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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Joey Beach’s new song with a purpose

On the Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative program today we are playing a terrific new song ‘Come Outside‘ from the forthcoming ‘Horrible World’ album from Manray’s Joey Beach courtesy of the fine folks at REALLYREAL RECORDINGS. We are excited about new music from Joey but are especially moved that he is taking the opportunity to support the family of Simon Kingston who was taken from us far too early.

Joey is running a preorder on his two-track 7” (‘Come Outside’ and ‘Horrible World’ and all profits are going straight to the Simon Kingston Memorial Fund. So, listen to the program today and get a peek at new music from Joey and consider supporting a most worthy cause!

YTAA Past Guests: Neo-American Pioneers

Neo American Pioneers visited Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative on August 14, 2018! The band joined us for an interview and were kind enough to play a few songs for us! Happy to report that they are hard at work on a new record!

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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Interview Part 2 with Charlie & Amanda

It was a real pleasure to talk with Charlie and Amanda about their music! The new record ‘The King & Queen of Dayton Country‘ is available this Saturday! You can follow them on Facebook! Their CD release is happening this Saturday at the Yellow Cab Tavern. Check the Yellow Cab Tavern’s page for information regarding the social distancing requirements and policies.

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Interview with Charlie & Amanda Part 1!

Part one of our interview with Charlie & Amanda Jackson about their new record, ‘The King & Queen of Dayton Country,’ recording, songwriting and their approach to music. We can consider this record to be a powerful return to a classic country duet sound that has been missing for quite some time. Check out their Facebook page! You can find their music on bandcamp! They are playing a safe outdoor show at the Yellow Cab Tavern on Saturday! Please check the Yellow Cab Tavern’s page regarding their policies for a social distancing outdoor show!

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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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‘Slide It My Way’ – The Great Serpent Mound of Ohio

The Great Serpent Mound of Ohio Band has been hard at work on a new record. Today’s video of the day comes from this terrific Dayton, Ohio band! Their upcoming album “De Temporum” (2020) on WoodyFaz Records promises to be a compelling new release!

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Video of The Day: Kyleen Downes

Our video of the day comes courtesy of Dayton songwriter, guitarist and all around cool person Kyleen Downes. This new song ‘Tiny Little Table‘ is from the album ‘Come On Sit Down’ which comes out tomorrow – June 12th! Check on the record at Kyleen’s store! What is more is that she is live streaming a release show tonight on her homepage!

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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.


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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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