BK’s Threes Brewing Offers More of NYC’s Best & Brightest

13336042_1048309841871947_5588201981099957425_nSo stop me if I’m getting too far ahead of myself, but much like the musicians who owe their success to certain defining moments, genres or locations, as a freelance music journalist for hire…. I have to give it up to NYC.

High fives and fist bumps all around you guys. And that is by no means any offense to areas like Ohio or St Louis who have been extremely generous to me as well, but my first real underground music talent pipeline has come up through these city boroughs. Think of an explosion equivalent to some of those opened up Brooklyn fire hydrants on a hot summer day circa twenty years ago, and you’re starting to get close to the experience.

Point is, I owe a lot to these bands and artists, and I continued that due diligence last week during my regular NYC visit with a stop to Brooklyn’s Threes Brewing to see the Roots Music Gang. Call it a chance to… experience even more of the local flavor if you will.

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Take the band Von Kraut for instance. Brooklyn based (as you might have expected) and stripped to essentially the bare acoustics, this trio of Jason on guitar, Keira on cello and Rorie on backing vocals was essentially just… what you see is what you get. There isn’t nearly the layering that appears on their music, replaced instead by a few spare guitar loops, delicate cello plucks, and the interplay of the two vocalists strongly complementing one another on the harmonies.

Jason and Rorie’s vocal styles actually might initially seem like strange bedfellows, as his is more of a whisper thin height while hers resembles more of a low set willowy blues. Jason in fact reminds me a bit of a combo of the falsetto of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and the gossamer strand spiderweb murmurs of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous. Nevertheless, the two fell in rise and fall with a vocal chemistry that kept me glued throughout the set.

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And speaking of spiderweb strands, I felt that Jason’s songwriting strongly echoed the feelings deeply embedded into his falsetto. The subjects were both light yet tenderly ethereal, laden with the severed heartstrings of breakups and breakdowns that came across as delicate as the cello sitting just to his right onstage. And even when the tempo would pick up into John Mayer-like acoustic blues hopping plucks, the feeling behind it was still that of so many threads of emotion adrift in the world’s sea.

Just… looking for their way home.

And that restlessness was no better exemplified than in the band’s closing cut, a cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”. Accompanied only by himself on guitar, Jason took a no-nonsense, rock riffing 80’s anthem and beautifully translated it into a winter worn Elliott Smith narrative of ache and meanderings just simply wondering…. what if?

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I love a good song cover, but I particularly love when an artist takes it and sees a part of themselves in the song that they identify with. They don’t desire to just play it note for note, they desire to completely REARRANGE the notes and show the listener through telescopic interpretation just what they see. Just what they feel.

That’s truly honest music. And it made for a beautiful way to close the moment.

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But while Von Kraut may have made the most out of beautifying the quiet moments that night, solo artist Dylan Sneed took them by the horns of his amplifier, cranked them up “This Is Spinal Tap”-style to 11, and made them stand up straight with their best posture and pay attention.

Sneed has been a sideman, frontman and jack of all trades around the BK scene much longer than I’ve been traveling these alleyways and backstreets, and rarely will you encounter such a sweet and easily affable personality offstage. However when the chips are down and it’s time for the music to be played, Sneed unleashes a force of sheer iron-willed presence that will make you take a step back (even while sitting down).

Accompanied by a pedal steel player, a drummer and a bassist, Sneed ripped through his set with the frenzy and precise passion of a man possessed. One moment he was BB King sliding along the watermarked glass of a Nashville tearjerker, and in the next he and his band were a mental mind fury of jangling frets combined with the eerie psychedelic disillusionment of Carl Perkins on a prod rock acid trip.

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To me, Sneed is the type of guitarist and songwriter who warrants such tangled descriptions as he easily chameleons in and out of country gold, blues, stomp ‘n’ holler rock and roll, and riffs worthy of the Roadrunner himself Chuck Berry. In fact, his easy virtuosity often reminded me of Blake Mills, who has also played sideman and jack of all trades as well as capable songwriter with a couple of great solo records under his belt over the years. Though in either man’s case, despite these many capable skills it’s still the strength of the instrumentation that speaks the loudest.

Songs like the unreleased track “War Song” and “Oxford Town” rocketed back and forth between the anguish of mental push and pull, and the pure fury of Texas roadhouse barn burning rock driven to the peak of it’s finest.

All in all, it made for a perfect way to jettison the night off into the stars.

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Check out Dylan Sneed and Von Kraut through their Bandcamp albums, on social media, and much more! 

Pinkwing Brings Shimmering “Honey”, Darker “Salt” On Latest EP

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Mood music. Think about that phrase for a moment, and go to the band or artist in your mind that it first takes you to. Harder to pin down than you’d think right?

Or, I could ask you that phrase on the spot today and that first feeling could change by tonight, tomorrow, or the middle of the next week. Hell, it could change in the next minute for all I know.

Mood music is that thing within us all that is always changing it’s shape and bending to the nature of our will’s whim like silly putty, or that certain way trees have of dancing in the wind. Rarely is it a constant, and the deeper you go into music the less you would ever really want it to be.

At least that’s what I’ve found in my experiences anyway.

But if you were to ask me to think “mood music” right in this moment, in this very second as I write to you amidst one of the nicest, sunniest days of this early glimpse into summer, I would have to settle on the equally warm joyousness of soul found deep within the band Pinkwing’s latest EP Honey & Salt.

11713679_946728495391765_2321963311601934802_oFrom quite literally the first introductory breath, frontwoman Joanna Levine and company start the record on an uplift with the infectiously catchy, almost folk-like tale of “The Reverend Robert Pawlings”. Based on Levine’s real life husband and bandmate of the same name (which you can learn more about here), “Pawlings” is a sweetly horn-accented, tongue in cheek love letter of a song that climaxes within an audience of voices singing spaciously in unison.

As far as initial greetings go, “Pawlings” is the toe-tapping, ear-worming, sing-a-long, hook of an engraved invitation that’s ready to take you on a ride through the rest of the EP.

12027134_994293443968603_2250725989558392233_oNot to be outdone, the next track “Enough” takes down the tempo and has it reside within a swinging, bluesy roadhouse waltz that acts as the perfect vehicle for Levine’s versatilely murmuring vocals. And while “Pawlings” is engaging due to the strength of it’s energy, “Enough” has such an enrapturing cadence to it that it’s nearly impossible not to be drawn into the song’s gradually unfurling, introspective trance and swirling slide guitar solo.

These first two songs make an excellent example of the template for the rest of Honey & Salt for the most part, as it’s an EP that’s sown together with sections that are folky, alt-pop/rock hinting, blues-heavy, contemplatively evocative, and with plenty of grittiness just starting to surface.

That undertow of something sharper and more lo-fi leaning comes out the strongest in “Prettiest Pictures”, which has plenty of sharp electric guitar lines and an angst-filled yearning that hits with the strength of a lonely walk on an uneven sidewalk at 2 AM. Or in the way that initial stream of water hits you from the shower head after a hard day just trying to scratch a little closer to the world you dream of for yourself.

11999619_974146279316653_4846111436610340020_oIn my interview with Levine she had spoken of wanting to take Pinkwing in a direction that was less cleanly folk-oriented and more battered-up blues, and I for one would be eager to listen to the band diving into those rockier edges. Because even with as pretty as songs like closer “All Night” or “Enough” are in their polished state, I sense even more possible depth for this band the more they might choose to explore that worn-thin vulnerability.

Though when it comes to the magnetic quality of Levine’s vocalisms, I could just as easily see her thriving in a stripped down to the acoustic bare bones setting (a la Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska) in the case of some of these tracks.

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But regardless, Honey & Salt is the perfect epitome of today’s mood music. So sit back, get yourself a glass of something ice cold, enjoy the sun, and pair some Pinkwing right along with it.

There are few better ways I can think of to bring in the season properly.

 

Shaking The Dust Off My Interview Feathers With Pinkwing’s Joanna Levine

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Spring transitioning into summer is usually one of those times where people dread spiraling weather patterns, dodge rain like someone unknowingly moved them into the heart of downtown Seattle, and start to gradually plan out fireworks, yearly beach trips and a surprising amount of egg salad they plan to prepare.

However in the case of yours truly, while I do enjoy a few of those aforementioned items I tend to focus on the coming year of music. And while we’ve already had a few records more than worth mentioning, this point of time starts to be the transition where tours really start to heat up, releases drop like flies every few weeks, and musicians start making their respective moves (earlier than noon one would hope, though I can’t vouch for that since I’m usually asleep).

Regardless, it’s a fun time and it’s especially fun when you’re a music journalist that’s really started to make connections with the underground talent still paying it’s dues. As someone still gladly working hard to pay my own dues each and every single day, I identify with these wonderful folks much more closely than those artists who have major record deals or a top single on the iTunes charts.

No offense to them, but I understand the fight to succeed in your niche with much greater sharpness of clarity at this point in my life. And anytime I get to connect or talk to someone else fighting that same battle, I feel like it not only brings those of you reading this greater content, but also brings that community of us just a little bit closer together.

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So on that note, after a bit of an OTBEOTB hiatus I’m glad to return with an interview I conducted recently with the wonderful Joanna Levine, AKA the frontwoman of the Brooklyn bands Pinkwing and Joannas ‘n Bananas. Among other things we get to talk about those bands, her last Pinkwing EP Honey & Salt, a bit of musical background, and much much more. Enjoy!

1. So leading off, I like to start with the nuts and bolts and get straight into the basics. How did you end up getting into music as a career path, and what influenced you into making the jump from playing/learning in private to wanting to take that to stages to share with people? I know you describe the band’s influences as “times, places, people, stories, love, lust, confusion, heartbreak, and pancakes”, and since that piques my interest quite a bit more than the usual list of bands or artists musicians usually cite, I’m highly intrigued by that creative… vortex of thought there.

(JL): I got started, I think, by writing poetry in high school. I also quit piano lessons and was originally forced to pick up guitar by my mom, who wanted me to continue with any instrument. I was 12- I ended up quitting then too- but picked it up again around age 14 when I realized I wanted to accompany myself singing. Started out just learning open chords. I think I wrote my first song when I was 17. and my second when I was 20 or so. My guitar playing and songwriting career has been a series of starts and stops. But I did start playing open mics when I was at school for theatre studies at York University in Toronto. I remember being so nervous and my hands shaking so bad I could barely get through all the way through a song. I think I always wanted to perform, despite growing up as a somewhat introverted/shy kid.

My first actual band was with my friend Alana Livesey when we were living in Beijing, China. We played a few gigs and recorded a few covers and the first original songs I ever wrote.

Then I moved to NY in the late summer of 2006 for design school and started dating a trumpet player (Justin Davis) who introduced me to more musicians and encouraged me to start pursuing music more seriously. New York is pretty amazing like that. It gave me permission to pursue ambitions that I never allowed myself to indulge before- because of upbringing or preconceived notions of what’s realistic. I met a lot of people who were playing out and quickly realized how badly I wanted to as well. I kept asking people to join my band and they usually said yes. By the time I finished school I had no intention of following the path I had moved to NY pursue and started trying to figure out how to play and write as much music as possible.

The influences I sited are part joke part truth. The past 10ish years in NYC have felt like several lifetimes- multiple relationships, apartments, career-paths, friend circles. It’s so transient. It makes me feel like a survivor just to have stayed for so long. Most of the friends I made in my first 5 years have left. I don’t eat as many pancakes as I used to, I’m both happy and sad to report *laughs*. 

2. And as a bit of an add on to that question, was it playing an instrument that led you into writing songs? Or were you writing first and playing an instrument just came after that?

(JL): I played guitar and wrote poetry separately (to deal with teen angst!). It felt funny- kind of just an experiment when I wrote my first few songs. I didn’t realize it would become a lifetime fascination. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just fucking around. honestly I’m still just fucking around. I have pretty limited music theory knowledge, I’m told it’s not necessarily an impediment- I’ve been told that too much theory in your head can really create a block too. At first I was frustrated by my limitations, but then I started embracing the simplicity- I love country and blues and roots music. That stuff isn’t complicated. So now I just try to shut up my inner critic and try to get back in touch with the ‘just messing around’ mentality.

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3. What led to the formation of Pinkwing itself? I know in your bio you state that you’re mostly a duo in more intimate venues and a quartet for the “rowdier stages”. How did that all come together, and is there a story behind the name Pinkwing itself? I’m always curious about unusual or interesting band names and how they came to be chosen.

(JL): I released my first Pinkwing EP before I met Rob (Pawlings). With some friends in Toronto backing me up. My former band, the Collectors felt like it was falling apart and I, for some reason, I felt the need to move home to Toronto for a bit- it didn’t stick- I moved back after 5 months. But I recorded the Restless EP there. I tried to bring on other band mates when I moved back but i was just floating, nothing stuck. Until I met Rob. We starting playing together shortly after we starting dating, joined by a few of his friends- Paul Madison and Kenny Shaw, great guitarist and drummer, respectively. Rob has a really wonderful and talented circle of musician friends I feel very lucky to have met. We got married 2 years ago so now he is my bass player and co-creator for life *laughs*.

Our friends Vinnie Presite and Andrew Rosario started joining us regularly last year and it’s a warm fuzzy harmonious line-up. I love those guys- Vinnie is an old friend of Rob’s from Utica and Andrew is an old friend of Vinnie’s from playing on cruise ships and is also from Toronto. I’m pretty stoked have those guys as they’re just great dudes and great musicians.

The name Pinkwing comes from a symbol I’ve loved for a long time- a flying pig that John Steinbeck used to stamp on his essays and letters with the latin phrase ‘ad astra per alia porci’ which means ‘to the stars on the wings of a pig’. He described himself as ‘a lumbering soul trying to fly’, I guess I identify with it. I liked it so much I got it tattooed on my back (just the pig).

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4. Now being that you’re in a band, what is that collaborative environment like amongst your bandmates? Are you more of the solo artist and the band just sorta follows along with the vision you’ve got for your music, or is that an equal opportunity environment? And how would you say that influences the multiple genres you touch on within EP’s like your newest “Honey & Salt”?

(JL): Well… I’m definitely the songwriter- all the songs I play with the guys are songs I wrote before I met them. Most of them were recorded before we started playing with Vinnie and Andrew- so I guess they play go for the vibe that is on the recordings to a degree but they are all experts at their instruments- so they definitely add their own tone to the songs- then songs that haven’t been recorded they definitely arrange their own parts. We just started working on a new song that I hadn’t played with a band before- so it’s the first time that we’re working out the arrangement as a totally collaborative process. It’s been really fun- I’m excited to write a bunch more new songs in the next year to work out together.

5. Now speaking of your latest EP (which is on pretty constant rotation here at OTBEOTB), what’s the story behind your lead song “The Reverend Robert Pawlings”? Because judging by the song he sounds like a pretty resourceful guy, and I notice he also happens to play bass in Pinkwing. Now is Robert a real Reverend (in addition to his many other alleged skills), or is there some deeper story to that?

(JL): The Reverend Robert Pawlings, as you may have guessed by now, is tribute to my husband of the same name. Yes he is an ordained internet Reverend *laughs*. He’s married several of his friends. The song was my wedding gift to him, which I recorded on the sly with our friend Jon Jetter at his Right Angle Studios in NYC, and enlisted the help of all Rob’s friends to sing/play for him at our wedding. Rob is a really special person. He has more energy and a bigger heart than anyone I have ever met. He keeps me grounded.

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6. I know we’re a little behind the ball in talking about your latest music (“Honey & Salt” dropped back in August of 2015). But if anything, I think it provides an interesting window into how the music matures over time. I find that to be one of the hardest parts of reviewing new music on a release day unless I’ve had a few weeks to study it, because it’s just too fresh to settle into where it should ultimately be right at that moment. How do you feel looking back at this latest EP compared to when you started making music? How do you feel it’s evolved, how do you feel you’ve evolved, and how do you feel like this music is “settling” so to speak looking back at it now?

(JL): The Honey & Salt EP is kind of a patchwork. it was recorded/mixed in 3 different studios. I think I learn something every time I release something. I love each of the songs on this album and I loved collaborating with the people who helped us put it together. I think my sensibilities have started to settle in… the musical direction I want to continue to pursue is there… I love blues rock. I want the next album we release to be a full length album- and I want it to be fucking gritty. I wrote SO many sad, folky songs for so long. I’m pretty sick of them. I want to write and record a roots and blues rock album next. It’ll still have a little bit of folk and country feel, But I’m really trying to move away from that and into more up-tempo blues rock.

7. You’re the first musician I’ve ever had the privilege to metaphorically sit down and interview who happens to have an additional children’s music side project band called Joannas ’n Bananas. After listening to and loving your cover of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga” (complete with bubbles and kazoo solo), how do you end up having a children’s music side project band in the first place? Especially balanced against a pretty serious minded Americana-blues band in Pinkwing? I think it’s a really interesting contrast and I’d love to hear the backstory.

(JL): After abandoning the fashion industry and getting fired from several serving jobs, I started working as a nanny. Shortly thereafter I began teaching an early childhood music program called ‘music together’ . Eventually I began offering my own kids’ sing-alongs, occasionally joined by Rob and hence Joannas ‘n Bananas was born (Bananas is one of Rob’s many nicknames- Bobby Bananas). Teaching kids classes is still my bread and butter. I do it more and more- actually in the process of developing a new program I’ll be offering in Westchester starting this spring called Monkey Music ‘n Play. It takes up a lot of my time! It’s kind of a struggle to balance the two… I have a hard time deciding what I should be working on- the kids stuff is a lot more profitable- It’s hard to make a living playing the Pinkwing tunes- and I like teaching. It’s just a constant balancing act. I love Joannas ‘n Bananas but I wish I had more time to give to Pinkwing development too.

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8. Also I have to ask, who’s a better audience, the adults or playing for the kids?

(JL): Kids, if you can get and hold their attention, are a magical audience. They will straight up stand half a foot from your face and stare at you for an entire song. There is no filter and no sense of social convention. I love little kids.

9. Getting back into Pinkwing again, how does the creative process for new songs work for you exactly? Going back to question two for a moment, is it a matter of music coming before words, or do words develop that need to be set into music in your mind? I’m always very curious about that because I find that the question is very different for everyone I’ve asked, especially for people in a band.

(JL): I think I usually play around with chord progressions and then add lyrics. These days- I usually set out to write something specific. I like sitting down with a thematic goal in mind. To be totally honest I have written more kids songs than adult songs in the last year. Which is really fun and kind of freeing- I’m not really worried about a kids’ song being too simple. The simpler the better. But I really really want to get back to writing more Pinkwing tunes. The older I get the more conscious I need to get about how I spend my time. I think the only way I will sit down and carve out that time to write is if I spend money on a rehearsal space or make a song-writing date with a friend. It’s really something that’s at the forefront of my mind lately. Because I refuse to accept the notion that my most prolific period might be behind me. Fuck that. I just need to figure out a better system to get around to writing.

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10. And lastly, I know it’s only been about six months since your last EP, but are you already looking at future plans and songs for the next record? And what gigs and live stuff can people look forward to seeing you play at next if they like the record and want to see the music up close and in person?

(JL): We just moved into a house in Westchester with a great basement with a built-in vintage bar that We are slowly turning into a studio- I would love to release at least a single by the fall. and hopefully another album within the next year. Like i said, I need to write a bunch more new tunes. It’s happening. I’m excited to get set-up in the basement and record a whole album in one location.

We are playing quite a bit over the spring and summer- next up: brooklyn may 27, pete’s candy store, brooklyn june 3, rockwood music hall, NYC june 10, the back door, old forge, ny july 16th, the grape room, phillidelphia, pa

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Humongous, BIGGEST of BIG thanks to Joanna Levine of Pinkwing and Joannas ‘n Bananas for sitting down to interview with me! I love the content of doing this stuff as well as getting to know the artist, and I hope that you do too!

For more on Joanna, you can look up (and like!) either of her bands on Facebook, and by all means go and purchase the lovely Honey & Salt Pinkwing EP over on their Bandcamp page! If you do, not only are you doing the awesome thing of supporting independent artistry, but you might also get something as cool as this for buying the physical CD!

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Getting Started With “Said & Done” And Singer/Songwriter Stephen Babcock

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So it seems like every time I get ready to write and tell you a new story here at OTBEOTB, we’re entering some new untold musical realm that seems to sync up perfectly with my mindset for the time of year.

Last time I spoke to you we were drifting through the mire of February and shaking up that grey Polaroid of activity with the music of David Rothschild & The Downtown Local. Now, we find ourselves in the very fingertips of a new March beginning, and with that comes the notion of a spring just waiting to be sprung. And while that blossoming of what’s to come seems to be stirring up the musical realm as well (with some great releases just starting to emerge), I find none to be quite so perfectly fitting for a summer in the making as the goes-down-smooth textures of Stephen Babcock’s just released LP Said & Done.

Babcock has an immediate flair for a good hook and a sweet melody, and when you put it all together his sound is the kind that makes “radio friendly” the term of endearment it used to be before largely tone-deaf Top 40 ruled today’s airwaves. Listening to Babcock’s songs recall that period when it was fun to find a song by an artist you didn’t know on your FM dial that just sounded great (and felt the same), and all it made you wanna do was roll down the car windows, blast the speakers, and hit the highway.

Thankfully, yours truly here at On The Back Edge of the Beat was able to catch up with Stephen Babcock just after the release of his album (and coinciding release show at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall on the 27th), and ask him some questions. I hope you find it as interestingly illuminating as I did, and if your interest is piqued you can now pick up Said & Done on Stephen’s Bandcamp page, Amazon, iTunes, and you can stream it over on Spotify. There will be a review of it to come here on this very spot tomorrow, but without any further ado:

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1. Congratulations on releasing your new album Said & Done! How has the reception to it been in the days since from both fans and newcomers alike?

(SB)-So far it’s been really overwhelming and exciting. A lot of people have shown their support and it’s been fantastic. New and old friends alike have reached out to me and have been really kind and supportive. Some blogs here and there have also given the record some really positive reviews, and we had a full room at the Rockwood Music Hall release show. It makes me happy to see that people have really been enjoying it.

 2. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to ask anyone this, but what are the mixtures of emotions like in the days leading up to and after the release of a new album? Are there a lot of nerves? Does this perfectionist side emerge where you wanna change a guitar part or lyric in hindsight? 

 (SB)-I definitely had some nerves right before releasing the new record and playing the release show. You never know how people will react and I really just wanted people to like the album. I had put a lot of time into perfecting everything I could and making sure I loved each and every song. So my hope was that people would fall in love with the songs like I did. So far the response has been nothing but positive and really exciting. I know that no matter what anyone says, I still love every single piece of music on Said & Done. It just makes it even sweeter to know other people love the songs as much as I do. It makes all the time, money, and effort worth it.

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 3. Now I know you played a release show for the album at the venerable Rockwood Music Hall this past weekend. What’s it like from your experience playing a venue like that, and where does it rank in terms of places you’ve gotten to play in during your music career?

(SB)-I’ll be honest, Rockwood Music Hall is easily one of the best venues in New York City, if not the US. When I first started out in New York as a songwriter, Rockwood, Stage 2 was where I wanted to be. All my favorite bands have played there, from Bahamas, to Dawes; to even just recently Johnnyswim came in and sold out the venue. So Rockwood always holds a special place in my heart. Playing Stage 2 at Rockwood for me meant that you “made it” as a New York songwriter. So I started out playing really early slots at Rockwood Stage 1 at like 6PM. After playing up through Stage 1 to Stage 2, I was finally able to pull off a Saturday night slot for my release. The folks at Rockwood couldn’t have been kinder and more supportive of the release too. When it came to the night of the show, I think everyone was surprised at how packed it was. I had basically sold out the venue and we were at capacity. It just blew my mind to see how supportive and wonderful my friends and fans are. Even people who didn’t know my music before came out to the show and were totally engaged. The release show is easily one of the highest points in my musical career. After the show my band and I just hugged each other because we knew how special that moment truly was.

 4. So as I’m reading the summary of your new album and the personal journeys and stories involved in it, I have to ask (because it always fascinates me) what are your origins as a musician and songwriter and what led you to making music as a creative outlet? 

(SB)-I grew up in a very musical family. My dad had my brothers and I taking piano lessons when we were about 3 years old and I tried numerous instruments as kid (the viola and saxophone in particular).Things changed a lot though when I was 10 years old and my older brother bought John Mayer’s Room for Squares. I just identified with the music and it led me to really loving the singer-songwriter genre. I picked up the drums at about 13 and started playing in bands with some school friends but it never allowed me to write songs like I wanted to. When I was 16 I gravitated toward the guitar as soon as I learned a few chords, I went home, wrote three songs, and recorded them the next week. That same year, I won the high school talent show, which triggered the light to go off in my head thinking “maybe I could always do this?”. To this day I still play both drums and guitar consistently as a musical outlet. They provide different things for me musically and I really enjoy that. The work I do with drums is more collaborative and includes writing with other people, but the guitar is all mine I would say. The guitar gives me a chance to say things to people I might not people to in real life, and I need that sometimes.

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5. And to add on to that a little bit more (coming from this fellow Upstate New Yorker), how does a guy coming out of Utica and Syracuse find himself down in the big city doing the whole music thing? Do you still find time to come back to our neck of the woods, and does that play a role going from places that could arguably be considered quite rural compared to that big “City That Never Sleeps”? 

(SB)-I grew up right outside of Utica in New Hartford, NY, and Upstate is really dear to me. I personally think my time in New Hartford, Syracuse, and Albany really helped shape me as a person. I just really love coming from a very suburban place that allowed me to figure out what I wanted to be. I still visit all the time because I think going Upstate allows me to connect to a part of me that the city could never get to. Being from outside the city helps keep me grounded and makes me appreciate the littler things in life. It keeps me from being so “go, go, go” all the time (though I know I’m still a very anxious guy). I’ve been a suburbs guy I guess. It is a big part of me.

 6. In listening to your stuff, I can definitely sense an acoustic-pop flair that has the warmth and invite of a Jason Mraz or early John Mayer. Now was that just a type/style of music you fell into naturally, or as you grew into it did that require experimentation? Did you secretly start as a psychedelic punk rocker and just scale back?

(SB)-I think I definitely fell into it naturally. I believe that every songwriter just naturally writes and sings in a certain way, and mine just happened to be that singer-songwriter style. I have played drums in punk rock bands and hard rock bands and I definitely love that style of music, but I have always been in that songwriting vein musically. A lot of people use the Jason Mraz/John Mayer comparison too, but for me, I have slowly drifted away from that. Nowadays I feel the music I love (and play) has a more Americana and “southern-pop” feel. To me, the new record, Said & Done, is a more pop inflected take on bands like Dawes, Bahamas, Rayland Baxter, or Ryan Adams. Still songwriter-y, but tracks like “Tightrope”, “Worth”, or even “Someday” come from an Americana beginning stylistically.

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7. Now in that music/lyrical creation realm, what comes first for you? Is it a process where the words of the song shape themselves out of a place or idea and just need to have the chords built around them? Or does the music come out in chords or particular riffs and the words come after?

(SB)-I have always been a “music first” guy. It allows me to find the meter and flow of the song while giving me a chance to decide what I want to say. Usually, if not always, the lyrics come from personal experience. You could point at any song and I could tell you “oh that’s about so and so” or “yep that’s about such and such”. Said and Done is basically about one person in particular, but the songs also come from numerous experiences with different women in my life. Each song is like a melting pot of real events, but some songs are more about one person and others are about a culmination of people. I take a lot of pride in lyrics because the music I gravitate to is all about that. Lyrics can usually take the longest time to gather together, but I always find it is absolutely worth it. The best thing to hear from any listener is that they loved the lyrics or that they identified with them. To me that sends me over the moon with joy.

8. Going back to the description of the album again for a moment, is there anymore you’d like to add about that journey you took in the creation of making this record? I’m always so intrigued by such vulnerably human journeys of discovery, and I think what most catches my attention is how you were influenced by the Southern United States. How did that come about exactly, and what did that part of the country infuse into this record?

(SB)-The trips and tours came about after my desire to play some shows down South. I have some family from the area and I knew my music would fit well there. Lo and behold, it totally worked out better than I ever could have expected I met so many people and learned so much that it really inspired me. The Southeast helped me really discover who I was and what I wanted to say musically. You can hear it in the songs; the love for Southern music and particularly a girl named Georgia. Every state from Alabama to North Carolina can be heard in this record. Each one has a special story and imparted a certain wisdom on my music that I still feel is very crucial to who I am. I just think the south made me look at myself in a certain way and the Americana music I heard really inspired me. I traveled the South both alone and with my good friends Luca DiFabio and Brad Goodall. Both trips just made me feel at home. The music, the food, the people; everything was welcoming me with open arms. It allowed me to grow in a brand new way. It’s a second home and a personal proving ground.

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9. In this grand realm of music and album creation, when you boil it down to the real nuts and bolts of what goes into it all…. what does music represent to you? Is it a great burst of catharsis and really being able to unload that emotional weight out into the world, or is it just that storytelling aspect and wanting to share it with others? I guess to really sum it up, what drives you and inspires you not to just play music, but to create things like Said & Done?

(SB)-I think it’s a little bit of both things you mentioned. I love having music as a release in my daily life, but I also use music to tell stories and say things to or about people I might not normally say. For me, music is a way to collect my thoughts and be creative in a way that I think people can identify with. Most importantly, I use music to connect with people. I long for that connection with others and it’s really vital to me. So music gives me a way to look people in the eye and share experiences.

10. And finally, now that Said & Done is just starting to spread it’s wings and make it’s way out into the world, what are you looking at as far as future musical plans go? What dates will you be playing that you can tell us about, and what are the prospects of making some new stuff further down the line?

(SB)-Well now that Said & Done is literally “said & done” (sorry had to use the pun), the plan is to work to tour a lot. There is an upcoming show on March 24th at Pianos at 8PM with my friends Luca DiFabio and Brad Goodall. We then will be playing in Washington D.C. on March 30th Gypsy Sally’s and Richmond, VA at Reclaimed RVA on March 31st (the Richmond show also includes my friends “The Tide Rose”). There is more shows booked for April and into the summer, so the hope is just to get the record in front of people at shows. I’m also planning on doing some work with some labels and management companies which should be really exciting too. As far as the next record, I started writing it while finishing this one, so things are definitely on their way. I personally can’t wait to get back in the studio and make something brand new to show everyone. Writing has been really fluid so I’m excited to see what happens in the future. Be on the look out though for more Said & Done shows and content in the near future. 

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Thanks so much to Stephen Babcock for taking the time to sit down with me! Like I said in the beginning, if you want to buy his new record you can check him out on Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon, or if you’d prefer to stream it beforehand you can go over to Spotify as well.

As I also mentioned before, look for a review on Said & Done to be here front and center tomorrow!

All photos courtesy of Stephen Babcock’s artist Facebook page. 

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