On April 14th, Minnesota based band Maiden Dixie released their sophomore record, UNSAFE & SOUND. The record, which contains eight tracks, is a diverse, yet united one. It hits everything from rock and country to bluegrass and gospel in tracks that are both raucous and emotional. Lead vocals are shared by Channing Himes and Jesse Becker while players Drew Sherman (bass), Jonathan Krentz (guitar), Zachary Scanlan (fiddle) and Tyler Kloewer (drums) round out the sextet. Band member Tyler Kloewer took some time to talk about their roots, the record and what's ahead.
For fans who might be new to your music, can you tell us how the six of you came together to form Maiden Dixie?
Well, I am originally from a small town in Iowa with maybe 200 people. There was not a huge music scene there, so I moved to St Paul and studied at McNally Smith Music School. It was there I met Jon and Channing. We played with one another in recitals at school, but I was in a different band at the time. A couple years later, their drummer ended up moving on as did my singer; the position opened and I started playing with them. I actually didn’t know country music that well at the time, so I was a little nervous going into it--not about playing, more about the knowledge of country, but I really got to dive deeper into it.
Before I joined, the band had been playing together for about two years. Drew and Jon served in Iraq together and played in the army band. When they returned they thought about how much they liked it and wanted to start a band over here. They called in Jesse and Zach and at some point grabbed Channing to sing and here we are.
Prior to joining Maiden Dixie and focusing on country music, what were the types of music that you were performing?
I was doing a lot of different stuff. I was trying to pave my way in the jazz scene. I also played in a pop cover band and started an original reggae band. All of those bands were fun, but they had no clear direction. I wanted to make music a full time gig for myself.
All of you come from very different musical backgrounds; that certainly must have an influence on your sound.
Yeah absolutely. It’s funny because we literally don’t listen to anything when we ride together to shows. Well, maybe country because we can all agree on that! I’m actually a huge pop fan so I love Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Sam Smith. Drew’s taste is very avant garde, he likes guys like Frank Zappa. Zach just listens to classical music. Jesse loves country, Jon likes a lot of classic rock and Channing, she’s a rocker at heart, but she loves Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Our influences are all over the map which is great because everyone sort of loves it all.
Since there are six of you and you all have such different influences how does the writing process work?
Jon and Channing do most of the song writing. They’ll come to the table with a song, but it’s definitely a collective effort; everyone has an opinion and is able to put their two cents into a song. With this album we had sort of a routine. I have a home studio and Jon would come over with an idea or a song already written and I would help. I didn’t write lyrics, but I would help with arrangements. We did a lot of work in my studio that way.
What did producer Kevin Bowe bring to the project?
Well, I think in general he brought a lot of good emotion to the record. As soon as we met Kevin we knew he was the guy, he was one of us. He is super funny and really laid back, but cares so much about music. That alone was reassuring because we knew he was going to put in the time to give it his all. He was really invested in our direction and ideas and was very supportive. We did a lot of pre-production at his house basically like what Jon and I had done, and he was happy with it from the get go. He had ideas too, but always let us have the final say. It was really a communal effort with everyone listening and taking into account what everyone else had to say.
What is the significance of the title UNSAFE & SOUND?
It’s kind of a funny story. We were at the end of the recording process and realized we hadn’t named the record yet. We all went to a bar and decided we weren’t leaving until we had a title--it was crunch time! We ended up leaving without a name….we were like, the worst band name generator ever! I think it was Jon who suggested playing with the idea that the record itself is a raw one; it has an eclectic mix of music on it that might be difficult for the listener to categorize. We felt that in a way it could be seen as unsafe to put out a record that couldn’t be pigeonholed into any genre. That’s how we landed on unsafe, and sound just followed.
You have said that “Bullets in The Gun” is your favorite track to play. Do you have an overall favorite?
You know my favorite song to listen to is “Honest Man’s Wage.” I like that song because it has a real haunting vibe. The recording process for that song was also super fun; it was a very creative song for us. I also really like “The Road.” When we were recording that song, I got super into it and teared up a little bit! Kevin said “oh my goodness, he’s crying!” (laughing). It’s such an emotional song for me. My favorites change all of the time though, depending on the mood I’m in.
In addition to promoting the album, what are Maiden Dixie's professional plans for the summer?
Our summer is booked with a lot of fairs and outdoor festivals including WE Fest, which is always fun to play. We’ll also head back to my hometown in Iowa where my family and friends throw a bash, which is great. Our schedule has picked up a lot more since the release of the album. We just want to get out there, play for people and get the album in their hands. We all love to play live and that’s something special to have; we’re all on board to play as much as possible which is great. Right now we mostly play regionally, but we look forward to playing for a wider audience. We are turning the corner and are looking forward to making our set all original songs and have people open for us.
Finally, is there one recent release that you cannot stop listening to?
Let me think about that for a second. You know, I really like Eric Church’s new album [The Outsiders]. I know it’s not that recent, but I like his eclectic variety. I find the drum sounds really interesting. I’m trying to figure out how I can make my drums sound like that! The album has good songwriting, good production and a good mix of songs. There’s just a lot to pick up from it!
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