INTERVIEW: Doug Strahm

Pic by Petro G Photography

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

Thanks for having me and I’m doing great and even better now that we are doing this as a cover story… We are talking about this months cover story aren’t we? 🙂 Seriously though, life is great! I’m married with four wonderful children and six grandkids.

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

Sure.  “Maybe” is off of the newly released album Souvenirs and we also just released a music video for it as well.  It’s kind of a smokey blues rock style song with the great studio players at Sweetwater Studios.  I actually wrote this song years ago and have had it in my back pocket since then. So when we were crafting the album Souvenirs, I reworked some of the lyrics and played “Maybe” for my producer, Mark Hornsby and it was decided that it should definately be on the project.

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

“Maybe” is a song I wrote about a relationship that I really knew was over but just wasn’t ready to accept it. All the signs were there and I either didn’t want to admit it, or deal with it or even think  it was true. It’s crazy how you rationalize and listen to the voice in your head which tells you one thing but the heart tells you something different. So you start question which one is telling the truth and are you being played for a fool? Either way, you hang on and on to the slightest hope that it’ll work out, but it didn’t. So I got a great song out of it.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

I sent Souvenirs to a friend of mine, Freddy Rodriguez who lives in Miami, FL. Freddy is an Emmy award winning director and we spoke in the past about him doing a music video for me.  He felt strongly about a few of the songs off the album and narrowed it down to “Freedom Rings”, “Night Train to Queens”, and “Maybe”.  The video for “Freedom Rings” was already committed to my good friend Nigel Dick, who has directed many classic music videos that have won countless awards. So between “Night Train to Queens” and “Maybe”, we decided that “Maybe” made the most sense because we could shoot in on location here in Fort Wayne and make it look like a million bucks!  Being an independent singer/songwriter, budget is always a huge concern so I handled a lot of the initial details like scouting the locations, obtaining permissions, catering, finding the actors and extras, etc.  Once all that was in place, I flew Freddy in and we shot the video in two very long days of shooting, and it was a blast.  I had a lot of good friends help out and it made the video a great project that I am very proud of.

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

Initially it started with a handful of new songs that I had written which were influenced by some of my music heroes. Then I pulled out of few of them from the attic which I had written years ago. They had a good chorus or a hook that I liked, but I thought the rest of the song was kinda crap. 🙂 So I reworked some of those that I liked and wrote a bunch of verses around them. This turned into the ending medley on the album for the songs “Harvest Moon”, “That Girl”, “Down On My Knees”, “Where Did They Go”, and “Souvenirs”. The actual song “Souvenirs”, was originally just a jam session that we were going to end the album with but then the project began to take on a whole concept of the memories and songs from the past that are like souvenirs we collect throughout the years of our lives. So if you listen to the songs lyrics for “Souvenirs”, they are all pieces of the songs previously on the album. Then the whole album became just that! A collection of souvenirs that shaped my writing today. If you listen to the whole album, you should be able to tell who the artists and bands that I am nodding to in many of the songs.

How was the recording and writing process?

I remember writing “Maybe” alone in the middle of the night, just sitting in front of my keyboard with the headphones on (so I didn’t wake up the family) and ended up writing it in about 30 minutes. It really just flowed out once I tapped in the the emotion of where I wanted the song to go.  I thought, I’ll go to bed and listen to it in the morning and see if I still liked it as much as I did when I wrote it. Well I guess you know how that turned out.

So fast forward many years later and I am recording at the amazing Sweetwater Studios in Fort Wayne, IN with some of industries top musicians laying down the tracks for “Maybe”. I remember Mark H was running the first session and got the groove down with Nick D’Virgilio on the drums, Dave Martin on bass, Phil Naish on keys, and Don Carr on guitars.  The session went really well and the guys just knew where to put things in the pocket.  Don asked me “What kind of sound that you are going for?” I said “Think of a spaghetti western or the guitar you would hear in a Tarantino movie.”  The one that sounds like it is echoing across the dusty planes.  He nailed it as far as I am concerned.  Then we have Kat Bowser and Nick D. on backups and I told them to just get creative and try some different stuff to make it interesting. They are both incredibly talented and creative and I believe it was Nick who suggested we do some “Hey Hey’s” and Kat did an amazing job layering the vocals. All in all, it was a great session with some great people who I am honored to call my friends.

As your music kept getting more and more momentum as you were putting this record – did that put any pressure on you or rather the opposite?

You know that is one thing I enjoy so much about being an independent artist.  I don’t have the pressure to put out an album or have to run my songs in front of someone who has the final say on what I want to express in my music or on the project. I write songs that I enjoy singing and pretty much that’s what you get.  Saying that, I do hope that my songs are enjoyed by the people who choose to listen to them.  That’s always gratifying.  The music video is another case though.  In the beginning, I would put something out and right off the bat, it would get thousands of views and they would continue to climb.  It seem as though in todays saturated video market, you really have to hit a niche to get a viral video or a lot of luck.  I feel my last two videos are the best quality that I have put out to date, and am hoping they get the same recognition as my previous videos.

What role does Fort Wayne play in your music?

Fort Wayne is home.  I’ve been here all my life, raised my kids here, met my husband here and most of my friends are here.  I started writing here and I will always be that midwestern boy at heart.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I find inspiration in many situations. Sometimes I hear a conversation, a song, someone sends me a message that tells a story, I read something in the news or I just start playing the keyboard and something just comes out.  I have never experienced writers block and feel if I just relax and let the song happen, then it usually does.  For instance, one of the songs on Souvenirs is called “Harvest Moon”.  That song’s concept is about 35 years old and it came about one night when I was driving home. My kids where in the back seat and my oldest daughter was about six or seven years old at the time.  She so very innocently said, “Dad, I think the moon likes me”.  I replied, “Of course the moon likes you sweetie, why’s that”? I could see in my rear view mirror that she was staring up at the moon and she replied, “because it follows me everywhere.”  That was a moment I will never forget and the line “harvest moon my friend, follow me until the night ends” is from a precious conversation with my daughter.  So what I am saying is that you just never know when or where the inspiration will hit you but if you keep you mind open, it’s coming at you every day.

Any plans to hit the road?

Actually I am putting a band together with some great players and want to do some live gigs, so yes I will hit the road but I don’t see a regular tour schedule as part of the plan.  But then again, you never know what is around the corner.

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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