November 15, 2006

Aaron Schroeder: Interview

Musician Aaron Schroeder is a lover of words and music. It's evident by listening to what he has crafted for his self-released debut album, Southern Heart in Western Skin. It's also obvious through the answers he gave in this interview he allowed me to conduct. Per usual, I lobbed some wishy-washy questions and hoped for some interesting responses... I got 'em, people. So, listen to the music, read his answers, then put his name down on some important looking paper (with an asterisk, star, or some such thing beside it), and stuff that scap of parchment in your wallet, or handbag. You'll gonna need it to prove to the skeptics that you knew of this talent all along.

Aaron Schroeder: MP3s
from Southern Heart in Western Skin
+ rollin' tennessee

A demo from the upcoming album, Black & Gold
+ sky ain't blue

Buy Southern Heart in Western Skin from iTunes, Amazon, or CdBaby.

Southern Heart in Western Skin track list:
1. A Movin' Movin' Train
2. The Real World
3. Don't Go Home
4. 21
5. Antlers
6. Santa Ana
7. Dead Rabbits
8. Devil's Lake
9. Rollin' Tennessee



*Sixeyes: How difficult is it putting out a CD on your own without a label? Is this your first experience at promoting your own album?

Aaron Schroeder: When I put out Southern Heart In Western Skin there were simply no options for a label; so I simply put it out myself. Although I basically spent my savings account to get the disc made, a lot of other efforts went into it: a great friend of mine did the art, another great couple of friends produced it, a few more great people played on it. All I had to do was write the music, sit around and direct people, and then spend money to press it. I suppose that putting a record out on a label is pretty much the same way, minus the last step. Ultimately, it's really not too hard to release anything on your own, so long as you don't mind waiting for other people to work on it; I didn't have enough money to pay everyone for their time, so as hard as I worked on it there was no way I could have met any sort of deadline. As long as you're cool and flexible and are willing to bum some smokes to your lap steel player, it's fun as shit.

*SE: Well, that doesn't sound too hard, I guess it helps to have good friends. How about the recording of the record? Was it done in bits and pieces over time, or in one shot? Where did you record?

Aaron: This record was done all across the country. I recorded a couple songs here at home in Washington, I did a few in Boston and a couple others in Los Angeles. I never intended to release anything, so it wasn't ever like 'Hey dude, we need to finish the bass on track 5 of the record.' I just recorded with whoever was around in our spare time. It's interesting to see different people's ideas about production and how they shaped my songs. It was kind of like a hiphop album in that way, only no one working on it had any gold. In any event, the second record (which will be out in a few months) was all recorded with the same people, the same producer. If 'Southern Heart' is my hiphop record this is my rock'n'roll album.

*SE: What about influences? You have a decidedly traditional sound and yet you namecheck artists from several genres on your myspace, i.e. Kurtis Blow, Billy Bragg, John Darnielle, Otis Redding, Destroyer... quite a divergent group, but you fail to mention any country artists. So, I want to know which country musician has had the most influence on you and this record?

Aaron: Hank Williams - both musically and otherwise. I've read a few books about his life, I've seen that old cheesy movie and I love his approach to song writing. There are simply too many current artists who focus too much attention on interseting changes and complicated melodies; Hank seemed to keep everything as simple, direct, clean as possible. I've heard stories of him writing multiple songs in the backseat while someone from his band drove them to a gig. How many artists do you think can do that successfully anymore? Other than Hank, I also love The Delmore Brothers, Patti Page, George Jones, Neko Case (especially Furnace Room Lullaby), Paul Robeson, Johnny Cash.

*SE: From some research I have done on your background, I learned that you enjoy reading a great deal. What do you feel is the type of sway your personal reading has over your lyrics?

Aaron: Although I have certainly swiped a line or two from some obscure book, I think the books I've read really have a much less direct influence. The syntax I use in many of my songs wouldn't be as developed were it not for the influence of poetry - the same can be said for some of the stories I use in my songs. I generally learn what NOT to do in songwriting from authors. Working in a bookstore, I flip through a lot of terrible "popular" or "hip" authors and that really helps me guide my songs away from places where I might sound ridiculous. Any amount of exposure to other people's art has really helped to whittle away what I'm attempting to do with my music. Plus reading gave me something to do in high school.

*SE: Are there any songs you've written that came out of a mood which a book you were reading inspired in you? I'm talking musical mood here, not lyrical.

Aaron: This answer may be a bit more direct than what you're asking, but there is a song on the record called "Devil's Lake" which was inspired by a book called Rumspringa by Tom Shachtman. The book is very new actually and it goes into a period of time in every Amish teenager's life when they are allowed to sort go crazy - fuck themselves up, so to speak. The idea is that after they do this, they will return to the Church and be Amish adults. Another song I'll use is "Dead Rabbits" which has somewhat of a universal concept, but my version is based roughly on Murakami's "South Of The Border West Of The Sun." Both focus on accepting the fact that the person you love may not love you back.

*SE: From speaking of novels and reading, I wonder if you've ever entertained the notion of writing over music?

Aaron: Once when I was 15 I wrote this novel that amounted to about a 150 page journal with a few prominent characters other than myself. When I was a little boy a friend of mine drown in a swimming pool and I created a character based on how I think he might act. Needless to say, nothing ever came of that; it is really much better that it remain an embarrassing footnote rather than something actually floating around in the hands of the public. Lately, other than the songs I've been writing a lot of poetry, thanks mainly in part to my recent discovery of Stephen Dunn and John Ashbury's all-too-inspiring poetry. Occasionally I'll pop out a short story, but even that suprises me when I do.

*SE: How do you, or did you, get word out regarding your album (Southern Heart in Western Skin)? I know you've contacted music blogs, but have you tried any other avenues?

Aaron: I've got the album on iTunes, CdBaby, Amazon. I tried to take myself out of the thing and figure how I would, as a fan of some other artist, like to find music. Someone's also posted a torrent of the disc, so kids who are hip to that sort of thing can download the thing for free. It's really just been a lot of work and being practical and reasonable about what I want from my music.

*SE: Finally, what's coming up for you? More recording? Playing shows? Where do you play, for that matter? And when can we expect the 'rock 'n roll' record?

Aaron: I am constantly recording music, be it demos or something more concrete. The next record is going to be called "Black & Gold" and I think it should be out early 2007. It's made up of some nice and cathy rock songs, the kind where you want to roll down your window and laugh at the all the idiotic shit around you as you drive past. I suppose it's somewhat victorious in that aspect. It's been influenced heavily by traditional rock (Dylan, Beatles, Stones era-'Exile On Main Street'), but there's all kind of intersting sonic shit on there too so all the headphone kids won't get bored. If someone reading this wants to support my home, girlfriend and my black dog while I'm on tour, please don't hesitate to reach me at: or


And once again, buy Southern Heart in Western Skin from iTunes, Amazon, or CdBaby.

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