by Danielle Holian
For our readers, please describe your musical background.
It’s pretty diverse! I grew up studying classical piano from ages 5-17, classical organ from 13-17, and rock/jazz guitar from 9 – 21. I went to NYU for Jazz Guitar and graduated there in 2001, and spent the next decade fronting the indie emo punk band Nakatomi Plaza in addition to freelancing with other artists and bands in NYC
Who or what are your influences?
Musically my foundation is in The Beatles. Beyond that, I’m pretty much a sponge for just about anything: Elliott Smith, Nada Surf, Neil Young, Van Halen, DIY punk rock, and hardcore, etc.
Tell us a bit about the songwriting process of your brand new EP Animals?
All the songs were written during a particularly tough time my wife and I were having together in 2014/2015. Ours was a long distance and (on again, off again) open marriage and that can be really tough to navigate when you factor in love, sex, jealousy, intimacy, etc. She actually co-wrote a couple of the lyrics on the record and I think it was therapeutic for both of us to channel that energy into something creative.
What has been a highlight in your career so far?
I play with the Grammy award-winning band A Great Big World. In 2014 we toured the world all year-long and capped it off with a performance on Sesame Street. Grover was air-guitaring to my solo, and I got a picture with Oscar The Grouch! Other highlights include Nakatomi meeting Propagandhi on tour in Winnipeg and them showing up at our show that night or the time we opened up for Fugazi at MacRock, any late night TV show A Great Big World has played, and developing relationships with companies like Fender and Boss who’s instruments and gear I have been using since I was a kid. Professionally and creatively I’m very happy. I’ve also produced hundreds of songs for the YouTube Audio Library; it doesn’t hurt to tell your folks that you have a gig with Google!
Where can someone view your music?
What advice would you give to aspiring singer/songwriters?
Write all the time. You have to write some bad songs in order to get to the good ones. And writing is like anything else; it’s a muscle you need to workout consistently. Try to connect with other writers; it’ll open up creative and professional avenues you might not have thought were possible. Learn other people’s songs! I am grateful for the time I have spent playing weddings and other cover gigs because it allowed me to get inside some of the best songs ever written and immerse myself in what makes them connect with so many people.
How has your music evolved since you began?
I’m getting comfortable with the idea that I’m a creative mixtape of sorts. I like to play and produce different music and that’s totally ok. I love writing introspective quiet songs and I also love playing loud distorted bass. And next, to that, I’m also learning banjo and mandolin and would have never though Appalachian music would resonate with me. But it totally does and I get a lot of joy from practicing the banjo. All that said, with Albis I do try to keep the focus on Elliott Smith type melodies, Nada Surf type dynamics, and everything Neil Young ever played on a guitar. This is much different from the music Nakatomi Plaza played which had its roots in bands like Fugazi and Quicksand.
What else can we expect from you in the future?
I have a new single out now called Heart Troll that you can stream on my Soundcloud page. And in December and January, I plan on starting the next Albis record.
Any last words?
Don’t give up. Professionally, personally, spiritually, and politically. Keep moving.