The inspiration and energy he finds in music are best told in his own words.
How did you become interested in music?
I became really interested in music in grade school — but I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 12. I don’t know why I waited so long, but once I picked it up, I never put it down.
“The Distance,” on ATOM Records, is your first album in five years. What was the inspiration?
I had the opportunity to play with my friend Paige Beller a few years ago. For years, I had just been writing instrumental surf-rock music. I enjoyed Paige’s songs so much that it inspired me to try to write my own lyrics. I decided to focus on a specific theme (heartache) and see what would happen from there. It was a great experience, challenging myself and seeing where things could go.
But I hit a wall. I had a set of songs but something was getting in the way of finishing them. I realized I was so focused on writing for my voice that I was limiting my options. When I let that go, the songs suddenly flowed.
I decided to work with Kate Wakefield (Lung), Mark Patterson (Son Volt), Tod Weidner (Shrug), “Crazy” Joe Tritschler and Patrick Himes (Reel Love Recording). Each of them took the songs to new places because they brought different perspectives and their amazing talents. That’s how we made “The Distance.”
You have a long musical history in Dayton from The Mulchmen to the Nicky Kay Orchestra. How has the way you see/make music changed over the years?
Years ago, it was easy to have a band and practice three times a week, and play a few times a month. Now that is very difficult to do. It’s great having a band, but it’s not easy to be consistent with the time a band requires, and it makes it difficult to play shows, write songs, etc.
So now I think of things more as projects. I like to get together with a group of people — maybe the band, maybe individuals — and focus on something specific, a set of songs, a certain sound, a special event, etc.
For my last record, I wrote a set of songs, but Kate Wakefield from Lung sang them. Tod Weidner and Crazy Joe Tristchler played a lot of the guitars. I never had an actual band. When we decided to play a show, we had a few different folks come on board. It was a very different experience than anything I had done before, and it was really incredible.
If you could play any musical instrument in the world, what would it be?
Two actually – cello and violin. They are still on my list. Guitar still keeps me really busy.
What do you think has made Dayton such a special place for musicians?
Dayton has a really rich history of songwriters and musicians, and people who appreciate that there is good music in their own backyard. For me the support of other musicians and listeners has made all the difference in the world. When I was a teenager, the Rev Cool (WYSO) put out a record for me. When I put out my new album “The Distance” this year he played it on his show. And that support is everywhere in the Dayton music community.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Keep moving ahead, try new things, and meet everyone you can. Do not wait for something to happen, see what’s going on and what’s possible. There are so many great people in the Dayton music community, and it so worth it to see others play and get to know them. You would be amazed at how many opportunities will present themselves.
What was your favorite musical group as a kid? What appealed to you?
As a kid it was Pink Floyd, not because of the hits (which were fine) but all of the weird music they created. I thought it was very interesting that they would go into the studio and just create recordings from scratch, all together. It was very inspiring, and even though it took me years to start actually playing music I always wanted to try to write and record in new and strange ways. Still do.
What would be your perfect Dayton date?
A slow dinner at Roost, a movie at the NEON (I’ve been seeing amazing films there since I was in high school) and then catching a local show at either Blind Bob’s, Yellow Cab, or Brightside after a walk through the Oregon District. That is all within a few blocks, which is really cool.
What is your favorite hidden gem in the Dayton area?
Reel Love Recording Co. … an amazing sound recording studio hidden in plain sight in Dayton, Ohio. Patrick Himes has created a fantastic space for songwriters and musicians to create and excel.
If you could bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Well-organized, well-run and very affordable spaces for bands and artists. They have existed before, but they were very limited. Whenever we have had these spaces they’ve been a great hub for collaboration and cross-pollination. If everyone feels like they are good and don’t want this, I will think of something else.