Below, find 2.5 hours of tunes to keep you cozy during this chilly, albeit beautiful, time ❤
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…
English independent rock three-piece, Blaenavon, is back with their first single off of their sophomore record. The single titled, “Catatonic Skinbag”, is off of Everything That Makes You Happy which is due out later this year and produced by Catherine Marks. Based out of Hampshire, UK, Blaenavon is composed of Ben Gregory (vocals), Frank Wright(bass) and Harris McMillan (drums). The quintessential indie rock single is weighted with the honesty that is not unfamiliar to those who listen to Blaenavon but this time, their sound and content is fleshed out even more. Gregory describes it as a song that is about what we all can be at times (….a catatonic skinbag…maybe you’ve never thought of yourself quite like this but it is true!) especially when it is so damn easy to just wrap yourself up in your own self doubt and succumb to your own routine when you know it is not the best place for you. The single came out not too long after Gregory released an open letter to his fan base updating us all on the happenings of the band and his mental health. We are all glad he is doing better ❤
“The song is about isolation. Cutting oneself off from the world to engage in fruitless sensual pleasures and pretending everything is ok. Watching fucking Netflix and drinking a bottle of wine when you should probably instead be in therapy. But there’s a way out. Art, friendship, love. You don’t have to be a catatonic skinbag. Lol.”
Every year I reach out to two of my absolute favorite music buffs, who happen to be dear friends as well. Brian Haviland works at a pharmacy in Alaska and is a new father to a gorgeous little girl. Our paths crossed wayyyyyyyyyyy back when I was a high school student at Hellgate High in Missoula. Mark Levy made his way to Bozeman from NYC several years ago and walked into my life because of his incredible wife who is also a dancer here in Bozeman. Mark is also part of the local soundscape band, Ranges.
These are folks I’ve had musical relationships for many years now and we could back and forth about music until the cows come home. The best part of it is, we share common threads in terms of the music we enjoy but we also have drastically different taste. The result is a mutual love for music in which we educate each other on what is out there and push each other to open an ear to something new. I wish I could say the three of us have been in the same room to discuss music but sadly Brian and Mark have never met. Maybe some day.
Enough b.s. Here is the playlist. The first 5 are Mark’s picks, the next 5 are Brian’s and the last 5 are mine. May 2019 bring love, happiness, and more music to ya’ll!
Toronto/Chicago electronic R&B songstress, Deanna Devore, began writing music at a young age and is making waves with her sound. Her latest EP, half and half, released September of this year is a smooth mixture of down-tempo electronic and R&B. Below we discuss her musical beginnings, concert highlights and much more.
MFL: I see you are based out of Chicago and Toronto. What pulls you to each location and how do the music scenes in each place differ?
Deanna Devore (DD): They’re both such great cities – and also quite similar. I love Toronto’s diversity and Chicago’s architecture. The music scenes definitely feel different – I think Toronto may have more of the “Drake” sound happening and Chicago has a lot of folk/americana. With that said, both cities definitely have other genres going on too.
MFL: You have been releasing music since 2007/2008. How has your music evolved and changed since your first releases?
DD: I would say that all 3 of my albums have a similar mix of electronic and acoustic elements, but my most recent album, “half and half” has a little more of a RnB/jazz influence.
MFL: On a similar note, how do you think access to music (streaming etc) has changed your experience as an artist over the last 10 years?
DD: The music business has definitely changed over the years! You just have to adjust accordingly. Social media has been a great way to connect, and that didn’t exist in the same way 10 years ago.
MFL: Tell me about your musical beginnings. How and when did music become part of your life and when did you know that you wanted it to be a career?
DD: Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid. I have a musical family. I started playing instruments and writing at a young age and always felt like I needed to do it professionally.
MFL: What are you doing when you’re not writing, recording or performing your own music?
DD: I’m also a teacher at a music school, so I teach a lot of classes including guitar and songwriting. But when I’m not doing anything music related, I like to cook and check out new bars and restaurants in the city.
MFL: What is the order of events for your songwriting process and is there a particular time of day or night that inspiration seems to strike most naturally?
DD: Time of the day doesn’t matter. It happens when I sit down with an instrument, likely guitar. I start with the music. So a song will start when I am playing around with the guitar and find something I like, a chord progression that inspires me to continue. From there, I write a vocal melody. And then do the same thing for all the sections of the song – verse, chorus, bridge etc. The lyrics usually come last.
MFL: Who inspires you musically and how do you use that inspiration in your music or your intentions to write/release music?
DD: I’ve been listening to a lot of downtempo electronic Rnb/neo soul, so I would say that inspires my production and sound overall.
MFL: It looks like you’ve gotten to share the stage with some big names at some fabulous festivals! Touch on some highlights of these experiences.
DD: Yeah I’ve had some great shows! One that stands out in particular was opening for Jamie Cullum. This wasn’t at a festival, but at a venue, playing in front of 900 attentive listeners, solo. It was a surreal experience having that many people quiet and listening.
MFL: Where do you see your music taking you in 2019 and what do we have to look forward to?
DD: I just got back from tour and have switched gears by going into the studio. I started recording a new single that I’m really excited about. So I’ll be releasing that in 2019!
Line Mortensen and Louise Andersen are based out of Copenhagen, a place in my opinion that is absolutely bursting at the seams with fresh musical talent. The duo releases their music under the name ARES and have slowly been releasing bits and pieces from their debut EP. We discussed their music, upcoming EP due out November 30th and much more in the interview below! Their excitement and passion for creating music is palpable!
MFL: Who is in ARES and when did you come together to form this project?
ARES: We are duo that consists of Line Mortensen and Louise Andersen. We met when we attended a music school some years back, where we lived in the rooms next to each other and quickly became friends. After we finished the courses at the school, we both moved to Copenhagen, and after some time of writing songs for fun, we decided that we wanted to start a band. After trying out some different things, writing a lot of songs and playing some concerts, we wanted to release our debut EP as ARES, and now it’s finally ready.
MFL: I know it can be difficult to pinpoint your “genre” of music but if you were to try, what genre would you call your music?
ARES: It seems that a lot of artist sometimes are afraid to be labelled as “pop artists”, but we most certainly are not. We love pop music, and we write pop music. Each song has its own specific sound, but overall we call it pop, and definitely with a big electronic influence.
MFL: You mentioned that “All I See” was showing a new side of ARES. What is it about “All I See” that feels or sounds different than your previous releases?
ARES: Before “All I See” we had already released the two singles “Strangers” and “Lost My Mind” which was both kind of dark and heavy. Both of those singles circled around the subjects of heartbreak and darkness, and with “All I See” we took a chance and released a light, catchy and romantic song about love. We don’t write a lot of “positive” songs, but we really had fun with this one, and wanted to show that ARES is not just about heartbreak and sadness, haha!
MFL: Where in Denmark are you based out of and how does your location/local music scene influence your sound?
ARES: None of us are from Copenhagen, but we both moved here about five years ago, and we love it here. There’s a big upcoming music scene with lots of opportunities for bands like us. Right now a lot of artists who are writing in Danish are becoming popular, but writing in Danish just does not come that easily to us (yet!), so we will stick to English for now. We try to stand out from the rest of the upcoming bands and do not have a fear of sounding too “pop”-ish.
MFL: What can we expect from your forthcoming EP?
ARES: You can expect an emotional ride in our lyrical universe and soundscape. We strive to be very honest in our songs and in our musical vision in general, and we hope our listeners can hear how much time and love we poured into this EP.
MFL: Who are some of the most influential Danish musicians out there for you right now?
ARES: Uh, there’s so many! Right now we’re very inspired by the crazy talented Kwamie Liv, who just released her debut-album. Her voice and songs always delivers so much nerve and her musical universe is so simple yet at the same time extremely powerful and we love that!
MFL: Who do you go to for recording/mixing and why did you choose them for your sound?
ARES: We are working with the amazing danish producer Frederik Falk, who not only loves the same music as we do, but also has a gift of translating the sounds we describe from inside our heads. He really just gets our sound universe and always listens to us even though we sometimes might be a bit hard to work with because we’re both extreme perfectionists.
MFL: Finally, what does 2019 hold for ARES?
ARES: Uhh, so many plans. we’re very excited about 2019. We are ready to work our asses off to share our music and project with as many as possible. We’re gonna play a lot of concerts and probably work on both visuals and more releases. We’re both filled with so many ambitious ideas for the project and we can’t wait to get started on creating more!
PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Mortensen