|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS ARDEN KAYWIN
SECOND TIME'S THE CHARMFor many recording artists, it is the first album that defines them and everything afterwards is simply building on to the identity that has already been established. However, there have been instances (a'la PINK) where one's artistry doesn't quite manifest until the second release and by then, you hope that people are still interested. Singer/songwriter ARDEN KAYWIN is a textbook example of the latter. In 2006, KAYWIN released her debut CD 'QUARTER LIFE CRISIS' to reasonable acclaim and industry accolades, but while the songwriting and the delivery were earnest, one cold see these musical tales of growing up on one's own terms fated as the background music for some LIFETIME movie starring what's-her-name. Three years later, ARDEN KAYWIN - the songwriter - let's her artistry shine through on her sophomore release 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' - an immaculately produced pop record filled with irresistible moments such as the FEIST-like march of the first single, 'LET IT GO', the early BEATLES-styled romp of 'LIGHTS OUT' and the yearning ballad, 'GALILEO'. This time around, KAYWIN was in the producer's chair and writing with songwriters ZIV and EVE NELSON. "If anything, I hope that I can continue to work with them on future projects because working with them was the best part of the whole process and now that it's over, It's like I'm going through postpartum depression because I miss being in the studio and I miss having that interaction." confesses KAYWIN. "It's something that I really want to do again."
ARDEN KAYWIN TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HER LATEST RELEASE 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM'
COLLABORATING WITH OTHERS
AND MESSING AROUND WITH SOUND
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with ARDEN KAYWIN over the phone. Here is how it went.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM was a surprising listen for me.
Oh yeah, in what way?
It's just so different from the first album.
It's like chances were taken on this one, and you've succeeded. Now that it's out there for everyone ot hear. What's going through your head?
You mean in terms of writing it?
In regards to your thoughts on the finished product.
I'm really proud of it. It's different from 'QUARTER LIFE CRISIS' in that it's not so obvious. On 'QUARTER LIFE CRISIS', I think there were a lot of obvious choices made and on this one, there were definitely risks taken. On the first album, I wasn't involved in the arranging or the production. I wrote the songs on piano and vocals and then I had a wonderful producer named RUDY HAUSERMAN who basically took the songs, arranged them and produced them. With 'ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM', I was involved in every step. Not only did I write and co-write the songs on this album, but I also co-arranged and produced them myself. I was involved in the direction of the sound from a production standpoint. We have such amazing gear and digital things that we can use and play with in the studio, so why not play with that. Why not experiment? Why not see what you can find and take advantage of? I know there are people out there that want a piano to sound like a piano and a guitar to sound like a guitar, but I really enjoyed the process of messing with sound. I still like pop music and I don't want to be too out there. I want my music to be accessible. I want the music to be hooky and catchy but with this album, I've thrown stuff in there that may not be so straight forward. For me, it was a much more involved experimental process.
Another thing I noticed in listening to the album is that it almost sounds like a concept album.
In what way?
The songs seem to link up to one another and tell a story.
It wasn't necessarily conceived as a narrative but I definitely see how it works that way. Every song on the album has something to do with the idea of being an elephant in the room.
Who all did you work with this time around?
I worked with two phenomenal co-writers and co-producers. ZIV is a fabulous artist in his own right and he and I have been friends for a long time. We've always wanted to work together so we started writing the album together and he and I co-wrote about six songs on the record and then my other co-writer is a wonderful writer named EVE NELSON and she and I did four tracks on the album. The processes were different for both of them. I really enjoyed the collaborative process this time around. It's one thing to sit in a room all by yourself and write, but you can get stuck in your own idiom a lot of the time and so I thoroughly enjoyed working with these two other people. When you've become close with them and you sit in the studio with them, politeness goes out the window because you know that you care about them and that they are immensely talented so you can get down to the nitty gritty of the process of creating art because you don't feel like you need to be polite. If you're working with someone that you don't know in the studio, you can waste a lot of time on ideas that you're not crazy about because you're trying to 'not' insult them, so with that being said, the dynamic that we had was really quite wonderful. If anything, I hope that I can continue to work with them on future projects because working with them was the best part of the whole process and now that it's over, It's like I'm going through postpartum depression because I miss being in the studio and I miss having that interaction. It's something that I really want to do again.
What tracks stand out for you at the moment?
The single 'LET IT GO' is a great song. It gets in your head and it speaks to something that we all need to do which is to figure out how to let something go and to be happier with your decisions. I love the arrangement of it. EVE NELSON wrote and arranged it with me. We had a really hard time figuring it out. When I brought the song to her, it was just a little piano/vocal and what is the verse was originally conceived as the chorus. We worked on it together and we put the pizzicato strings at the beginning and added this really cool drum loop. I think it's really interesting amalgam of influences and sounds. It's got a little bit of that FEIST sparseness to it and the chorus has this really cool BEATLES guitar with this very defined strumming. I think we've ended up with a very interesting song. It doesn't sound like anything else out there, but yet it does have that potential to get into your head and make you want to bop along to the song. The title track of the album 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' is probably the most personal song on the record and that is one that ZIV and I worked on together. That one was totally conceived as a poem first. We wrote the lyrics without any idea of how it would sound sonically. I think that lyrically, it's probably the song that is the most heartfelt. The concept for the whole album basically came out of that song. I think a lot of this album is a lot more personal that 'QUARTER LIFE CRISIS' in general. No that 'QUARTER...' doesn't speak to what I was going through - it does and it did for a lot of people - but I think that there was another layer of the onion peeled back on this record and that title track really shows that. I love it! It's also fun to sing. I really feel like I can wail on that one. There are so many favorites on this album. LIGHTS OUT is a just a really fun song. You just want to dance around in your underwear to it.
It's kind of got an early BEATLES sound to it.
Yeah, and I love it for that reason. GALILEO is a very thoughtful song about looking back to the past. Picking a favorite is hard to say, so I'll just leave it at that.
My co-host on the show pointed out how the track LET IT GO reminded her of FEIST also.
I love that comparison because I think she is super talented.
Any plans to tour?
I've got two shows coming up in Los Angeles. I'll be playing a BMI Acoustic Lounge showcase on the first of December at 7:00PM at GENGHIS COHEN. It's a songwriters lounge which is really cool. BMI gets together three up and coming writers that they are excited about and they play acoustic. All of us are going to be on stage at the same time and we'll go artist by artist and each of us will play a song in the round and then talk about the songs. It's free and open to the public. It'll be an interesting thing for people to see if they really want to hear how the songs were conceived. I have a full band show at the HOTEL CAFE on the eighteenth of December. After the holidays we're going to work on what the dates outside of California are going to be, so my plan is to hit the east coast and Midwest quite a bit around late winter or early spring.
Will songwriting continue to be a collaborative effort?
I don't want to write songs by myself any more. I have really come to love writing with someone else because I think you end up with a product far beyond what you would've done by yourself because you sit there and bounce ideas off of each other and the best of you and the best of them ends up making something that is astronomically cooler and different than anything you would've come up with on your own. I've never had a static process in terms of songwriting. Some people write the same way all of the time and I never have. Sometimes, I'll do lyrics first and then come up with the chords or sometimes I'll come up with a chord progression that I like and then come up with words. Sometimes, entire tracks have been arranged in the studio and I won't know what I want to say yet and then I'll sit with the track and work on lyrics. So, it's never really solidified for me and I kind of like it that way because sometimes you feel one way and it's easier to write that way and sometimes it's better to change things up a bit.
On a superficial level, the albums got a great cover.
Isn't it cool?
It's got great photography. Who did it?
ADAM HENDERSHOTT is the photographer and he is so brilliant! That was one of those happy accidents. The idea for the album cover came because I didn't want to be obvious. I didn't want to put elephants anywhere graphically on the cover so we were thinking about how we could portray the theme of this album and title in a more analogous way. We had the idea of how we could try to make me look like the elephant in the room, ADAM found these great little wooden figurines at IKEA and on the photo set, we put them everywhere and then we put me there in all kinds of different way. The picture that actually ended up with me on the cover had my head in it. It was a full picture. When we were going through the photos and editing things we were cropping different shots to see what we liked and we accidentally cropped my head off. It was never intended that way and as soon as we saw it we were like 'Ooh! That's really cool!' because it had the effect of making me look even bigger than I am. It was a happy accident and it was one of those things where everyone around me was like 'Don't you want to have your face on the cover?' and I was like 'no!'. First of all, I'm not that vein and secondly, it's so interesting because my head is not on it, the photo is that much more interesting. I'm glad you liked the cover because it gives me revenge over the people that were saying 'I don't think you should do it.'.
Are there any plans for a music video. It seems that you've gone all out at making this visual statement with the packaging alone.
Yes. We just finished a video. I just saw the finished copy for 'LET IT GO' on Friday, so now I'm just waiting for the director to give me the actual DVD. The video will be out very soon. I don't want to give too much away but there is some aerial work in there that is really cool. You have these dancers bouncing in and out of the shot. It's neat.
I can't wait to see it!
Thank you! I'm really glad that you liked the album. It is different and I was taking a risk that the people who liked 'QUARTER LIFE CRISIS' would like it but I think it reaches a bigger audience just because the songs are a little more attention getting. I love 'QUARTER...' but I think it sounds like a lot of things -
Let me say something here. That was what I tried to say at the beginning of the interview but I didn't want to sound mean.
Don't worry about it. As that was my first record and my first foray into all of this, I think I was just dipping my toe into the water. I didn't really know production yet. I didn't know what my sound was yet. I went into the producers office and said 'here are the artists that I like. Make me sound like that'. That's immaturity in an artist in that I didn't know what my own sound was yet, but with 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' I knew exactly what I liked and what I wanted. The first album sounded like VANESSA CARLTON and MICHELLE BRANCH but 'ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' has a lot of different elements of a lot of different artists, but it's not as easy to label, because it's my sound.
What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard this album?
I would want them to come see me live honestly. To me that is the ultimate compliment if they listen to an album and like it. This album is conceptual in the sense that songs are meaningful and the songs definitely speak to where I am in my life and I'm sure there are others in a similar place, so on that level I hope that they find something to relate to so that they feel like they're not alone. On a more macro level, it is entertainment. I want people to listen to the songs and be entertained. I want people to bop in their cars to 'LIGHTS OUT' and cry to 'ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' and I'd like them to come share that experience with me live because that's the thing about music. It's one thing to listen to it on your i-pod but it's another thing to make it an interactive experience by coming to a show and being there and being a part of it. That would be my wish, I guess.
READ THE PREVIOUS ROCKWIRED ON-LINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ARDEN KAYWIN HERE