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Archive for September, 2014

Interview: Max Jury

maxjuryferryamsterdam

Max Jury on a ferry in Amsterdam / Photo via his Facebook page

On a remarkably sunny afternoon [yes, deliberate Kinks reference] in Amsterdam I met up with upcoming singer-songwriter Max Jury. Max, who hails from Des Moines, IA, deep in the heartland of the United States is visiting our fair city for the first time. It marks one of the first stops on his big first European tour which started in Londen a couple of nights ago.

After our introductions we started talking. I asked him how he was enjoying himself on tour so far and immediately Max told me that it’s been great and that he is really looking forward to playing on the road and visiting a lot of places for the first time. He’s going to Antwerp, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Leeds, Manchester, Dublin and many other places. We talked about some of these places and how it’s going to be a splendid time for him discovering all these cities and meeting new people along the way.

This tour, which is in support of the new release “All I Want”, officially his sophomore effort and the lead single Black Metal. Of course I wanted to know about the inspiration for the EP and the song and how the whole thing came together. The new EP, “All I Want”, is a mix of new songs and a couple older songs. In the past, Max told me, he used to do everything himself in house studios, with the help of a few friends. They’d record and mix and overdub on their computers until they had it just right. Nowadays, he mentioned, things have turned a little more professional. He brought in a guitar player from L.A. and a bass player from Carolina, both of whom he met in college and they decided to cut the whole record live, playing the songs over and over again until they sounded the way they wanted. This change in approach was a conscious change, Max said. He likes both ways, doing everything by yourself in your own little zone but it was a nice change of pace to take this new approach and the outcome was really good.

As for the single, Black Metal, Max told me it was inspired by events surrounding his bass player, Nolan. One night, Nolan was dancing with a girl and while Max didn’t remember exactly what was up with her, she and Nolan kind of went back and forth and after a while he looked her up online and they found out she was some kind of satanist, or at least she was into some really dark stuff. And that kind of led to the inspiration for the song. Isn’t that a cool story?!

We also talked about some older songs of his, which he recorded a few years ago. One of the songs, Change Your Mind For Me, had stuck with through the years. I asked him if he was planning on using some of his older work again. And to my surprise, Max said he recorded that exact song for the new EP. So that was great! Later that night, Max played that song during his performance. Thank you for that, Max, I really enjoyed hearing it again!

We then started talking a little more about songwriting. I noticed Max has a tendency to tweet about places he does his writing and recently he mentioned he was writing in a parking lot. So I asked him what that was all about. He explained that he likes to do his writing while doing what he calls ‘secondary actions’. For example, writing while on the couch with the TV on, going out to a parking lot while taking in the surroundings and movements. It seems to give him another perspective, a change of scenery away from everyday life. Based on the songs he has written so far, this approach is really working for him.

Max plays all kinds of keys, from piano to organ to keyboard to, well, basically anything with keys. He also plays acoustic and electric guitar but he confessed to wanting to expand his skillset on the electric guitar so he can play more solos and licks. When it comes to the songwriting, Max said it can really help him to switch between instruments because when he gets stuck on piano and he switches to guitar it gives him a new outlook and helps him to finish a song sometimes.

Max Jury has a very beautiful sound which is really hard to describe. It mixes in many different influences and most of his songs have a slightly different sound compared to eachother. It is often described as americana or roots music and Max himself desribed it as a ‘big stew’ in another interview. I asked him if he could elaborate on that. The answer I got was that he doesn’t really know how to desribe it himself. “Big stew kind of covers it. I have so many different influences; I like the Beatles and the Kinks but also Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams, so yeah, I guess it all mixes in there somehow.”

We both understand why people try to give a name to what they hear but also, we concluded that these labels are somewhat archaic in today’s music. There is so much crossover between genres that it’s hard to pinpoint it with the labels we used to know. Max added: “I like how artists like David Bowie can change things from album to album. It definitely keeps things interesting!”

Max is a young guy, in his early twenties, but recently his career is really starting to take off. His name is out there and he’s getting to play in a lot of different places all over the world. I asked him how he got to this point in his career and how he sees himself going forward.

“Basically, I wrote a lot, I recorded a lot. I worked really hard to get my music herad. Then about 2 years ago, through mutual acquaintances, I met these people at Marathon and they offered me a contract and helped me to release music and play gigs.” As far as the future goes, Max would really like to take his band on the road with him, because they were such a big help on the EPs and he would really like to record a proper full-length album. In the fall, Max and his band are playing live in New York, so if you have the chance, be sure to catch the show!

Apart from his influences, which are listed in his bio as Gram Parsons, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Kinks, The Beatles, etc. I wondered what he was currently listening to.

“What is it we’re listening to in the van again. Right. Justin Timberlake, Cry Me A River and some of those songs. I’m really into that. Also Jessica Lea Mayfield, Courtney Barnett who is also on Marathon. I’ve also been listening to War on Drugs and Mark Kozelek’s AC/DC cover album. It’s sort of folky versions of the songs and it’s surprisingly good!”

And to show you how much Max appreciates his musical influences, did you know he named his young French bulldog after Emmylou Harris? Now that’s something you don’t hear everyday.

In the end we discussed the emergence of the internet in the past decade or so as a tool in the music industry. I asked Max how it influences his life as a musician in both good and bad ways. Because he’s a young guy, the internet has sort of always been around but he does imagine it took away a lot of the power from major record labels because it allows upcoming musicians to sort of promote themselves in a grassroots movement kind of way. Keeping up with the internet and social media does take a lot of work and sometimes you’d wish you wouldn’t have to but it comes with the territory and it is really important to put time and effort in it because it can do so much for an artist, especially when you’re trying to get your name out there.

Many thanks to Max Jury for being open and honest about the life as a recording and touring musician. Also many thanks to the people at Marathon for facilitating the interview and special thanks to Max’s tour manager Bobby who helped set up the appointment. I hope you all have a successful European tour with a lot of fun and new fans along the way. See you again next time!

For more info on Max Jury:

http://www.maxjury.com

http://www.facebook.com/maxwelljury

http://twitter.com/maxwelljury

http://instagram.com/maxwelljury

http://soundcloud.com/maxwelljury

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Interview: Jay Nash

SONY DSCLast night, a little while before he took the stage in De Vorstin in Hilversum, we sat down with American singer-songwriter Jay Nash. The charismatic musician was gracious enough to tell us a few things about his life and his career.

Jay Nash is a musician who often tells stories in his songs; sometimes sweet and hopeful, sometimes filled with melancholy, heartbreak and pain. With his unique vocal sound and innate ability to engage he sets himself apart from a booming generation of up and coming musicians who are considered singer-songwriters.

In our conversation we covered a range of subjects but the main focus, of course, was Jay’s music and in particular we discussed his experiences touring Europe and the United States, the creative process of writing and recording songs, what Jay does in the little spare time he has and the recent changes in the music industry. All through our conversation Jay patiently tried to explain his thoughts and processes and giving examples of it.

Jay told us he was enjoying his time in The Netherlands thusfar, which, as a proud Dutchie, is always good to hear. He would have liked hot water and ice to be a little more readily available at times but apart from that he said he was having a good time, as was evident by his excitement about the sjoelbakken that were in his dressing room. After the shows here, he’ll also play a number of shows in Germany before he returns Stateside.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetJay explained that the differences between playing in the US and Europe aren’t too obvious anymore. In the past, when he played smaller venues with low or no cover, he’d have shows where people would be more invested in their drinks than in the music and at times it could get a little ugly between audience members but in his experience that has gotten much better in the past couple of years. Later on, during the show, he mentioned things really got out of hand in Texas one night where someone pulled out a knife but while there were a couple of loud people in front of the stage tonight, Jay was able to navigate it without any incidents. He asked the audience to give the guy a big round of applause because it was his first concert ever. And while the man didn’t really get the joke (or so it seemed) it must’ve been very clear to him that the attention he was getting shouldn’t be considered positive. Not much later he cleared out and his mates followed soon after and you could feel a sigh of relief throughout the venue. Good riddance!

While we were on the subject of touring I asked Jay to explain to us what it was about playing live in front of an audience that makes it so much fun and how it stacks up against the creative process of writing and recording new music. He answered: “We are all much more alike than we would care to admit and I think music is proof of that.” This is a powerful thing to say. But to Jay, music is a way for people to connect, regardless of their background. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe in, where you come from or what you do. Music can bring you together. This connection is something Jay seems to be looking for in and through his music. And if you ever attended one of his shows, you’ll be able to confirm that this is exactly what happens. As for the touring compared to the creative process Jay said that it was all quite balanced out for him. In his explanation it became clear to me that he doesn’t necessarily see it as two separate things but more as equal parts of the same thing. This perspective was something I hadn’t thought of before but it does make a lot of sense. Through touring and playing live, Jay is able to bring the music out and make that connection with others and explore new places. This way new experiences and ideas form and they can inspire new material which needs to be crafted and recorded to be taken on the road again. This provides a certain continuity to an otherwise hectic profession of a musician.

We are all much more alike than we would care to admit and I think music is proof of that.

We then talked about Letters From The Lost, on which Jay took a different approach to the creative process than he had in the past. As he stated online, in several articles, he’d start without a preconceived notion. We asked him what was so different about that approach and he answered the following: “Previously, I would start with a line, a lyric imageor a sort of theme. I would have to write the song within the construct of that. With Letters From The Lost I gave myself a day to write and record the song and would often start with a melody or a sound and throughout the day the landscape of the song would reveal itself.” Jay recorded around 30 songs this way and when he was done he listened to everything he recorded and made the selection for the album. On doing this he commented: “It was almost like with love. Some songs really resonated with me and fit together nicely. This whole new approach took me to another dimension, it had a sort of meditative effect and I’ve been using this method ever since.” He also added that his fans seem to really dig the album and that most critics think it’s a nice artistic statement, with the exception of his hometown paper, who gave it a skate review. Here at Inner Ear Media, we were really impressed by Letters From The Lost. The looser sound aspires to a certain freedom which may well be the result of the new creative approach.

The new approach took me to another dimension. It had a sort of meditative effect and I’ve been using it ever since.

Jay isn’t sitting still though. Longtime friend Josh Day joined him on tour a couple of years ago and on top of a good friendship the two found they had great musical chemistry. After playing shows together, Jay asked Josh if he’d be up to write songs with him in Vermont for a band project. And this initiated ‘The Contenders’ which is a collaboration between Jay Nash and Josh Day. Their newly formed band will display a sort of rootsy rock & roll sound inspired by ‘The Band‘, which musically is their common ground.

Initially they recorded guitar, drums and two vocals and were ready to leave at that. Stick to the bare essence of the songs. However, they enlisted the help of renowned engineer Seth Atkins Horan and decided to fill up the songs sonically with a touch of bass and extra guitar. The bare essence of the songs, however, still carries through.

They hired an agent and in no time they were contacted by CMT Edge to debut one of their songs. And in October ‘The Contenders’ are taking their new project on the road in the United States. So check Jay’s website for tour dates and if he’s near you, make sure to check it out! Also expect Meet The Contenders, the debut record for the newly formed band, to drop on November 18, 2014. It will be available digitally and streaming worldwide and in selected stores and at shows it will be available on vinyl and CD.

Because we were having a great time talking to Jay, we asked him a couple of other things. We didn’t get into his main influences as a musician, because you all probably read that many times already. We did ask him what he was currently listening to. Jay had to think about it for a while because he’s been so busy that he hasn’t had a lot of spare time on his hands. But he mentioned classics like The Greatful Dead, Paul Simon and Sam Cooke but also Sara Watkins, Iron & Wine, Brian Wright (Rattle Their Chains), David Ramirez (Apologies) and Phish, of whom he said he didn’t think there is a better ensemble out there right now. Jay also likes to read in his spare time and recently he’s been reading biographies of some of the greatest musicians to ever walk the planet (Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards) and also mentioned he liked The Circle by Dave Eggers which he read recently.

We then talked about songs by other musicians he would have loved to have written himself. Jay said there were so many but he mentioned The Weight by ‘The Band’ and Michigan by ‘Milk Carton Kids’ by name. And when we asked him what bands or musicians (dead or alive) he’d like to play a show with if there were no restrictions it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he immediately mentioned ‘The Band’ and ‘The Grateful Dead’. He did say: “But only after Josh & I logged a good many shows so we can feel up to the task.”

 

We ended our conversation with a reflection on the changes in the music industry of the past decades and what it means going forward. Jay said that things constantly change in the music industry. Going from vinyl and 8 tracks to tapes and CDs and now we’re in the age of digital music and streaming and that it will more than likely continue to change in the future. One thing that hasn’t changed for him and probably won’t change much is playing live. This is where the connection with and between people is most evident and in everything Jay told us, that connection with the music and with other people always shines through. And in a world where so many are divided, it’s a great thing that there is such a connective force as music. And in that, music has a wonderful ambassador in Jay Nash.

We would very much like to thank Jay Nash and the people at MusicMakesMeHappy.nl for providing us with the opportunity to have this conversation and we wish Jay the best of luck and the most of fun in his upcoming shows. We also urge you to visit Jay’s website and check out his music. And definitely make sure to check out ‘The Contenders’! Their debut record will be released on November 18, 2014 and the US tour starts in October. Don’t miss it!

*Photos courtesy of Esther

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arthuradam magiclight voorkantArthur Adam – Magic, Light

September 12, 2014

BandBus Records

iTunes | Spotify | Website

Musicians always have interesting back stories. Sometimes these stories are tragic, sometimes extremely entertaining and sometimes outright impressive. Arthur Adam falls into the latter category. He has degrees in philosophy and law, traveled most of the known world and showcases a wide vocal range while playing numerous different instruments. There is much more you could say about Arthur Adam, who has an interesting, open and kind personality and will always take the time to talk to you. Previously he played with Amsterdam-based bands like The White Broncos & Mist. Later he was the initiator of the band The New and joined Minus The Tiger as a guitarist. He also got involved in projects like Drum Boy Atilla and Twents Songwriters Guild.

This friendly, intelligent, well-traveled man has many experiences, thoughts, discussions and ideas in his repertoire which bestows him a certain versatility. While you often hear the term melancholy used to describe his music, I would say that only touches parts of his music. By labeling his music as melancholic you sell this musician short.

On “…In A Cabin With”, Adam showed a certain intimacy and slumbering feeling of wonder, which was impressively accentuated by the top-notch production. If you’re not familiar with the …In A Cabin With-project please check it out. It has produced a couple of masterpieces, in which one should no doubt include Arthur Adam’s contribution. On “Awake”, which at heart may still be conceived as a singer-songwriter album, one could hear much more of a band sound. It was a little more accessible and radio friendly than before and songs like Dividing A Spider and She’s A Mystery deservedly got plenty of attention. While Arthur Adam was previously known for singer-songwriter style songs with deeper layers (often compaired to José Gonzalez, Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens), Awake showed a little departure of that style because it was richer in arrangement and showed more spirit or energy. But just like as we were used to from Arthur Adam there was still a mix of melancholy, hope, wonder and desire. But while Adam has always had a variety in his music, this was never more obvious than on his last release “Pulse”. Drawing from a wide range of incluences (rock, jazz, pop, folk, soul and even the occasional blues riff makes an appearance) this album provides a thought-provoking journey that leaves you with questions about the life we all live. A journey of hope, loss, despair, trust, meaning and obviously love is displayed in emotional songs that express their beauty in both arrangement and lyrics and the passionate presentation by Arthur Adam’s vocals.

After all these impressive accomplishments, we are now incredibly curious to hear his latest work. His new album, set to release on september 12, 2014, is called “Magic, Light” and Arthur Adam describes his latest brainchild as a hopeful, comforting, melancholy and at times joyous. And none of those words are a lie. Generally, the songs on “Magic, Light” are relatively short yet impactful.

A Parade, which starts the album and was previously released on YouTube is not something I would have imagined. However, after listening to it I couldn’t help but thinking:”This is typically Arthur Adam”. Rich arrangement, a lot of moving parts, introduce a choir and let the vocals carry you away through a story that balances between emotions of hope and celebration on one side while touching the subject of loss and mortality. The general tone of the song is one of positivity and celebration and leaves you thinking about how you should not waste the time you receive. There is a little dichotomy in the song however, reminiscent of Death Cab For Cutie but sometimes I also hear clever complexities that remind me of little things Queen used to incorporate in their arrangements. You notice I mention established, high profile bands and the comparison with these bands is not based on the sound but it does provide you with an idea of how intricate and well-composed these songs are.

The rootsy singer-songwriter guitar arrangements and Arthur Adam’s piercing vocals make Memories of Others one of those songs that grab you right from the first time you hear it. Lyrically it is also a song that leaves you thinking. A lyric that resonates with me long after the song stops playing is: “Learning to stand tall is learning how to fall”.

The pointy Issues is a little cheeky pop song with a bit of a bluesy/jazzy/soulful undertone. Not necessarily the most memorable song on the album but it’s nifty little song puts a perspective on life by making you realize no one is perfect and that you should be okay with the few issues you may have yourself.

Then we reach one of the album’s highlights. Magic with Words has so much life to it. I can hear a little Bowie-esque theatrics in it, also a little Electric Light Orchestra in the richness of the build up. But you know what, I could drag a million bands and musicians in by the hairs and it wouldn’t really be fair at all. This song is strong on its own merits, it doesn’t copy or borrow or sound like others. I was merely trying to point out the epic character of this song by comparing it to what I consider a few remarkable and impressive musicians that displayed a similar creativity and inspiration in their days. Arthur Adam is potentially as crafty and masterful as these greats. And Magic with Words is a song that displays that perfectly.

Remember I mentioned that people often compare Arthur Adam to José Gonzalez? The melancholy and emotional layers in For A Friend would merit such a comparison, though I personally would mention Alexi Murdoch and Gregory Alan Isakov as musicians with a similar approach. However, again, I would urge you to let go of these comparisons and just listen to the song. The intimate questions and sentiment of the song struck me immediately, especially because of recent events in my own life. When Adam starts singing:“Do you cry, have you cried enough? Can you smile again, sometimes?” he already has me invested. But when he sings:“Try to realize you’re not alone. Although there’s little we can offer to eleviate your suffering, try to realize you’re not alone.” I can honestly answer yes on both questions Arthur Adams asks. Yes, I do cry and yes, I will smile again.

Next up, everytime I listen to this song, I swear I’m hearing Lionel Richie with Hello, with the exception that that feeling fades after 30 seconds. This surprised me because I had never even thought of Lionel Richie when listening to Arthur Adam. The almost etherial To Learn How To Fly is hard to describe. It’s haunting with touches of almost classical influences. Listen closely to the piano arrangement which even made me think of Schönberg in certain parts. It’s a perfect example of how a versatile musician incorporates his many different influences.

Come Bury My Gloves is a little twenties, a little sixties, a little 90s and 100% Arthur Adam. At times it’s almost skiffle, which you don’t hear often enough in modernday pop music. The song is followed by the intimate Paths which may hold the most intriguing lyrics (“Paths, I see home shrinking in my rearview mirror. My heart, cold and heavy, worried in my chest”)* on “Magic, Light”. Hear the subtle slide in the background and Arthur Adam’s perfect vocals lead into the belly of the song. The tempo picks up and the song blossoms into one of the strongest songs of the album.

With a song title like Soap Residue how can you not be intrigued? The easy strumming and subtle keys provide a backdrop for Adam’s vocals. The tempo and pronounciation add to the arrangement which you could desribe as Radiohead-esque. The nice little (semi)scales provide a certain ebb and flow that really benefits the song. Thrown, to me, is one of the highlights of the album. The build up, the arrangement, the production, the thin line between reflection and introspective, the whole character of the song can only be described in superlatives. Very impressive.

We then reach the closer of “Magic, Light”, which is called Core. While it may be a paradox to find the core at the end, it is still a well chosen song title, because it displays the core of Arthur Adam’s music. It’s big, it’s dramatic, it makes you think, it paints a picture, it’s rich, it touches the parts of life we all know and recognize but in its core it is about something none of us can live without. Love, in every sense of the word. Everything in this song plays a part. It all comes together in over 5 minutes of magic (and light). We often save the best for last and so did Arthur Adam. What a way to end this impressive album.

Compared to “Awake” this album may not have the same pop sensibility and radiofriendliness but just like on there and on “Pulse”, Arthur Adam showcases his versatility and his uncanny ability to take you on a journey of life questions, emotions and wonder. I suppose his philosophical roots may shine through in the character of his craft and in doing this, Arthur Adam manages to become one with his music. “Magic, Light” is a testament to the class, skill and versatility he’s been showcasing for many years. And let us hope he will continue to showcase it for many, many more.

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