid them down. I knew that the instrumental/bridge section needed to feel big. One of my favorite ways to do that is with 12-string guitars panned left and right with some “guitarmonies” dancing together in the center.

98999659_2986924921361346_5885076321985363968_oDr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

SC: Once things get to the actual musical side of things, I don’t usually have a problem feeling inspired. Most of the time, the simple fact that I am wielding something that can make emotional noise as soon as the volume knob gets turned up is enough to put me there. However, the lyrical side of things is a bit more frustrating and delicate. I can go weeks or months without feeling the inspiration. I certainly try to muster it up sometimes with little success. But, when I feel truly, lyrically inspired, it’s like all the random forces align themselves and calm the air. I can finally sort through my thoughts and get to what I really am trying to say down on paper. It just begins to flow. Still haven’t found out how to make that happen on command. But, maybe it’s better that I haven’t.

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Strange Forces to Keep Some Light & Nothing Here Now)?

SC: I typically create music that is rooted in rock, driven by guitar, and often more melancholy themes covered by a catchy chorus. These don’t seem so different from that to me, except that maybe I put a little more driving force behind the vocals and emphasis behind the lyrics. What was most different was the process. For me, this felt like a return to my more innocent musical endeavors as a teenager where I would come home from school and try to piece together a song all on my own with the little bit of recording gear I had. Just like then, I was alone in the creative space for these tunes. But now, the technical side of that creative space has received an upgrade and I have a much better understanding of what I’m doing on the recording side of things. 

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Keep Some Light & Nothing Here Now?

SC: I’m not really sure what is next. I am beginning to produce music for some other artists as well, which is very exciting for me. As far as the band goes, we have been discussing the possibility of doing another album as a self-produced venture. We have a couple of ideas in the works that could be ready to track soon. But, I am always conscious that self-producing is a different beast that has its own pros and cons. Certainly with the band, having someone as talented,  knowledgeable and kind as Patrick Himes or Micah Carli behind the board can help reel in the band’s focus and mojo tremendously.   

I also have a couple more tunes that, like the single songs, feel more suited for a solo route. I enjoyed the challenge of performing all the parts on the single. However, there are a lot of talented people in Dayton that I often think of when I hear a part or style that would fit in the song I’m writing. So, I would definitely love to collaborate with some of these folks.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?

SC: My favorite song to perform right now is probably Inside the Glass. It’s one that everyone in the band gets to have a little fun on. It’s feel and groove is a lot different from anything else we do. That’s one where we sometimes syncopate perfectly and sometimes it clanks in the coolest way.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

SC: I suppose one message I hope they find is that when life presents us with so many situations where we feel overwhelmed and totally out of control, it’s important to recognize that feeling and express it. However, remind yourself of the things that keep you going and hungry to fight for your truth and your good.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

SC: I’ve been fortunate enough to have audio engineering/recording projects to keep me occupied. Trojan City Limits is especially a response to Coronavirus taking away live events. It’s been an absolute blast working with John Hendry, Gary Pelini, and Phil Doncaster on that program. I also did a little late night acoustic live stream where I played some covers. The band has just recently started to jam together again. With no shows to speak of yet, we are focusing on sharpening new original ideas. As things open up, we hope to have an opportunity to safely play for a live crowd soon. All things considered, the break we took has put a little bit of fire back into the band. We’re ready to work. 

Follow Seth Canan & The Carriers on Instagram!   You can also follow them on Twitter.

Check out Seth Canan & The Carriers music on Bandcamp!


Thanks again to Seth for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. If you have, a particular picture you would like used in the article, please feel free to attach that as well. All pictures and images of Seth Canan courtesy of the artist.

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11 Questions with Amber Hargett

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis essay marks our inaugural new YTAA series: ’11 questions with…’. The idea is to learn about the artist and how they create, compose and make artwork in the present moment. We have approached several bands and artists to answer some questions about their latest music, a song that they have recently worked on and how they are managing the current extraordinary challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A hearty thank you to all of the artists and musicians for taking the time to answer these questions! We appreciate you answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA!

A few days ago, Dr. J reached out to Dayton powerhouse singer, songwriter and guitarist Amber Hargett to answer our first ’11 Questions with…’ column. If you do not know, where have you been? No, seriously Amber Hargett released the acclaimed record Paper Trail‘ at the end of March 2019. The artist’s first record included songs with emotional heft ‘Carolina Blue’, surviving the challenges of everyday life ‘Broke’, and the power of real authentic head over heels love ‘Fallin’ for You’ among several other stellar tracks.

HORIZONTAL NAMEMore recently, Amber has finished a new song, Painting Pictures, that addresses several important features of the calling to create music and art. We want to extend our deep appreciation for Amber for answering these questions!

Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released song, Painting Pictures?

Amber Hargett (AH): I spent the first five or six weeks of quarantine in a weird funk. I needed rest, anyway. But I had been struggling to find any motivation to pick up my guitar, write, or perform. One night I couldn’t sleep and started thinking of the kindred spirits I knew who were probably up, too – struggling with expressing their feelings, but determined to keep creating. I wound up staying up until 4 a.m. to finish the song.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio, what led to your recording with Patrick?

AH: Back in January, I booked studio time for a single (‘Shine On’) in March and additional dates to begin an EP in May. The pandemic led to an automatic cancellation of the March dates, but when May approached and I had new material, Patrick and I felt we could work together safely. We were both eager to get back to work.

a0025564858_16Dr. J: Painting Pictures is a meaningful song for those involved in creative work/pursuits; did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of artists/musicians/creatives when starting to work on that song?

AH: I guess so. The very first line I wrote was, “I’m down here writing music that nobody’s gonna hear.” Because that’s exactly where I was – in a basement, at 1:00 a.m., alone, writing a tune that I was never sure would see the light of day. Every song feels that way at some point. But then I thought of Megan Fiely, my friend and amazing artist, and how she probably felt the same way sometimes about her paintings. I actually completed the third verse of the song first, with her in mind.

Dr. J: Painting Pictures also addresses other forms of work – for example service – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address many forms of work or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

AH: Yes, absolutely. My husband is a commercial construction foreman. He hasn’t missed a single day of work for the sake of his health during Ohio’s Stay At Home order. (Except for vacation days I begged him to take, just for mental health and rest.) The idea that SOME work is “essential” and other work is not was a big topic of discussion in our house. Nick called himself “an expendable essential worker”, to express his frustration with the fact he was required to work and finish building a hotel for a major chain. That really stuck in my craw, as they say. While we are very grateful for the steady income, we both struggled with the fact that Nick was expected to keep on working – at the risk of his health – for something that seemed like it could wait?

On the other hand, I felt as though artists and songwriters and such were just considered unimportant during these times. For me and my cohorts, it is unlikely unemployment will ever be granted, yet I’ve already lost a couple thousand dollars in promised gigs and in merchandise costs that I doubt I’ll recoup. I guess the main point is: everyone’s work is essential. It all matters. If you’re writing songs, building infrastructure, creating art, or serving and ministering to your own family or the community, it’s all essential.

0020197789_10Dr. J: How did the song come together musically for you? I began with writing lines that would fit the cadence of the last line of each verse, and then worked backwards to create a “character” for each segment of the song.

AH: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music? Oh boy. Many sources. Sometimes it’s my most passionate opinions on a sensitive subject, (like ‘Churchmouse’), personal experiences, or it’s observational, like in Painting Pictures. I also like the challenge of stepping inside someone else’s shoes and trying to present their voice through a song – but only if I have something personal to lend to it. Otherwise I think it would feel disingenuous. Listening to other people’s music is also a huge pathway to writing new music. Especially LIVE music! Experiencing someone else’s work is a constant source of inspiration. A sound, a chord change, a vocal moment, or its presentation often sparks something in my brain to take home.

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Paper Trail to Painting Pictures)?

AH: Well, Paper Trail was really a “catching up” project, composed mostly of songs that existed for several years. I dusted them off and “hodge-podged” a record together. I liken it to making a quilt out of scrap fabric. Don’t get me wrong! I love how she turned out. But it was also my first fully-produced recording experience, so there was a learning curve.

Since then, I would say there has been more of a change in me as an artist than in the writing or creative process. I feel myself maturing and growing more comfortable calling myself a songwriter. I’ve finally begun to embrace it, and I think that shows.

Recording ‘Painting Pictures’ was such a pleasure because Patrick and I had already established a great working chemistry both in the studio and as band-mates. It was also the first time I was writing something especially relevant, so I felt more of an urgency to share it. There was a time I would have sat on the song and poked holes in it a few months before I dared record it.

100731620_3890002181041330_5834964301433012224_oDr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Painting Pictures?

AH: The next project will be unlike what I’ve done so far. It will be an EP featuring a collection of songs that feel connected to one another, and with a sound that suggests they come from another time. My artistic vision for this work is far more specific and I can’t wait to get started. The grouping will include ‘Churchmouse’ which is by far my heaviest writing yet, but a piece I feel is incredibly important for me to take to a fully-produced form. Overall, the EP will have a darker tone, but it will still contain glimmers of hope and light. Something I intend to be true of the majority of my writing and performances.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?

AH: In a solo set, I think Somebody Loves You will always be my favorite song to perform. It is the first song I memorized, and I think it’s because I feel it’s message is the most important. Once in a while I can hear the crowd sing the phrase and it moves me to tears.

With the band? Probably ‘Without You’. That song is the prayer of my heart and one of the most personal from Paper Trail. Fun fact: Brian Greaney insists that song go on every set list! Ha ha!

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

AH: That they are loved, seen and appreciated.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

AH: From a business perspective? I am forcing myself to apply my 10+ years experience s174958706945291087_p3_i1_w1815in advertising and branding (in my past life) to promote myself and the new music. I eternally loathe this part of being an artist. But, the quarantine did offer me time to get an online merch store up and running, which helps out here and there.

Musically, it is harder to find inspiration. The loss of live shows is definitely taking a toll on the inspiration bank. But I have also taken some of this time to reach out to my other artist friends and encourage them to keep doing their thing. I think the community here is looking out for one another in big ways, and that encourages me! It will make our reunions that much sweeter.

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Amber is playing a safe socially distancing show at The Yellow Cab Tavern tonight! Please check with Yellow Cab regarding their procedures for a fun and safe event! Then on Saturday, May 30th, Amber is joining other luminaries of the Dayton Music Scene for a virtual concert, Tip Jar: A Show of Thanks to benefit hospitality workers.

Thanks again to Amber for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. If you have, a particular picture you would like used in the article, please feel free to attach that as well. All pictures and images of Amber Hargett courtesy of the artist.

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Amber Hargett on Bandcamp     Amber Hargett on Facebook

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