Q&A with 2014 Pub Deal Winners A Lion Named Roar

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While their brand of driving, melodic rock helped 2104 Pub Deal Winners A Lion Named Roar catch the ear of our judges, it was their superb songwriting chops that ultimately won over the Secret Road A&R staff and led them to scoring a $20,000 contract with the LA-based publisher.  We sat down with primary songwriters Chris Jackson and Kenneth Tyler to discuss their Louisville roots, writing styles, and plans for the future.

1) How did you get started in music? Were you in different bands prior to this one? What drove you to start the band?

Our parents were musicians and very supportive as we decided to pursue music, whether that was via garage bands, private saxophone lessons or choir. Chris and I have been a songwriting tandem since high school and we’ve managed to be founding members of every project we have ever been apart of. We’re 90’s kids, so at the time we were absorbing everything from Billy Joel to Pearl Jam and trying to pull that stuff off at talent shows and local VFW posts. We started playing in bands young, and I think the mystique behind learning the guitar and singing in harmony was a catalyst for why we wen’t down that road. Music is such a fascinating exploration for us and it’s one of the most rewarding creative outlets we’ve experienced. Not sure what we’d be doing if it wasn’t for our families instilling music into us at a young age.

2) What’s your writing process like? Do you start with a lyric concept? A melody idea?

Our songwriting process is so different every time, and we’re not convinced there is any wrong or right way to go about it. We have a little bit of a Taupin/Elton quality that we’ve infused into our writing dynamic as a duo. Chris comes up with a melody and concept, sometimes with very little structure or lyrical intention. I then find myself trying to pair a melody with a groove or rhythm so that I can better hunt down how lyrics can fit into the song. We’ll slowly start to mold the melody into chord inversions on guitar or piano that make each section feel iconic. We’re typically sussing out the ebb and flow of a line long before we ever finalize a verse, as phonetics are just as important to us as where the song will eventually take us. Normally, it’s a chorus dictating what the verses will eventually explore – or the reverse. Once we have the bones of a song we bring it to the rest of the guys and work on arrangements. The band as a whole is very hands on when it comes to guitar parts, tempo, counter-melodies, etc. Once we’re as close as we can get – it goes to our producer where things are tightened up and intensified. The process is rarely the same, but we enjoy every aspect as much as the other.

3) What’s the Louisville scene like? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being base in a non-music biz city like Nashville, NYC or LA?

We love Louisville. This city has grown so much and it’s an inspiring stomping grounds for a band like us. The mantra here is “Keep Louisville Weird!”, and from Hunter S. Thompson to a two-minute race that fuels weeks of celebration and hysteria – it’s a pretty fun place to call home. I think the only disadvantage this band has is being a pop-leaning act in a hyper-eclectic music community. It’s easy to stand out here; and even easier to be labeled and ex-communicated from the pool of artists willing to keep it exponentially weird. We’re just blue collar guys trying to write timeless pop songs – and that may be our only true advantage here in Louisville, as it’s easier for us to make noticeable waves when there are few people in the pool.

4) How do you approach releasing music? Do you think it’s still important for an independent band to release albums? How do you the bridge the gap with your fans between music releases?

It’s such a strange time in the music industry – but it’s also fascinating given all the resources artists have to deliver their craft to the masses. Our band tries to take care of our fans first – so we stay pretty active with our newsletter and social media. After we send music to all of the people supporting what we’re doing, we try to get music and videos onto every platform we think is being utilized on a consistent basis. Honestly, I think the album as we know it is on its way out the door. We’re going to start seeing the rise of singles and un-orthodox approaches to releasing music to the world. Generation Y is really embracing this meta-modernist lifestyle that is both skeptical and forward thinking in its approach to obtaining music. I think a lot of our younger fans have been blindsided by the rise of start-ups, mobile apps and ads – and we’re slowly seeing them weed out the under performers when it comes to music discovery. So we’ll honestly start leaning heavily on our fans intuition with new music, both in how we release it and where.

5) What are your plans for the next 6 months? The next year?

Lots of writing and recording. We’re constantly honing in on where we want to be with our live show while crafting our sound in the studio with our producer, Neil DeGraide. I think we’ll aim for a new record as we head into spring of 2015, so that is where our heads are right now. The other day I was reading a Werner Herzog biography where the filmmaker made mention to progress only happening in the form of analyzing your past works and building off the negatives. I think this band has its best songs ahead of us if we take that approach. This next year will be us capitalizing on melodies and striving for potent lyrics as a band, and we’re looking forward to building on top of where this whole thing started.

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