Fred Abbott is a London-based musician best known as lead guitarist and keyboardist for Noah And The Whale. Recently Abbott recorded his solo album, SERIOUS POKE, due out July 20th. With ten songs all penned by Abbott, the album was co-produced by Fred and Martin Hollis and recorded at the legendary British Grove Studios in London. Abbott kindly took the time to talk about the new album via email.
With the incredible success of NATW, did you always have a desire to put out a solo project and why was now the best time to do so?
I've been writing and recording my own songs for almost 20 years so yes the desire has probably always been there to do an album of my own material. It happened at this time because NATW was on hiatus last year so I had the time to get some songs together, some of which had been hanging around for 10 years or more, and finally record them properly. Also, one of Cliff Richard's backing singers once told me not to make a solo album until I was over 30!
How is the music, both lyrically and sonically, similar to or different from Noah and the Whale?
The music is similar in that a lot of the personnel are the same - it's got the drummer, bassist and violinist from Noah on it and obviously myself playing guitar and keyboards. NATW had sort of become a guitar-based pop/rock band by the end of the band so this isn't a million miles away musically, it's just more rocky I think.
Were you able to put more of “you” into this record in terms of influences, and inspiration as well as your likes and dislikes?
Absolutely, there was nobody telling me what to do on this record so everything that you hear is how I wanted it to be - or as close as I could get. I essentially made the record for myself, to see if I could create something that I liked. If other people like it, that's a bonus!
It has been five years since Pardon Me brought Jonathan Tyler and his band The Northern Lights to the forefront of the rock scene and found them playing everywhere from ACL to Jimmy Kimmel Live! After years of back and forth, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter is now free from label constraints and is set to releases his highly anticipated new album Holy Smokes on August 7th. Holy Smokes finds Tyler in the driver's seat, making a record the way he wanted with the songs he wanted. In anticipation of his show in NYC with Butch Walker at The Concert Hall on May 5th, Tyler took the time to talk about creative freedom, the new record and more.
Currently, you’re out with Butch Walker on his 'On Your Mark Get Set, Sad' tour until mid-June. How did that come about? Are you guys friends?
We’re becoming friends! I was asked if I wanted to submit to open for him and I was like “well, hell yeah,” so they sent his camp my new record, which I guess they liked because I was offered the whole tour. It’s been pretty amazing and it really could not have been more perfect timing for where I am with everything, it’s great.
His latest record is very low key & his fan base is rather loyal, how have they been responding to your music?
It’s been really good. I was kinda worried because I’m playing acoustic with just a guitar and harmonica and those shows can either be really good with everyone listening or no one listens and it’s horrible. So far everyone has been super respectful and seems to dig what I’m doing, which is nice. I’m doing it this way because Butch asked me to. He’s performing the same way, so it would have been weird if I came out with a big band and then he got up there by himself.
I’ve done acoustic shows before, like when I was touring with Ray Wylie Hubbard or sometimes I’ll do an acoustic run when I tour Texas. I really like it because it showcases more of the songwriting side of what I do, which is the most important thing to me. It’s kind of nice to do it that way because the songs don’t get overshadowed by the band which happens sometimes. I like playing both ways though, it keeps me energized and doesn’t allow me to get bored.
Going forward after this tour, will the Northern Lights still be with you or will this new record find you as a solo artist?
It’s definitely more of a solo record at this point. I wanted to go in more of a singer-songwriter direction that wasn’t based on a rock band. A couple of guys from the band started a side project and I did this record. I used some of the band and then I used new people as well. When I tour for the new record, I'll take a band that’ll probably be a bulk of the Northern Lights, but a few new guys will be playing too.
Pardon Me, your previous record, was released on Atlantic in 2010. The new record, Holy Smokes, which will be available August 7th, finds you back as an independent artist. I had read that being released from the label was like a burden off your shoulders. It wasn’t the experience you expected?
I think that I just got caught up in the system and basically just did the wrong deal. It’s like, the alchemy of the whole thing has to be right when you sign a record deal. There has to be a real understanding of what both parties are getting into and I don’t know if I was experienced enough to recognize that. All major labels aren’t necessarily bad; I mean, I have friends who are on labels and friends who work at labels and they do well. But with a certain type of personality, it doesn’t necessarily work and that was what I was running into. I would turn in like 40-50 songs and then I turned in the entire concept for the album and they would tell me they weren’t feeling it or that I should go meet with a certain writer. I felt like I was being propped up, and that what I was doing was being changed into something else. I’m just too much of a Capricorn, a stubborn person, and I just dug my heels into the ground. We went back and forth for two years with me turning in songs and them saying I should try this and we’d be like “no.” Finally we were let out, but it took a lot of waiting which was hard for me because I felt like I wasn’t getting the opportunity to be creative and do what I want to do…which is make music, tour and play. It was kind of a hard time, but I got through it and grew up a lot.
"I am a songwriter, singer and player. My main instrument is the acoustic guitar, a Gibson J-45. I call her The Workhorse and she earns every inch of that name. I love to write songs, but there's nothing better than playing music for folks, it’s what got me here and what keeps me going.“
Music is inside of Shawn Nelson. The singer songwriter, who has been writing songs and making albums for over twelve years, released his latest project, The Devil's River, in early 2015. His passion for his craft is clearly evident when he speaks and Nelson was gracious enough to take the time to talk about his roots, the album and more.
You are have been making music independently for twelve years. For someone to do it that long it must really be a passion. Was music always “it” for you?
I was raised in Houston in a big Lebanese family and I started playing music when I was seven. I played trombone all the way up until high school when I wanted to play football….and not wear a funny hat anymore (laughing). I picked up the guitar in college at UT and taught myself. Then I worked in Nashville on the publishing side of the business. It was there I realized I wanted to be on the writing side, not the business side. I moved to Austin in 2001 to pursue music and have been here ever since. I came to Austin specifically to be able to write, make records, perform and be around really good musicians. All of those things came true. There are a lot of people who get jaded in Austin, myself included, but when you go out on the road and see other towns with only one or two venues to play at, you realize how great of a place Austin is.
Music is something inside of me. My wife tells me all the time to get more shows because when there is a lull in the calendar I get into a terrible mood. Sometimes you don’t have a choice of what makes you happy, you know? It’s definitely a challenge and a labor of love, but when you get to work with the really great musicians and talented people it’s worth it. It’s one of those things that I can’t stop. I’m just an artist making music that I hope people will like. I hope to continue to do it and keep moving forward.
You really are an independent artist in every sense of the word.
I even wrote my own bio! I did a record in 2011 called San Juan Street where I paid for a publicist; I got good reviews out of it, but you need 10K a month to pay a publicist and a radio promoter to get stuff out. Frankly, I don’t have money to do that. So I’m trying to do it by word of mouth and go back to the people who reviewed past records for me and see if they’ll review the new one. I just focus on what I do, which is play songs, write songs and make records.
Music is a lot of fun and it’s very rewarding, especially when people come up to you and thank you for playing a song or tell you what a song means to them. It’s very fulfilling and it gets better every year. I am now a part time day job guy, so that in itself is an accomplishment. I have a really great wife and a three year old son who are so supportive of all of this. This musician life benefits them too. It gets them to experience things we would otherwise never be involved in, like going to festivals, hanging out with musicians and other creative people. It’s very rewarding, but it comes with challenges and you have to stay positive.
For Troy Cartwright, music, both writing and performing, is what he has to do. A rising star on the Texas music scene, the singer songwriter has been the recipient of the B. W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition Award and the 2014 Rising Star Texas Music Award. In addition, he was named ‘One to Watch’ by the Dallas Observer. In February he released his self-titled album, which has seen its debut dingle “Next Flight Home” land in the Top 25 on the charts. Cartwright graciously took some time to talk about his roots, writing and more.
For anyone who may not be familiar with your music, can you give the back story as to when you began to have an interest in music and started writing, playing and singing?
Remember Razor scooters? Well, when I was twelve years old, I really wanted a Razor scooter. My parents usually gave us all one really big present on Christmas; so on Christmas we went to the garage and popped the trunk. I was sure there was going to be a scooter in there, but there wasn’t; it was a guitar. So my involvement with music started with disappointment (laughing), but that’s how I started playing. Really though, I thought the guitar was pretty cool, and so I started figuring it out, taking lessons from a kid at school and then began playing in church along with the youth choir. Around fourteen I began writing songs; they weren’t very good, but it was a start! I was in bands, graduated Berklee [College of Music], worked in NY and then did the wedding singer thing when I realized that wasn’t why I did music. When I started looking at my options I realized the Texas scene looked like a pretty good place to be for what I wanted to do--which was sing my own songs. So I moved back down to Dallas and have been doing that ever since.
So you knew that you wanted to pursue music from an early age. What was your area of study at Berklee?
I actually graduated with a degree in music business. I always thought I’d live in New York, work in the industry and play music, but I did an internship in New York and really didn’t find the work interesting. It was then I began looking at the bigger picture asking myself, “Am I going to work here or am I going to play music?”
When you decided to move back to Texas why did you choose to return to Dallas instead of say, Austin?
Dallas was home. In fact I have a story about it on the record called “Come Home.” I knew I wanted to play music, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like and how long it would take to get going, so I asked my parents if I could move in with them. I lived with them for about a year and they let me sleep for free (laughing)! I’m really thankful to them because they allowed me to let me get my feet firmly on the ground before I ventured off on my own.
Since you ventured off you have not only been earning accolades, but earlier this year you released your self-titled album. The first single from the project, “Next Flight Home,” is sitting in the Top 25 on the Texas charts. You must be very happy with the reception!?
Oh yeah I’ve been really happy. I feel so lucky because it’s just so early on in my career to have that happen. The song has been in the Top 25 for over a month, which is just really great. Having a song in the Top 25 has been a goal of mine, so for the song to be there and then to sustain it—that’s just gravy. What’s cool for me too is looking at the other names in the Top 25—some of them are my heroes.
Now, the tricky part is going to be able to do it again and again and again. I hope people like the other songs on the album just as much!