Can you talk to us more about your song “Not My Fault”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
The song “Not My Fault” represents a general reaction to a few circumstances over the past year. As I was in the writing process, I noticed this underlying theme of how life just seems to happen, and at the time it might seem uncomfortable or unfair or undeserved, but as with most things, when given some space to settle in, these turn of events turned out to be important catalysts for something better. Usually, the simplest of set backs can be realized as the most complex opportunities for growth.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Our videographer David Dennison suggested setting up early in the day in a little country church in Berne, MN where we were scheduled to perform later that night. We packed in a bunch of gear and ran a few songs through live, allowing Dave and his crew capture the feel and energy of the song. It seemed fitting in this setting as most people usually gather in places like this to find some sense of reflection, direction or hope. And the song, the lyrics especially, fit nicely.
The single comes off your new album Million Birds – what’s the story behind the title?
The song “Million Birds” was the first song written for our new album. After writing and cutting demos for around 25 songs, we selected 11 that we felt had a common thread. We decided on the title to the album “Million Birds” because of the underlying theme found in these songs. The beauty of the risks of love and loss, the right time to stand up and fight, and the ongoing wondering if and when it’s the right time to surrender.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process for me has always been a very personal process. I’m a slow writer, I love the editing and simplifying process. As the years have rolled along, Barry Nelson (guitar/keys/backing vocals) has begun to contribute a lot to the musical direction of the songs, providing chord progression ideas along the way that really inspire the lyrics and keep things fresh. He and I work through each song and nurture it along the way, ultimately presenting it to the rest of the band to cut a demo. Each of the band members are excellent musicians in their own right, and over the years we’ve figured out how to give each other space to shine, work together and constantly simplify to get out of the way and let the song speak for itself. The recording process for “Million Birds” was the first time since our very first album, where recorded all the songs in the same room with each other. We set up shop in our barn studio and spent 7 Sunday’s hammering out these songs. We just kept playing till we got a good take, a good feel, and once Dezi our bass player gave the thumbs up on the vibe, we kept the take! What you’re hearing in this recording is all live takes, even the vocals. Tom Herbers our engineer then took these sessions and brought them to life.
After 20 years in the scene – would you call this a culmination from all you have done?
We decided a few years ago to be the best band of dads with day jobs that we could be. From the beginning we were given some great advice from Lou Whitney who produced a couple of our first albums in Springfield, MO. He told us that as long as you’re recording your own music, making records, people are buying them and you’re playing shows…then congratulations, you’re in the music business. The only thing that matters is that you’re writing and making music you dig. No matter how hard you try, you can’t “make it” happen in the music business, and once “it” happens, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make it stop. So, focus on the craft of writing good songs, and let the rest take care of itself.
Did you somehow get back to your roots?
The last 20 years have been a journey about getting honest with ourselves, connecting to our roots, planting seeds and watching them grow. I think every year we play together, every song we write, every album we create, we are getting closer and closer to our roots. It sure seems like a long way around the block 🙂
How has Bob Dylan had an influence on your writing?
Growing up listening to many great songwriters, I would find myself being drawn to certain elements of different artists and their writing techniques. Two things that inspire me from his writing are his ability to twist and flip in the middle of a line with a turn of a phase or multiple meanings of two identical words or similar sounding words. I’ve always enjoyed that clever approach. I’m also inspired by his longevity, his ability to stay relevant and his commitment to his craft.
What role does Minnesota play in your music?
Minnesota is our home. We grew up in the Lyle/Austin, MN area, playing in county fairs, small town festivals, really anywhere we could get a gig. Since then, we’ve made a concentrated effort to bring our style of Americana music to hundreds of small towns across the state.
What aspect of relationships did you get to explore on this record?
The good, the bad and the ugly. The hope, the heartbreak and the joy.