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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