Thursday, November 10, 2011

Preston Lovinggood Interview

CKD: So talk about about what you’ve been doing for the last year and a half or so since Wild Sweet Orange broke up.

PL: Wild Sweet Orange broke and I didn’t really know what to do. It was very similar to a breakup of a relationship. It’s like if you broke up with your girlfriend. You love her, you respect her, but it just doesn’t work for whatever reason. It takes a lot to get over, especially if you envisioned it a certain way for so many years. Still a lot of soul searching and I felt like giving up on it. It’s just sort of been a lonely place until I started getting support constantly from Jeffery Cain, the guy who owns Communicating Vessels, and constantly getting support from so many people. I just wasn’t able to hear it until my Darrel Thorp, who’s the producer, asked me to come out to LA and bring 3 songs. So I brought three songs out there in May, flew out Mother’s Day May 8th, and I brought three songs that I had sort of finished and through that came a burst of creativity and a burst of serenity, a burst of self-confidence. It’s been definitely an adventure. A lot of highs and lows, but we’re about to be finished with the record and I’m super excited about it.

CKD: Could you talk about the record? What kind of plans you have for it? Maybe a tentative title?

PL: Well, we have a working title, but I don’t know if I can share that just yet.

CKD: That’s understandable. I know you said it might not be out until February or March.

PL: Not until February and I sort of have a title right now, but who knows. It could change. THe theme is really letting go. There is a theme of if you hold on too tight to something, you’re gonna lose control. There is a theme of self-acceptance. Really the theme is letting go and not obsessing over the tiny, little seeds you’re trying to plant. Just trusting that the things you want to happen will happen. That was something I wanted to discover in my own life and through the creative process. I used to be very obsessive and it was getting worse and worse and I wasn’t able to finish songs. Towards the end of the record, when I went out to LA, I didn’t even know what songs I was gonna record until 15 minutes before the session. That kind of take on it was extremely new to me and I was able to have a new type of creative inspiration to finish the whole thing.

CKD: What are some of the albums and artists that have influenced you the lately? I remembered the last time we spoke, it was Paul Simon and Neil Diamond.

PL: I would say now it’s a lot of artists, but more so certain songs. I get sort of obsessed with certain songs from certain artists. Some of those songs right now would be the first track from the newest U2 album No Line on the Horizon. There’s that song from Transformers soundtrack, that Linkin Park song “Iridescent”. Also the Spiderman: Broadway song, “Rise Above,” has been really influential to me as of the past two weeks.

CKD: I remember saying you wanted to write almost pop songs because you wanted to write songs that people could remember. Do you still feel that way?

PL: I think in that phase, I was still in that mindset of trying to please others, which comes from being signed to a major label. I think I was so much a part of that cult and so I didn’t’s a good part of me. I just really like pop songs. I grew up in a Southern Baptist home and grew up around really poppy good music, like Sandi Patti, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, all those artists are extremely good artists to me. It’s hard to escape what you’ve heard from a young age, good and bad. So I’m really just trying to recreate that. I just love those songs and I just love good songs. I’ve never thought about doing anything different than what comes out when I sit down with a guitar.

CKD: Could you talk about The Moviegoer and how Walker Percy has served as an inspiration for you?

PL: That’s really funny. When the band did break up and we weren’t working anymore, I did discover that book and that writer. Honestly, that’s the whole reason I kept writing and I keep trying to write as good as that to me. As someone who’s Southern, as someone who’s Catholic, as someone’s who definitely is looking for the deeper meaning behind things, Walker Percy just came to me and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I think about him every day. It was sort of an obsession at first, but now it’s sort of a comforting, encouraging presence. It was more of a friend and a hobby. I was sort of an enthusiast at the time. It was something that strangely kept me connected to everything around me. It happens every now and then, even if I pick up one of his books, I find that whatever I read about, I’ll overhear somebody talking about or I see something that’s so connected to whatever’s happening in that story. I just feel like the spiritual journey that he was on, all this talk of how man is a pilgrim on earth, is something I really needed to hear and help me connect some of the dots from my past. His take on the whole Southern, Christian gothic experience is just ridiculous. I can’t forget about it. It meant so much to me. I could go on forever about it. Isidore South, the studio we record at here in town, is right next door to Walker Percy’s childhood house and when we first started recording there, I was reading this book called The Last Gentleman, which is based off that area and Country Club Road and the golf links there. Then, when I went down to New Orleans once for a memorial service, and I overheard someone talking about Walker Percy and ended meeting this wonderful photographer named Jared Ragland, who had just done a black and white series on Walker Percy in New Orleans. He’s actually going to be doing the photos for the 7-inch that’s coming out November 15th and he’s hopefully going to be helping out with the album artwork as well. So it’s just crazy.

CKD: What exactly is Communicating Vessels? Is it a record label, publishing company?

PL: It’s a real deal label owned by Jeffrey Cain and he’s the best ever. He’s been in the industry a long time and just knows a lot. He has a lot of savvy, knowing how to nurture a band because he’s an artist himself. There’s just so much freedom there and so much excitement. There’s a studio to record in and there’s someone to be excited about. If you have a sure idea or a record cover idea, he’s going to be support and be into it.

CKD: I heard a lot about it and went to the website. I just wanted to confirm what it was.

PL: Yeah, it’s just a label that’s going to nurture bands from the ground up. So it’s just crazy because he’s picked so many great artists. The Grenandines to me are one of the best bands in Birmingham, and the Great Book of John, and Green Seed. And Sanders Bohlke just moved from his home with his wife from Mississippi to Birmingham. It’s just exciting to me that something is being nurtured and grown here as a Birmingham thing, but understanding too, that there’s a whole world out there to have fun in. They’re doing press and doing the whole real deal label thing to help promote your band.

CKD: What are your plans for the album and your music for the next year to year and a half?

PL: Well, I think we’re going to release it in February. But I think I just want to do a house show tour with certain groups of people who have reached out these past few years and inspired me to keep writing. A few people in Michigan, Seattle, California, and Nashville that I just want to go play for and hang out with and just be with them and chill and not just go play clubs for four weeks. I don’t want to just play clubs. I want to be with people I love and respect and be respectful and loving and have a good time. So that’s the first plan, just to do some chill, more relaxed shows to get my feet wet. Just be around some communities of people and use that to inspire the next push of what we do, whether it is to go on a six-week club date tour. Just have that as the beginning experience of this new venture.

CKD: What’s the best way for our readers to find out about your music?

PL: I guess right now through Facebook, Preston Lovinggood, and the Communicating Vessels website.

CKD: Where would you hope to see the Birmingham music scene in the next few years?

PL: I would just love to see it continue to think outside the box, which is what I love about Communicating Vessels is that they think outside the box and they do think about the world, and know that there’s a world outside of Birmingham. While knowing there’s a world outside of Birmingham, they’re still loving and acknowledging Birmingham, and still respecting the art of playing music for other people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Local Music Spotlight: The Wilson Thrills

The music of the Birmingham-based Wilson Thrills goes beyond the songs of your typical punk rock band. For one thing, all five members have either studied, are currently studying, or are about to start studying music in a university setting.

“Josh Crowe (Keytar) and I both graduated this past May from Birmingham-Southern College with music degrees,” says lead singer and guitarist Joey Wilson. “Phillip Blevins(guitar) will be a freshman at University of North Alabama in the fall studying music, Jonathan Rawson (bass) studies music at Samford, and Dylan Hughes (drums) studies music at Alabama, so it’s obvious what our hearts are set on.”

Another vital element to their sound is the aforementioned keytar, a surprising addition to the typical setup of the genre.

“Josh is very tasteful with it though and knows how to really add something three dimensional to the group’s sound,” Wilson said.

The band formed in December of 2010 after the disbanding of Wilson’s math-rock outfit, The Tangled Cord. They have since played at well-known Birmingham venues such as Bottletree and The Firehouse, as well as a South by Southwest benefit show in March with local acts The Magic Math, Delicate Cutters, and the Grenandines. They released their self-titled EP recorded by Les Nuby of Vulture Whale.

The music calls to mind energetic punk-pop and progressive punk rock similar to Ace Troubleshooter and Saves the Day with driving guitar solos, musical breakdowns, and the occasional hardcore scream, all led by Wilson’s Colin Meloy(The Decemberists)-sounding vocals.

Lyrics such as “They just love to beat you up/They just 'love' everything/Is it healing? Is it healing?/Or is it all interfering?” showcase the album’s theme of “struggle and getting through the hard times with a positive attitude.”

“Lyrically I tend to use phrases that actually came out of my mouth in conversations. I get a little annoyed with overly poetic lyrics in songs,” said Wilson. “The majority of the lyrics in ‘Hole In My Throat’ are things I yelled over the phone to a girl who broke my heart. The lyrics in ‘Song for Mom’ are the actual words I said to my mom while she was in a hospital bed.”

The group has done very well for its first eight months together, but realize that they still have some goals to accomplish before hitting the big time.

“Being around bands like Vulture Whale, Grenadines, Magic Math, and the Green Seed really inspired us to work hard like all those bands and let nothing stop us,” Wilson said. “But we gotta work hard to get there. Our motto is ‘Dream big. Work hard.’ ”

You can catch The Wilson Thrills at the Birmingham Arts and Music Festival. They will be playing The Rogue Tavern on 2nd Avenue North at 6 PM on Friday, August 12th.

You can also download their free self-titled EP and acoustic demos release at their Bandcamp site. For other updates, visit their main site or become a fan on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Local Music Spotlight: Wilder Adkins

Ryan Adams once sang, “when you’re young, you get sad.” He must have been speaking about songwriters such as Wilder Adkins.

“I used to make up song parodies on the playground back in elementary school. I thought I was going to be the next Weird Al,” Adkins said. “Then something happened in my teenage years and I got sad. Now I write sad tunes, and songs about flowers.”

Adkins is a Birmingham-based singer/songwriter with a flair for fingerstyle folk. He came to study at Birmingham-Southern College and started playing shows around town at venues such as Urban Standard, The Red Cat, Moonlight on the Mountain, and Bottletree Cafe.

He draws from a well of rich influences.

“C.S. Lewis used to refer to George MacDonald as his master. I suppose my masters would be Richard Thompson, Bruce Cockburn, and Dougie MacLean. Of the younger set, I like Elliott Smith and Ryan Adams. I'm also into Indian classical music,” he said.

Lyrically, Adkins focuses on the fleeting nature of life (“Brevity”), nostalgia and simple memories (“Bright and Beautiful”), faith (“Mecca”), and the idea of home (“Georgia Breeze”). He says that songwriting is about finding a balance between “overt” and “cryptic,” an idea that is explored in the song “Hope and Sorrow.”

“I think in life you get a choice; either to recognize beauty or not. I try to appreciate simple beauties in life,” he said.

He has self-produced and recorded two albums of original compositions, Nightblooms and Nativity. He also has a live album, Live at Eddie’s Attic.

Adkins is currently working on his third release, Oak and Apple. “I started working on it in January, as a collection of hymns played fingerstyle on a classical guitar,” he said. “The project has kind of transformed, in a good way, to be a more collaborative effort, and has a mix of original songs alongside some of the old hymns.”

These collaborations have also affected the way he views the performance of his songs.

“I've never had a band because I don't like telling people what to do, but I have had the opportunity to try a few songs out 'full band' lately, and I think I may be ready to start doing some gigs like that,” he said. “The vibe is a lot different, and it's harder to be improvisational, but it's nice to have bass and drums helping to fill out the sound.”

You can connect with Adkins via Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Local Music Spotlight: War Jacket

Birmingham-based photographer Caleb Chancey discovered two vital elements for the songs that would eventually make up his musical project, War Jacket.

The first was the collaborations and friendships he had made through Grey Haven Community, a local music collective that he helped found back in 2008.

The second was the discovery of a baritone ukelele at Homewood Music.

“As soon as I picked it up, it was like one of those things where you find what you’re supposed to be doing and how you’re supposed to be doing it, and something just clicked and the songs started coming after that. It didn’t take very long to write these songs that were on the record,” Chancey said.

The recording project, engineered by Corey Scogin, began as a casual venture between musically inclined friends, but soon began to take shape as a full album.

Chancey’s major influences, which include songwriters such as Damien Jurado and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden and bands such as Fleet Foxes, helped him develop a mixture of ukelele-driven folk and what he calls an “ambient room sound.” He also says he has found inspiration from the musicians featured on the record, which include Birmingham’s Joel Madison Blount, Seattle’s Dan Phelps, and New York’s Brian T. Murphy.

The lyrics showcase a blend of personal emotions and thematic storytelling, exploring the “dark beauties” of life, with song titles like “Remember You Used to Love Me,” “White Picket Cross,” “Part of the World That I Like,” and “You Were My Sunshine.”

The title of the full-length record, Live Like You’re Going Home, comes from the final song, “The Core” (which was also featured on a tornado relief album Chancey produced a few months back).

“After listening to the songs, there was a kind of nostalgia feeling to the record, where the idea is a lively purpose. A bunch of these songs are kind of sad things, but they’re worth it in the end. The idea is walking from this sadness to this inspiration of living very purposefully,” Chancey said.”To me, ‘live like you’re going home’ is this goal. Everybody knows what it feels like to go home and for a lot of people, there’s a sadness in that. Like if you come from a broken home. But you know what the idea of home and this sense of belonging is, no matter where you are.”

Chancey began a Kickstarter campaign in June to help fund the pressing of the record. The digital release has already been scheduled, but he wanted to give listeners (as the aptly titled campaign states) “something you can hold.”

“The idea is that I love handmade and tangible things. I’m fine with mp3 releases, but to me, I love vinyl. I love special things that you can put into people’s hands,” he said.

The campaign offers a wide variety of pledge packages, including the vinyl record, lyric art, limited edition photography, videos of live performances shot by Birmingham’s Stephen DeVries, and the chance to book house shows. Only three days remain for the Kickstarter campaign and it will only be funded if all $6,000 is raised by July 22.

Through this project, Chancey has said he has grown “immensely” as an artist.

“I’m getting to the point where because of the collaborations and the friendships that I’ve been experiencing through the project, they have lifted me up to where I can say I’m a musician because I’m standing on their shoulders. I am extremely moved by that and very proud to call myself a musician now, but the only way I got there was through other people’s help. That’s the way I want to stay there,” he said.

You can see War Jacket, The Clay States, and Lauren Michael Sellers play at Bottletree Cafe this Thursday, July 21 for $7. For more details, click here.

For more information on War Jacket, visit

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview with Justin Cross

1. First things first, how did you get into playing guitar and writing songs?

I actually taught myself how to play after finding my dad's old guitar at the fire station he works at. I guess he tried to learn but gave up and put it away. I found this dusty old guitar in a closet and asked him to teach me something. He showed me a G chord (which was the only thing he knew) and I just went from there. I couldn't get enough of it.
As far as writing, I have been putting down my thoughts to paper for as long as I can remember, so I guess after picking up the guitar, the most natural thing to do was to write down what I was thinking or feeling and put music to it. Writing songs just felt like the next step after learning to play.

2. Who or what provides your biggest influence when it comes to writing?

I would have to say that my biggest influence is a man named Bill Mallonee. He is a fantastic singer-songwriter from Athens Georgia. He has been playing since the early 90's and is just the most honest songwriter I have ever heard. Every time I write, it is my goal to be as transparent as he is in his songs.

3. What lyrical themes do you find yourself coming back to?

I am a very introspective writer, so, if I accomplish my goal of being transparent in my writing, I write a lot about my failures, fears, hopes, and love. I am actually a recovering cynic, so a lot of the songs I am working on now have themes of brokeness or hurt, but are centered around hope. But really, each song to me is a snapshot of who I was when I wrote it, so the are kind of like journal entries in a way.

4. You're originally from GA. How did you arrive in Birmingham and how did you get into the music scene?

. I came to Birmingham for school originally, but got into the local music scene after taking a break from school to pursue music. My first show was at my friend's apartment and I played to about ten or fifteen people. I loved performing songs that I had previously kept to myself so I played more and more. I was introduced to Caleb Chancey, one of the founders of Grey Haven, by my friend Corey after recording a demo in Corey's home studio. After getting in with Grey Haven, I met most of the guys I play with now and have had a lot of great opportunities to play at some great places with great musicians.

5. Describe the inspiration behind the name "Listening to Ghosts" for your first record.

"Listening to Ghosts" was really just something I started singing while playing one day. The album is definitely a break-up album, and I wrote the song as a closing statement to a relationship that ended in a way that really affected me deeply. I remember letting go a lot of hurt and bitterness as that song was being written. It was my way of saying "I'm over it." I felt it was a fitting title to the album because of what the song meant to me.

6. How were you able to get on with the Birmingham SXSW crew and could you describe the experience?

I actually wasn't with the Birmingham crew in Austin. The label that put out "Listening To Ghosts" got me the sets for SXSW. I remember getting the call that I would be playing in Austin for SXSW and having to sit down... it was a bit of a dream come true. Austin during SXSW is unlike any other place I have ever been. There is so much talent and influence in a five block radius that it can feel completely overwhelming at times. It was a great honor to play though, and hopefully I can go back next year.

7. What are some of your plans for the rest of 2011?

I am getting ready to start work on a new project this year. I wrote most of the songs on "Listening To Ghosts" when I was in High School, so I have written all of these songs that are much more new and exciting to me that I cannot wait to get on record. So, I will be working on that, as well as playing as much as possible.

8. How would you say you've progressed as an artist over the last few years?

Oh man. I don't know where to begin. I have grown a lot as a songwriter and performer in the last few years, and I would say that it is because I made it a point to surround myself with and take in great influences. I listen to music now to study other artists crafts as performers, lyricists, and musicians. This has been my main source of growth. Determining who I wanted to influence me. What I wanted to sound like. Another way has been being able to play with and for great musicians and artists here in Birmingham. It is an amazing center of untapped talent. Birmingham's music scene has more of a sense of camaraderie than most other cities, and I think it is because we know we have to work together to get Birmingham noticed as a legitimate base for a huge number of up-and-coming artists. I am very proud to be a part of it, and it has influenced me in deep ways.

9. Any shows lined up that you would like to promote?

Yes! I will be opening for my hero, Bill Mallonee, for the second time on July 6th at 8:00 pm at the UCF House. I am very excited for the opportunity, and really want a lot of people to come out and discover what I discovered four years ago. Bill's performances are second to none. He has a way of truly feeling every word and note that comes out of his mouth, and it is truly an amazing thing to see. Can't wait to see everyone there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Local Music Spotlight: Fire Mountain

“Fire Mountain makes real music,” states the Troy, Alabama-based group’s Facebook page. Like their contemporaries and occasional showmates Red Rover, the members of Fire Mountain yearn to create authenticity in their lyrics and sound.

“Real music makes you feel something. It elicits an emotional response which could be either positive or negative,” says lead singer and guitarist Perry Brown. “When music is 'real' you can tell that the artist really means what they are singing or playing and you can feel that. On some level you can relate to what they are saying no matter what it is.”

This emotional response is captivating and heart-wrenching at times, especially on songs such as “Fade,” which includes the line: “At sixteen you prepare for things/One of them sure ain’t death.”

The band (whose current lineup includes Brown, Adam Vinson on percussion and vocals, Walter Black on bass, and Bryan Segraves on keyboard) formed in late 2009 and performed its inaugural show at Eclipse Coffee and Books in Montevallo. Since then, the band has played several shows in Birmingham (Bottletree Café and Parkside Café) and Helena (La Reunion Coffee Company). Troy, Waverly, Wonderroot in Atlanta, and will be closing out their tour in Panama City.

They have been constantly touring in support of their debut EP Liars’ Cup

. The 5-song release showcases the band’s folk/rock sensibilities. The title track explores the transitions that occur in life and the idea that things don’t always turn out the way we want, especially when we make hasty compromises:

“Is faster really the best way to get it done?
Fast is only good if you're on the run.
We all got a twisted view of love.
If it's right, why do I feel wrong?”
While the harmony of Brown and Vinson suggests a strong Fleet Foxes influence, you can also clearly hear similarities to Ray Lamontagne in Brown’s voice. The energetic compositions and buildups (especially on standout track “Turn Around”) also reference Wilco, Iron and Wine, and Damien Rice.

“I think our biggest accomplishment has been the ability to be able to record and tour to promote this EP,” Brown says. “I know that might sound dumb, but most of us have full time jobs and it's just awesome for us to actually be able to keep plugging away at this dream we have without getting burned out on it.”

Become a fan of the band on Facebook or check out the band's main website (www.firemountainbandcom) for tour updates, new releases, and to purchase the EP.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Arthur Alligood: I Have Not Seen The Wind

Arthur Alligood’s latest record, I Have Not Seen the Wind, begins and ends with a request.

The first track “Show Some Heart” has Alligood or the character in the song asking someone in his life for a hint of affection, a glimmer of recognition. The final song “Come On Something” yearns for responses from equally important ideas and persons such as breakthroughs, new starts, and Jesus. The rest of the album that is sandwiched in between explores these hopes.

“There are lots songs about the brokenness that occurs in any relationship,” says Alligood, who makes his home in White House, Tennessee. “Some are more narrative based. Others are like conversations.”

“I love the idea of a record, a complete group of songs that tell a story from beginning to end,” he continues. “If each can stand on its own then it seems logical that grouped in the right fashion something even greater can be created.”

I Have Not Seen The Wind marks Alligood’s third full-length release, preceded by 2005’s Formerly, 2006’s Under the Grey, and 2009’s Full Circle EP, the latter of which was offered as a free download on

Alligood alternates between his patented folk/Americana and singer/songwriter tunes, equipped solely with his acoustic and the occasional background vocal, as well as pedal steel provided by producer Kenny Hutson (famous for his work with Over the Rhine and Vigilantes of Love) to more driving full-band alternative rock numbers.

He draws the foundation of his sound from a variety of older and modern influences such as songwriters David Bazan, Bill Malonee, Townes Van Zandt, Denison Witmer (to whom he bears a close vocal resemblance), Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, and Thad Cockrell. He also receives inspiration from authors such as William Gay and Flannery O’Connor.

Hope in the face of doubt, struggle, and resistance is the air this record breathes. Through songs such as lead single “Keep Your Head Up” (Stop your fighting/let me do the fighting…I am, I am/I am much closer than your next breath) to “Turn It Over” with its chorus urging the listener past personal heartache and disappointment (Turn it over/ Find the other side/ And see it through).

“Piece Me Together” yearns for redemption and reconciliation, a chance to stop being alone (Like a lost child I have wandered, but in my heart now I know/I can't make it on my own). This song as well as “Gavel” and the title track reveal the poetic side of Alligood with a strong use of imagery and repetition:

“Can't judge the future by the past
Can't judge a moment by the one before
Can't judge a beggar cause he asks
Or a rich man who won't give to the poor”
- “Gavel”

“I've seen sunsets over the ocean
I've seen peace stay just out of hand
I've seen hearts wound one another, but I have not seen the wind”
-“I Have Not Seen The Wind”

A more layered and full sound comes to a head on songs such as the electric guitar and organ-soaked sound of “Make Her Smile” (a love song with imagery of journey to land from sea) and “Where The Storm Meets the Sun”, whose first few chords sound subtly like the beginning of REM’s “Losing My Religion” but transforms into a brighter-sounding tune based on “Sally Lloyd-Jones' take on the story of the Great Deluge.

“I wanted to make the greatest record of all time. This is how I have to look at it,” Alligood says. “I don't think I made the greatest record of all time. Instead I may have made a good record or maybe a great one. I'll let others decide. I am very proud of it though. More so than anything I have ever done.”

Despite his personal feelings about the record, Alligood accomplishes his mission of presenting a complete and comprehensive record from beginning to end. Each song holds weight and possesses purpose. Each one stands the test of time…and the wind.

Check out the record at