This song captures the feeling of being out of sorts and managing, maybe just barely. How often do we find ourselves in situations where we are ‘just getting by’. Perhaps today that feels all the more real to us. When Seth sings about wearing ‘Saturday’s shirt on a Sunday morning’ – that is a feeling or actual decision that we all can understand. This personal music helps us reflect on feeling being wrong. But there is a joy in the song that we can move on and feel better, do better, be more than what we were in the past.
This 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!
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.
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.
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.
‘Keep 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?
SC: 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.
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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.
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 email@example.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.
The whole Maganaphone / Reel Love Studio or as I refer to them “Dayton’s own awesome Wrecking Crew” is going to be well-covered in a list for 2019! To be honest there are probably multiple crossover’s on local lists, but I’m going off the grid here with my faves that are IN ADDITION to the amazing music coming out of Reel Love.
Let’s start with the NON LOCAL NOD’S:
“Who” by The Who was an incredible return to form!
“Let’s Rock” by Black Keys* (*see nod to the Gabbard bros on my local list to tie this in.) was a powerful record.
“Internet Arms” by Diane Coffee was mesmerizing while sound fresh and connected to musical past and traditions.
“In the Morse Code of Brake Lights” by The New Pornographers was a biting record with melody and energy. (NOTE: January 29, Diane Coffee joins up with The New Pornographers as openers on the current tour!)
LOCAL NOD’S: The Gabbard Brothers have had a head-spinning year, together and separately.
Joining the touring band of The Black Keys on the “Lets Rock” tour did not slow them down on self releases. I will do my best to count them all, and it’s A LOT!
Under the artist name Strawberry Tapes, he released “Strawberry Tapes “Vol. 1” “
As Andy Gabbard he released the following:
“Cedar City Sweetheart” and performed live as “Andy Gabbard and the Cool Ranchers”
With M.Ross Perkins, Andy created the digital release of “Gabbard + Perkins” a self titled sweet LP, featuring local favorite “Donuts at Bills”, a love note to the Centerville, Ohio institution, Bills Donuts.
With Gabbard Brothers (Zack + Andy)
Single digital release, “Sell Your Gun, Buy A Guitar” was published while they toured in The Black Keys which tells you a little something about their fantastic work ethic and ability to craft a great song.
Zach Gabbard: One of the many Gabbard Brothers productions from Zach’s Madison, Ohio farm studio, “Howler Hills”, comes his latest project “Sunday Creek Fed Birds”, released on the Gabbard Brothers home label, Sofaburn.
Other fave local releases from this past year included:
Black Sire self titled LP “Black Sire”
Seth Canan and Carriers “Strange Forces”
From D.Robins (Derl) Overthought Musik label comes the amazing “Album”, the brain child of Robins for the first annual “Local Music Day” event. This LP features many favorite local artists as guest vocalists and instrumentalists in roles you would not expect.
Another fave is all the Overthought Musik releases of Derl’s, (D.Robins), self performed and produced projects recorded under his pen name “Peopleperson”, he set out between March and September of 2019 to re-release his past work, as he states, “for your pleasure/confusion.” His trademark Dayton Surf sound, as we came to love in The Motel Beds days, is ever present in the Dayton Music Scene, but with more electronica thrown in for good measure.
Over on the Gas Daddy Go label, the mind bending, sonic collage, “Land Baron of Barren Lands” from Don Thrasher’s electronic music project Crossfade Rivals was something to behold. A sound collage featuring a veritable powerhouse of local musicians.
The Rockathon Label is still churning out more GBV releases than I can count (or afford), 3 GBV LP’s (Zeppelin Over China was a double LP), and Pollard side project as “Cash Rivers” rounds out 2019. GBV closes out the decade with a sold out NYE show in LA at the Teragram Ballroom tackling a 100 song set list. This team always wins at the rock games. GBV records will be on my top records lists every year, because they never stop.
Self released “Mobile Juke House Theater” by blues phenom, Noah Wotherspoon also needs to be included on a ‘Best Of’ list for the year.
From Poptek Records comes the long awaited, sophomore release from XL427, “Thee Attack”. Although officially release date is in January of ’20, digital releases have been served up via bandcamp during the pre-order phase. This attack was well worth the wait from bandleader and label runner, Andy Ingram.
So about the Reel Love / Magnaphone tsunami, I’ll step out for a second and tell all of you that I love all the faves that will be mentioned repeatedly on other lists (Amber Hargett, Dave Payne, and the like dominating the scene at the moment, I have to speak some of these titles, lest I blaspheme in the temple, number one being “Easy Is the New Hard” by Shrug).
And I still get a huge endorphin rush from “The Transformation of Salvador Ross”.
Fun fun fun from John Dubuc’s Guilty Pleasures “Where Have I Been All Your Life” and the debut LP from The Paint Splats. (DANG IT, I said I wouldn’t overlap into Reel Love/ Magnaphone but it’s too hard not to do that when the music coming out from them is so good.) Okay, since I crossed over, I will end with this last fave, “Sympathetic Buzz” from the Tim Pritchard project, Superbloom.
Shelly Hulce is THE Gladgirl in the Dayton Music Community who in addition to creating and promoting a wide variety of shows and specialty experiences, she writes about music, started Story Slam and related Story Telling in Dayton and is an active radio presence throughout the Miami Valley including as a DJ on WSWO Oldies 97.3 FM. She is a Freelance AFCI Certified Film Commissioner. Her artwork is also featured at local exhibitions and of course, cool rock concerts and shows. She is on twitter at @TheGladGirl.
Well, here we are, the end of another year is upon us. If you’re like I am, you are fighting to break out of your self-imposed echo chamber which you have ensconced yourself in and (possibly) you are thoroughly convinced life as you know it is falling apart. Yes, 2019 has been one of “those” years. As we all watch the worlds political systems, economies and climates stretch and strain under the forces that be, it is easy to fall into a state of hopelessness and despair. For a great many of us, however, the thing that keeps us upright and a productive part of society is an unnatural reliance upon popular music, rock n roll in particular, and the almost mystical way it seems to be able to make life bearable. Almost like a gigantic connective web covering the world, for those of us who are tuned in, music is the prime mover, the voice of generations, the highest form of expression and ultimately, the reason behind it all. Like legendary Who guitarist Pete Townsend said, “… the elegance of pop music [is] that it [is] reflective: we were holding up a mirror to our audience and reflecting them philosophically and spiritually, rather than just reflecting society or something called ‘rock n roll.’” Indeed, this is the way it was then when The Who was at the forefront of new music and the way it still is now.
Fortunately for almost everyone, I am not prone to writing long pieces extemporaneously, but initially and for reasons unknown, I was asked by my friend Art Jipson, (a Dayton Ohio music legend in his own right), to write a small piece on what I have been listening to this past year and write a couple of review lines about each of the artists. Not being someone who routinely turns legends down, I agreed to the project and found that in attempting to put the piece together I was forced into deep water asking myself why was it exactly I was listening to what I was listening to. Why was I drawn to things I was drawn to and what did they truly mean to me? The truth is, I’m not sure I came up with any solid answers and I definitely did no music reviewing in the process of writing this article, but here are some things I think are worth mentioning.
2019, for all intents and purposes, was a year of great turmoil in the United States. Social upheaval and political division was at an all time high and I have found that with only a few notable exceptions, artists from previous eras have become suddenly and starkly relevant again in a way that has never happened for many of us before. For instance, 2019 saw the release of the album Colorado by Neil Young, which is objectively an amazing piece of artistry and social commentary. Take into evidence the song “Shut It Down” where the venerable Mr. Young sings:
“All around the planet There’s a blindness that just can’t see Have to shut the whole system down They’re all wearing climate change As cool as they can be”
I was, and am, immediately drawn to this album for reasons other than just being a decidedly die hard and zealous Neil Young fan. There are things afoot which we haven’t dealt with in many years and they are starting to show in the edges of the musical spectrum of rock-n-roll.
The Drive By Truckers, the die hard stalwart hardest working rock band in the business, this year released a single and a teaser for they upcoming album with the titles being respectively, Perilous Night and Armageddon’s Back In Town. My friends, there are things moving, whether you want them to or not, which we have not seen in many years. In Perilous Night, Patterson Hood sings:
“Dumb, white and angry with their cup half filled
Running over people down in Charlottesville
White House Fury, it’s the killing side, he defends
Defend the up-ender, yes he played that tune
it ain’t the ending but it’s coming soon
We’re making love beneath a sputnik moon again
White House is glowing from the Red Square light
The gates at the border being slammed down tight
We’re moving into the perilous night, my friend”
These are heady and potentially dangerous times, and Rock N Roll, maybe even all of pop music, is standing in the gap ice again ready to take up the cause. Yes, there were many albums released this year and singles which have absolutely nothing to do with the general climate in the world, for instance (and I am showing my age here) Juliana Hatfield, and Swervedriver both released albums this past year. However, I find myself continually drawn back to music which is speaking to our times, even when those times are from years which have seemingly passed out of relevance.
Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Drive By Truckers are all in my rotation on a constant basis now because they are in the process of capturing a point in time for me. I need to post a disclaimer for everyone who has made it this far in the article. I am not living some sort of 60’s battle reenactment; (This is a line from a Frank Turner song, if you don’t know him you should look him up). I am suddenly and very acutely aware at this point in history we, in this country, and on this planet, are watching huge tectonic plates grinding and moving against one another in a way that has not been seen in many many moons. Put your antenna up friends, the truth is out there and it’s starting to be sung about out on the fringes.
Ultimately, however, and when I finally pull my mind away from the morass of the public spectacle in front of us, I gravitate back towards the people and places I love and am familiar with. For instance, local bands Like Seth Canan and The Carriers, The Boxcar Suite and the 1984 Draft. Artists like Charlie Jackson and Amber Hartgett, and really everything Patrick Himes touches, are always somewhere in my headspace leaving sonic trails through the synapses. I miss Tom Petty more and more every day and wish I could let it all go again but did you hear? Rage Against the Machine is coming back for one more go. Coincidence? I suspect as we roll into the next year we will see an even greater resurgence of politically and socially charged music and lyrics and I for one think it is long overdue. In this case, hindsight is truly 2020.