Can you talk to us more about your single “Nights and Weekends”?
We actually wrote a blog post on our website about the making of this song. It started in a very different place than it ended up. It was more of a minor-key dirge, but then Rachel had the idea to change it to a major key to contrast the subject matter with uplift and hope. That made all the difference for that song. If you check out the blog post on our website, you can hear Thu’s original demo for the song and read about our writing and editing process: http://www.thesingerandthesongwriter.com/news/
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
We were hitting this point in our musical career where we were growing very frustrated with the divided energy between our day jobs and our music. We wrote this song as a sort of hymn to working class artists who have to juggle full-time jobs with the pursuit of their passions. We unfortunately live in a society that really values the consumption of art, but there is not a lot of infrastructure to support the creation of art in a sustainable way. So it ends up that most artists we know (including ourselves up until very recently) have to work a full 9 to 5 in order to just support the art that they feel called to make. Everyone says, “follow your passion,” but the practical execution of following a dream is not always as romantic as it sounds.
The single comes off your new EP Ballads For Trying Times – what’s the story behind the title?
The 5 songs on this EP can feel disparate in genre, but they are all very cohesive in theme. So we wanted the title to reflect that this is a collection of songs that candidly capture our current emotional and artistic state. We also like describing the songs as “ballads” because they each tell observational stories (even if they are autobiographical in nature).
How was the recording and writing process?
These songs were mostly co-written by both of us, which is different than our first LP where Thu wrote the majority of the songs. When people meet us for the first time, they frequently ask, “OK, so who’s the singer and who’s the songwriter?” which is kind of a funny thing. Based on our name, people tend to think our roles are very well defined , and though we do identify ourselves by our respective crafts, we both write the songs. The collaborative nature of the writing process is actually what gives Ballads its musical maturity, and as we continue to write new songs, we have found this shared voice to be our strongest.
What was it like to work with Griffin Alan Rodriguez and how did that relationship develop?
We met Griffin because he was running sound for the record release show for our first album. He was so fun to work with, and when we got to talking, we discovered that he produced some of our favorite albums (specifically Beirut’s The Flying Club Cup and The Rip Tide). We called Griffin about a year later and we started working on Ballads at Narnack Studios in East LA.
How much did he get to influence the EP?
Griffin is an amazing engineer and had a very spare touch when it came to the production. Our first album took us a few years to record and was tracked in short sessions, so we wanted this experience to really contrast that, by doing everything in 5 consecutive days. Griffin is super into the sound and feeling of a room, so his room setup and mic placements for the songs on this record play a huge role in giving them their character. We wanted it to feel as much like a single cohesive recording session as possible, and I think Griffin’s work helped to give it that sense of place.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
We are 29 and 31, and at this point in our lives, we are asking ourselves a lot of big questions: Do we want to have kids? Do we like our jobs? Do we like where we live? Did we choose the right partner? We have passed through the wide-eyed optimism of our 20s and its endless possibilities and are entering a place in our lives where our options are dwindling and we have to start making some decisions. The emotional weight of those decisions is the inspiration for all the songs on this EP. We think a lot of people in their late 20s/ early 30s today grapple with a lot of these same feelings.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes! We are currently writing you from the road, at a Flying J rest stop on the way to Boise, ID for a show at the District Coffeehouse. We will be on tour most of this summer on the West Coast and East Coast. People can find our tour dates at our website.
What else is happening next in The Singer and The Songwriter’s world?