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INTERVIEW: JW Sargent

Hi JW, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you so much! I’ve been great, thank you so much for having me! 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “RUN“?

“Run” is a song that I wrote during a particularly chaotic period in my life. I felt like I was doing so much but not seeing a lot of progress and it made me think about simpler times. I thought about times when I was younger and life felt a lot easier and I started to think about how awesome it would be to in a way escape back to that. 

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

It wasn’t about one event specifically but more the compounding of a ton of events with no break. My girlfriend and I were trying to buy a house and things were crazy for both of us at work and we used to say to each other, “Do you want to just run away?” so that’s where that line sort of started.

How was the film experience?

Filming the video for run was a lot of fun. It was directed by Taylor DeYoung, who is one of my best friends so working with him on the concept and shooting was a lot of fun. We wanted to do something that highlighted the juxtaposition of simplicity and chaos like in the song so we tried to represent that with a dark prison-like confinement and then bright, free nature shots. We were shooting around the time Stranger Things had come out and we both really liked that show so we wanted to incorporate an element from the show. We thought that their use of light as a medium between two worlds was really cool since we were trying to make a similar comparison so that’s where the light in the video came from. 

The single comes off your new album In Retrograde – what’s the story behind the title?

At one point during the time that I was writing the EP, my girlfriend sent me my horoscope. I’m not into really astrology but I couldn’t believe how accurate the horoscope was to the things that were going in my life. This was at a time when Mercury was in retrograde and the horoscope said that this was a particularly creative time for my sign. The next day, I wrote a song start to finish that came together really easily. After that I started to read more about Mercury being in retrograde; I saw that it was defined in astrology as the illusion that the planet was moving backwards when in reality it was continuing forward. That resonated with me a lot and was symbolic of many of the things I had been dealing with, personally and in the context of the record so that’s when I decided that the name would be In Retrograde. 

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing and recording process for this EP is different than anything that I’ve ever worked on because I worked for the most part on my own. I wrote and recorded all of the instruments and vocals myself in the studio I built in my apartment other than drum tracks on three songs that were recorded by Justin Nace (PVRIS) and Evan Chapman (Lydia). It was a really different experience for me because I had never been so self reliant, I had always worked with other people and been able to bounce ideas off other people. There’s something kind of terrifying about putting yourself out there like that but it was also really liberating and a very rewarding experience. 

What was it like to work with Paul Leavitt and how did that relationship develop?

Paul and I have been good friends for a long time – I met him when one of my old bands recorded an ep with him in 2009 or 2010 and we kept in touch ever since then. When I started getting into recording I reached out to him a bunch for advice because he’s super talented and has a great ear so when it came time to track drums with Justin, I knew I wanted to get Paul involved. We tracked drums at Paul’s studio for Ghost and Medicine; they both crushed it on the songs and I’m really pumped on how they turned out. 

How much did he influence the album?

Paul came on to engineer and mix drums for “Ghost” and “Medicine” so I wouldn’t say he influenced the album over all, I actually produced the EP myself, but he is the reason that the drums on those tracks sound so huge. 

You brought some special guests – did you handpick them based on a particular element or how did they come on board?

I actually brought in Evan Chapman and Justin Nace to play drums on the EP because they’re super talented drummers and great dudes who I have been friends with for years. Evan and I have been playing music together on different projects for something like eight years and he is an incredible musician. Justin and I became friends through a band that we both got hired to play with about six years ago. When things ended with that project, he came on to play drums in a project that I wrote with some friends called Equal Scales. Also, when they aren’t on tour they both live in Philadelphia which was really convenient. The biggest thing for me was that, since I decided to take on as much of this EP myself as I possibly could, I wanted to make sure that I really liked and respected anyone that I brought on and Justin, Evan and Paul are all great dudes and really talented at what they do. 

What role does Philly play in your music?

Philadelphia was a big reason that this EP even came into existence. Before I moved to Philly, I was living in Baltimore, but towards the end of my time there, things were not going my way. I had been looking for a way out of that situation for a long time and ended up getting an offer for a job in Philadelphia so I decided to go for it. Philly became my fresh start. It was a new chapter in which I was able to figure a lot of stuff out personally and move towards the person that I wanted to be. I had always wanted to start a solo project as depending on other people can be tough sometimes. Since I didn’t really know that many people playing music in Philly and was so empowered by this new beginning, I decided to just go for it and do it on my own. Had it not been for my move to Philadelphia, I don’t know that I ever would have made that leap and I’m so grateful that things happened the way that they did.   

What personal struggles get to inspire the lyrics on this material?

All of the songs on the EP are inspired by things that I was going through when I was writing them. In a way, I used the songs to kind of make sense of a lot of the issues that I was facing. I wrote “Constant” when my girlfriend and I were first getting together and were long distance and the struggles that are involved in all of that. I wrote “Ghost” after my grandmother passed away and it deals a lot with loss and the feeling that life is transient and temporary. All of the songs on the EP come from a very real place were an incredible outlet for me during the writing process. 

Any plans to hit the road?

I have been working on putting together a live set for a little while so I am definitely looking forward to getting some live shows together in the coming year. It’s tough to tell at this point what shape those shows will take but I’m definitely trying to get out there in 2017. 

What else is happening next in JW Sargent‘s world?

Lots of things are going on! I’m trying to spread the word about In Retrograde so thank you so much for checking it out and if you haven’t you can listen to it on Spotify/iTunes and check out some videos at www.jwsargent.com. Outside of that, I’m always writing and recording so I have some new songs that are taking shape. I’ve rearranged some cover songs so I’m hoping to release some of that soon. I also have some video stuff in the pipeline plus the live set so lots to look forward to!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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