Sugar House Q&A
By Emily McLean
I sat down for a long winter’s chat with Ryan Hayes of Midas Whale to discuss their new Album Sugar House and dig deep in to the heart of the Whale. We started out with some fan questions from their Facebook page:
Everybody wants to know when and where they can get the album!
Yanely De Armas: I want the album what day does it come out and where can I get it?
Courtenay Midgley Bolander: I can’t wait! Will it be available for purchase on the Google Play Store?
Kathy Miller: I’m ready to purchase this new album. Where can I go to make this happen?
Ryan: The album is now available at every major online music market.
Such as: iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Mp3, Google Play, Rdio, Deezer, XBox Music, Rhapsody, EMusic, Simfy, Muve Music, MySpace, iHeartRadio, Nokia, MediaNet, VerveLife, Wimp, Sony Music Unlimited, Gracenote, Shazam, 7Digital, Juke, JB Hi-Fi, Slacker, Bloom, Guvera
Jamie Lynn Ebey: What is something that you wish you would have known (positive or negative) about the album creation process?
Ryan: I wish I would have known what I was getting myself in to. It turns out there are a lot of bottlenecks in the recording and fulfillment process; the song writing, booking the studio and musicians, working around schedules, mixing, design and printing to name a few. Sometimes you can’t do anything else until you wait for something to get done, so it can be very frustrating. However, learning is part of the trade. Now that we’ve been through it I’m sure we will be able to plan better for the future.
Richard McLean: The songs on the album all have their own signature sounds, from Spaghetti Western to 20’s Radio Stars to the Birth of Rock and Roll to Simon and Garfunkel-esque, etc. How did you go about developing those soundscapes?
Ryan: A lot of those soundscapes are inherent in the melodies that were chosen for the album. I personally song write for what the melody is saying more than what anything else is saying. It’s kind of more of a selection of the soundscapes and melodies we wanted in the album. The vibe has a lot to do with the Producer that we chose, Stuart Maxfield he kept pushing for a unique vocal character on each song. He knew what to do and how to help us in the process of achieving the sound and bring the melodies to life in their own unique way.
Andrea DeFrancesco (AD): What are your favorite songs on Sugar House?
Ryan: My favorites are currently “Thanks A Lot”, “Into the Unknown” and “Sweet Dreams”. At any given point in the past I would have had different favorites. They have all had their turn.
AD: Was there a song you would have liked to include but didn’t/couldn’t?
Ryan: Yes, there were several. Many songs were fought over in the great battle of Sugar House. Jon really fought for a demo called “Turn the Lights On” but Stuart felt it needed to bake a little more. Jon also had a really good song “Broken Pieces” that didn’t make the cut. I really wanted a waltz on the album named “What Strange a Thing” that featured the accordion, but couldn’t get the support and abandoned the campaign. We both liked “She’ll Never Know” it was very poetic, but too dark to put on the album. Jon and Stuart loved a song called “Bastard” but I refused to record it out of respect for my mother. There was also the twin of “Thanks a Lot” called “I Don’t Need Nothing” and a catchy basic recording of “Nothing to Lose” we completely abandoned because it didn’t quite feel right. I’m sure all of these songs will see the light of day eventually.
AD: Which new song are you most excited to play live in concert?
Ryan: “Sweet Dreams” – it’s such a sweet song with heart to it. I think it embodies the entirety of my song writing style, thought process and personality. The first draft of lyrics became the final draft, one take and keep it. The song is very similar to the ‘Sunshine Brady and the Moonlight Lady’ songs from back in the day (that’s a duo I have with my sister). Short sweet and nice.
AD: Do you think you’ll do another music video, like you did for “Howling At the Moon”?
Ryan: Yes certainly, of course! There has been talk of a music video from this album with the same film crew.
AD: Will the album also, eventually be available in stores as a physical version? Or the Midas Whale website?
Ryan: First the Kickstarter Backers will get physical copies of the album. After that look for a very limited release via the website and live shows.
Eva Morris: Will the record be available on vinyl? Please!
Ryan: Yes! As with the CD Kickstarter Backers will get physical copies first. Then look for a very limited release via the website and live shows.
Sara Cummings: Boxers or briefs? (Just mixing it up from the musical inquiries)?
Nicole D. Hale (NH): What is the biggest lesson learned from your experience on “The Voice”?
Ryan: We learned that people could really relate to the music we play and that we have an audience out there.
NH: What is the next big project in the works?
Ryan: Look forward to many surprises!
NH: Are you changing up the way “Deep Love” is performed (as in a big Broadway production) or do you want to keep it as an intimate performance?
Ryan: For all news keep an eye on the Deep Love page and wait patiently.
NH: Do you need any roadies?
Ryan: More than roadies we need slaves—people to spread the good word . . . with force if necessary.
Moni Richardson: Who are your musical influences and inspirations?
Ryan: I have been inspired by many: Karen Carpenter, Bing Crosby also Jim Reeves, Everly Brothers, Cat Stevens and an old Mormon folk band The 3 D’s. Great tune smiths like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Hoagie Carmichael. Classical composers, lots of 30’s, 40’s and 50’s music and traditional folk tunes. I mostly admire songwriters, but some vocalists as well.
Jon’s inspirations include Jackie Wilson, James Brown and Jackson Browne. Really anyone with a variation of Jack or Brown in their name.
Jon and I are both huge fans of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel. The list goes on and on, we love almost everything!
Mclean Entertainment (ME): You both have a fabulous way of painting pictures with your truly poetical lyrics, and then infusing them with emotion as you perform. How does this come to you?
Ryan: The truth is that a lot of the songs I wrote on the album are first drafts. I am physically incapable of going back and revising lyrics. The songs speak for themselves melodically with words that make the melody achieve it’s greatest sound.
The melody is the emotion, importantly having the right syllable in the right melodic place. The secret to lyrical bliss is to not have any stressed syllables in the wrong place.
ME: My children would like to know, why there is no howling in “Howling at the Moon” as so nicely done on the video?
Ryan: It’s a quirky and fun thing to do live, but could get annoying after many repeated listens on an album. However, there is a mystical wailing on the album done by my sister Katrina that represents the mystical Moonlight Lady (see ancient Idaho mythology).
ME: Another quirky fun thing is the mouth clicks on “A Good Wind”, I seriously love them! Who had that brilliant idea?
Ryan: Stuart did the mouth clicks while we weren’t even there. He loved the song so much and he was set on making it even cooler!
ME: Well he certainly did that! Also is that I whip I hear?
Ryan: The “whip” sound is a wooden paint mixing stick slapped against a tile floor. I can crack a whip, but it would have been hard to capture the sound we needed with the space and equipment we had, plus I don’t own a whip.
ME: “A Little More” is a favorite of mine, how did you come up with the unique sound and feel? The instrument choices are sublime!
Ryan: The melody came along and the melody said “A little more, a little more” an innocent sounding melody that came with lyric. When it comes with lyrics, don’t mess with it. That melody definitely had something to say and it was very innocent and honest. Almost like a narrative.
“A Little More” was my #1 choice for the album (although Jon opposed me for a long time). Come Hell or high water, it was the one I wouldn’t back down from. It was the last song we did in the studio after a long day and we decided to have fun. We all just kind of got together and had a good time with it.
It’s as perfect as “Sweet Dreams” in that it’s imperfect. Just guys having fun. The vocal component came later in Stuart’s basement. He had an app that produced a weird tinny sound. The vocal is completely natural, the sound looped in to my ears and made me sing different. I didn’t know I was singing differently until afterward. Brilliant technique! How many people go to the lengths of hearing their own voice in a different way to make that sound? Ingenious!
ME: You totally mix it up with “Thanks A Lot” it makes me want to put on some wingtip shoes and boogie! What was the inspiration there?
Ryan: This was my attempt at writing a Buddy Holly style song. Stuart was pushing us every week to come up with more and more songs. I was enjoying the challenge. I had purchased a Telecaster and was excited to rediscover the old new sounds like the classic cowboy sound. It’s the result of an exercise to write things I wouldn’t normally write.
ME: There seems to be an undercurrent theme of death, is this something you ponder frequently?
Ryan: I hadn’t thought of that, but I suppose there are subtle undertones of death. I think death is ever present in my writing because I feel like death is a beautiful thing and something that I’ve always look forward to, not in like a suicidal way, I just like the idea of slipping away beyond the sight of earthly cares.
ME: Well said! “Rise and Shine” has such a final feel that people have wondered if “Sweet Dreams” is meant as a bonus song?
Ryan: We didn’t develop the set list until right before we released it to the Kickstarter backers. I always felt like Rise and Shine was the closer. “Sweet Dreams” is not a bonus song, but more of an afterthought. It was unexpectedly brilliant and we HAD to have it on the album. A way of returning back to the beginning of the album. Whimsical, but lovely ending to the perfect day. It puts you in a place where you’re ready to move on, instead of staying in the bliss of Rise and Shine forever.
ME: Also Ryan you claim it is the only song you would consider a type of love song. With the lyrics “One day you appeared at my window, Helplessly looking for refuge, Funny you never did leave” to me it sounds as if you poetically took in a stray cat. Please explain yourself.
Ryan: No it’s not a cat, but I do enjoy that imagery. I was actually looking out the window at the birds in the bird feeder when I wrote “Sweet Dreams”. Thinking, “Yeah sure, stay as long as you like, but I know you’re going to leave me eventually”. It’s more like a song written to love or about love.
ME: Seriously how excited are you to have this major accomplishment going out to the world?
Ryan: Extremely excited!! I have always wanted to have an album since I started songwriting at 13 or 14 years old and this is the fulfillment of dreams. It’s nice because I was always scared to share my songs with people and it wasn’t until college that I started doing so. This album I feel is an adequate expression of who I am . . . in about 30 minutes.
ME: Along with being excited is there a bit of nervousness as well?
Ryan: I don’t have anything to be nervous about. I know that we put together a fine album and more than that we put together a collection of melodies that are timeless and will last through the ages. The thought of people listening to my music and getting the melodies stuck in their heads is completely satisfying. It will stand on it’s own, I don’t need any kind of validation. I KNOW that it’s great, the melodies more than the music itself are solid, timeless and I couldn’t be happier to share these with everybody!!