Look, it’s not that music journalists don’t ask the right questions—I’m one myself, so I know how time consuming the research part of an interview can be—but there’s just something about a musician interviewing another musician. Someone who knows their craft inside and out and can identify and relate to any struggles another artist may be going through. That’s why I decided it was time to send my Muddy Paw PR artists out with one another, and have them get to know one another through interview. The first in the series is between San Francisco singer-songwriter Katie Garibaldi, and Canadian singer-songwriter Myrle. Check it out, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Katie Garibaldi: You are about to release your new album, A Dozen Hearts. Congrats! What was your songwriting process like for the new album? Did you have a concept in mind while planning it?
Myrle: Thanks Katie. You know, I’ve been writing songs for 20 years now and this is only my second album, so I’m sitting on a lot of back catalogue, so four of the songs are from that. For the most part I’ve closed the door on a lot of that material, but I couldn’t walk away from these four (Grey, Sincere, Vicious Circle, Winnipeg). Otherwise, I was listening to a lot of writers who had a lot of rolling lyrics. I was trying to move away from repeat choruses and use the entire song to say what I was thinking, so the album feels “wordy” to me, which was kind of intentional.
Katie Garibaldi: Awesome. You’re quite prolific. You’ve been described as a lyrically driven songwriter. Who are some songwriters that influenced you, and what typically inspires your songwriting?
Myrle: I’ve always been a huge Ron Hawkins fan, who realistically is a poet. This record was largely influenced by NQ Arbuckle (hence a lot of the rolling lyrics). I love how Ryan Adams moves around stylistically, and lately I can’t get enough of Chuck Prophet. I just discovered that guy and man, I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without him. As per inspiration, I’ve lived most of my life moving from place to place. I’ve never really been able to settle, and nowhere ever really feels like home… not even home. So a lot of my ideas come from that, the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been.
Katie Garibaldi: Spoken like a true songwriting troubadour. Great!
Myrle: How does Follow Your Heart, your 7th full length album, stand out from your previous release?
Katie Garibaldi: I feel like Follow Your Heart comes the closest sonically to what I’ve been aiming for my music to sound like over the years, just because I had more resources and connections this time around, and also had a better idea of what I wanted it to sound like after experience with previous albums. I’ve always wanted to work with a pedal steel player, and I finally had the pleasure of one on this album (Max Butler), and that also added a very obvious country flavor to the sound of the record. I was also able to work with arranging string parts, which I did along with Magik*Magik Orchestra’s director Minna Choi, and have these beautiful string parts flow throughout the songs. It was something I always wanted to do and I’m really happy with the outcome. I also think that songwriting-wise, this album has some of my most personal songs. For instance, “White Roses” is about a friend who passed away from cancer. I was unsure whether I should include some of these songs on the album, but I decided I wanted this to be honest and from the heart.
Myrle: Was the experience of recording and releasing such personal songs like “White Roses” and “Wedding Day Song” (written for your husband, which you sung to him on your wedding day) terrifying or liberating?
Katie Garibaldi: A little bit of both! At first I would say mostly I was nervous, but once we got into the studio it was such a comfortable and magical experience that it all happened very naturally. It was a very emotional experience and also very healing. I remember it was just me and my bass player, Kevin Blair, tracking “White Roses” live (cello was overdubbed), and it was very serene in the studio. I was definitely choked up, but got through the tracking and was grateful that the live recording captured the emotional vibes. For “Wedding Day Song,” I just closed my eyes and imagined my wedding day and found that sweet place. I thought I would be more nervous in the studio, but this process was totally encouraging and positive.
Myrle: That’s great! And I can only imagine how much “White Roses” must transfer over to your live performances emotionally.
Katie Garibaldi: “White Roses” is still really tough to do live, so I rarely perform it. But it’s definitely emotional when I do.
Speaking of the studio, how did you get involved with working with legendary singer/songwriter Ron Hawkins as producer on A Dozen Hearts, and what did you learn most from him in the studio?
Myrle: Ron is a very grassroots, down to earth guy, snd I tend not to get too enamored with anyone or anything. But quite honestly, I just asked. I found a way to get in touch and sent him a note with a couple of tracks from my first album and he just said yes. It was all pretty easygoing. Studio-wise, I have a bit of hobby studio at the house, so I was interested in everything they were doing, gear, techniques, etc., and Ron was happy to oblige (and still answers my questions when I ask them). But more than anything else, his philosophy was what I really gained. His number one objective was to make me love every second of my album. Nothing happened that I didn’t want to happen and I had a ton of say along the way. Ron’s been in the game for 30+ years and he’s dealt with major labels, egos, and assholes. So now he surrounds himself with positive, likeable, down to earth people. I was lucky enough to get to know several of them and work alongside. I brought in a bunch of my crew and he felt the same about them. Really we just had a blast hanging out and making a record and it couldn’t have gone better (and I’m quoting him on that one). So I think his attitude was a bit infectious and I won’t waste my time with anything but good, positive, humble people moving forward.
You also recently released a new video for your single “Lock The Door, Lose the Key.” Tell me about the inspiration behind the song and the video.
Katie Garibaldi: The inspiration for “Lock The Door, Lose The Key” came from being a newlywed and it’s basically about that phase of newlywed life where you just want to be in this bubble with your sweetheart and block the rest of the world out. You hear about people getting married and drifting away from their friends, which I never wanted to do, but there was definitely a phase of ‘nesting’ where my husband and I only wanted to be at home and felt like our single friends just didn’t understand. It’s a very fun and cheeky song. For the video, I didn’t want to be so literal, but I still wanted have the subject of a newlywed couple. For the storyline in the video, we had the newly married couple set off on their honeymoon with excitement. In the video, the car breaks down and instead of letting it ruin our trip, we throw the key and run off into our own spontaneous adventure. It’s such a fun song, and I wanted the video to reflect the joy in it.
Myrle: That’s great! I find a song about something so specific can really make people identify to it who have lived through similar experiences
Katie Garibaldi: Indeed! You spoke about the interesting gear in the studio for this record. Did you use any special or unusual studio techniques this time around that stand out that were different from when you recorded your first album?
Myrle: When I made my first album, we did the entire thing online. Sounds odd, but an interesting experience all the same. I had guitar tracks from Germany, backing vocals from Holland, mixing from New Brunswick, guitars and vocals from Ottawa, pedal steel from Winnipeg, drums from Ontario, etc. When I made this album I was hellbent on having everyone in the room with me, which again is an odd thing to aspire towards as that’s how things kinda should happen. But I turned down fantastic artists who were willing to help out but wanted to file share. So there was definitely a different experience that way. One thing that stands out technique-wise was when Jesse Capon put an old crash symbol that was all cut up and bent onto his snare on “Damn or Be Damned” which gave it this Nine Inch Nails vibe on this spaghetti western tune which I really dug.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a custom guitar built just for me, but a new instrument does tend to bring new inspiration. What does your custom built guitar from Breedlove Stringed Instruments bring to your music? Does it have a voice of it’s own?
Katie Garibaldi: My custom Breedlove is such a beautiful guitar and I’m really grateful to the people at Breedlove who helped bring it to life for me. The Breedlove definitely has its own voice. It’s very rich and deep, but at the same time bright, which partly comes from the Myrtlewood back and sides – just a gorgeous sounding instrument. It’s very comfortable to play and I just love it. It’s funny too how you say new instruments bring new inspiration, because I definitely think that as well. I wrote a lot of new songs on this guitar, and then recently I picked up an old guitar at home that I haven’t played all year and started writing new songs on that. I think the different instrument voices can speak to different spaces of inspiration, since they all have their unique personalities. I play my Breedlove pretty much exclusively now live and am still amazed by its sound and dynamics. It’s a beauty!
Now, my last question for you! What would you say are the biggest challenges recording in a studio environment compared to playing live, if any?
Myrle: Staying in the moment. An album is take after take after take after take. It’s trying to perfect things, and living with things and all of that. Studios cost money so you don’t want to be there forever, but you don’t want to settle either. There is stress, and people’s opinions, and sometimes you get so focused on something minute and specific you lose sight of the whole picture. And that’s what you have to live with for the rest of your life, versus a performance, which is just capturing a moment. You can have a sombre crowd and put a spin on a tune that suits the room, or there can be an energy to a room which spills into your performance. I think it’s much easier to feed off of an audience than to try to please yourself in a studio. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty tough to please. With that said, I love recording; I can’t get enough of it.
And now here is your final question! Was it a conscious decision to move into a more country feel with this album and is your upcoming EP staying in that vein? Is this the direction for Katie Garibaldi’s near future?
Katie Garibaldi: I think the country vibe happened very organically with Follow Your Heart. In the years prior to making the album, I started making regular trips to Nashville and while playing live, I also learned a lot about the history of country music and I think that naturally infused itself into my songwriting and sonically as well. And I kept hearing pedal steel on a lot of the songs in my head so I just ran with it. I never considered myself country until people started telling me I was. [laughs] (I’m not much for labeling.) But the EP I’m working on, which I actually recorded in Nashville, I think definitely harkens back to my folk and storytelling roots. It’s more stripped down than Follow Your Heart, with only non-traditional percussion on a song or two, and with more focus on string arrangements. So it’s kind of a mishmash of influences and genres, but I think a little less country and little more folk if I had to compare it to the last album. I like every record to be different and have its own sound. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new songs!
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Katie Garibaldi & Myrle, Photo credits: Katie Garibaldi (right) Sandra Proudman. Myrle (left): Amber Bromby