Ty Maxon’s heartfelt melodies, enhanced with his unique voice, and genuine lyrics grabbed me instantly. His music takes you somewhere private. Guarded at first, he has decided to let us in with his newest album, Rooms within Rooms, out now. I got to ask Ty some questions about his musical life and process. Check it out:
MFL: Congratulations on the release of your latest LP, Rooms within Rooms! It sounds like the process of writing and recording was unique in many ways. You touch on the fact that while recording you were simultaneously “figuring out how your brain worked.” Flesh this out for me with some specific examples if you can.
Ty Maxon (TM): Thank you! It feels good to finally have it out. The writing and recording process was definitely a unique endeavor. I think the process helped me to overcome and understand some of the subject matter that the record deals with.
In the past, I’d always write and play the tunes out until they felt tried and true. I’d then record the songs in hopes catching the “ideal” version.
I sort of did things backwards for this record. For whatever reason, these songs felt different than previous songs I’d written. I think I felt pretty close to them and felt somewhat guarded about the subject matter. Also, none of the songs were really played live before they were recorded. Sometimes, it’s helpful to gauge the effectiveness of a song by sensing an audience’s reaction. To not have that experience before recording these songs added a bit of uncertainty to them.
Ultimately, songs I thought were finished turned out to be scraps of songs and scraps of songs turned out to be as finished as they’d ever be. Hard to say why that is. There’s something mysterious about being alone with your songs in the middle of the night at the recording studio. It can make clear that what you thought you had is something else entirely. So, the recording process and writing process intersected at times. This made things interesting, unexpected and sometimes a little maddening. Glad it happened that way, though.
MFL: Additionally, you mention RwR being unique because a majority of the tracks feature a full band. How did this come to fruition and why did you choose to have a few tracks without the full band?
TM: I try to approach each song based on its own merits. For this record, each one seemed to need its own thing to feel right. This took some time to figure out but basically if something felt like it was missing in the way of additional instrumentation, I’d have some friends in to lay down some parts. If we added too many ingredients to the stew, we’d take them out until it was right and sometimes that just left me and the guitar.
MFL: What did the years look like musically for you between release of Calling of the Crows and your latest LP?
TM: Well, I sure didn’t mean to let so many years go by. I like to work on things until they feel right and that can take some time. Additionally, being an independent artist tends to tack on a lot of time when you’re self-financing a project .
During the time between records, I worked, played live and toured when possible. I also worked on developing my visual art of drawing and collage. To be honest, a big factor in my life since the last record was dealing with anxiety and depression. I mentioned feeling guarded about the songs on the new record – I think a lot of the songs come from a place of working through those things.
MFL: What was the impetus for writing RwR and what are you feeling now that it is out in the open?
TM: There was a time in my when I felt pretty isolated. I started thinking a lot about the reality of inner existence – that solitary place in our minds that we experience the world from and how this inner existence contributes to our sense of loneliness and isolation. “Rooms within Rooms” is a line from a poem that I wrote some years ago about a person being lost or trapped within that place.
MFL: Where did you grow up and how do you feel that shaped you as a musician?
TM: I grew up in Southwest Michigan, not too far from where I live now, in Chicago. Looking back, I feel pretty lucky about how the cards fell for a place to grow up. There was a big field by our house that I hung out in a lot. There was also a huge forest and an old cemetery that hadn’t been used since the early part of the last century. There were train tracks that connected all three spots so I used to walk on it to get back and forth. I began making up stories and songs in those places, I think. They were places to escape and to explore and pretend and I think they contributed to my interest in music and art in that way. My dad was always playing George Jones and Hank Williams, too so those songs were always floating around.
MFL: Do you feel that writing lyrics or melodies comes to you more easily? If so, please elaborate!
TM: I tend to work on melody at first. Once that’s going in the right direction, pictures start to appear. Eventually, words appear to bring the picture more into focus. I just try to stay out of the way and let things come at their own pace, mostly. I’ve written a few songs starting with just the words but usually it’s the melody that brings out the ideas for me.
MFL: Fast forward 5 years and imagine that you are listening to RwR. What do you think will be the most striking memories that will come back to you while you listen?
TM: My friend Jeff Breakey engineered and mixed both this album and my last. I think I’ll look back fondly on all the late nights of him and I experimenting with sounds, trying to get things right and just going through the ups and downs of creating something. I think I’ll also be proud of making something a bit beyond my comfort zone.