As he revs up to release his new track “Passenger’s Side” this Friday, Ontario-based folk rock talent John Muirhead seems to be absolutely glowing with excitement. His music – which has an almost Broadway musical feel to it with the way he emphasizes every syllable and makes sure his audience is crystal clear on his meaning – is absolutely captivating, the new track setting the tone for what’s to come later this year. Check out our quick hit interview below, and be sure to peep the new song on Friday!
Your new single “Passenger’s Side” is amazing. How has your music evolved since releasing your first EP Yesterday’s Smile?
Thanks so much!
I’m still very proud of Yesterday’s Smile, but with it being my first EP, the whole record was a learning process. I learned a lot about how to be comfortable in the studio and how to create interesting arrangements that serve the song. The songs themselves were written between the ages of 16 and 19, so looking back as a more mature songwriter there are definitely some things that I would change if I were to do it all over again.
With “Passenger’s Side” and the rest of Foundational (The new EP, released in June 2018) I’ve taken the experience from Yesterday’s Smile and applied it. I feel that my voice has matured, my confidence has grown, and the songs are more representative of myself.
What message would you like your fans to get from “Passenger’s Side”? (Out April 6th)
The song is about defying the feeling that maybe our best days are behind us, and the appeal and romanticism of leaving it all behind. With this song I hope that listeners know that they’re not alone in that feeling.
I also hope the song can be the soundtrack to late night drives and lazy Sunday mornings.
How have you grown as an artist since you first began making music?
I think I’m just more sure of myself as a musician. I’ve sharpened up my guitar playing, singing, and performance through the constant repetition of touring and playing live, and my songwriting is getting closer and closer to the level I want it to be. My artistic vision is much clearer now, and I know what I want to accomplish in music.
What is your favorite thing about making music?
My favourite moment in the process of making music is seeing and hearing people sing along to songs that I wrote. I make music in hopes that my songs can effect others the way my favourite songs have effected me, and seeing people sing along is a reminder that maybe I’m on the right track.
In a much broader sense, my favourite thing about music is the fact that it’s a universal language. Regardless of language or culture we can all connect to music, and it plays such an integral role in all of our lives. I’ve made so many meaningful connections to people through music that I may not have had if I didn’t play, and I think that’s amazing.
What inspired you to begin making music?
Like a lot of musicians my age, Guitar Hero actually played a big role in inspiring me to pick up a real guitar. It introduced me to so much great music and it felt really cool to hold a guitar in my hands. When I picked up a real guitar it felt amazing to actually play the songs from the game and from there it didn’t take long to start writing.
What musicians would you say inspire you as an artist?
There are too many! I would have to say Frank Turner would be one of my biggest influences, he bridged the gap between my indie/punk rock upbringing and my current appreciation for folk music. Seeing the intensity of his work ethic and reading about his crazy tour stories really made me want to push myself to the limit as a musician. Recently I’ve been really inspired by Brian Fallon, Jason Isbell, Phoebe Bridgers, and a whole bunch more.
Following the release of your new EP this spring will there be a tour in the future?
Yes! I will be heading out to Eastern Canada in June, touring as part of VIA Rail’s Artist on Board program. I’ll be announcing all of the dates shortly, make sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date!
Writing inspirational songs that encourage you while leaving you feeling empowered at the same time, singer-songwriter Somaya writes music that inspires others. Somaya, who released her debut album “Stand Up” last June is on the rise in music. Full of emotion and powerful lyrics, the young singer makes her mark in music by not only helping herself but others through her lyrics. We caught up with Somaya recently to talk about “Stand Up” and what is next for her in music.
Check out what she has to say below!
The meaning behind “Stand Up” is powerful, what exactly inspired you to create that song?
Sexual assault is an issue that has, unfortunately, affected a lot of people in my life, and I was frustrated with how little support survivors receive. Knowing how powerful music can be, I decided to write “Stand Up” to try and raise awareness on the issue, and to encourage others to use their voice as well.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I look up to Halsey and Tove Lo for their production style and for the rawness in their music. I also look up to the lyricism of more stripped back artists like Hozier and Mumford and Sons.
What advice would you give people that want to get into music?
Don’t let comparison get in the way of you achieving your goals.
Your album is named after your song “Stand Up”, what was the whole creative process like for the album?
It was really cool! “Stand Up” is my debut album, so a large part of the process was new territory for me. I’ve been writing songs since I was 11, so to be able to record my songs with a producer as amazing as Matt Bronleewe was truly incredible.
Your song “Stand Up” is garnering a lot of attention, what it is like seeing that people love your song?
It’s unreal. Like I said, I’ve been writing songs since I was 11, and for years most of those songs didn’t go beyond the ears of my family and close friends, so to receive such a positive response from so many people, especially on a song I wrote about sexual assault, feels so rewarding.
Is there anything music wise that we can expect from you in the near future?
I’m always writing new music, so look out on my social media (@somayamusic) for updates!
What is your favorite thing about making music?
Being able to express myself and be completely honest in my lyrics feels really freeing. And having people tell me that they relate to those lyrics makes it even better.
On March 16th, The Jacks came strolling into our lives like old, familiar friends on the street. We were set to meet them at 6th and San Jacinto in downtown Austin, right outside of San Jac Saloon. We knew we were looking for four musicians – Johnny Stanback, Thomas Hunter, Scott Stone, and Josh Roossin make up this collaborative indie quartet – but we didn’t realize just HOW rock n’ roll the experience would be.
For example, Scott made it to the corner several minutes before the rest of them came meandering up, but every single one of them was donning dark wash jeans and black shirts, often layered with a black jacket. But let me put this into context for you: It was 88 degrees outside.
But that’s just how these guys handle it. They deal with the heat. They’re comfortable in tight spaces together, and they’re excited about expanding their reach and their audience, bringing their music to the masses. So let me leave you with a sweet little ditty by them, and the transcription of our time together in interview form!
Introduce yourselves please. Tell me your name and what you do with the band.
Johnny: We’re The Jack’s. I’m Johnny, and I sing and play guitar, rhythm.
Tom: I’m Tom Hunter and I play lead guitar.
Josh: I’m Josh and I play drums.
Scott: I’m Scott Stone and I play lead bass guitar.
And mother. We hear you’re mother of the band.
Scott: Yes, Momager.
I guess that is because of the fact that he was on time and we were already late.
He’s like ‘hey it’s me – the band’. So guys, how’s South By been for you? Is it your first South By?
Yeah. We got in Monday night… So we’ve been here for three full days now, three and a half. We’re headed off to Dallas tonight… Very excited. That will be a great crowd. We played two [shows] at South By and we’re playing one in Dallas, then heading back.
Awesome. That’s good – pace it a little bit. What have you guys seen here that you liked?
Lots of awesome fans. Lots of great food too. We just had breakfast at Moonshine and it was unreal. You learn not to use Yelp, you ask people. All our local Austin friends gave us good food suggestions.
What was your favorite aspect of South by Southwest as a band?
Both shows we played were really awesome, we had a great time. Obviously, it’s just hanging out, we have a lot of friends here performing, bands that we’ve played with before. It’s so good to see them and see how well they do and spend time. It’s just an amazing environment – it’s all artists and a great time. It’s like adult summer camp!
I like that! That metaphor makes sense! What’s coming up next that you want to tell people about?
Our next show is March 27th at the Peppermint Club in L.A. We’re excited about that one. Then we booked a Pacific Northwest tour for the end of May we’re really excited about. What else… We play Brick and Mortar in San Francisco on the 23rd of May… All the way up to Portland and Seattle so far. That’s what we have in store for the next month or two. And obviously a bunch of great new music hopefully coming.
It’s not up to us anymore, but we get to release it, hopefully in October… We recorded a new single, got a new music video for that.. Hopefully tour on that in the fall.
Fingers crossed it all pans out! Alright, you guys have really committed to the dark jeans, the boots, how are you faring today, although the weather has changed slightly and it’s at least breezy?
We took them off…the day was a little long…yeah…
Here’s a question I have – aesthetically, you guys tend to go toward the black and the jeans, how’s that going to happen when you’re in Florida? (laughter)
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it .. We haven’t had that issue…Maybe Mexico? The Jack’s booty shorts… Make that our summer line.
How do you guys calm down or pump up before a show? Do you get nervous or do you have to rev yourself up?
It depends on the show. Like the Troubadour, the one we did that sold out – that was obviously a big one for us. It’s just kind of like we’re just so comfortable with each other, we’ve grown up together and we’re all best friends. When you get on stage, you kind of just into that element, you don’t really think about those things I guess.
We usually have one or two beers before a show, but that’s about it. OK. Eighteen. Maybe eight hundred.
Expectations for the upcoming single, “Bridestep” from Brooklyn-based indie/R&B dynamic duo Moonheart are rising as each day prior to the release are mounting exponentially. Not only does the group have a sound unlike any other, they also have a message in their music of longing and endless romanticism that is haunting and beautiful. This track is the first to be release from their forthcoming debut full-length album Feel it Out. Although they are busy getting ready for the release, Moonheart was able to say a few words about who they are and what fans can expect within the next few months.
What would you consider to be your greatest success on and off of the stage?
Onstage, I’m really happy to feel very connected to my voice and what it sounds like. For a long time I was singing mostly jazz, and imitating all of my favorite singers when I learned the music. Doing that taught me so much about music in general, and about phrasing, rhythm and expression, but for awhile I was worried that I was without my own point of view. I definitely felt closer to my authentic voice and self when I started writing my own songs, and it feels good to be communicating that onstage.
Although you must be busy writing, producing and performing your music, when you do have free time, is there something that you like to do that may be out of the ordinary in order to destress and prepare for upcoming events and gigs?
I think this is probably pretty common, but I’ve found that for sure the most essential thing for me to get in the right headspace to play is lots of space and quiet. I live in Brooklyn and space and silence can feel sparse, but there are magic pockets of it everywhere. I’m lucky to live very near two of them, the botanical garden and the park. This is probably gonna sound so corny, but being in awe of nature’s design in the form of a flower or a tree or whatever it is is so humbling and I try to be surrounded by that stuff as much as I can. I recently learned about this Japanese healing practice called “forest bathing,” where you basically practice mindfulness and hyper-awareness of all of your sensory experiences while taking a walk in nature, and I guess this is kind of what I’m doing, or attempting to do. It feels really good when you can carry that open feeling with you on stage; your ego’s out of the way and the bad nerves that come from wondering what people are thinking or worrying that you look silly or whatever evaporate, leaving just the good butterflies to work through you.
As you continue to work towards your dream, do you have defined goals for Moonheart, or are you just enjoying the ride that your love of music has brought you on?
I wish I was cool enough to say that I’m not hella Capricorn and have notebooks and spreadsheets full of plans and goals but I do. The most immediate goal at the moment is to put out Feel It Out, our first full-length, in a way that we’re proud of. We’d also really like to start touring in a more serious and extensive way, so there’s lots of planning around that. Trying our best to enjoy the ride even in the planning stages, though 🙂
What news do you have for friends and family that are anxiously awaiting new music, tours and performances?
It’s coming! We’re releasing Feel It Out very soon, and we hope to be playing lots of shows to support that. Until then, anyone in or around NYC can come see our “Bridestep” single release show on Wednesday, April 4th at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn.
As you have worked so hard to obtain something that, at one point, seemed so unobtainable, have you ever faced opposition that you thought that you wouldn’t succeed in overcoming?
My mental health is sometimes my biggest hater, so I’m unfortunately my biggest opposition, ha. Now I take good care of it and treat it like a baby, but I didn’t always have the ability to do that. When I didn’t, there were times I didn’t think I could turn my brain on or get out of a hole long enough to keep making music, but I’m grateful not to have been in that place for a long time.
What is the writing process like? Is it easy to sit down and write, or is it a spur of the moment occurrence?
The act of sitting down to write is actually the hardest part about writing in my experience- giving myself the space and time, sticking to the routine, and quieting the voices that would rather I procrastinate or do something else instead, those are the first hills to get over. Once there, though, the process depends on where I’m at that day. On the magic days it just flows, and those are songs I can’t really take credit for- some songs are already there and just need you to show up and be a vessel for them to come out. On days where nothing’s coming, I’ll try to do a writing exercise or read something beautiful and copy down phrases that are inspiring or words that feel good. The physical act of writing something pretty down on paper can sometimes wake up something dormant. Once I have a skeleton of a song, I’ll play it for Michael or send him a rough demo, and I don’t often give him much direction for the first attempt at building the world around the song. We have a lot of creative trust and a really open, intuitive channel between each other, and the majority of the time he just knows what I’m going for. He’ll usually work alone until things are in their place, and then we’ll iron everything out and edit together until we both feel the song is done.
After performing, is there a specific activity or tradition that you have to celebrate a “job well done?”
If we feel bad about it, we try not to let it feel too heavy and make sure to listen to the voice memo recording we always make of shows and take notes on how to make it better next time. If we feel good it about it, same thing 🙂
Pierre Marie-Maulini is a man for all seasons. His previous musical experience includes post-rock project A Red Season Change and touring with M83, but he formed STAL in 2011. STAL has put out We Are Two EP and Young Hearts LP. Their upcoming new EP, Fresh Blood, will be released this summer, and follows Maulini’s 2017 decision to move to Los Angeles from his native France. Maulini is not always a one man show; Renaud Rodier has been playing drums for STAL since its formation and Jeff Di Rienzo brings his guitar skills to form the trio. While previous records were full of spontaneity, Fresh Blood is the result of meticulous production (thanks to producer Eric Palmquist) and is Maulini’s creativity at its finest.
Today, STAL has just come off of an exciting time at SXSW, and are thrilled for their forthcoming EP. Their brand new single, “Magic”, is just a taste of what is to come. Lucky for us, STAL was able to answer a few of our questions about music, must-haves, and their upcoming EP.
Sum up your new single, “Magic ”? Magic is about what we can do for each other as human beings. You can count on me, I can count on you. Be yourself, there’s no judge here.
What’s the best part of being a musical artist today?
Thanks to the internet, you can easily share your music with millions of people. The other great part is touring. Touring has become more and more important. STAL is definitely a “stage” band, so I love that!
Biggest influence for your upcoming EP? My life these past 3 years.
What is a must-have when recording? An amazing producer, some great guitars and a brain that works.
Dream collaboration? The National
What do you want new listeners to know about your music? I want them to feel that STAL is true and sincere and hopefully this EP makes htem wanna come to our shows.
Biggest takeaway from your time at SXSW? The Paradigm showcase with Pale Waves was great. Otherwise, we totally fell in love with Austin and this Salt Lick BBQ!
David Rosales was waiting for me on a street corner in Austin when I meandered up to him for the second time that day. In fact, he had been waiting patiently as some of my other interviews ran late, his back certainly weighing heavy with his luggage and guitar strapped on him and sitting next to him. Despite the 88 degree weather – and what should have been the most aggravating conditions – he brought with him a sense of ease and a feeling of calm that I hadn’t felt yet on 6th Street during SXSW 2018. He was kind, and ready to chat freely about his SX experience, his musical journey, and everything in between.
Let’s do this. I know – get your stuff situated, or hold it on your back the whole time, that’s fine too.
David: I’m sweating. I’m not used to this. I’m used to California.
Right? OK, so speaking of, how long have you been out here for South By? When did you get in town?
David: A couple days ago I got in on a Greyhound from Dallas. I flew to Dallas and then took a Greyhound down here with like my guitar on my lap, you know, because I didn’t want it to sit underneath with luggage and didn’t want it to sit in the overhead. Cause it’s not like a plane, you know, it’s a bus…
David: So I’m sitting there with like a book in one hand and a guitar in the other, cramped up, you know, I’m six foot one so it’s uncomfortable. Those Greyhounds are kind of small. But, yeah, I know, it sounds like the beginning of a song. I think it’s got a song in there somewhere. I got into Austin on a Greyhound. And it was late, it was like three hours late, so…
Meredith: So everything was going correctly?
David: You just need to be mellow when you’re touring. You’ve just to realize that, you know, you just got to flex and flow. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
Did you come into the industry with that thought process or did it take a while for you?
David: I don’t know, I guess I’ve been in the “industry” for a long time. I was in a hard rock band for like ten years. I was in garage bands before that through high school, junior high and stuff. Just growing up in L.A., it’s a big market. So I did the whole Sunset thing and touring around the country on an indie label. Then at about thirty, my band kind of dissolved at that time and I had written this EP that was just because I had a baby coming and I went from writing songs about death, and just rock themes, dark and stuff like that. I went in the studio and started writing some about love and stuff I wasn’t really comfortable with before. And when my band dissolved, I was like “well might as well follow this because it is the only thing I have”.
It wasn’t meant for anybody and it was this first EP that I released called Smile. I just went with it because it was the only thing I had. I didn’t have my band anymore and I just had these songs and I just started playing them, people were digging them, buying them. I sing with a girl named Olivia and we kind of did our thing and then we came out with an EP, the duet EP. We were Dave and Olivia for a bit. I did another solo EP called Along the Way that came out in ’14. I’ve just kind of been playing a ton of gigs and stuff since then, writing this new material, recording it, and getting the cash flow up to come out and do something proper with it.
This album we have coming up called Brave Ones is the culmination of all that. It’s eleven songs of love, loss, despair, triumph, you know, everything that’s kind of like the human experience. It’s a lot of relatable stuff. It’s crazy looking at myself as this thirteen year old skateboarder that would jump off rooftops into pools and stuff like that with my garage band and go to like, where I am now. Music’s always been there for me, but it’s changed and it’s grown as humans do. We’re not the same people we were when we were thirteen…
David: Or even eighteen…
Yeah we are!! (laughs)
David: (laughs) So it’s like, that’s the beauty of life, is kind of accepting those changes and stuff, and just kind of walking kind of gracefully. Fortunately for me, this kind of step that happened six years ago just kind of came at the right time and you just kind of flex and flow with it.
So with your new work, how can you imagine someone listening to it in its’ entirety? With a glass of Scotch sitting by a fire Anchorman style, out with their friends, is there an atmosphere you want to create with this?
David: It’s crazy to picture anybody listening to a complete album anymore…
I know, but I do it. I still do it!
David: That’s why we write these albums and that’s why I am, like, going over and over and over sequencing the songs, because I believe in it. I believe in the story that I’m telling. I believe in a whole vibe of an album. My album’s very round. It has a beginning and it has an end. It has arcs and stuff of a story and it kind of follows this path. I’m a student of songwriting completely so I love the whole story telling. I read Stephen King “On Writing”. I read great writers, I’m a student of it so what do I picture?
I picture somebody driving. It’s kind of like driving music. I think it’s somebody who could be cruising. Maybe like on the 101 in California, or just a long distance where they have…they can just kind of…Did you ever start a drive and you, “OK, I got to my location but I don’t really remember too much of the in between. I was vibing on it, but I just got here.” I want to take people away. I want to have them kind of look at – and relate to – what I’m writing. I think that I’m writing about relatable human experiences.
That’s the great thing about songwriters. Songwriters are, we’re just like you or somebody else that maybe doesn’t play music or something like that, but we just kind of recognize these mundane human experiences. These day to day things and we kind of put them in a song so that you go “Oh I had that same experience” or “I can relate to that” or “I can vibe on that”.
Absolutely. Here’s a quick, off the cuff, question: What’s been your favorite food at South By?
David: I’m staying with my cousins, so my cousin’s chorizo. She makes it like my mom where it’s not too greasy.
Dammit. Makes us all jealous. I’m going to tell people his favorite thing in Austin is this, but you can’t have it, sorry.
David: I really haven’t eaten too much food – I’ve been drinking a ton here. I’ve been kind of hydrating, that’s what I’m doing. Hydrating. So I haven’t been eating a ton of food when I’m playing gigs. It’s tough to eat and play and talk to people, so it kind of gets lost. I’m one of those people where I forget to eat, just in general. I run a lot and I’m almost forced to eat, so that kind of keeps me eating. I forget because I’m just so busy. It’s tough. So being a dad, running, my wife, just everything, I think about myself last in a way because everybody else comes before me.
Meredith: You’ve performed already at South By clearly, you’ve been here a little bit…
David: I’ve done three shows and done some interviews and press and stuff like that and I have two more shows tomorrow. We’re playing at the Westin Rooftop on the 20th floor for Chive TV at 1pm, and then an hour later at 87 Rainey Street.
Meredith: That’s a quick turnaround! You sound fancy!
David: I don’t know if I’m fancy. But I love it!
Keep up with the wonderful David Rosales and his intricate and beautiful musical path here.