Across the Sea is your debut album. What story does it tell?
It’s a story about a lot of things, really. Most clearly it’s about being young and losing your first love. The stuff I was writing about, I had been in a relationship for 3 years and then I moved away from home and we broke up and I just felt like my whole world was falling apart. I never realized how immature I was until I was placed in that situation and had to grow up. I feel like a lot of people have a similar experience to that though, they have that same sort of crisis whether it be when they go to college or whatever. The album is just about regaining your footing even when you can’t seem to find anything to stand on. It’s about growing up and feeling a little nostalgic about childhood but fully understanding that it’s gone and looking to the future.
I think Pink Floyd has to be first. They were always playing around the house when I was growing up because my dad is a big fan. I heard Animals in full for the first time in 5th grade and was really strongly affected by its message. Then I heard The Wall in middle school and I’ve been writing concept albums ever since. This is just the first one I felt I should record. Neutral Milk Hotel also has a big influence on me. Jeff Mangum’s poetry mostly but he also showed me how fun it was to beat the hell out of an old acoustic guitar to write music. The National, Nirvana and Wilco are other bands whose records I really admire and sort of emulate in certain ways.
How has your style evolved and changed over the time since you first started playing?
I started writing music when I was about 8 so it’s changed over and over again in every way you can imagine. There was a significant shift when I started writing for this album though. I suddenly wasn’t at all self-conscious absolute honesty in my lyrics. For the first time I really wrote what I felt without worrying if people will get it or connect and ironically these songs wound up being much more relatable than anything I was writing before.
Which tracks off of Across the Sea are your favorites?
I like the way Portland Rain turned out. I felt I had something I really liked as soon as I finished writing that song then it translated really well in the studio which I’m grateful for because I doesn’t always work that way, you know? Same with City Kid, Purple, White & Pink and the title track. I felt those were all strong ideas and the process just worked when it came time to record them.
Can you describe your creative process and your recording set up for us?
I wrote all the songs on the floor in my room, cross-legged (that’s important to me for some reason) on an acoustic guitar. When I write, I’m always most excited to write the lyrics, see what kind of wordplay I can find and what phrases am I going to write that I like so I pretty quickly come up with a guitar riff that i can write the first verse with to set the mood for the song and… I don’t know after that. If I’m excited about what I write in the first verse it just kind of flows from there. The recording set-up was actually just in my producer George Fisher’s house. Pro Tools, make shift sound booth, a couple of computers set up in the living room, the whole 21st century sha-bang.
How can interested readers listen to your music?
You can stream the whole album on SoundCloud and Spotify. For purchase it’s really available digitally anywhere you like. ITunes, Google Play, Bandcamp, the list goes on.
What has been your most memorable experience as The Animation Association?
I think the day I wrapped mixing. George and I had filled in all the transitions between songs and we just sat and listened to the album and I was really happy with what I heard. It was a sort of flood of emotions. As I listened to it I just remembered sitting in my room playing all those songs over and over again, I probably played through the album over 100 times to make sure I didn’t want to add or subtract or change songs, dreaming of getting to record it and feeling the reality of it sinking in was surreal. Paradoxes are fun.
What goals do you still have left to accomplish in your career?
I have lots of material I still need to record. I have 2 other rock concepts I’m working on and I also want to pursue folk music which I write a lot of but might record under a different name. As far as goals, I guess I just want to express myself and purely as possible and touch people and make them connect to it and feel understood. I’ve made those connections with artists my whole life, very personal connections where I feel like they’re my ally through whatever is going on. To be that to someone else is the most fulfilling thing I can think of.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Live life with the main purpose of distributing as much love and compassion as possible. It’s cliché but you never know who needs it or how much it means to them.
The Animation Association Interview