Indie Music Interviews – Music Bio
Washburn and the River are an Indie Folk group formed by Jake along with his friend Jonah who got their inspiration from prominent folk heroes such as Bon Iver, Department of Eagles, and The Tallest Man on Earth, Jake. Washburn and the River will release their anticipated full-album debut Fear of Fallow Season’s Greetings on March 15th, 2019. In its purest form, the album is an emotionally introspective road trip that pays homage to the area in which Jake grew up and touches on personal growth, turning a new leaf and overcoming personal demons. Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the “catalyst” for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. In middle school I got an English assignment where we could choose to either write a short story, come up with a script for a scene, write a poem, or write a song about a book we were reading. I always had a natural inclination growing up for being creative, and I loved music but hated doing my schoolwork at this time. I ended up putting a little song together for the assignment about the Warrior car series I was into, and from there I was hooked. Before I was learning music on the piano I was always creating, exploring, and improvising. Putting my aptitude for creative writing with my explorations on the white keys of the piano was the natural next step for me!
Let’s get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
The first time I went out to LA when I was 20, I went to a random mega mansion in Brentwood by myself to see a friend perform at a private gathering. There ended up being a jam session at the end of the night and I somehow ended up on stage playing keys with Scott Page from Pink Floyd and Supertramp on saxophone, and Colin Wolf (producer of the Chronic w/ Dr Dre.) on the drums, and pop star Shelita Burke on the vocals! THAT was crazy. Also when I was 15 I opened for Catie Curtis (LGBT Americana folk singer who played at Obama’s inauguration and played with Cindy Lauper) at a house show in my living room!
What has been the high point of your music path? There have been many high points, but working with incredible musicians and people from the music scene in Boston has been a blessing. Being a part of that scene and supporting other up and coming artists is one of my favorite parts of being an artist. I played in many different types of bands all through college, and I simply love working together with other musicians to create music that is special. Performing my song Owl Song off the new record at the Berklee Performance Center was definitely up there for me.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? I am always writing, its my greatest passion as a musician. I write from stream of conscious and I try to allow my expressions lyrically and musically to be as uninhibited as possible while in the creative process. I try to not put labels on anything and not force anything, so that ideas can stay free flowing until they absolutely have to be pinned down. I usually start out with a simple musical phrase or chord progression and build off of that, but honestly, it comes out different every time!
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think it’s hard to carve a career out in the music industry because everything is pay to play, meaning, you have to spend a lot of money to get into the exclusive circles and know the right people. There is no stratification of wealth, and not many mid level opportunities. This is a larger byproduct of the economy as a whole, but it is really destructive for new talent. It is almost as if, you are either huge or you are a nobody. This divide creates a lot of problems for forging community, which music is designed to do. I wish people would pay for their art and support the artists that create it in a sustainable way, but it makes sense given the state of todays economy for young people who’s lives are stretched thin.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I’d love to write or perform with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, or Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes to name a few. Both are incredibly influential to me because they carry the torch for modern day innovators who sprung out of indie-folk, and have never constrained their musical passions. They are both constantly pushing boundaries in their own ways, and have developed such devoted followings because they care deeply about the music and not just the result of their fame. Both inspire me with each record they put forth and I still can’t wait to hear what they will come up with next! What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I try to do as much preparation as possible before rehearsing with a band. I have learned this the hard way from not being prepared for a rehearsal and allowing my disorganization to get in the way of quality music making. I’ve learned that the best music is made and performed without thought or attention to detail. In order for this to happen, practice and preparation are key, so that little time or energy can be spent on superfluous things that prevent the transmission of emotion from occurring. Things in music happen best in the moment so its important to prepare accordingly to keep oneself presently in the music at all times.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! I had one song, which I will not name, that took me over a year a half to write. It was very difficult because I was exploring a new genre that I was really inspired by and wanted to write differently than I had before. The song started with a rift and a simple melody, but it took me a very long time to make any progress. I borrowed a chord progression for one section that my friend showed me, did a cowrite session with another friend to help me with one melodic part, and continued to stew on the song for a while. After a few months I revisited what I had for the song, and added an extended outro section with two more sections to the song, which made it run to over 7 minutes long. I had plans on making a huge arrangement for a live video, but I couldn’t decide on a proper form to fit all the sections together in a way that made sense. I didn’t let myself get stressed out about it, I would just keep revisiting it periodically and tinkering with it to find what works. Eventually when I got in the studio to record it a couple years later I ended up cutting out a lot of sections to simplify the song to run to 3 and a half minutes, in what I believe to be its best song form. It was partially due to my inexperience that it took so long to write the song, but it ended up being a great learning experience along the way!
What’s coming up in the future?
I am really looking forward to releasing my debut album Fear of Fallow Season’s Greetings on March 15th. I will be playing a release show in Boston to celebrate! I’m also starting to work on a new record that I’m super excited about and planning my first tour for the spring. So lots of exciting things!