Archive for the ‘Oklahoma’ Category

smalltowninthese

 

I interviewed these bands for a planned magazine for my hometown. But the editor bailed, so I’ve decided to post the piece on here. Our magazine is still in the works, however, and will probably be available early next year.

When you want to go to watch a rock band, chant lyrics back at its singer, and dance around like you just don’t care, then OKC is the place to be. Well…it HAS been. For a long time, it was the only place I could go to find shows, aside from an occasional trip to Dallas. But now, our own El Reno seems to be the go-to place for live music. Venues and bar shows are popping up everywhere, and it’s really bringing vitality to this town as well as bringing out the creative energies of our local musicians. Ever wonder what those musicians think about in regards to the shows, the songs, or anything else? Their take on the Reno scene? Look no further. We have two interviews with a couple of awesome bands who will most assuredly be among the first to put El Reno on the map.

 

First up, we have Cody Hassell, who plays guitar, harmonica, and does backing vocals for the band “Small Town Sound”, a real, gritty, honest, Red Dirt Country band with an awesome sense of humor matched only by the sheer talent they possess musically. Every show of theirs is ridiculously fun. The members are Tuffy Casteel(vocals), Tim Elliot(lead guitar), Jacob Moss(drums), Todd Neece(bass guitar), and of course Cody Hassell himself, the band’s mouthpiece for this interview. (As of this post’s date, Small Town Sound have unfortunately broken up, but Cody still does a lot of solo shows)

 

 

 

 

 

SMALL TOWN SOUND

 

  1. Tell me about the band name.

There’s really not much of a story behind it. I wasn’t there when they created it; I joined the band after that. But it’s pretty much flat out what it sounds like: a reference to the type of music that we play, which is the music that we learned growing up in a small town.

 

That’s awesome. Just starting out playing shows at bars, stuff like that, with people you know, and then growing from there?

 

Yeah you know, a group of friends in your living room after school or hanging out in your garage. You know, drinking beer… Wait, no, that was when I got a little bit older… Um.. Hi mom! (Laughs). But yeah, it’s pretty cool to go from starting there, playing at a campfire or your garage or your girlfriend’s house, to having people you went to school with come to all your major shows ten or fifteen years later. Everybody’s like “I knew you were gonna do something with this!” It’s a pretty good feeling, ya know? People think you’re doing something big ’cause of your recognition, but you’re actually still just basically screwing off, doing the same thing you were doing back in school.

 

I think it’s cool that something can start out small within the confines of a town, like bar shows and whatnot, and then grow to something way bigger while still retaining that personal and authentic quality.

 

Yeah, most everybody we play with, they are pretty authentic. Of course, there are those one or two people you run across every now and then who think they’re the biggest star on this side of the Mississippi. But they’re playing the same places we are, for the same amount of money we are, and we just usually have to let that go, you know? Don’t say nothin about it, don’t burn no bridges. But for the most part, everybody’s really cool. We have very few people we play with that we have any problem with. It’s a good scene.

 

  1. What genre would you call your music?

Oh man… We get a bunch of people that label us “Red Dirt Country”. And I think we do have a big influence from that type of music: The Turnpike Troubadours, Blackberry Smoke, Robert Okeen, and that type of stuff. But a couple of us also listened to punk music growing up, a lot of southern rock and classic rock too. So, when people ask me what type of music we play, I say “Red Dirt with a Southern Rock Feel”. We try not to do anything that has been done to death already though, ya know? We try to be unique.

 

  1. What would you say most of your songs are about?

All kinds of stuff. Most of them are pulled from an experience that we’ve had. We have one called “Outlaw” about a good friend of the band’s, and we have one that’s pretty much about driving back from a show or driving back from work out of state, with your friends back there calling and asking you where you’ve been. We got one about losing a girl, and then another one that was the first one that Tim wrote about his wife. We draw from any experience we can. We try not to overdo the “love” thing, ’cause just about any song you hear anymore is about some significant other. Or, “hopeful significant other” I guess.

 

  1. Where all have you played, and where is your favorite place to play?

Oh, man…we have played all over OKC, Shawnee, Lawton, Madison Park, Hinton, Okarchee, Sparks, Depew. We’ve been out of state too. Springfield, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas. Pretty much anywhere we can go. My favorite place to play…that’s a tough one. Almost impossible to choose; I don’t want any venues we’ve played to see this and be hurt that I didn’t pick them…but man, the biker rallies are great. That’s my crowd right there. They are so laid back, have a good time, hoot and holler. Sometimes they get a bad rep and people think there’s gonna be fights and all that, but it’s really such a “live and let live” type of thing, you know? Anytime we play at a biker rally, I like for our band to go onstage right in the middle of the band lineup. Then we get off stage, and plan on sleeping in the truck that night, cause you’re not gonna be driving home, you know? And I can’t pick just one rally. Both the main ones in Oklahoma are just great. We got a new one coming up where we haven’t played before, and I’m really looking forward to that one too.

 

  1. Who are some of your favorite artists?

I go through phases. Right now, I’m on a big “Passenger” kick. He’s a guy from Britain I think, maybe London. He’s such an amazing songwriter. He can just say things with words and make words rhyme in ways that you wouldn’t think could work. Really paints an image inside your head. And then his guitar playing is unbelievable. Like, I cannot believe that just one guy can have this kind of talent with both writing guitar parts and coming up with lyrics. He had a big hit on the radio with “Let Her Go”. I liked it but really didn’t get too much into it. Then one day I was listening to Internet radio, and another one of his songs came up, and it really caught my attention; like, “who’s that?” And then, “Oh, that’s that same guy who does ‘Let Her Go’.” So I started looking up all his stuff, and here I am a year later. I think he’s got maybe seven albums out, and I own every one of them. And of course, like I said,  I’m also into “The Turnpike Troubadours”. I’m also really into the “Hamilton” musical right now, which is a Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton. And it’s a hip-hop musical, a musical with our forefathers up there rapping. It’s one of those things where you think it’s gonna sound like crap, and then it ends up being good enough to give you chills.

 

  1. What do you guys normally write first, the verse or the chorus?

It’s just whatever we get, whatever happens. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming and tuning up and all that, then one of us will come up with somethin catchy, and then Tim or Tuffy will end up writing a whole song from it. It could start with me jamming on guitar or a line Tim comes up with. And Tuffy, he’ll show up to practice and throw down a piece of paper and have all the words and lyrics right there. I guess we take the inspiration whenever we get it. We write whatever comes to us and just go from there.

 

  1. How long have you been playing music? Both individually and as a band?

I didn’t start playing guitar until 2000. Now, I carried a guitar around for about a year and a half before that, just trying to learn how to play it, but I didn’t start actually playing until 2000. I started school band in 96, and by 97 I had pretty much flunked out, dropped it halfway through the year and went to choir…cause that’s where the chicks were at (laughs). Worked out pretty well for me cause I met my wife in choir. So I played from 2000 to 2005 just playing around campfires, friends’ parties, jamming in the garage. Occasionally I would play a few songs between bands at the bar my dad hung out at; I’d just jam during the breaks and stuff. Then I stopped playing around 2005, started working a lot, and didn’t start playing again till like 2010. I picked it back up again with a guy I worked with, taught him a few bass licks, brought his cousin in who played drums, and started playing at bars in El Reno for $120 a night. As far as the other guys in Small Town Sound, I don’t really know. The band’s been together for like 5 years now. It’s Tuffy’s first band, and Jake and Tim have been in a few high school punk bands around El Reno, with Mike Randall from “James Bond Dracula”. And Todd’s from Dallas, and he’s been playing since before I was born. He was in some hair metal bands back in the 80s, then he got married and quit playing for a while, close to twenty years. Then he got back on it around 2012 or 2013, which was around the time I met him with the band we both played in before Small Town Sound. He dusted off his bass guitar, met me from Craigslist when I was looking for a bass player, auditioned, and we’ve been jamming together ever since.

 

  1. What all instruments can you play?

I’ve got an electric and an acoustic drum set, a four stringed bass, can play a song or two on the banjo, play mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar. I love the 12 string guitar. I jam out on percussion instruments too, and I play harmonica for the band. I’ll play anything I can get my hands on. Got a violin that I sometimes mess around on trying to get the hang of it. Now, that’s a frustrating instrument. I play a little bit on the saxophone, but of course not too much or I wouldn’t have flunked out of band in school. I’ve got an accordion too, and the best song I can play on it is the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.

 

  1. What has been your biggest moment musically, even in regards to music that isn’t your own? When was your life most affected by music?

The moment I decided to start playing guitar again after almost six years. In May of 2010, I got laid off from a job and then shattered my wrist right after that. Had to have a steel plate put in it and all that…I was sitting around the house, and my wife and family had convinced me to make a Facebook account. I thought “I’m sitting around the house not working so I might as well.” I’m sitting there adding friends and all that, and I come across a friend from high school whose son had bone marrow cancer. He was like 3 years old at the time. And I’d owned a motorcycle for a while and had done some bike runs and stuff like that, and I just thought to myself, “I’ve got all this time on my hands sitting around the house, making a few job applications, so I’m gonna put on a little poker run, make a little money for this kid.” Me and a buddy of mine put it together in this kid’s name, and at our last stop we were playing at this big party, and I had hit up a couple of friends of mine who played music. And the owner of the bar’s brother had a friend of his daughter’s who was pretty much his daughter, she was pretty much his daughter’s sister, and she had gotten really big into music and never looked back. Went on tour in Paris and all that. Her name’s Allie Harter. So he asks her to come up and play, and I had introduced her to the crowd at the party. I’m sittin there watching her play, and I’m thinking to myself, “Man, she is SO good. I miss doing that. I want to start playing guitar again.” I started playing a lot after that. Just pretty much picking it up and remembering how to play it. That’s what made me want to start playing again.

 

  1. Do any of your personal beliefs and opinions show through in your music?

Well I hope so. That’s kind of the point, right? I find that it all goes back to being sincere. I think the true artists are the ones who go up there, pull open their chests, and show their heart on stage. If you go up there and fake it, the audience can tell. It wouldn’t feel real to anyone. There’s just something about being sincere that makes people trust you, you know? And we’re not ever gonna write a song that we disagree with morally or religiously. We might do one we disagree with lawfully though. That’s half of the outlaw country genre right there I think. You know, you’re not really out their robbing banks and stuff, but you sing about it.

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

Well…you know how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. That’s the number one thing. And I could give a LOT of advice. I could give advice I wish I had heard when I was just starting out. But practicing is the most important thing. A lot of people think just cause they jam out in the garage with their friends that they can go up on the stage right away; in reality you have to be a lot more precise up there. There isn’t any room for stopping halfway through the song because you did it in the wrong key. Once you go, you go.

 

Thanks for doing the interview man .

 

No problem. If it ends up in the Washington Post or something make sure you let me know (laughs).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, we have “In These Pages”, a local folk pop band consisting of Jeremiah Goodblanket(vocals, guitar), Zak Schroeder(guitar), and John Jones(bass). The first few times I watched them play, it was just Zak and Jeremiah, and what really struck me about them was how they combined extremely skillful guitar playing with passionate vocals. Now, with the addition of John on the bass guitar, they have a full sound and are able to convey even more emotion through their songs.

 

 

 

IN THESE PAGES

 

 

  1. What does the name, “In These Pages” refer to?

Jeremiah: I came up with it probably 5 or so years ago. It was the name of my solo project, back when I had had it planned to hit up the studio and track everything myself. And then, as time went on, I just decided I needed some help, ya know? And the name itself really refers to using life as a metaphor, or a book as a metaphor for life. The pages of your life, the chapters of your life. So this is literally just a page in our lives right now. We’ll just see how far it takes us.

 

Zak: Jeremiah is the one who started the band. I’d been playing solo at the Iron Tree a few times. We had both been in a band before called, “With Cities Below”, and we just decided with “In These Pages”, “Let’s make a duo and really just make the band expand.”

 

 

  1. What is your main inspiration?

Jeremiah: Really just life experiences. People you lose, people you love, things you do and things you mess up. My inspiration is mainly my life, ya know? And when it comes to the music itself, the music that really inspires me, like the mood of it, would probably be Lydia and Green Day. But it just goes all over the spectrum. I could talk about bands all day, but really just the music itself is inspired by my life experiences

 

Zak: Yeah life experiences. Most of the songs are written lyrically by Jeremiah, and I agree with what he’s singing and everything like that. But where I get my inspiration from starts with back when I was younger, when I first acquired my guitars. My uncle had passed, and he was a huge metal head and I inherited his guitars. I greatly looked up to him when I was younger. And so I wanted to be like him and play guitar, you know? Growing up, I was a little five year old listening to Metallica in the back seat of my grandma’s car, so it all started when I was super young and just with the love of music. We would play games with the car radio and try to scream out which song was being played on the radio before anyone else could say the name or whatever. So it all goes back to when I was at a really young age.

 

John: Inspiration for me has pretty much always been kind of more of a hard core. I grew up listening to country music like Johnny Cash. And there are very few people who have gone through the hell that Johnny Cash went through, and came back to see the light. So when you look at the different inspirations that I have witnessed throughout my life that can be sang and played to, it’s a different style for sure. You have to kind of take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and try to piece it together to make your own style. It’s different for sure. As far as what drives me – the fact that every single person out there has got a story. Everyone wants their story to be heard. So if you can write a song to make their story heard, that’s what will drive not just me, but every single person around me.

 

 

  1. Who are your influences musically?

Zak: I’ve been hugely into metal for a long time, really just the whole genre. Acoustic and metal scenes, I’m way into both of those, and I can’t really name names because there are just so many. But one singer-songwriter I’ve been jamming out to a lot lately is “Front Porch Step“. With his personal life, he’s gotten into a lot of trouble and everything, and I won’t get into that, but his music is just really great. I love his albums. So I guess right at this moment, I’d say “Front Porch Step” is my main influence.

 

John: For me, my inspiration originally started from Corey Smith because I had nothing more to play than like a bass note, and it was pretty awful. I really liked Josh Turner, Blake Shelton, you know, those kinds of singers were my main inspiration for wanting to sing. But as time progressed, I started getting more into the poetry behind music and not just the repetition. I started listening to more of the unknown artists like Corey Smith when he had just started out. He’s one of those singers who doesn’t exactly have the greatest voice, which is like myself, but the music he writes is pure poetry. Even if you don’t have the greatest voice, your lyrics can take you all the way.

So, as far as my main drive, it’d probably be Corey Smith, ’cause he’s a little guy out there pushing forward to make a difference

 

 

  1. What would you say is the main subject matter of your songs?

Jeremiah: Mostly love. I guess it’s kinda sappy, ‘cause people are tired of hearing love songs, but love’s the biggest drive in life and what gives meaning to everything in the human race. If there was no love, everything would be like how it is in “The Giver”, you know? It would just suck. And a lot of my stuff is about my current girlfriend and how we have plans for the future. And there’s songs that I’ve written about heartbreak in the past, you know, with friends and family. And recently I’ve been trying to expand our music’s subject matter to reach a bigger audience as opposed to just love. And the most recent song I’ve written is about how fast life goes by and how we all just lose track of it. I had spoken with my grandma a few years back, before she passed away, and she was saying how life felt like she had just blinked and then here she is in her 80’s. Life really does fly by. So the song I’m talking about is kind of hitting on little pieces of someone’s life and saying not to take it for granted, and to focus on NOW so it doesn’t all go by too fast.

 

 

  1. How do you guys feel about the quality of today’s popular music?

 

(all laugh)

 

Jeremiah: There’s some really catchy stuff out there

 

Zak: There is, there is.

 

Jeremiah: But there’s a lot of, you know… Cookie cutter…

 

Zak: Repetitive. I’ve heard that beat before, I’ve heard that melody before, where’s the new melody at. They just keep on remixing everything. We do covers though, you know? And they are covers of very popular songs, catchy and repetitive, but we try to throw our own unique spin on it. We’ve done acoustic versions of rap songs and stuff like that. But it’s sad to see what the music industry has started to head towards.

 

John: A lot of it’s not even music

 

Zak: Yeah, and then you have like a person who’s got a good voice or a half assed voice, and they can get into the studio and modify it all, make it sound good, and throw a generic beat on it. They’ll say something that caters to a specific audience, like “get girls” or “get money”. And even country now, it’s like, “I got a truck, I got some beers; let’s have a good time” and that’s it.

 

John: Skirts…

 

Jeremiah: My wife left me, my dog died…

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah you know that’s it. That’s what’s going on record right now, but if I ever get into that situation with my music, please shoot me

 

 

  1. Do any other forms of art or creativity affect your songwriting?

Zak: Definitely. I’m a graphic designer on the regular side of life. In my eyes, all art is just about mood and feel. Art can be from any aspect of your life, whether it be painting on a canvas or messing around on a computer screen, or music. Again, it can all completely affect your life on how you view things artistically.

 

Jeremiah: Photography’s always been a really big one for me. I’ve always respected the hell out of it. My girlfriend is currently working as a photographer part time, and I love seeing her grow and learn in that because it’s something I’ve always loved doing. Aside from that, you have to really respect the big artists out there, you know, like the Renaissance artists. All the painting, all that stuff. I’m not really too big on modern art or “abstract” per se. But I respect all art in general. And acting too. Where I work now, most of my time is spent watching movies, which makes my job sound stupid. If it’s slow enough, we’ll watch Netflix. But anyway, I just try to watch just really good movies, and I really respect the people that make them.

 

Zak: If we could envelop people into our music as much as people are enveloped into something like “Game of Thrones”, that would be a dream come true.

 

(Pause)

 

Jeremiah: I think there’s a bug in my shirt.

 

(All laugh)

 

 

  1. What comes first in the writing process? The verse or the chorus?

Jeremiah: Usually for me it’s the chorus. I come up with a hook, a melody comes into my head and I just build on that. You know, there’s been songs that I like started at point A and went from there. Like, it’s really just all over the place, but most of the time, if it’s a not melody stuck in my head that I just turn into a chorus, it’s just a guitar riff that I throw words on top of. It ends up being all about simply purging emotions through the words in the songs.

 

John: For me, the very first thing is always my idea of a music video for the song. I always seem to fit what I’m singing into a music video and watch it myself in my head, to see maybe “What’s this person’s life been like, how it’s gonna end up?”. And I always end up with the bridge of the song first, then the chorus, and then I fit the verses in with it. But it always starts with a music video in my head. I picture what I wanna see, and what the bridge is, what the ending’s gonna be, and then I start piecing together from there what the chorus is gonna be, and then all the way down to the verses.

 

Jeremiah: I never thought of it like that. But that’s actually pretty much how that last song we played was made. You know, it’s all about my life and me experiencing it. But I think that’s a really nice method.

 

Zak: With me, it’s really just improvisational. It’s always been improv. You know back when I played at the Iron Tree, I would just show up without practicing anything beforehand. Set my guitar to a specific tuning, and then set a few chords down and just go off of those chords with solos and different melodies. Here tonight, about thirty percent of what I was doing was improv.

 

Jeremiah: Or sixty percent.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, kind of. You know, playing at Iron Tree and everything has really helped with playing improv, like with Jeremiah and John and me playing off of each other and stuff, we all just kind of resonate off of each other and pick up on what’s going on.

 

Jeremiah: Yeah we’re really good at playing with each other.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, we play with each other too much.

 

I’ve always thought ever since I first saw you guys play that it just all sounds really well together. You know, I thought “That’s some dual guitar.”

 

Zak: Yeah, and that’s what it all kind of hearkens back to. I’ll throw down some chords, and Jeremiah will throw down some leads, and then he’ll throw down some chords, and I’ll lay down some leads and we’ll just switch back and forth.

 

John: The great thing about playing with these guys is that no matter where we’re at in the song, I can always look at either of them and know exactly which part we’re at in the song, and I can start playing as well. But they play off of each other so well that no matter what, no matter who’s playing lead, it’s so easy to just turn around and be like, “Ok, I’m lost. What are we playing right now?” And just look at them for a couple of seconds and realize exactly where they’re going. They’ve been playing so long together and they’re so skilled at what they do. We can all instantly be on the same page throughout the entire song. Surround yourself with great musicians and you’ll be a great musician yourself

 

Jeremiah: I hate to break it to you, but we’re not great musicians(laughs).

 

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

John: For me it’s a little bit different, because I don’t play guitar, I play bass. I’m kind of one of those people who’s sort of in the background in the band, like I don’t have lead parts and this and that, but if I could give anybody advice, just from what I’ve done over the years, it would be “Don’t be afraid to go out there and get what you want.” I’ve been really lucky to be able to surround myself with really great people, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will try to cut you down in the music business, try to ridicule you for what you think you may be able to do. And unfortunately, that happens quite often. But don’t give up. You know, ten years ago, whenever people said “You’re not good, you can’t sing worth a darn.” –  if I had listened to them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now. But I’ve got two guys here right now who are amazing people, good people, and they took a chance with me. I’m not the greatest bass player in the world. But they showed up and asked me to play, and I played my heart out trying to impress them the best that I could. But the biggest thing is, don’t give up. If you have a dream and you wanna be that person, go for it. Don’t let anybody cut you down, and I’ve had a lot of people cut me down over the years, and it does nothing but hurt you. But in the end, if you wanna play, play. Don’t let anyone stop you.