Every week we feature a notable rising artist on the verge of success. Meet our first artist of 2014, the indie-folk genius Jay Woodward. We had a chance to talk to Jay and go On The Record with questions that let us view alternative culture from the eyes of the musician.
A natural born observer, his lyrics are a culmination of self awareness and introspection in an observer’s body. His style of playing is multi-faceted, using recording techniques he picked up during his tenure as a sound engineer at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. “Letters We Told” is a unique look at America through the eyes of one its sons.
He recorded his debut album independently in his home studio, Sierra Nevada Records, in hopes of creating an auditory letter in the form of a concept album. Letters We Told truly does have a “written correspondence flow” to it, as it is a complete cohesive production from the start of the powerful instrumental, Mandolina, to the last notes of the nostalgic and reflective title track.
His melodic lines are very catchy and intriguing due to the atmospheric and experimental elements that are a departure from standard folk melodies. His voice is very soothing and comforting, and when layered on top of that unique instrumental sound it creates this eerie, yet euphoric auditory experience, which somehow warms and disturbs the soul simultaneously. It’s simply amazing.
Even though each amazing song on the album can stand on it’s own, the project should be listened to in its entirety—believe me, once you start it, you’ll be captivated until the final second.
On The Record with Jay Woodward
I remember going to the Warped Tour in 2003 with some of my friends and seeing some great bands. Pennywise was a show that stood out. It was the first time I stood at the front of the crowd in a mosh pit scenario. People were freaking out, pushing each other, and flailing in some form of joyful self preservation I hadn’t observed before. It was so foreign and natural. Pennywise was basically inciting the riot that was brewing below our adolescent skin. They were telling us to stick our middle fingers in the air and say F*ck the police. Few of us had the reason for such a directed anger, but all of us knew what we were doing was right; at the time anyway. The irony is that we were all surrounded and protected by the authority we were propelled to rage against.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Lately, I’ve really been drawn to the classics, or instant classics. The popular culture can be swayed so easily by the powers that control the masses which makes me crave the music that has or follows the template of standing the test of time. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely something very timeless about that quintessential ‘era’ band; a musical link to some profound life event, so, my opinion on which bands achieve the status of “classic” is completely subjective. Some of the records that achieve the classic label to me are some of the same records that influenced me to enter the record making outlet in addition to such records as Elliott Smith (self-titled), Fleet Foxes (self-titled), Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), and basically any Beatles record.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
Most recently our friends over at Indie Happy Hour called upon some of their musician friends to piece together a winter themed compilation album called “Winter on the Rocks”. They asked me to join the compilation with an unreleased song which was super cool of them. So, I got together with my good friend, Justin Scott Linville, and we put together a nice little winter song reminiscent of the days we spent freezing our arsses off in Rochester, New York where we both grew up.
For me, collaboration is always a touchy approach. It takes a long time to find someone you can have an honest artistic relationship with and at the end of the day you must be open to compromise. But with that said, I think it would be interesting to give the process a try with George Harrison in 1969. I think that is when GH really started producing at the height of his musical talent and I think there would be a lot I could learn from him at that point.
What is your writing process like? How do you create your music?
The whole process starts on my acoustic guitar. The guitar I use is very old and has tons of good vibrations left from the summer of love. I usually like to start with a single chord that is in some way unique and build the progression around it. After I have a nice progression started I’ll start humming around for a melody. The kind of mood I’m in will choose the nostalgia I seek out for a topic. If the majority of the song doesn’t write itself after about 20 minutes I can usually consider it dead. I think the ability to throw away a perfectly fine chorus or verse and start over is what keeps things interesting. Every so often there will be a song that I just can’t write lyrics for, in which case I let it be an instrumental. This is what happened to I Will Be Glad from Letters We Told.
After the song is written I’ll record it on my Pro Tools rig. I won’t go too far into detail here other than to say this is where the magic happens for me. This is where I transfer a communal idea written on a socially acceptable medium and transition it into the world that was visioned in my head from the start. Pretty much just a bunch of engineer tricks and lots of reverb manipulation.
What subjects/experiences do you draw inspiration from?
I really enjoy observing people and their idiosyncrasies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… this world is a very interesting place. I really enjoy living close to the beach in Venice, CA. Not only can I rejuvenate my creative energy with the vast pacific ocean and all its activities, but whenever I’m bored I’ll just walk down the boardwalk to do some of the best people watching on planet earth.
I also really enjoy movies/ TV. There is something so intellectually correct about observing how characters act onscreen in certain situations…because the way they behave is often the epitome of how the creator thinks a role should be manifested. Wouldn’t it be great if all cops where Serpico and the government was ran by Mr. Spock?…an interesting experiment to say the least.
Controversial question: What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
Music sharing in its purist form is good. The idea is just a misguided execution of utopianism. When the idea was starting to surface someone (I won’t say who) said it was us or them in the grand money making scheme. The line was crossed between business and personal and now musicians everywhere suffer from the over-saturated market. That said, free streaming and social promotions are necessary because they are the most efficient way for broke musicians to build a mass media fan base. To a certain extent this is the lottery we (musicians) play.
What are your views on the current indie/alternative music scene, in comparison to other scenes such as mainstream pop music?
Mainstream pop needs to get edumacated [sic]. Maybe that’s too harsh. I just think pop musicians (the majority) should write less repetitive and low brow lyrics. But the beats are good:) The devil’s advocate may say that indie music (the majority) is far too counter culture to be properly understood and packaged for retail sale. I guess those viable options are what gives consumers true musical freedom but it also dilutes the quality.