Hello Kael, how are you?
Hi, I am doing great, thanks for asking!
Congratulations on the release of “How Can You Sit There?” how does it feel?
Ya know, it feels really great to finally be able to reveal what I’ve been working on for almost two years!
What’s the story behind the song?
This song came to me the day that Trump was first acquitted for impeachment after the Jan 6th insurrection at the US capital. I was furious that he came so close to inciting a mob to over-turn the election. Isn’t democracy the ONE THING that Americans cherish most about their government? So imagine my surprise when a flood of American-flag-waving “patriots” stormed the capital to undermine that very democracy! It’s probably one of the most disturbing and ironic things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. And the worst part is that people I love, family members and friends, are simply willing to look the other way! They make excuses, cite conspiracy theories, or try to shift the blame to “those darn liberals” and move on. The cheers from everyday Americans ringing out like a twisted twilight zone anthem, as they watch and applaud their dear leader’s attempt to install himself as a dictator right there in broad daylight!
It’s got a very soulful feel to it, what was the easiest and hardest part of recording it?
The easiest part was the opening line. I literally sat in front of the mic that evening after Trump’s acquittal verdict with nothing but confusion and anger to draw from. “How can you sit there and let this happen?” was the first thing that came out. It was a single take, done! And it was so straight to the point that it didn’t need much more to it. After that, the rest fell into place very naturally. If there was anything difficult about writing this song it was trying not to over-do it. I fought the urge to rage, get loud and scream. I played with various additional synth and guitar parts, but ultimately it just worked better to keep it chill and spare.
It’s from your debut album, what’s your favourite track from that?
Hmm, honestly that changes depending on my mood at any given moment. Out of 14 songs I’m proud to say that I’m very happy with them all! I’m hard at work making a video for track 5 “Shiver” at the moment though, that one is very special to me.
Any stand out memories from the sessions?
Ooh so many! The past couple years have been tumultuous with covid and kids and life. Trying to juggle working on this album and suddenly being a stay-at-home dad when the kids’ schools closed was intense, but I managed by stripping down my studio setup to just a few pieces of portable gear. My laptop and my Synthstrom Deluge jam box went everywhere with me on camping trips and lake getaways. I wrote track 2 “Smile” on a beach in Mexico while the kids splashed in the waves and my wife and I sat watching the most beautiful sunset together. That song encapsulates the moment perfectly for me.
You are singer songwriter composer originally from Colorado, how did it all begin for you?
My mother was a music teacher, so naturally music was everywhere. I remember in kindergarten while most kids fought over the train sets and action figures, there was a piano in the corner of the room that was always all mine.
What did you listen to growing up?
I’ve gone through periods listening to just about everything, but I’ve always been especially drawn to bands with amazing drummers. Rush, Tool, Dave Matthews Band, are some that come to mind.
You were also a bit of a gamer, what are your top 3 classic games and why?
Ha yeah, there was a time in my life when I had time for video games (sigh). The OG Nintendo was my jam, and I still love to revisit classics like Zelda and Metroid once in a while.
You learned piano in Kindergarten, what was your favourite piece to play?
I actually never really learned to read music, and there was never an official “piece” that I learned. I just played what sounded good to me, or what I could remember from whatever music I was into at the time. That’s still how I operate to this day. Although, if I may recommend a piano piece, my favorite of all time is “Jeux d’eau” by Maurice Ravel. I’ve been slowly attempting to learn that one, although it’s extremely difficult, especially by ear. Give me a while, it may be a bucket-list item for me to be able to play that one some day.
You also composed for film and TV, what was the one thing you’ve learned about that process that you apply to songwriting?
The biggest thing I learned working in the film and TV space is to not take myself too seriously, and not get too attached to any one specific idea. Stay open to new possibilities, try new things! There were times when I would spend weeks on a concept, only to have a client shoot it down in seconds.
COVID impacted the creative industry in a big way what kept you motivated?
I think it was the mostly the fact that my whole life I’ve wanted to produce an album that was entirely my own. Covid was a catalyst for me to accomplish that in a big way. In 2020 I was already considering walking away from my position as a full-time TV composer. And when covid started shutting down contracts (a major ad campaign for Marriott hotels was among the first to pull the plug on us) I realized I had an opportunity to shift my priorities. I knew it would be a long, difficult process to launch a career as a solo artist, but at that moment it felt like “now or never.” Staying motivated during covid was not the problem, I had laser focus the whole time. The hardest part was not alienating my wife and kids and driving everyone close to me insane in the process.
The last couple of years have been a time to reflect what did you learn about yourself?
I’ve learned that I can squeak by on about 4 hours of sleep per night, for a while at least. And that therapy is time and money well-spent!
Did you pick up any new skills?
Yeah, you know this album was the first time in my life I’ve attempted to write lyrics. I’ve always played the producer role, strumming guitars and laying down synths and drums etc… With Faded Paper Figures I occasionally sing harmonies and backups, but I’ve always left the lyric-writing to others. And by extension that means I’ve also never sang lead vocals on anything before. This album took me out of my comfort zone, behind the mixing desk, and plopped me square in front of a hot mic. It took me months of experimenting until I finally felt comfortable enough to just open my mouth and sing.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Currently I’m really into soul stuff like Nick Hakim, Anderson Paak, Arlo Parks, Gallant, Sampha, James Blake, etc… I’ve been told my genre could be described as “vapor soul” and there are a bunch of bands in that zone that really get me going. Tora, Jadu Heart, Sam Gellaitry, and Tennyson are some that come to mind.
What are you looking forward to next?
Believe it or not, I’m already well on my way to writing my follow-up album. I hope to finish that sometime in 2023. It’s already shaping-up to be very sonically exciting!
Special thanks to Cian Liberty Music PR