Great. It’s been a busy time, but an exciting one.
How did the band’s love for Roots music get started?
We all have somewhat different backgrounds, and therefore come to table with different stories and sets of circumstance. However, we all play instruments that are steeped in age-long traditions. It would be hard to play mandolin, or fiddle without having deference for the deep well of roots music that defines their history. Traditional music comes in many forms, but they typically share a sensibility that people in their given community can grasp and appreciate. That accessibility is compelling and contagious.
When I was in college, I studied ethnomusicology, and was drawn over and over again to global folk music, from cultures as far reaching as West Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Tanzania and beyond. Meanwhile, I couldn’t ignore the similarly thriving culture of traditional roots-based music that was born in the hills of Kentucky, and has migrated all across this vast country. Las Vegas, where we live, is home to one of the oldest Bluegrass Music Societies in America. Tin Toy Cars is certainly not a traditional band playing traditional music, but the players came together with a shared passion for those forms, which has informed our sensibility.
Can you tell us more about the story behind your track ¨Addicted To You¨?
“Addicted To You” talks about the drug-like allure of certain love, that can cripple us. Even if, intellectually, you know that a relationship isn’t good for you, it’s sometimes nearly impossible to let it go. Love is funny like that. When it’s good, it’s all that you can think about. When it’s bad, it’s still all that you can think about. The people in this song know it’s unhealthy, but just can’t let it go. There’s a lyric that says: “Put our hands in the fire, though we know we’ll get burned,” which is about that willingness to ignore the pain, in the hope of finding the joy. The character in the song is starting to see it though, and in the chorus sings confidently: “I won’t stay stuck on you for long. I won’t stay hooked on you. If you push hard enough, one day soon, I’m going to let you go.”
Did any event in particular inspire the song?
Naturally. Generally speaking, most of the songs that I write are inspired by something in my life. In this case, it was a relationship that I was in where the connection was uncommon and irresistible. Yet, it was unhealthy for both of us, and we both knew it. We split up and reunited so many times it was absurd, but we simply couldn’t get off of the roller coaster. The pain of a break up is tough to bear, so one must wonder why anyone would do it over and over again. An addiction perhaps?
The single comes off your new album Falling, Rust and Bones – what´s the story behind the title?
Many of the songs on this record play a bit with the notion of falling; in and out of love, falling apart, or more literally in the song “Down On The Bowery,” falling off of the Brooklyn Bridge. Actually, that song recounts a historical tale about a newsboy named Steve Brodie who, in 1886 established his own legacy by staging a jump off of the Brooklyn bridge. Meanwhile, there is also the feeling of things aging and rusting away, like in the sleepy old town in the song “Time To Get Away,” or the relationship described in “In My Head.” Then, finally, the song “Desert Dogs” describes hungry wolves and buzzards circling the carcass of a dead romance, but with a little hope, the singer says “There might still be some life in this pile of bones.” Falling, Rust & Bones. The collapse, the decay, and the glimmer of hope for renewal.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was a great process. I have a studio at my house, which is where we recorded, so we had the luxury of time, without the constraints of an hourly budget clock ticking. I have been an engineer and producer for many years, so my home studio is a bit ridiculous, and rivals most pro level environments. Also, everyone in the band is so fantastic at what they do, and so inspired, that compositional ideas flow easily, and the recording process itself is pretty efficient.
As for writing, I am constantly in the process of writing music and crafting lyrics. This collection of songs was written specifically for this band to play, and exists because of the specific players that we have. Many of them were written in inspired moments, as I played around on an instrument…often the octave mandolin, and grew from there. The lyrics often take a while to complete, but once I have a good start, I obsessively work on them until I feel like they tell the story. The same is true of the compositional elements I suppose. I can be pretty obsessive. Luckily, I don’t need much sleep.
Having played different styles and travelled to many places – how has all this influenced your music?
Everything that we do informs what we do next. As it happens, I spent many years of my life working in West African traditional music, so those elements are embedded in my consciousness. I hear it in my playing all the time, and people often comment about my decidedly African solo phrasing. I even speak French with a thick African accent. Ha!
Actually, I think that’s the richness of life. I have played lots of music; rock, salsa, bluegrass, traditional music from many regions of the world, jazz, classical music. It’s all beautiful, and all informs what I do. There’s a song on this album titled “Time To Get Away.” At the moment that I wrote that, I was practicing Bach every day, and now, when I listen to that song, the influence is unmistakable. We can’t dissociate ourselves from the things we experience, and each of these things is a part of who we become.
Do you take a different approach when you work for Cirque Du Soleil than when you are writing for Tin Toy Cars?
Sure. My work at Cirque is very different. In that context, I’m a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, percussion, kora, guitar and mandolin for circus acts. The show is fixed, meaning that the music is composed and, with the exception of small, inspired variations, doesn’t change much from day to day. Tin Toy Cars is my outlet for complete artistic self expression.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes, we hope that we’ll be able to get out and tour a bit later this year, hopefully appearing in some festivals, and venues around the US…and perhaps in Europe. We’ll be trying to reach the places that are supporting us with radio and press. Check out calendar and tintoycars.net to see if we’re coming to an area near you.
What else is happening next in Tin Toy Cars´ world?
The next big thing will be the release of our video for the song “Do Everything You Can Before You’re Dead,” which should be out in the next couple of months. We’re really excited about that. It was a pretty ambitious project, and was only possible because of the many Cirque du Soleil related people who contributed their time and talents to it. We have performers from 8 different shows in it, and our crew were all Cirque people, including the project manager, camera people, director, costume and makeup, props, etc. It was shot in 5 very different locations around Las Vegas, on a Red Dragon camera, and some of the images are stunning. We can’t wait to share it.