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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, Eddie Andrews of Interstate Island talks about the inspiration behind their new music.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Eddie Andrews from the rock band Interstate Island about his life and career, what inspires his music, and his creative process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Suffice it to say, I’m a native New Yorker… no matter where you go, that never really leaves you 😉
When did you first WANT to write songs?
The earliest memory I have of ever wanting to write a song goes all the way back to being in grade school. I had a couple of classmates and we were all part of the school’s chorus. One of them wrote a song lyric (I think it was about fishing) and suggested we start a “band” (whatever that would have been at around 8 years old); I volunteered that I’d figure out a way to write the music for it. Alas, it never came to pass…
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
I had really gotten into music that was before my time, thanks to my much older brother who introduced me to albums by Boz Scaggs, Elton John and ELO. I eventually became a fan of all three, but it was initially ELO’s catalogue that I focused on acquiring on a teenager’s budget.
I’d listen endlessly… and at some point (I was about 16 or 17), melodies of my own – usually with a rough lyrical idea attached – just started coming into my head, pretty much from out of the blue (no pun intended, ELO fans). I made a conscious effort to develop this by forcing
those inspirations into new songs on almost a daily basis. Most of them at that point were pretty terrible, but you have to start somewhere!
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
This forthcoming album is the first true release. I’ve been writing songs and recording demo versions forever, but I’m a perfectionist at heart – so I never wanted to put anything “out there” that I thought was less than the best it could be. Even with the internet making it much easier to create and release material than it was in the days of needing a “record deal”, I was never going to throw something together quickly in a bedroom and put it up on youtube… I always wanted to have what might be considered a “label quality” product before exposing it to the world (at least in terms of technical quality… tastes are subjective).
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
“Grey Wolf” is about the stereotypical lone wolf (which is what the real-life woman who inspired the song liked to call me), but I thought “grey” wolf was more poetic. It’s basically about making the choice between a life of solitude/freedom and companionship.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Grey Wolf?
Matt Wallace (who produced the album) suggested I rewrite the musical resolution of the chorus. That’s a hard thing to do when you wrote the song a while back, and it’s firmly ingrained in your head. It was a great suggestion.
How many songs are you working on right now?
I’m not consciously working on creating anything new right now. The next album after this one has already been completely written, so I’m not under pressure to create anything new for now. I’ll still get ideas in my head periodically and record them into my phone app for
later development, but that’s about it.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
There’s no intentional unifying theme, although in hindsight, I can definitely see themes emerge over the course of an album. That probably because I don’t generally write fiction; I write what I know/feel, so… themes among songs will probably inadvertently converge to a
certain extent. I do have an idea for a concept album that I’d like to put together at some point down the road. I’ve written several songs for that one already, and have an idea for what the others will eventually be about.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
Off of this album, I’d say it’s probably “Love Song”. It’s not the most complex, only based off of four chords – but I love the song’s rhythm and the way the various instruments sort of frenetically interact with each other and then resolve at the end. I also wrote it about a woman I knew ages ago, and who has no idea this song (or this project) even exists.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
Not nearly as much as it used to. I really don’t listen to modern music at all. I don’t even have a spotify account… although I think I’m going to need to create one for purposes of managing the Interstate Island page for this project. I still buy CDs when a legacy artist comes out with a new album (my latest purchase was Colin Hay’s new album, which I bought at his recent show in Orange County).
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
For this project, I’ve written all of the songs – the string arrangements are courtesy of the phenomenal Steve Turner. I have collaborated with other writers, but I generally find that in those instances, they’ll come up with the initial ideas, and then I’ll be the one adding to them.
If I come up with the initial ideas, I’m just going to finish writing the song.
Do you play any instruments?
I grew up playing brass instruments (trumpet, French horn). Never took lessons on traditional rock instruments, but eventually taught myself to play rhythm guitar and keyboards to a reasonable extent.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I think the idea of trying to initially “sell” your project to a live audience is suboptimal. I wouldn’t want to perform under those circumstances… but it’s different if you’re playing to an audience of people who are already fans of your work. I have no plans to perform right now, but if there’s a reasonably positive reception to the first two albums (which would be enough material to justify a live show) and there’s a sufficient fanbase that wants to see live performances, I’d probably put something together.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Easiest place is www.interstateisland.com. There will be links on the site to most of the streaming services that people use.
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have day job?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and have a few different ventures/income streams. That will never change, regardless of how successful this project becomes.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
Most friends/family/associates aren’t even aware of it, to be honest. My philosophy has always been that you should create the best product you can, and expose it to the world through reasonable arms-length marketing efforts. How it’s received by the masses will determine its ultimate success or lack thereof. Friends and family would be supportive, even if the project doesn’t warrant it – so I don’t see there being much value in that.
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
I just think a positive reaction to a song is something that’s almost universally unexpected, and humbling in a way. The songs on this album… I must have heard them all thousands of times, from the initial writing process through the various demo and studio recordings, etc.
I’m obsessive by nature, so I’ve listened over and over in attempting to figure out where to improve either the songs themselves or the recordings. After awhile, you get sick of all of it – and it’s hard to envision someone else hearing these songs and actually liking them.
Matt and I were discussing this concept in the studio one day, and he said that once he’s done producing a record, he can never listen to it again. I remember seeing a comment from the late Graeme Edge (Moody Blues drummer, another of my favorite bands) a few years back, in
which he mentioned that he hadn’t listened to their “Seventh Sojourn” album (released back in 1972) since it was first released. That was mind-blowing to me at the time… but I get it now. As Matt said, “you can never hear your own songs for the first time”. So it’s hard to get
a feel for how people will generally react to hearing them for the first time either.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
Many of the musicians who performed on this record said that they wanted to be a part of the project, because they genuinely liked the songs. Considering how amazing all of these artists are, and how incredibly lucky I was to work with all of them, well… that was certainly a stand-out experience for me.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
We’re just releasing a single/video each month until the album comes out in October. Nothing noteworthy beyond that.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
For anyone genuinely wanting to create art, go ahead and create what moves you, introduce it to the world – and let the world absorb it in its purest form (without relying on a perceived image).
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I don’t think “proud” or “accomplishment” are the right words… this has always felt like more of a lifelong purpose for me. It was something I’ve always been driven to do… I didn’t have a choice.
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IG: http://instagram.com/interstate_island @Interstate_island
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