Why did you decide to do a solo record?
I think for whatever reason, I had a strange gravitational pull to try to get away from a lot of the projects I was currently in. I did some pretty cool stuff last year, just playing guitar with certain people. it made me really happy, and not that I’m ungrateful for it, but there was still an emptiness for me. I started working on my own music in March of 2015 just as an outlet. The person I was working with, Robby (Webb), pushed me to not only record one song but to record five songs and make an EP. Throughout the course of the year, I was gaining more confidence to focus my energy on this and FeedLab alone. It feels good to be in the control seat as opposed to being the guitar player for hire.
I have friends that are musicians for hire, but they have their own song and sound in them. How would you encourage full time musicians into artistry?
It’s easier said than done but don’t be afraid to do it. The only thing that’s holding you back is the voice inside your head trying to rationalize reasons why shouldn’t go ahead and write music for yourself. All of the resources are right there so go ahead and do it. People will pick up on that and appreciate your honesty. I think if the music is good, you’re honest about it, you don’t burn any bridges of your previous work engagements with other artists, try to be positive and don’t act like you’re too cool to do gigs; you’ll be fine. The hardest part is getting the voices out of your head that say “well I made a whole career of being a professional musician, so I should follow that, because that doesn’t happen to everybody either.” It’s really hard to even just play music and get paid doing it, so to drop that for a while is scary. I would say trust yourself and do it.
For What Already Is, is it just you or did you have anyone else play with you?
I played all the instruments on it. My co-producer/friend, Robby Webb, who also engineered most of the FeedLab stuff, and I sat down together and recorded it all. There weren’t very dense arrangements on this album, so it was a deterrent from what I usually do.
Tell me about the album title.
I was hiking with my girlfriend on a beautiful day in New Jersey. My girlfriend’s also an artist (dancer/choreographer) and we were talking about could we make things as beautiful as what already is. Just nature, what’s right in front of you… and we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t.
I think everyone has a distinct artistic vision. I think people are trying to connect to something greater. I didn’t understand what my purpose was for making music; but I wanted to tap into the flow of what’s going on in the universe and nature. I always feel like I’m falling short but that’s the learning process. I think that’s where the title and my songwriting stance come from.
I was listening to your record and “End” came on. It was atmospheric and almost “unsettling.” Tell me about it.
It’s a song about death. I was playing at a funeral at a Baptist church and it was really moving. I recorded the sermon via voice memo two years ago, and I put that sample into the song to capture the moving energy of the preacher. For effects we recorded some breathing and stuff that reverses voice; kind of like evil’s trying to break in. It’s like streams of consciousness stuff. I explored the idea of death and what it feels like. Yeah it’s a little dark.
What’s your personal favorite track?
I would say “Moderate Fame” was the first track that we recorded, so it was the first one that gave me confidence to keep going.
That was your springboard?
That’s the thing. I didn’t know what sound I was going for. Writing that song, and exploring a couple other songs that turned into the rest of the album, reconnected me with what I started with in the first place. Less complicated music. Getting away from intense and intricate stuff. It’s been really nice getting back to those roots. Just becoming more honest with myself.
This is the record that officially transitioned you from being a musician for hire to being your own artist. Did you intentionally set out to unpack who you were as an artist with this record?
I think my subconscious was screaming to be heard. What I’ve battled with and am battling with is letting ego or arrogance get in the way. I was scared of being that person. If you’re taking a guitar solo and you’re scared of having an ego than it would come off bad. When I’m on stage and trying to be humble and then do a guitar solo, for me it always felt conflicted. Yeah I want to be heard, get my music out there, express myself freely and not be afraid of what people think; but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It just started happening and I had support from the right people (my friends and family). I focused on my music and also not burning any bridges.
What does FeedLab Productions look like in 2016? What are your plans and what can we expect from you?
We put out the American Aquarium videos. That was a way to explore other things, instead of collaborations or writing arrangements, I wanted to get a band that I really love and just record them and it was awesome. I went to school with one of the guitar players, have seen them play festivals, and they’re awesome. Their message is honest music, insanely heavy great toned guitars (so you got me there), and just all around it was fun. I’m not only going to explore original music but also great bands.
I’ll use FeedLab for whatever I want. I also have in the back of my head to do some animations, so it’s really open ended.