by Danielle Holian
For our readers, please describe your musical background.
I’m basically self-taught, with a smattering of theory courses and more formal learning. I have had a passion for music my entire life, instilled in me by my father, who is a connoisseur of classic rock and, as of late, certain kinds of dance pop. I played in my high school coffeehouses all throughout my time there and was a proud member of my college’s only pirate-themed acapella group (the sea-thieving singing demographic has really taken a hit in recent years) and now, of course, I have this band. So, nothing too out of the ordinary.
Who or what are your influences?
Oh, I have loads. At my core, I’m an old fashioned Freddie King kinda guy, but I listen to lots of stuff these days and it all seeps in a little. Sylvan Esso, Chet Atkins, Warren Zevon, Lightning Hopkins, Paul Simon. I like to think I make music like Fleet Foxes, but I guess everyone has their fantasies.
Tell us a bit about the background and songwriting process of your debut album The Age of Envy.
Well the project got started basically when my sister, who’s the head of my record label, asked if I wanted to sign, and I said yes, and then I realized I’d have to actually write something. I had a handful of songs that were mostly written, though meant for one guy and a guitar, and a couple other shakier ones. Over the course of about eight months, myself and the boys from Lionize (Chris, Nate, Chase, and Hank), who were acting as producers/backing band, polished up the arrangements and recorded the album. I’d write a new song every three weeks or so, turning the project from an EP, which is how it was originally envisioned, into a full LP. I did probably eight or ten weekends in DC just doing vocals. It was a lot of fun.
Who or what inspired each track? And what was the songwriting process like?
A lot of them aren’t really inspired by anything. I come from a prose writing background, and in that world, a lot of good stories basically come out of nowhere. They say J.R.R. Tolkien started the Hobbit when the first line just came to him while he was grading term papers. I reject the idea that songs, by virtue of their medium, have to be inspired directly by movements of the soul. That isn’t a judgment on that method of songwriting, just a repudiation that that is the only way to write a song. So for example, the titular track, “The Age of Envy,” got started when the line fragment “The best thing about the age of envy” just kinda popped into my head while I was eating dinner one night. I thought that was an engaging and enigmatic sentiment, even half-formed, so I set about pulling the rest of it into existence. In that way, the song kinda got written backward, in that it had a meaning before I understood it.
Then again, you have some songs that did have specific inspirations. I point to “Charming Devil,” which is about my mental state during my final move into adulthood, represented here by a literal move from Colorado to New York, and the anxieties I had about making a career out in the big city. Or “First Storm,” which I hope is obviously inspired by The Wizard of Oz as well as Gregory McGuire’s spin-off series Wicked. The process for both of these songwriting methods is different, but no one song is quite the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort, writing and re-writing, messing with progressions and specific parts. Other times it seems to piece itself together like magic. There’s just no telling.
What has been a highlight in your career so far?
It’s a small victory but just last month we were asked to play a Friday night show by a publisher who found us. I have never played a gig I didn’t ask for, so for me, that was a really big milestone. Other highlights include playing Bonanza Campout in Utah, and the Halloween show where my three band members, all with long dark hair, dressed up as Wayne from Wayne’s World, and I was Garth. We introduced ourselves as Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, and Garth.
How has your music evolved since you began playing?
For one, I’m trying to get a little less hard rock. I think there are all sorts of interesting capabilities that contemporary music offers and I don’t want to be hemmed into a genre. Also from a technical standpoint, I am playing rhythm guitar and singing, something I hadn’t often had to do before, so some of the music had to adjust to accommodate that particular weakness, though I am much improved now.
Where can people view your music?
We got iTunes! We got Soundcloud! We got Spotify! Get’cher music streaming and downloading services here!
And do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
Play as often as you can. Practice as often as you can. Learn to love that. And don’t put all your eggs in this basket. Making music full time is not easy, neither is achieving that reality nor keeping it. Don’t let that get you down, because music has something of the divine in it, and it is an essential part of what makes us human. And don’t write love songs. There are too many love songs. No one cares about love songs. You can write one love song, and that’s it, I mean it, just one. Then put the pen down, back away from the Bonnie Raitt CD, and go play outside, it’ll be good for you.
Any last words?
Oh god please, please, I have a family, don’t do this, I’ll get the money, I swear! Just gimme a little time Fat Tony, just gimme a little more- BLAM