Hey Mason, what are you up to?
I was trying to nap, then you asked me to do this thing...
You know you always could have ignored my message. I wouldn’t have taken it too personally...
I get major FOMO.
Don’t we all. Anyways, let’s get this thing started. Tell me about ‘The Smallest One’ and how you first got into making music?
Well, I started playing guitar at 18 and I tried to teach myself how. I never really progressed after the first year or two, so I thought, “why not try writing songs?” I played around in Garageband making really sloppy songs and here we are.
They don’t sound too sloppy to me… I'm also pleasantly surprised how many songs you’ve managed to write, yet alone record, in such a short period of time. How do you to go from an idea to a finished song?
Trust me, you don’t want to hear the early GarageBand recordings… Well thank you. Most of the time, when I’m writing a song, it’s by accident. I play around with chord progressions I like, and either sing gibberish in some melody, or I have a line or two already written down and branch off of that.
If I’m really in a groove, I’ll start recording the basic structure as soon as I’ve finished a rough draft of the lyrics. Then I just play around with sounds on my keyboard to try to somewhat match the array of melodies racing through my head. After I have everything out I try to make it all sound as clean as possible. Sometimes it takes a day or two, other times it takes months. Usually I don’t have much of a specific idea what the song is about, until long after I’ve finished writing/recording it. In those cases there's just some weird intuition telling me that it works for the album it's going on.
It sounds like it’s all about getting something basic out there, and building from there. How many albums have you recorded all together?
I’ve released three full-length albums in the last two years along with a 6-song EP back in February. Now I’m working on my next full-length, which is coming along pretty well.
I know that there’s an interesting story behind the artwork from your album ‘Wasted Space.’ Mind telling me a little more about Gordon McBryde’s involvement, who he is (for anyone who doesn’t know), and other artists he’s worked with?
Yeah, it all came about pretty randomly. I post other people’s music on my YouTube channel if I don’t already see it on there. After one of my favourite artists, Radical Face (Ben Cooper), released a new EP in late 2016 I decided to post one of his songs along with the artwork he had for it. I guess this guy who made the artwork, Gordon McBryde (who has also has done photography work for artists like Her Space Holiday and Morrissey), saw that I posted it and sent me an email.
My first thought was, “Shit, I’m in trouble.” He pretty much said, “Hey, I make artwork for musicians. I saw you posted some images I’ve made for Ben. I really like your music, and I’d love to make you some stuff if you’d like.” I happened to be looking for someone to help out with the cover of the next album I was working on at the time (‘wasted space’), so that was perfect. We talked and I sent him an idea I’d had that I wasn’t even sure made sense. Within hours he sent me this gorgeous illustration that captured pretty much exactly the kind of feeling I was looking for. When I asked how much he wanted for it, he replied, “Oh, no money. I just like making things for artists whose music I respect.” His kindness gave me actual chills, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.
Artwork: Gordon McBryde
Wow, that’s incredible. Gordon McBryde sounds like a one of a kind human being. I think all of us could learn a lot by following in his footsteps and acting a little more selflessly from time to time.
I was also really excited to hear you played your first live show last week. How did that go?
100% agreed. Yeah! Despite a full month of constant low-level anxiety, it actually went pretty well. I have this weird fear of getting the hiccups or having to sneeze mid-song, and neither of those things happened, so that was cool. Other than that, I think the main reason it went well was that the entire 9 people who showed up were close friends and family, and they were all super supportive and laughed at my sad attempts at banter. So it’ll be all downhill from here.
Photo: Matt Sutton
Regardless of the size of the audience, I’m sure all your friends are extremely proud to hear you gave it a shot - I know I am. It takes a lot of vulnerability to get up on a stage and perform something that you’ve spent so much time putting your energy into.Anyways, despite the trailing self deprecation, I would love to come see you perform and can’t wait to hear the new album.
Thank you! I’d have nothing without self deprecation. Next show is June 30 at Vern’s @ 9pm. Hope you can make it :)
You can listen to The Smallest One on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0T0AboWIFqjQdSZS6E89pX?si=Yj1oPUUoS6m4oEa-fnQHIg