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.
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.
The band released The K Hole Sessions EP in 2016 then in October of that same year their self-titled full length came out. The next year the band released the acoustic Schoonover Sessions and the Pennywise single. In June of 2019, the band released their sophomore album, Strange Forces.
Seth Canan can fool you. His involvement in music goes back far longer than you would suspect. He has been making and performing music since he was a teenager! Of course, one has to wonder about the challenges of being so young and playing in bars and venues where you would not normally find someone at that age. There is no world weariness in Seth even though he has been making music for so long. His humor, good nature and kindness come through in person and in his music. Seth carries a level-headed wisdom learned from spending years in writing and making music.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.