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Do you associate a certain color, smell, or even taste/flavor with certain songs?
Every song on Shut Up and Be the Light is paired with a type of donut. Each of the 6 singles released before the album have a donut photograph to go with them on the maxi-single cover art. It was very intentional. The look of the donuts directly relate to the songs. All the album and single photography was shot by Niki Fandel (https://njfandel.com/).
What is your favorite key/mode to write in?
The key of D. Minor. The saddest of all keys.
If you could design the perfect concert line-up, what would it be? You can choose to include yourself or not.
The Beatles would open. Spinal Tap would middle and play only 2 songs. Prince would headline. The show would be over by 10 pm. The bar would only serve milk and cookies.
What is your favorite gig you’ve played so far?
JATK hasn’t played live yet! We’re finally making our live debut in 2022.
What is your songwriting style?
My songwriting style is all over the place because I don’t usually sit down and think about genre or even production while I’m writing. I just write and see what happens. Rarely do I go in with any preconceptions. That said, I do think a lot of my songs are heavy on melody, vocal harmony, and if it’s a rock song, those guitars better be HUGE!
Do you have any odd stories about how a song came about?
A lot of songs come to me in dreams. There are a handful on the album that I just woke up humming and had to get up and record them. “Ride the Wind” and “Leave You” come to mind. That’s a fairly frequent thing that’s been happening over the past few years. I’m grateful for it because it takes the hard work out of songwriting in a way. All I have to do is remember the idea long enough to get out of bed. I’ve let some really good ideas go because I was too tired to get up when they hit me, so I try to force myself to chase those ideas when they come.
What is your favorite book/show/movie lately?
Most recently I rewatched all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films after seeing his latest, Licorice Pizza. Watching all his films in succession was inspiring because they’re so varied and some are quite ambitious. Some have a tone where you’re like “Oh this is totally a Paul Thomas Anderson film” and some you might not even guess he was involved. I appreciate directors, artists, and producers who can get out of the way and let the material be what it is without being terribly heavy-handed all the time, even though they still have a style and sensibility. It’s something I aspire to do with my music and something I had in mind while making Shut Up and Be the Light.
How do you know when a song is finished? Is it ever?
Sometimes you just have to say a song is finished, otherwise you’ll work on it forever. “Making Love Til We’re Breaking Up” is a song on the album I’ve been working on since 2015. It still doesn’t feel finished but I made the decision to say it’s finished. I’m glad I did - it’s one of my favorite songs on the album and was really fun to record because we got live string and horn players involved. But is it really done-done? No. I still hear about a dozen different versions of it in my head every time I play it.
What message do you want your fans to take away from your music?
The album title is Shut Up and Be the Light and that’s something I’d like more people to do. There’s a lot of noise out there. Sometimes you need to shut up and do something good instead of spending your time and energy talking about everything that’s bad.
What is an object from a movie or tv show you wish existed in real life?
I wish transporters and food replicators from Star Trek were real. I believe we’ll develop that technology some day. So many other Star Trek technologies have already come to be in real life (cell phones, iPads, nanomedicine), so why not these? It’s just a matter of time. Until then, we’ll be stuck commuting and preparing food. Some day we will be free of such mundane tasks to unlock our truest potential as human beings – to sit around with nothing to do but watch more episodes of Star Trek.
The music industry evolves so quickly. What do you think is the best way for people to find new music?
I think the best way to find new music is to go to shows. Go early enough to see the opening act. Go see local artists. Heck, even go see a show you’re only mildly interested in or you’ve never heard of the bands - you may be surprised. Spending time with music in person is powerful and an ideal way to engage. As live music comes back, it’s something we can start doing again, which is fantastic.
What’s the best piece of advice another musician has given you?
If you’re losing your voice, eat an entire green bell pepper before you go on stage and you’ll be cured.
I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. But I love the advice.
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