Vintage Trouble Feeling More Connected During Difficult Times

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

When cities across America went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s probably safe to say that many musicians felt the situation would strangle their creativity. Not so with Vintage Trouble, the L.A.-based quartet known for their uplifting blend of rhythm & blues and classic rock. In fact, the initial days of the quarantine so inspired the band members, they wrote and recorded “Outside-In (Quarantine Session),” their swaggering single (released on May 1), within only a few hours.

“What really excites me about a song like “Outside-In” is that we wrote it at the beginning of the pandemic, so then we know what’s igniting our creativity is something that’s global, something that is unforeseen, and something that we know will lead to change on the other side – and to us as a band, the most exciting music has always been the music that is about change,” says vocalist Ty Tyler. “When you’re starting to write a song like that, you feel like it’s not just entertainment, it’s also a journal of a time.”

Taylor admits that it wasn’t initially easy for him to get into the right mindset to write the song, though. “I’m an optimist, usually to a fault. I believe in hope, I hang onto dreams, I’m not a fatalist at all. I believe in change,” he says. “So for me, at the beginning of quarantine, I saw it as, ‘Let’s not go down during this.’ But Nalle [Colt], my guitar player, was talking about how depressing it felt, and how caged he felt.” It was then, Taylor says, that he realized he needed to take a more empathetic approach to this new work.

Fortunately, despite his misgivings about the quarantine, Colt was still able to come up with the initial musical seed for “Outside-In.” “He sent his guitar riff to me at 6 p.m., and I was feeling so ignited that I said to him, ‘When you wake up in the morning, I will have this song done,’” Taylor says. “And that’s what I did.”

Taylor felt compelled to accomplish this songwriting feat, he says, because “I knew that there was something like a fierce, agitated vibration happening, and if I gave myself too long, it would water itself down.”

Colt’s guitar parts, Taylor says, “felt very classic rock and roll, which I love. So I knew I wanted to lead into that on the chorus. But then on the verse, I needed to feel a real contemporary swing, so I went right to hip-hop, because I think rappers and hip-hop artists, theirs are the most exciting rhythms. As soon as I picked up the cadence, the lyrics stood out, exactly what I wanted to say.”

To get the right lyrics, Taylor says, “I thought about Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I was thinking about [quarantine] being like a prison cell, and you have so many questions in your head. So the lyrics are mainly questions: ‘What did I do? When will I be able to get out of here?’ And then the second part, which is, ‘If I never get out of here, have I said all the things I need to say to the people that I love? And if this is how we’re going to live from now on, did I take advantage of all the gifts that I had on the outside?’”

When Taylor sent his vocal tracks to his bandmates the next morning, he says they all immediately loved it. “It was probably the easiest nod they’ve ever given me!” Taylor says, adding that he thinks this happened “because I tapped into not just thinking about it from my point of view, so they each heard themselves through my lyrics.” Bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson added their parts, and the song was quickly completed. They then shot the video for it, each contributing footage filmed in their separate homes, within the next 24 hours after the song itself was finished.

Taylor is thrilled with how “Outside-In” turned out, and how it makes him feel as an artist. “I’m feeling a little more connected to the Zeitgeist,” he says – and he adds, now can be connected to the current civil rights efforts, as well: “When I’m talking about I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the caged bird sings because it’s not heard,” he says of the song’s lyrical relevance to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now, with band members’ creativity ignited, they’ve been working on their fourth full-length album (title TBA). Taylor says these new songs, which were written pre-pandemic, have an eerily prescient quality to them now. “So many of the songs feel like we wrote them in quarantine even though we didn’t,” he says. “Songs about the fires rising. Songs about looking around the corner and seeing what’s about to come, and being prepared.”

Communicating with people through music, Taylor says, “is the reason why I became a musician: I realized that entertaining and performing and creating is the best thing I can do for the world – it’s important for me to put out art that can help people.” With the music he and the rest of Vintage Trouble are writing during this quarantine, in particular, Taylor says their hope is to “have left something that is part of the fabric that will represent what the world is feeling.”

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