Pic by Carly Valentine
INTERVIEW: LA Psych-Rock/Folk Artist Bee Appleseed
Hi Bee, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hey thanks for having me! I’ve been excellent. Life is glorious.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “All Is Forgiven”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
It’s about staying true to the vision even when times are tough. I wrote it at a low point around January or February 2016 after I got dealt some bad cards and ended up living in my car, singing for my dinner on the streets in San Luis Obispo, California. Through Couchsurfing, I met this elder Native American shaman I then stayed with for a few weeks outside Paso Robles with her children and grandchild. It was a good place to rest for a moment while I worked in her garden and sorted through some stuff in my head. We’d sit in her living room and she’d share stories for hours of how she’d healed people of various ailments, life experiences she’d had, and everything she’s learned in her time on this planet. Her work had brought her to reservations across the country and I learned a lot about Native American culture from her and her family, which simultaneously taught me a lot about myself and my own culture. On one particular day before leaving, I went outside with my guitar and saw five red-tailed hawks circling above, the sun was shining, and in fifteen minutes the song sorta wrote itself.
The single comes off your new album Starflower’s Cosmic Soul – what’s the story behind the title?
Cosmic Soul was the name of the record I had in mind when I was writing it and the band I put together to record it was called Starflower, which was taken from the name of a flower shop in Portland. Everyone in my band back in Portland was truly incredible and I wanted to give them all credit for helping me make this feat of an album. When it became apparent that it’d make the most sense to release it as my next solo record, it seemed like the best solution to call it what it was. Starflower indeed had a life of its own.
How was the recording process?
We recorded it in my friend River Nason’s home called The Guest House in Olympia, Washington known locally for loads of great house shows back in the day. River’s recorded or been in bands with Calvin Johnson, Oh Rose, Pleasures, Sawtooth, and loads more and I’ve known him for about a decade now from when we used to swap shows in each other’s towns while in college. We did my last record, Backpacker Blues together, but this time I returned with a band of like fifteen people and we knocked it out. The vibe was really creative, lots of incense, occasional house parties around town thrown in the mix after recording sessions. I later recorded some folks doing overdubs in Portland and eventually got the money together to get everything sounding how it was meant to. What a journey that was! Be on the lookout for a home movie from the sessions sometime down the road.
What role does the city of LA play in your music?
Though I grew up in a small town outside Portland, Oregon, I’ve known at least since I was 17 that I was meant to end up here, so after a roundabout journey that took me through Europe and beyond for a number of years, I finally made the move three years ago. Things were really rough at first, living in my car again for a whole year until life finally started looking up, but things are a bit easier now and I think about how I love this city more and more every day. Not only that, but when you’re the type of person that’s used to traveling a lot, being in a city with people from all different walks of life from all around the world really feels like home.
What aspect of your own spiritual awakening did you get to explore on this record? How did you get to balance the darkness lying within the awakening with the much positive message?
I wrote this album not as a collection of individual songs, but as an experience meant to be listened to in order as a prescription to locate the cosmic soul within. As the album evolves, the music becomes more positive and even my voice becomes less harsh. Of course there’s always darkness that surrounds in a system that’s not very conducive to spiritual thought, but when the connection to spirit is strong, one can stay positive naturally. Remembering the things we’re grateful for and being specific about what you want from life every day. It’s as simple as that.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Everything I write is from the stories of the streets. Sometimes they’re mine, sometimes other people’s, but in the end it’s all just life experiences that need to be told which are part of the greater collective. As artists, we have a moral obligation to make our most earnest attempts at turning the personal universal and that’s all I ever try to do in my music.
Any plans to hit the road?
At this point, only dreams, but I know I’ll find myself on the road again when I’m called to do so. I lived on the road for many years (over 700 shows and counting) and try not to be the person booking my own shows anymore since I got rather burned out by that experience. Once we have the vinyl for the record in April though which I’ll be putting out on my own label Godyssey Music, I think we’ll be doing some tours, so get in touch if you’d like me to come play at a place near you!
What else is happening next in Bee Appleseed’s world?
My girlfriend, Nora Keyes and I have this really magical improv psych project called Elf Freedom, which seeks to reconnect us with our natural selves. We play shows with that all the time either as a duo or with a few other good jammers and recently played at The Braille Institute here in Los Angeles. Yesterday we also played our second concert for dogs at this fancy dog daycare and last year we played for exotic birds behind the scenes at The Boston Zoo at the invitation of a friend who works there, so it’s been interesting to where both these projects have taken us and see where they go. I’m amazed more and more by it every day.
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