Naomi Wachira Songwriting Interview

Image
(photo by Janell Kallander)

Naomi Wachira Songwriting Interview

Current City: Seattle, WA
Most recent release: Self Titled  ‘Naomi Wachira’ (released January 28, 2014)

About Naomi: Named Best Folk Singer by Seattle Weekly in 2013, Naomi became the toast of the town and struck a friendship with the much-loved indie songwriter Damien Jurado, who produced her debut album.  Influenced by two powerful, groundbreaking female songwriters: Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman,  she’s making music that is imbued with a sense of hope.

Our Scattered Words: Do you have a set songwriting/composing process?
Naomi Wachira: Whenever I think I’m ready to start writing, I’ll play around with my guitar, which sometimes it means playing a song I already know and then I’ll slowly start doing different things… rhythm or use different cords and once I think I have something, I’ll try and put words to it.  The only time this works really well is if I’ve already had some kind of inspiration about something I want to write about.  I’ve also learned that it’s never the same process, so I have to always remain open for how the song wants to come through.  I’ve always understood that this is a gift and as such it can come in any way it chooses, I just have to be open to whichever direction I’m led

Our Scattered Words: Some producers completely re-construct songs in their process, others gently nudge things along.  What was Damien Jurado’s role and approach on your album?
Naomi Wachira:  Damien was more like a gentle guide. When we first started talking about producing my album, he was very clear that he didn’t want to change me or make me sound more like him. He just wanted to concentrate on what people liked about my live performances, so we recorded all my vocals and guitar live, which were mostly 1 or 2 takes. Perhaps one of the most crucial statements he made in the begin was, “you cannot cut and paste soul” and that became the bed of our process. It wasn’t about a perfect album, but an album that perfectly communicated my story in a way that most people who’ve heard me live have become accustomed to.  It was by far the easiest recording session I’ve been to so far.

Our Scattered Words: What are some of the best venues, including house shows, you’ve played at?
Naomi Wachira: Some of my favorite are The Neptune in Seattle opening for Damien Jurado. My album release show at Columbia City Theater (where I actually recorded my album).  I always enjoy playing House shows  because they are so intimate and I get to just tell stories and share more of myself and make it more of a conversation than a performance.

Our Scattered Words: You grew up singing Gospel songs with your family.  How has that influenced your songwriting and performing now?
Naomi Wachira:  I think the biggest influence is learning to harmonize.  In church harmonies were such a big part of singing and I completely absorbed that and now it’s become second nature to me. I’d also like to think that it has influenced my optimism in life and always wanting to write music that offers hope.

Our Scattered Words: What is it about Seattle that made you choose that community as your home?
Naomi Wachira:  I actually moved to Seattle for Graduate school. I thought I’d stay for 3yrs and then move back to Chicago, but life had other plans. I attended one open mic in the summer of 2011 and that changed my course. I had found an avenue to tell my story, so I kept on telling it and people seemed to appreciate it, so I decided to stay and pursue music.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Naomi Wachira: Probably from “African Girl”… I am an African Girl/ I know where I’m coming from / I know who I want to be.

Our Scattered Words: What do you wish you could do better?
Naomi Wachira:  I wish I could be a better guitar player or that I could instantly hear arrangements for the all the songs I write.

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters?
Naomi Wachira: Be true to yourself and your story. Take your time to develop who and what you want to be. Don’t ever let anyone tell what you need to be… you have to make that decision on your own.

Our Scattered Words: What changes do you see coming in the next 10 years for people who want to make a living in music?
Naomi Wachira:  I love the fact that people now can launch their careers without relying on record labels.  The thing I’d really hope for is for majority of musicians to actually make a good income from what they are doing. I hope that there’ll be more leverage for artists with online distributors of music.

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Naomi Wachira: This is a tough one. I think I’d love to be in a Sister Rosetta Tharpe album session.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Naomi Wachira:  I’d love to sit down with Tracy Chapman and just understand what lies behind the songs she writes.

Naomi Wachira on the Web
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

All interviews, including Naomi Wachira, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

Follow on Twitter: @OSWBlog

 

Advertisements

Therese Workman Songwriting Interview

Therese Workman Songwriting Interview

Therese Workman (photo by Shervin Lainez http://www.shervinfoto.com/ )

The world of music has changed. You have to find creative ways to market your band to keep fans interests. You have “stay small” and create a great live sound with as few people as possible. Multi-tasking is required both on and off stage.  It helps if a musician is likable and easily connects with people to retain fans, build a support team and get press coverage for your band. Just like any other small business owner, musicians need to build a network that will refer them to others.

2 1/2 months ago I had never heard of Therese and, unfortunately, never heard her band, Oh My Goodness.  A mutual friend connected us.  I immediately enjoyed that they let the song lead the style rather than try to fit all of their songs into one generic box.  I like they they’re finding creative ways to play their songs live with just two people (and doing a job of it). I also like that Therese is a good person and I’ve enjoyed our dialogue.  I hope you enjoy the interview and the musical world of Oh My Goodness.

Therese Workman (Oh My Goodness)
Current City: Brooklyn, NY  Hometown: Waterville, ME
Band Affiliation: Oh My Goodness
Most Recent Release: 
Oh My Goodness EP

Watch, then read on..

Brief Intro: Therese Workman is a Brooklyn-based musician, originally from Maine, born to Jamaican and English nurses. She studied visual art and education, getting her undergrad and grad degrees from Harvard before moving to NYC in 2003. Between 2009 and 2012, she returned to Maine and collaborated with artists across genres, including the soul-folk band Ramblin’ Red, hip hop producer Alias (of the Anticon Collective), and rapper Sontiago. She’s scored several short films, including Shirley Bruno’s “The Things I See,” which won Best Narrative Short award at the Toronto Film Festival’s Caribbean Tales showcase, and short educational films funded by the Ford Foundation. Her band, Oh My Goodness, began as her solo project — eventually joining with Tyler Wood, another fellow Maine native and college classmate, in 2010 to transform OMG into the duo it is today.

Oh My Goodness released their eponymous debut EP last spring to critical acclaim, leading to The Deli NYC Magazine Artist of the Month and Dispatch Magazine’s 2013 Album of the Year awards.

Our Scattered Words: How did you get started in music?
Therese Workman:  I grew up in a house with many different accents, so I feel like music has always been around me. After getting piano lessons for my 5th birthday, I became mindful of music as an active part of my life. In college, I was part of the student gospel choir, Kuumba, and accidentally became its drummer for a semester. After joining a jazz/hip hop band, I began to build more confidence in identifying as a musician. When I started studying animation, things really took a huge leap for me, because I learned about using a computer to record sound effects, voice overs, and music using a free version of ProTools. The computer became not only a way to record myself, it became another instrument. I started to understand how some of my music heroes made their sounds, and suddenly the universe expanded — just as new possibilities came into my reach.

Our Scattered Words: Do you have a set songwriting/composing process?  OR Do you and Tyler write together or bring in ideas and collaborate from there?
Therese Workman: It’s a combination of the two. For the most part, I write on my own, coming up with a concept and laying out the ideas using Garageband in my living room. I love synthesizers and making samples and playing whatever’s around.

Regarding my process — I really just follow instinct, and then organize later. For example, I might make some gibberish up while doing an impression of the sound of traffic. That gibberish might sound rhythmic to me, so I’ll record it and loop it, and then build some bass and percussion tracks on top of that, and figure out a melody. In that process, I try to recall how I was feeling at the time I was listening to the traffic, and that’s where the storyline might come from. Once I have a story, I figure out what types of words feel good to say or sing. I really just try to entertain myself. At the end of throwing all of that paint on the wall, I delete things that don’t belong in that new weird little world, and let it sit. Sometimes the initial spark might be a turn of phrase I overhear in line at the grocery store, in which case the story or words might come first, and then I act out the characters with instruments.

When I work with Tyler, we often take those songs or concepts into his studio space and Frankenstein them, which is also a form of writing.The song “Rogue” actually started from a track Tyler sent me — it was this rich track of Moog sounds that came with its own atmosphere/concept. I built on that with lyrics and synths, and we brought that new demo into our shop together.

I love brainstorming in isolation — I can be really uninhibited and move at my own speed; then I can share ideas to explore possibilities after that. But there is also something so exciting about trying to mind-meld with a collaborator in real-time — when it works, it’s a different kind of magic altogether.

 

Our Scattered Words: You have a pretty wide variety of sounds, from “Not Lying”  to “Everything All”, do you enjoy working with a combination of styles/sounds?
Therese Workman: Absolutely. I feel really fortunate to have been exposed to so many different styles of music from early on. I grew up in Maine as the daughter of Jamaican and English immigrants — with older siblings listening to Prince and Soull II Soul, hip hop and New Jack Swing, while the local radio was playing Bon Jovi and Poison. With the added combination of piano lessons and college radio, I was able to learn about Chopin and Talking Heads and Wendy Carlos. I’ve learned so much about sounds from Tyler, who has a knack for making live instruments sound digital, and digital sound live — and how adding effects to instruments is such a huge part of building a mood. So in songwriting, all of these aspects become ingredients to tell the story: How can I convey a quick scene shift or punchline without using words? Maybe a dry Casio tom fill can do it. 

Our Scattered Words: Do you perform live with just the 2 of you or do you add other musicians?
Therese Workman: Our current Oh My Goodness set up is just the two of us, which is a really fun challenge. At Tyler’s drumset, he’s replaced one of his toms with a synth, so he’s playing melodies and samples with his right hand while also drumming. It’s a sight to behold. In my station, I’ve got the Moog synth playing bass and my Casio keyboard. I also have a floor tom and play a foot tambourine, just to make it more dangerous. I love our arrangement, but we’re also looking at ways of adding other musicians to the live show, to make the experience even fuller.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Therese Workman: This question kept me up at night. I can’t pick THE favorite, so I’ll pick the one that always makes my eyes water. From Nina Simone’s “Don’t Smoke in bed:” Don’t look for me/I’ll get ahead/Remember darling/Don’t smoke in bed. I can’t think about it for too long. Every phrase in there is a bruise. Sort of sucks the air out of the room. I tend to be drawn to lyrics that aren’t trying to force any type of feeling, but that through setting a picture or scene, sometimes with simple or abstract words and phrases, I can draw my own conclusions.

Nina Simone “Don’t Smoke In Bed”

Our Scattered Words: What do you wish you could do better?
Therese Workman: Everything! But at the top of my list, I really wish that I could be better at some technical things (i.e., music software, tweaking keyboard dials) so that I don’t get bogged down by flipping switches and turning knobs when all I want is to get an idea down fast.

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters?
Therese Workman: Share, share, share, share your ideas. Even if they’re “uncool.” Especially if they’re uncool. And try to keep existing in that sweet spot where fun and difficult overlap.

Our Scattered Words: What changes do you see coming in the next 10 years for people who want to make a living in music?
Therese Workman: I tell you WHAT: I really wish I had a crystal ball, because we’re at a place in time where it feels like technological advances in sharing media are leaps, not just steps. Making actual money at music is going to take more and more innovation as “record deals” become legends we tell around the campfire. I think musicians are going to have to become extremely social-media savvy and embrace entrepreneurship. Where it used to be the case that publicity machines would typically come with a record deal, publicity is now on the shoulders of the unsigned musician. But this isn’t all a Chicken Little story – at the same time that there was dissolution of a lot of record labels came the new ability for musicians to bypass recording studios, by using free software on their laptops and social media to share it. And because you’re often your own publicist, you also get to be in charge of your “brand.” But really getting that signal boost from professional publicists still costs money.

I do like seeing how the megastars are being inventive in the music business, from Wu Tang’s release of a single album selling it for $4 million, to Beyonce releasing a brand new album and a bazillion music videos without a WHISPER of publicity. And before all that there was Radiohead releasing In Rainbows albums for free/pay-what-you-want. In the age of things going viral and so much music coming from everywhere at all times, it seems that musicians (including big stars) are having to find ways of building the mystique and intrigue into their business plans, because that’s how you can get paid. Well, that and possibly being chosen to SCORE HUNGER GAMES 4, HI CALL ME.

So this is a very long way of saying: I have no idea what will happen, but I do hope that it involves pay-per-view holographic living room performances where suddenly my favorite unsigned band appears to be playing on my coffee table.

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Therese Workman: MJ’s Off the Wall. To me, that record had so many styles going on in every song, and the instrumentation was so fresh. To this day, every time I hear “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” I daydream about being in the percussion section in a studio with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, dancing around the strings and horns sections. By the way, I’m a proud lover of Pop, and think this album is an example of how something can be popular, accessible, fun, and mind-blowing.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Therese Workman:  I would love to sit and talk with Bjork because first of all, hello. She is someone who I think embodies that special brand of what sounds like unbridled expression — but whose production techniques are so cutting-edge and polished that the music is in full control. For me, production — choosing instruments and how they actually sound together — is such a huge part of songwriting. Some purists might disagree. But when you tell a ghost story, isn’t it just as important to open your eyes all wide and make your voice do that harsh whisper when the scariest part is coming?

Oh My Goodness on the web
Website
Facebook
Twitter

 

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Therese Workman, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future. Bonus materials for Therese include 3 music videos  she’s been enjoying lately.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

Beth Thornley Songwriting Interview

Beth Thornley Songwriting Interview

Beth Thornley (photo by Heidi Ross)

 

Beth Thornley

Music needs more Beth Thornleys.  Actually, I think all of us could use more people like Beth in our life.  There’s no other way to say it but, Beth Thornley is a good person, a kind person, a talented writer and singer. Beth is someone who’s always been positive and is always ready to help a friend or acquaintance.  She’s a compassionate friend.  Plus, she writes interesting and varied stories in her songs from the raucous Bari Sax at the start of “Wash U Clean” to Jon Brionish sound of “It Could Be” on her new album. Add to all of that her beautiful and memorable voice.  Beth is a pro who produces songs that connect with people.  It’s why she has a loyal fan base and has a long string of song placements.  Now, reading through this opening I have pretty much guaranteed that I will never be asked to write for Pitchfork and I’m OK with that. I’m great with that.  So, let me introduce you to Beth.

Current City – 
Los Angeles, CA
Most Recent Release – Septagon (2014)

BIO

Beth is a singer/songwriter originally from Birmingham, Alabama; now living in LA. She has three independently released albums — the 2003 self-titled debut, 2006’s My Glass Eye, 2010’s Wash U Clean, and now the latest EP, Septagon (April 2014). Her songs have been featured in the movies Magic Mike, Girl in Progress, AssBackwards, The Perfect Man, Between, and Play The Game, as well as the TV shows Friday Night Lights, Hung, Royal Pains, Vanderpump Rules, The Client List, Save Me, Ringer, Suburgatory, Jersey Shore, In Plain Sight, The Hills, Newport Harbor, Making the Band, Life, Jack and Bobby, Everwood, and Scrubs. In 2012 and 2013, Beth and the composer Rob Cairns (who has played guitar, bass, and drums on and supplied savvy production for all of her albums and three tracks on Septagon) co-wrote an original rock musical called Bad Apples, which earned the pair nominations for “Best Original Score” by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly, and L.A. Stage Alliance, winning awards from the latter two.

Our Scattered Words: Do you have a set songwriting/composing process?
Beth Thornley: I used to write first thing in the morning  and that worked for me for a long time.  But now, even though that’s still a goal, life isn’t as predictable so I find that I write when I can and that sometimes I write several days in a row for long days and then go several days (weeks even) without writing.  It bugged me until I let go of trying to control it and just accepted that life is always going to change.

Our Scattered Words: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Beth Thornley: None of it comes quickly for me.  I am the tortoise, and never the hare, when it comes to writing music.

Our Scattered Words: The Hotel Café community of musicians that has developed over the past decade has been incredible.  How important has being part of that community been to you personally and musically?
Beth Thornley: I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the venue and the people I’ve met there. It grounded me and gave me a foundation and I feel like part of a group instead of out here alone. Songwriting is solitary so it’s nice to make solid connections and Hotel Café made that happen.

Our Scattered Words: Cats or Dogs?
Beth Thornley: I love them both but I haven’t been a dog owner as an adult (yet!).  I had dogs growing up, but as an adult I’ve only ever had cats.  Right now, I have 4 felines.    My oldest cat is Hudson, he’s 7.  Next is Wilma, who is almost 3.  And the kittens are Moe and Hazel who will be 1 in July.  Hazel is a tabby.  The other 3 are solid black.  They are all real sweet!

Our Scattered Words: You worked on your album with your husband Rob Cairns.  Recording an album can get tense at times, especially the artist/producer relationship.  How do you two work out the working together/living together issues?
Beth Thornley: It took us a while to find a comfortable way to work together. Every album got a little easier because we continued to try to understand each other. But we are actively looking for other places to record my songs so that when we have some free time, the question isn’t “which song should we work on?”, but instead is “what movie do you want to go see?”. We are still going to record songs together, but we hope to have other outlets as an option, too.

Our Scattered Words: You and Rob also  composed the songs for a play, ‘Bad Apples’ that received great reviews and won some awards.  How much fun was that process and how different was that from  “regular” songwriting?
Beth Thornley: It was a surprise at every turn since neither one of us had ever written musical.  The best part about it was that when one of us didn’t have an idea, the other one did.  We look back and feel like it was a true 50/50 effort.   It was also equally exciting and terrifying.  We’re really happy we took the plunge and did it.  The way that it was the most different from “regular” songwriting is that the closer we got to opening night, the faster we had to write.  I wrote faster for this show than I had ever written before for anything.  I guess I learned that I could write fast when I have to, but I still think my best work comes when I have time to think about it.  Also, before this musical came along, we had not done any co-writing together.  There are a few of my songs that Rob has co-writing credit on but it’s because the co-writing came from changing the song during the recording process.  Starting a song together from scratch was completely new for us.  And, a little awkward because we work completely differently.  But once we began to get into the rhythm of tossing the ball back and forth, we were ok.  We just had to (very quickly) find our way of doing it.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Beth Thornley: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but a lyric that I think about a lot is one that Corey Brannon wrote in a song called “Miss Ferguson”. The lyric is “The angle of her cheek is the math of persuasion.”. Whenever I get lazy about coming up with a solid lyric, I think about that line and how that’s the standard. I might not meet that standard, but I have to try. The song is excellent and well worth a moment to read the lyrics and listen to it as well as the entire album.

Our Scattered Words: What do you wish you could do better?
Beth Thornley: Sing, play, write. You name it, I’d like to do it better.

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters?
Beth Thornley: Songwriting is hard work. The old saying is true “1% inspiration; 99% perspiration”.

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Beth Thornley: Probably none; as crazy as that sounds. Studios tend to be stressful places for most people when recording. I’d rather be playing a live show with them. Playing is the most fun for me.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Beth Thornley: I like to talk to any songwriter about their process because I always learn something no matter who it is or how far along they are in the craft

Beth Thornley on the Web
Website
Facebook
Twitter

All interviews, including Beth Thornley, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

Follow on Twitter: @OSWBlog

Lauren Turk Songwriting Interview

Lauren Turk Songwriting Interview

Lauren Turk Songwriting

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” this is a quote often misattributed to Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein. Whatever the source, be it a scientist/philosopher or Narcotics Anonymous brochure,  it’s a trap that musicians often fall into. We often expect what worked 5, 10, 30 years ago to work today and that’s a bad idea.  Technology has changed people’s views on, and access to, the arts.  If you give a group of people the choice between free and legal access to a song/movie/book and paid access (even at a minimal cost) a majority of people will, not surprisingly, chose free access.  Digitizing creations has lessened the general populations perceptions about the value of songs and movie.  They enjoy having them, but there’s no tangible thing to hold so they perceive to be of less value than an LP or …..Laser Disc. [note to self; why does this opening read like a Masters Thesis?].  I don’t like that this perception exists regarding music, but we need let that new paradigm guide what we do.

Musicians need to find different ways to connect with people, new ways to distribute and share their creations.  That’s exactly what intrigued me about Lauren Turk.  I read through posts at Good.is a couple of times a week to find people and organizations pursuing similar goals that we can partner with. It’s become one of my best resources to find good contacts. [readers thoughts; “I thought this was a songwriting blog? Did I click the wrong link?] One day I found an article about Lauren at the Good site.  It caught my attention immediately because she found a new way to get her music out to people and, in doing so, it provided help to a great cause. I immediately contacted her to set up this interview.

Lauren Turk Songwriting INterview

Lauren Turk
Hometown- 
Chicagoland Current City- Los Angeles
Most Recent Release- “Forward” EP, July 2013 – Genre: Pop Electronica
Band Affiliation- The New History (my newest music project)

Brief Intro- 
Made in Chicago, living in Los Angeles.  I’m a singer-songwriter with a few degrees. Two bachelor’s — Business/French and Communications — and one masters in Political Science from the University of Illinois and Sciences-Po in Paris, France.

I learned piano and violin as a kid, and developed a proclivity for classical music. After an adolescence in musicals, competitive singing, choir and lots of national anthems, I put music aside for many years while studying other things… until one fine day in Paris…I fell hard for a former love…(music).

Before you could say “quarter-life-crisis” I was singing with jazz bands across Paris, and earned spots in both the Sciences-Po Orchestra & choir. The occasional escape to Berlin came to include rather profitable and oh-so enjoyable busking escapades in the cityscape. These years sparked a vibrant realization – my life could not be full without creating music.

Once finished with school in May 2012, I  shook off the cobwebs with concerts in Europe and the United States. Excitement ensued, and I packed my bags for Los Angeles to have a go at the music industry.

Today in the city of angels, I write and perform music on the regular, experimenting with styles, discovering my sound. My bottom line is simply a love for singing and performing.

A self-titled artivist, I care deeply about issues which mark our evermore interconnected societies; sustaining/protecting the environment, feeding/educating people, making our world one that is not violent and respects people equally. I try to embed these themes into my work and do my part, sometimes through the song itself, other times through other work, events and community initiatives.

My mission is to live a life of symbiosis –making a positive difference by combining the things I love to do.

Our Scattered Words: I stumbled on to your story via GOOD. In a very short time I’ve found it to be an incredible resource to find people and organizations that; want to help each other and want to champion positive actions happening in the world.  How did that connection come about and how has it impacted you?
Lauren Turk: GOOD was one of the first and best things I discovered when I moved to LA. It opened up my eyes to this city’s vibrant ecosystem of start-ups, young companies and cooperatives with their heads and hearts in the right place. It’s a big part of why I love being here

Furthermore, the first GOOD article I read helped shift my perspective on what success in the music industry means to me. I had (and still have) my goals set very high, but had always vowed that once I met “success” that I’d use the accompanying platform as an agent of change. I had a Gwen Stefani moment and realized “Whatchyou waiting for”? Making a difference starts the moment you decide to take action. The best we can do is use what we have, there’s no need to reach a certain “level” first.

Our Scattered Words: Do you think you’ll ever work renewable energy policies into a song idea?
Lauren Turk: Yes!! I think about it everyday (I also wrote a master’s thesis on this topic). There’s actually a song on my EP called “Generation” that’s about waking up and taking action to salvage our environment.

I plan to write more in the future in different genres. It’s a challenge to turn this topic into a song without being preachy or doomsday, and you could lose your audience…

Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change are so globally pervasive and large that taking responsibility on an individual level and accepting the sobering truth about what’s happening to our environment, food and water is so often shrugged off. A lot of people don’t want to hear it, think about it, or realize their direct impact. The plot thickens with companies and governments the all powerful M word ($$). My dream is to write something that is both digestible and compelling to people.

Our Scattered Words: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Lauren Turk: My method is sort of strange. I get inspiration at really inconvenient times! Invariably when I am moving from point A to B – biking, walking, driving, and especially when working out. Movement turns my creative brain on like no other. Typically words come first, and then I find a chord progression to match the mood of my thoughts, and last the melody. That’s when I’m songwriting alone. When I songwrite with others, I try to absorb their vibe and let something come out naturally, usually on the spot. I love doing it both ways.

Our Scattered Words: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Lauren Turk: Sometimes (and almost exclusively for love songs), I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with lyrics at my fingertips in a sort of lucid dreaming state (my song “Impasse” happened like this).

For the most part, I write the songs pretty immediately and try not to sit on things longer than a month or so. I find I lose momentum and I might end up completely changing the mood of the song if I revisit it too long after. Maybe this makes my work less than it’s best sometimes…but I also think it makes for an honest portrayal of the inspirational place it originated from 🙂

If I feel blocked or uninspired, sometimes I have a look through my old songwriting journals, especially from my travels.

Our Scattered Words:  Artists are not always the strongest communicators off of the stage.  Has your degree in degree in Business and Communications helped you in developing your music career?
Lauren Turk: I definitely think so. These credentials allow me work on amazing projects part-time by day with people who value the different goals and aspirations I have. With a little time management, I get the best of both worlds. That said, the music industry is a totally different animal— the protocols, socializing, competition and hierarchies are unique to what you encounter in other sectors. I’ve been learning a lot. I’d say my background has helped me think strategically about the music industry instead of just creatively (music-making).  I also like to think I’m harder to trap in a contract than the next guy 😉

Our Scattered Words: What constitutes a good story for you?
Lauren Turk: Ideally a good story is relatable, comes from a unique angle, and is genuine. The moment I doubt whether a story is contrived or staged, I enjoy it less.  Metaphors are also powerful aspects of a good story.

Our Scattered Words: Were your parents involved in music at all? What do they think of music becoming your career path?
Lauren Turk: No, not really. They’ve always been supportive of my pursuit of happiness, whatever that may be. I’m very lucky for that. I think they thought I was crazy when I announced that after finishing my masters I was going to head to L.A. to have a go at the music industry. They were confused, but when they saw that this was coming from my heart, their confusion dissipated 🙂

Our Scattered Words: What do you wish you did better?
Lauren Turk: I wish I were stronger in music theory. It’s crazy, I studied piano, violin, and singing for so many years, but didn’t like music theory. I would skip over it, and I think it slipped under my teachers’ radar because I had a good ear and progressed quickly. Now, I have to make up for that. It’s such a pain! I’m a stickler for theory with the kids I teach (piano and violin) so that they don’t suffer the same fate, haha.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Lauren Turk: This is such an impossible question. A lot of my favorite lyrics are in French… but lately, the lyric that has been running around in my head is from First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou” “Now so much I know that things just don’t grow if you don’t bless them with your patience”. That resonates deeply with me.

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Lauren Turk: 

  1. Never give up!
  2. Only two opinions matter when it comes to critiquing and modifying your work. That of the non-musician (do they like it?) and that of the expert (what is missing, what doesn’t make sense?). The endless opinions in between can just distract you from the unique flavor you bring to the table (the producer of my EP “Forward”, Rudi Meibergen, said this to me)
  3. There’s an audience for everything…just do your own thing and have fun! The rest will fall into place.

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Lauren Turk: Oh my…anything with Michael Jackson. He was brilliant – he would come in and sing all the harmonies and notes for each player on every instrument…it didn’t matter whether it was for guitar or a trumpet. He had it all in his head. I feel like it would be so overwhelmingly inspiring to witness something like that, and I would most likely cry from awesomeness overload.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Lauren Turk: Leonard Cohen. In my opinion, no one really lights a candle to his songwriting ability. His lyrics just get you, and you feel like you get them. They are profound but not overdone. He was a master of finding that balance.

Our Scattered Words: What are you up to now?
Lauren Turk: I’m going on tour in Europe from April 10-April 28th introducing my new music project called The New History. We’re playing in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, then we’ll head to Urbana-Champaign (where I went to school) to play at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and in the first annual Agora festival (which I’m co-organizing), which celebrates community and collaboration as paradigms for happy and successful living. Then, we’re headed to Chicago to play at the Tonic Room and go on Fearless Radio! All these details will be posted on our website, www.thenewhistory.com. There will be links on my website, www.laurenturkmusic.com, as well!

Lauren Turk on the Wb

www.laurenturkmusic.com

www.facebook.com/LaurenTurkMusic

Follow on Instagram: @LaurenTurkMusic

Follow on Twitter: @LTsings

The New History

www.thenewhistory.com

www.facebook.com/TheNewHist

Follow on Instagram: @TheNewHistory

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Lauren Turk, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Bonus materials for Lauren include 3 music videos of songs she’s been enjoying lately.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

Follow on Twitter: @OSWBlog

Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting Interview

Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting INterview

Benjamin Verdoes – photo by Megumi Shauna Arai

Benjamin Verdoes Songwriting Interview

Current City- Seattle, WA
Record Label- Brick Lane Records
Most Recent Release- ‘The Evil Eye’

Band Affiliations- Iska Dhaaf, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

Brief Intro- Benjamin Verdoes is a songwriter from the Pacific Northwest often known for his unorthodox approach to composition. In the last decade he has written four albums, two as a part Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. The Evil Eye, which he began composing in 2011, is the first recording released under his own name. Verdoes also currently plays alongside Nathan Quiroga in the emerging Seattle band Iska Dhaaf.

Our Scattered Words- What is your songwriting/composing process and does it vary greatly on the other projects you’re involved with?
Benjamin Verdoes- I write using several different methods, although most of the things I write happen when I am not intending to write. I go into a strange zone where I forget what I’m doing. It is similar to a daydream. I think that is where my psyche unravels into ideas. Other times I make loop of parts I like and walk around the house singing with them.

Our Scattered Words- Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Benjamin Verdoes- Some lyrics come right away or before the music. More often I get a few lines and expand and refine them over a long stretch of time.

Our Scattered Words- The bio info for Iska Dhaaf says that you were inspired by Sufi poetry.  I always encourage people interested in songwriting to study Rumi and Hafiz because I believe those two were so incredible in telling moving stories with such minimal words. Plus, they see right to the truth of emotions and relationships. How did they influence you and Nathan?
Benjamin Verdoes- I think Nathan and I were both at a point of searching and transition when we met. We were looking to get beyond ourselves with our art, and in our personal lives. Sufi poets and mystics are inspiring because they are profoundly human and spiritual at the same time. I would say the transcendence of their writing came from their ability to reconcile life’s seemingly impossible contradictions, namely the eternal and the ephemeral. And yes, perhaps they are concise because they rely on triggering things within a person rather than trying to create something that seeks attention.

Our Scattered Words- I really like and am intrigued by your description of your new album, ““The Evil Eye is a record I made for a beautiful person. It is a rebuttal to those seemingly powerful forces that tell you what you can and cannot do–the eyes that watch carelessly and tongues that move thoughtlessly in an attempt to describe and limit something that is spiritual and perfect. It is a love story.”  What is the thing you’re reflecting on that’s “spiritual and Perfect”, the person? Love? What are the forces fighting against this ideal state?
Benjamin Verdoes- All of the above: the person, the relationship/love, and the story we created together. Not to say that there are not struggles or problems, but that our connection is based on something eternal and beautiful. Perfect is a strange word. In fact, it doesn’t even exist in a few languages I’ve learned/ learned about. To me, it means something that is true and intuitive.

People (myself included) often fall into the mode of thinking that everything in love, life, and relationships is in the final outcome, or in the endurance in our life span. While that is important and may be true to an extent, I think each moment and connection is eternal. I tried to reflect that element in the songs. In some sense, the forces fighting us were people who were hoping or guessing the relationship would end. But also, anything that tried to take the focus off of what we were/are creating, including flattery, insincerity, or negativity.

Our Scattered Words- We all have “unknown fears”, especially those of us working as artists.  What fears are your biggest hurdles and how do you get past them?
Benjamin Verdoes- “Unknown Fears” is about anxiety, specifically the point when it all blends into an unclear feeling of discomfort and stress. It’s mostly tied to social situations. I tend to worry about offending people or not engaging them thoughtfully. Sometimes I am just off, and I get anxiety about conversations. The song is about triggers and things that set you off into that realm and render you useless in your attempts to communicate or connect with others. This includes, to some extent, performing music.

Our Scattered Words- What constitutes a good story for you?
Benjamin Verdoes- Something that is honest and skillfully told. Something that impacts me and causes a reaction.

Our Scattered Words- What are you most proud of?
Benjamin Verdoes- In regards to music, the fact that I continue to make songs and records, and that I have pushed myself to try new things.

Our Scattered Words- What do you wish you did better?
Benjamin Verdoes- I wish I were better at recording my own music. I am working on it.

Our Scattered Words- What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Benjamin Verdoes- Nate wrote the words to this song, and it has become very important to me. At the current moment, these are my favorite words:


Our Scattered Words- 
What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Benjamin Verdoes- Be honest, read a lot, be patient, and don’t quit.

Our Scattered Words- If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Benjamin Verdoes- I would have liked to hear Otis Redding’s vocal performances and the process of his records.

Our Scattered Words- If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Benjamin Verdoes- Leonard Cohen. He is such a great storyteller and draws from so many sources. His songs stand alone. He is a poet, novelist, and incredible songwriter.

Benjamin Verdoes on the Web
Website
Iska Dhaaf
Twitter  @benjaminverdoes   &  @iska_dhaaf

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Benjamin Verdoes, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Bonus materials for Benjamin include 3 music videos of songs he’s been enjoying lately.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

 

Jordan Laz Songwriting Interview

Image

Jordan Laz (photo by Brian Hamm) at DFW Sofar Show http://www.flickr.com/photos/sofarsounds/8553856153/in/photostream/

SXSW (South By Southwest) is a month away. Like all music festivals it’s music overload.  Too many choices to see everyone. Running from one venue to the next.  Hoping, if you don’t have a wristband, that you make it through the line in time to see the act you wanted to see.  Sometimes even being surprised by who you get to hear while standing in line.  That’s how I heard The Zombies last year.  Standing in line at the Paste Showcase. I even have a friend that maps out a schedule in Excel with back-up options and the time needed to leave from one venue to reach the next.  Last year I took a different approach for most of my SXSW visit.  Friday Night I decided to spend the night at the Communion showcase at St. David’s Church.  It was a magical night of music.  Beautiful venue, quiet and appreciative crowd, incredible line-up (The Staves, Lucius, Lucy Rose, Half Moon Run, Joe Banfi and Leif Vollebekk). Saturday afternoon I was able to finally attend a Sofar house show. The schedule for Sofar shows in my home town never co-ordinated right with my work and gig schedule.  But, I was able to make this one.  Jordan Laz was one of the performers on this house show.  I knew Locksley but had not heard his solo songs.  He was energetic, engaging and involved the crowd in his songs.  So, I was thrilled when Jordan and his brother, Jesse, agreed to do interviews.

JORDAN LAZ

Current City- Brooklyn, NY
Most Recent Release-  Individually released ‘2013’ for online streaming
Band affiliation- Play bass and sing in Locksley, recently playing on my own as well.

Brief intro/Bio:  I’m twenty four years old, I was a child in Wisconsin, and currently living in Brooklyn, New York. I started writing music at age 16–pop songs. They were enough to get offered a role in the band Locksley, and began playing with the band at age 18. I’ve been in New York since.

Our Scattered Words: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Jordan Laz: I’ll start playing a progression, and start singing or shouting some form of a melody on top, over and over, until it sticks. That’s usually the chorus. Then I add the rest. Then I come up with words, something that sounds like the noises I was making when developing the melody, which tends to work really well. It’s always my subconscious trying to say something.

Our Scattered Words: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Jordan Laz: They come quickly for me, the best ones do. I try and limit myself when it comes to lyrics, less is more I think. If a song takes me more than day to complete I tend to lose interest and find that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Our Scattered Words: You joined Locksley, which your brother Jesse started, about 5 years after they started.  How did that come about?
Jordan Laz: I was still in high school at the time and had been writing songs and playing guitar for about a year. I also played drums as a kid and did some early recordings with Jesse, playing songs on demos of all the  fellas that Locksley would later record. The guys asked if I’d be interested in joining the band. I’d have to learn how to play bass, which I’d never done, but the songs were easy enough… Also I had to learn how to sing. Seven years later I think I’m finally an amateur.

Our Scattered Words: Is the whole group involved in co-writing the Locksley songs?
Jordan Laz: Not really. We all write songs on our own, and structure them individually. Then we’ll bring them to the band and really just play them over and over till they lock in. Everyone contributes ideas once we bring it to full band, for the arrangement. But the songs themselves are pretty well structured by the songwriter. More recently we’ve been writing them together, it usually begins with someone playing a groove, or singing a line, and we’ll jam on it for awhile until something starts to form. Often times however, once the “jam” takes a form, we all start thinking about it too much and some of that natural honesty is lost to the process. We’ve always dreamed of being in a set up where everything we played was recording all the time. The amount of magic that has been lost to circumstance is maddening. All our best songs and performances existed at one time in one room on one day, and then forgotten forever… Always be recording.

Jordan Laz at SXSW Sofar House show


Our Scattered Words: I really enjoyed your performance on a Sofar house show during SXSW last year.  You really involve and connect with the audience. Your solo songs are pretty different than the Locksley material.  Tell us about that.
Jordan Laz: Thanks very much, that was a real special experience for me. Locksley had come to a sort of halt at the end of 2011 for various reasons; and everyone became involved in different things in their creative, and personal lives. Over the course of my time in Locksley we had released two albums, Don’t Make Me Wait (which I wasn’t involved in at the outset) and Be In Love (which is the only album I recorded and contributed songs to). Over that time however, I had probably written nearly 100 songs. Not all of them were good, most of them on a look back are garbage, but by 2012 I was starting to understand myself as a songwriter better. As Locksley played less and less in 2012 I wasn’t focusing my songwriting efforts on music that I thought the band would play, as I had in the past. I had spent so much time listening to other things that were exciting and moving to me that at the time I was really connecting with, material that was far removed from the influences that had come to define the Locksley sound. A combination of listening to singer-songwriters like Bon Iver and Tallest Man on Earth, while also ingesting a lot of R&B and Hip Hop. It was all interesting to me, and it was beautiful. And it made me feel things I didn’t know I felt. It wasn’t a conscious adjustment, making music different from Locksley, making more introspective personal music happened naturally at the time, it allowed me to say things I wanted to say to the people in my life that I wasn’t able to say. I played a handful of those Sofar shows in Texas last spring. I left New York in December, and spent the rest of the month finishing a collection of music I had been working on all year that I put out right before I travelled and spent time other places exploring, writing, and performing. The time in Texas was especially satisfying because of those shows that I got to play. I’d never performed in any capacity that wasn’t the high energy experience Locksley provided–which I love doing, it’s still very much a part of me, but not all of me. Every Sofar show I was able to do something completely different, because I was doing it alone. Which was freeing, and also limiting. It’s much easier when you have a team. So I need both, I’ll keep recording and releasing and performing on my own. Meanwhile, I look forward to creating and performing with Locksley again, because when our team is playing its best, I think there’s no one better, humbly. 

Our Scattered Words: You have an “album” of songs called 2013 on your website that’s a tribute to last year.  How did this come about and do you think you’ll do a similar album this year?
Jordan Laz: I did that for the first time at the beginning of last year. On January 1st, 2013 I released “2012” which was a ‘tribute’ to the year before. At the end of 2012 I had this collection of songs, high quality demos really, that so perfectly summed up what that year meant to me. It was reflective of my own experiences, but felt very honest, and relatable.  Without even being conscious of it at the time I felt the songs I had written and recorded told a perfect story as you travelled back. At the end of 2013 I noticed the same thing. It was a very different story, but still interesting and accessible and I thought a progression from the music I had released before. It’s hard to say if i’ll continue to release music in that format, I suppose if it keeps happening this way I won’t have a choice.

Our Scattered Words: What are you most proud of?
Jordan Laz:  I’m proud of the development I’ve made as a songwriter and a performer since I first came out to New York to play in a band. I’ve always felt that I didn’t really pick music, it picked me in a way. I’m glad it did, I still have a lot of work to do, but it keeps getting better.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Jordan Laz: Of my Locksley material: “Why? Well, just because” of my own material I like, “When my time comes, sing me love songs.”

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Jordan Laz: Be honest

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Jordan Laz:  Beatles ‘White Album’. And ‘Stankonia’

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Jordan Laz: Bob Dylan. I don’t know if he’d have the ability to be as insightful as I may want to him to be. But at least I’d be able to say that I sat down and talked about songwriting with Bob Dylan. 

Please stop by Jordan’s Website and stream his original songs
Plus, here’s one more live video of Jordan from a Sofar house show

I’m keeping Jordan’s Songwriting playlist here this time.  It’s all streamed tracks, no videos which is nice variety

1.One of my favorite songwriters/artists/thinkers is my oldest friend from Wisconsin. He goes the moniker Yip Dap Xi (pronounced chee), I’m afraid there are no videos of him playing but this is one of my favorite songs he ever wrote:

listen to the entire vast collection at yipdapxi.bandcamp.com

2. A different close friend’s band. I think Locksley fans will really like this, I think everyone should:

3. Another lo-fi recording of a great song by an old friend

All interviews and Bonus Materials  will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

I hope to see you at SXSW, please let me know if you’re attending

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

 

Jesse Laz Songwriting Interview

Jesse Laz Songwriting Interview

Current City: Jersey City, NJ
Band Affiliation: Locksley

Brief Intro:
1 of 3 songwriters for the group Locksley.

Our Scattered Words: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Jesse Laz: In the past I would write songs like journal entries. I would start playing (talking about nonsense) until I hit on a theme I was feeling and then I would follow it through. I liked to finish a song in one session. I would always come back and refine lyrics or structure over time but I always felt it was important to have it in an initial ‘finished’ form.

Now, I mostly keep a little theme in my head and just work it over there. It keeps evolving and I add pieces to it here or there as they come to me. But it’s basically all in my head now. I don’t even sing or play an instrument. One of these days I’ll actually lay a couple down.

Our Scattered Words: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Jesse Laz: I am constantly revising lyrics. I tend to think of a song as a living thing – it’s never really ‘done’ necessarily. Just in it’s current form.

Our Scattered Words: Licensing is huge part of making a living as a band now.  Locksely has been very successful with licensing, from TV shows and Hockey teams to Guitar Hero.  How do you guys manage that and what are your thoughts on licensing?
Jesse Laz: I’m actively forming them. Our success in licensing appears to be due to the particular kind of music we do. It’s upbeat and accessible. Good shopping music, I guess. I think there is work that is fine to license and work that shouldn’t be licensed. as long as you own your own publishing you always have the control over where it gets used.

Our Scattered Words: “Darling, It’s True” was released as a single by Steven Van Zandt.  How did that connection come about?
Jesse Laz: He had played some of our other songs on his Underground Garage radio station (including putting ‘She Does’ on his Coolest Songs of the Year album he releases) so there was familiarity and we wanted to try a 7″, which is his vibe, certainly. One of the B-sides was a cover called ‘There’s a Love’ that is probably the real reason for the deal. He loved our version of that song.

Our Scattered Words: Band relationships can get tense over time, as can relationships with siblings.  How have you and Jordan maintained a working relationship through the years?
Jesse Laz: It’s had it’s ups and downs. Like any long term relationship, we just keep communication open and avoid each other in the darker patches.

Our Scattered Words: Tell us about The Locksely secret shows and #WhereIsLocksley hashtag.
Jesse Laz: In time.

Our Scattered Words: What are you most proud of?
Jesse Laz: Broadly, my relationships. I have a number of very intense long term relationships (including with the guys in the band) that have managed to withstand some pretty extraordinary ups and downs. In terms of the songs I’ve written, all of my favorites are unreleased. Of the released songs, I suppose “21st Century” was my strongest. Though “She Does” has received the most coverage of the songs I’ve written.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Jesse Laz:
Released: Everything’s changing and that’s fine with me.
Unreleased: If I couldn’t see what would colors be, only black to me or colors much more brightly?

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Jesse Laz: Do it a lot. I’ve written so many hundreds of songs I don’t even know about half of them. Plus I’m making up songs everytime I cook breakfast, change my baby’s diaper, take out the trash. If it was socially acceptable, I would sing all of my interactions. “you got an-y ripe avocaaaaaadoos?”

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Jesse Laz: good question. At this moment I would say ‘Electric Warrior’ by T-Rex because I’m vibing on all of those sounds and would love to know how to make them. ‘White Album’ would have been special. And ‘Thriller’, because it’s Thriller.

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Jesse Laz: Woody Guthrie

 

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Jesse Laz, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

Bonus materials for Jesse include 3 music videos of songs he’s been enjoying lately.

Stay tuned for an interview with Jesse’s brother, Jordan Laz, coming soon.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words