What is your favorite key/mode to write in?
I tend to write songs in A, in fact I think at least half the songs on Watershed are in A, because of where the break in my voice is. It’s right around G and A, so writing in A puts me in the middle of my range most of the time and I can really use the break in my voice intentionally to create more dynamics.
What is your favorite gig you’ve played so far?
My parents and I did a series of house shows throughout the summer of 2021. We did them once a month out in our backyard either in the old barn on our property or right in front of it on the grass. The last two we did were inside the barn as it was later in the year and not warm enough to do outside. We were lucky enough to have Lillie Mae and her band come and do a semi-private show and we opened for them, right in our own backyard. It was a really special night and I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity.
What role does music play in your life?
Making music is a cornerstone in nearly every facet of my life. It’s the reason I know most of the people I now consider friends. It’s been an amazing way to be able to see the world and meet new people. Songwriting has allowed me to understand myself better. It’s a lens for understanding history. It’s impossible to really say what role it plays because it permeates everything I do like water in a sponge.
What is your favorite book/show/movie lately?
I’ve been getting very into sci-fi lately, and I’ve been watching so much Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m low key obsessed with it, plus the new show Strange New Worlds has also been really great so far. I also watched the 2021 Dune movie recently and totally fell in love with it in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I bought the book and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I also read Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series, and have been in love with that as well. I didn’t realize that so much sci-fi had so many socialist, queer, and generally progressive undertones until I started watching Star Trek. I always thought sci-fi was Star Wars, but in many ways Star Wars isn’t really sci-fi at all. So it’s been really fun to explore.
Do you have any rituals that you do before/during recording?
I’ve never been a particularly ritualistic person. I certainly have habits, but I’ve never given them much thought. I think it’s easy to see recording as some magical thing, but I think many of the iconic recordings we all know and love were done much more casually than we imagine. It’s important to rehearse before recording, unless you have a cracker jack band of session musicians, and most of the time i’m recording songs that I’ve been performing for quite a while so I already know how I want it to sound and feel. So it’s just about being in a good head space and feeling physically well. I think my perspective is biased because my dad and I do all our recording at our home studio, so I’m in a space where I’m already very comfortable and there’s no clock running or money being spent.
What makes lyrics good?
I think it’s about finding a balance between being unpretentious, but still respecting your listener and trusting them to be able to find meaning in seemingly straightforward words. I think John Prine was a master of this, and listening to his music has had a really profound impact on my approach to lyric writing. I used to hide behind more obtuse lyrics, but listening to his music has inspired me to try to find a way of saying things directly and literally while conveying something deeper at the same time.
How do you know when a song is finished? Is it ever?
Digging into Bob Dylan more seriously has really changed my understanding of this. I had a friend who once said that Bob Dylan does the best Bob Dylan covers, and I think that’s a great way of putting it. I love that songs change and evolve over time. The studio version of a song is just that - a version. For most of human history, songs were not set in stone but changed with whoever was singing them. It was never the same twice. And I think that ephemerality is a reflection of life more broadly. I’m not who I was yesterday, and I’m certainly not who I was a year ago, so why would my songs be?
What sacrifices have you made to follow your dreams?
I’m very hesitant to play into the idea of the “starving artist” or the idea that one has to make sacrifices to make art. I think that narrative is rooted in a very puritanical way of looking at the world. There are choices I’ve made to structure my life in a way that is conducive to serious music-making, specifically the fact that my partner and I live with my family. although I don’t see that as a sacrifice at all because we are incredibly fortunate to have not only a home that can accommodate everyone comfortably and with privacy, but to have a family that we can happily live with and who are beyond supportive. Maybe someday there will be an actual sacrifice, but again, I hesitate to put it in such a light.
What is an object from a movie or tv show you wish existed in real life?
I can't decide between a replicator or a transporter. Probably a replicator.
The music industry evolves so quickly. What do you think is the best way for people to find new music?
I think it’s important to resist having all your taste regulated by algorithms. There are plenty of great songs and artists that have been presented to me by algorithmic Spotify playlists, or Reels/TikTok, but those algorithms will also back you into a corner as far as your taste. They want you to be predictable and easy to show more content to, which means that you’ll end up listening to music that kind of all sounds the same. I love to listen to independent, DJ-driven radio, where the DJs are really tastemakers, finding cool music across genres and fitting it together in a way that still flows but is diverse. Any kind of human-driven curatorial outlet that jibes with what you’re generally into is a great way to support independent artists and independent media.
Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
I recently got my friends to start coming over to play badminton. Most of my friends are musicians, so the default social activity is shows, but sometimes it’s hard to get to really know people by going to shows because you can’t talk as much. It’s been so fun to play badminton, which is hard enough to be satisfying when you get good at it, but it’s not too hard to get good at. So it’s been really fun to just change things up and enjoy being outside and in each other’s company. I also really enjoy cooking when I have the time. And I love to play clawhammer banjo and sing old folk songs. I know it’s technically music, but it’s sort of unrelated to the music that I do seriously so it’s a nice way to get back to the roots of just sitting and playing songs without the baggage that comes with songwriting or rehearsing with my band.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician has given you?
This is something that has stuck with me for a long time: Mitski went to my college, SUNY Purchase, and one year she was playing at the annual music festival that the student organization puts on every year. While she was there she gave a masterclass/lecture to the Music & Technology program that I was in. She said that getting to where she is now, or was 5 years ago, is like kicking at a wall every single day. If you compare the progress from one day to the next, you won’t notice a difference. But eventually you’ll notice that you’ve made a dent. And you just have to keep at it and know that the dent will only get bigger as you keep kicking. It’s not something you’ll notice overnight, but when you compare your current situation to where you started, you’ll see the difference.