You have recently moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. How has that affected your musical direction and your family life?
Compared to Los Angeles, Nashville is a much more affordable city in which to raise a family, so that’s been really nice. We were able to buy a house and it’s already starting to feel like home. Not sure my time here has affected my creative juices too much yet but we’ll see where it takes me.
Did you feel that Nashville was a better base to work from?
Yes! Touring out of Nashville puts you within reach of several more markets compared to LA. Plus I’ve finally started doing co-writes with other writers and that’s largely thanks to me being based in Nashville.
The new EP of three new songs and three audio skits seems to work well and suggest a another dimension to the way the song are presented. Was that the intention?
The Hat Acts EP became this strange little ‘concept' record but the songs didn’t start with that intention. The idea to record the skits popped into my head after the songs were recorded. I envisioned a storyline that would tie together the three songs then wrote and recorded the skits.
Can you tell me a little about the production details and what was involved with the performances?
I co-produced the songs with Kelly Winrich (Delta Spirit). Two of the songs and the skits were recorded in Southern California. The final song “Humility” was recorded in Nashville. My friend Molly Parden is the female voice that appears in the first two skits and Kelly is the voice of the Uber driver in the final skit. The voice of the street heckler is actually me, so I’m literally putting myself down in that one. Haha.
Is Hat Acts an interim download release prior to a new album? Will you end up putting these songs on a physical release or have you other plans?
Not sure yet!
Have you come to terms with the different means of releasing product these days between download, CD and Vinyl? Have a preference?
I think my preference is to record and release single songs and short albums. I’m also pretty sure that releasing single songs is more in-line with how people are listening to music these days. Recording a song or two or three at a time gives me a chance to better focus on the songs and create artwork that compliments the music.
Do you think that the slight move back towards a more traditional sound will help you reach a wider audience?
Hmmm… No idea. But I’m pretty sure that a traditional sound is not what most country music fans are looking for these days. Haha. Either way, a lot of the new music I’m writing is more of what’s considered “pop” and “rock”. So we’ll see if the fans who like the traditional sounding songs will hang in there for the new stuff.
You have been making steady inroads into the UK and that seems to be paying off. Why do you think more artist don’t look to Europe more often?
I’ve been very lucky to work with a fantastic booking agent in the UK. Paul Fenn at Asgard has been instrumental in the growth we’re seeing overseas. Thanks Paul!
How do the economics of touring effect you? There seems to be a need to make arrangements to play solo, duo or as a full band depending on the size of venue and the subsequent fee.
Money plays a crucial role in every aspect of being a performing musician. If the money doesn’t make sense the tour isn’t going to happen.
What are your favourite aspects of being an artist? Do you feel more at home on stage or in the studio?
The studio is definitely my happy place. And while I absolutely love performing, every touring musician knows that the nightly performance is just a fraction of what takes up your time while on the road. Over 90% of touring is NOT performing. And most of it is pretty taxing.
Love Is On A Roll the most recent single was a cover of as Don Williams song. Was that a particular favourite?
Yes - that’s been a favorite of mine that I’ve been covering at shows for years so it made sense to finally record it. The song was co-written by John Prine.
The sound of the production is different to Hat Acts but equally suited to your voice. It has a little Jimmy Buffet in there. Do you try and suit a particular sound to an individual sound especially for a single?
The original Don Williams recording features an electric guitar mimicking the sound of a steel drum. We took it one step further by having a pedal steel mimic that sound. I think it makes for a cool effect and definitely gets us at least to the city limits of Margaritaville.
Does the title Hat Acts refer to an ears when pretty much any new act deemed country was know (sometimes cynically) as a Hat Act? Of course nowadays your upcoming “country” act is likely to ear a backward baseball hat and dress like a hip-hop artist.
Hat Acts is a riff on the 80s term for what was then the “new” breed of trad country artists. I’d consider myself a “hat act” since I’m not a cowboy. I don’t typically wear a western hat these days unless I’m on stage. The hat is for style.
In one of the between track scenarios the character likes hip-hop and real deal country. Is that true for you too?
Oh yes. I probably listen to more hip hop, rap and pop music these days than any other genre. But god knows I love country music too.
Do you write from a character stance or do you look to your own experiences for new songs?
It’s almost always a mix. I grab some stuff from my own experience, the experiences of others, and fantasy.
You seem to like the opportunity to play with image in your cover or press photography. Is that another aspect of the process you enjoy?
Any chance to create something - whether it’s music or photography or art or video - all of these things are important to me. I love creating the stuff that surrounds the song as much as I love creating the song. And I only wish I had more money to make all my dreams a reality.
You haven’t managed to make it to Ireland so far have you any plans to try to tour here?
I KNOW. I can’t believe I haven’t played Ireland. And I honestly have no idea why this hasn’t happened yet. But I promise you it will happen. And hopefully before too long.
Interview by Stephen Rapid