Jesper Braae Madsen is the man behind Danish band, Echo Me. He is also a husband and a father of two children under the age of four. His third full length, Sleep is Key, came out four years after his previous release, Towards the Sunset. In the interim, Madsen had two children, many sleepless nights and a new perspective of his musical process. Below, Madsen and I discuss this process, how it has changed, what music and his family mean to him and much more. Enjoy one of my favorites from the new record while you read:
MFL: Touch on what happened sound-wise between Towards the Sunset in 2014 and Sleep is Key in 2018.
Jesper Braae Madsen (JBM): My second album Towards the Sunset was recorded in a studio that was run by the singer from Kellermensch, and he had all the right mics, compressors, pre-amps and stuff like that. It was the old-school way, and I felt that was the right thing to do at that moment.
With Sleep is Key, I just sat down with my laptop, 1 mic and an interface, and started recording. The big difference was the whole setting. I just focused on getting the right ideas and takes recorded rather than worrying too much about how the mic was placed. I got some help from Søren Buhl Lassen, who also mixed the album. He helped steer me in a different direction than originally planned. Instead of building everything around the acoustic guitar, I’ve been focusing more on synths and electric guitars.
MFL: Along those lines, what was life like between those two releases and how did it impact the content and journey of creating Sleep is Key?
JBM: I wrote the songs for Towards the Sunset In Berlin, where I lived for about a year. I lived there alone and I could basically do whatever I wanted. Now I live in a small town in Denmark with only 30,000 inhabitants. I’m married and have two kids, and that’s a completely different scenario.
After we got our first kid in 2016, I couldn’t really tour a lot, so I only played a few Echo Me shows here and there. A couple of months before we got our second child in 2017 I was contacted by the guys from the Hamburg based label Backseat. Long story short we agreed to release a new Echo Me album one year later in fall 2018.
First thing I did was to go through a lot of old, semi-old and new demos, and we choose “What They Say” as the first single. From there I just started recording on a super tight schedule, and meanwhile I had a newborn child at home. Without comparison the most stressful time of my life so far, but I just felt an extreme urge to make this happen, and I knew that it couldn’t wait.
MFL: Sleep is Key was released end of October of 2018 and I know you had a run of concerts in the fall of 2018 post-release. Discuss some of your favorite locations of the tour and some unexpected highlights if you can remember!
JBM: I did 13 concerts after the release in Denmark and Germany. Germany has always been my favorite place to tour. The best show was definitely at Prinz Willy in Kiel. The owner has managed to build a really nice thing there. I have played there a bunch of times, and it was completely packed. There were also many new spots on the list, and especially Q in Marburg was a nice surprise. Fairly new place, but again the owner has really put his heart in it, so there was a great atmosphere.
MFL: As a husband and father of two, how does your family add to your musical life and how do you hope your children view music given it is probably a large part of their life because of you?
JSB: I have always written songs about the things that I’m facing at the given time. Having kids is a very extreme lifechanging event, so there is a lot of good inspiration to get out of all that hustle.
…Also it can be very inspiring to watch how kids play. They are so curious and they investigate all possibilities with whatever it is they are playing with, and as soon as they have it figured out, they just lose interest. I think adults often do the opposite. I guess we are more afraid to fail, and therefore try to figure out the “right” way instead. Kind of limits the creativity.
I hope my kids will have music as a big part of their lives, but it doesn’t mean a lot to me if they will ever play an instrument. There are several guitars, keyboards and percussion among their toys, but I don’t want to push it. For me it has become such an obsession, and I sure hope my kids will have a “healthier” relationship to it than I have.
MFL: I love understanding how a record was written from start to finish. Which song was written first and which song was written last? Feel free to share some details of the in between.
JSB: Sleep is Key is really a collection of songs written over a timespan of 10 years or so. I gathered a lot of demos in a folder and shared it with the label, and we picked the best songs. One of the favorites was “When It’s Time”, and I wrote that way back in 2008. It just didn’t fit onto my earlier releases, but this time it made perfect sense. The three newest songs are “You Know Me Well”, “LaLaLa” and “Zombies”, but actually I came up with the main riff for “Zombies” when I was in high school around 2002. That’s crazy and it is so much fun to work with that kind of material. Some of the in between songs are “All of the Time” and “I Know What You Mean”. They kind of sum up the difficulties I had when I was deciding what, if any, form and shape Echo Me should take in the future.
MFL: Where were you born and raised and how did it bring music into your life?
JFB: I grew up in the countryside in Jylland, Denmark, and there were only few other kids nearby, so I remember spending a lot of time on my own. My mother was a hobby guitarist, and also made me attend guitar lessons from I was 8 years old. Since I didn’t have much else to do with my time, I was practicing every day, and it became a big part of my identity as most of the other kids played either football or computer games.
MFL: Did you learn anything new while creating Sleep is Key that you had not had the chance to learn during the process of your previous releases?
JSB: I very much relied on my respective producers on my earlier releases, and this time I had to do everything myself. I would just look it up whenever I ran into problems. There are no technical issues you can’t learn to fix very quickly these days, so the trickiest part is to know when a song is done, and to learn to trust your ears. If you have that confidence, you can go nuts and experiment, and at some point it will feel right.
MFL: When can we expect to hear new material from Echo Me?
JSB: Right now I’m on a two months paternity leave, and when my daughter takes her daily nap, I’m coming up with new ideas for songs. In March I will start recording again and the plan is to release 3 new singles in 2019. So pretty soon…