T.C. Young is a young aspiring singer/songwriter based out of Washingtone D.C. Young’s music is inspired by the transience of his life, creating order from chaos and blending meditations on love and loss with the carefree attitude of a traveling hippie. T.C. Young has just embarked on his journey as a solo musician after being the primary songwriter and singer for local indie-rock band The Neon Rush. Young combines the energy of his musical roots and combines them with the intimacy of folk music and storytelling. His most recent project ‘Rebels’ is the perfect way to introduce yourself to his sound!
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I don't know about writing music, I was always scribbling around, bouncing from one instrument to the next, no one forced me to play the piano when I was young, they just sat back and watched, to see if anything would take. I think as far as my musical direction I would have to give the credit to my Uncle Joe. From a fairly young age he would send me CDs of the stuff he liked that ranged from 60s rock and roll, 40s jazz, 70s pop, to experimental music, Brian Eno is our hero! He got me into collecting vinyl and now that I'm old enough I like to send him a record or two when ever I think it's worth sharing. I lived abroad growing up, so those CDs and Records were really our whole relationship, he was the mysterious music Guru.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Ohh Gez, probably something I wouldn't write on paper, but the juiciest story I think I can of that won't get me into too much trouble is probably the time I was banned from The Rock & Roll Hotel in DC. I was 18-19 years old, opening with my old band, The Neon Rush. It was a packed house, and it was one of the first times I got to back stage to the green room, and hang with the other bands. I had been playing club shows in the DC area since I was 15 so this was heaven to me. The green room was all tagged up and rugged, tons of random communist China posters on the walls, and I got the idea in my head that I wanted to contribute. So I ran out of the club a few doors down, bought a few cans of spray paint, handed it out to everyone, and just went nuts. After our set I met a few people by the bar who washed off my X's and bought me drinks. Finally I ended up doing cocaine with some of the other musicians in the green room, right as the security guard walked in. All in all as fun of a night as it was, I got an incredibly stern email in the morning saying I would never play the club again. It's been 7 years, and I haven't played there since, but I have gone in for a drink with friends, never been a problem. Those were some of my wilder years.
What has been the high point of your music path?
This might sound immensely cheesy, but honestly right now. Though there were times in my life when I was working with bigger players in the industry, moments when I was playing in front of more people than I could have ever imagined, that stuff slowly started to matter less and less. I have just fallen in love with playing, writing, getting better. Everyday I wake up and I think, today could be the day I write the best song of my life, and while it hasn't happened yet (gosh I hope not), I know that it is the experiences I'm having right now that'll get me there. I'm just trying to stay present, focus on what I'm doing, and enjoy the journey.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Actually it has changed very drastically over the past 9 months. I used to write in a very archaic way, I would just wait and the songs would come, sometimes totally finished, in 5-10 mins. I can't really explain where they would come from, somethings would just burrow into me and incubate, weeks, months, years down the road they just worked themselves out with very little to no thought. It felt organic and unforced, but over time the periods in between really began to weigh on me. When people expect you to write a certain amount of songs for a project, or weigh in, I had nothing to say but, 'I hope'. I hope that I will rise to the occasion, but that isn't sustainable, and overtime it's even debilitating. Around 9 months ago, I became very inspired by Nathan James of the band Augustus James. I work closely with him, and studied how he sits down with his guitar and puts in the time. He writes like a writer, and watching him made me realize that to get the best of what I had to offer, I had to be able to tap into that part of me. It was all there, just buried in the shelter of a toxic process. So now when I write I just sit down in my room, create a space worth breathing in, and play. I don't wait for inspiration, I try to put myself into someone else's shoes, examine myself as a character, and then write about it. Sometimes it's good, most of the time it's bad, but every once in awhile, you get something real, and it's worth all the failures that got you there.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
That's tough, I think if I could change one thing it would be a streamline way to register and collect on points assigned and due to writers, session musicians, and collaborators. For example, unless you are making a good amount of money, I'm talking $50,000 or more, chances are you aren't using a lawyer, you are in the trenches working for a lot of different clients and musicians to make your bacon. The problem is it's hard to keep up with how many records x client sold. We talked about it, I get 5% on this song, and 10% off that, but there is really no way to enforce it unless lawyers get involved. I wish there was for the sake of an idea, a site where you register the record, you both have an account that is linked to your online streams and sales, and when the money is made, it is automatically divided into the rightful pockets. I know we have BMI and ASCAP, and they are incredible forces, but for the little guy, they don't really do much, so much so that most artists don't even get ISRC codes. Don't get me wrong, music to me is not about the money that I make, I don't do this to be wealthy believe me. I once had a guitar teacher who said if you could do anything else, do it, and if you can't, well then you are probably screwed. I still laugh at it, but the sentiment is true. I think it breads a bad environment for young artists. Established artists have the tools to collaborate, because the lead singer is not chasing down that one guitar player who owes her royalties from 2 month ago, they have a team in place to do that for her. It is a fact, collaboration fosters creativity, and creativity is everything in this industry. I think if everyone could get together, agree on the standard, we could stop worrying about what we are due, and focus on what we are doing.
Take a moment and check out the video for his song "Weekend"
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Probably Justin Vernon, he is just so incredibly talented in the way he sees music, his vision is just beyond my comprehension, I would be backstage taking notes on how he does it all, and hope some of that intuition rubs off on me.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
It really depends, if it's a solo show, I just play play play that set over and over until I hate it. Once you are bored playing a set all the way through you know you are ready, then you can start to have fun with it. If I'm playing with other musicians, I generally try to have as many rehearsals as possible, but more importantly make them fun. Have a beer, keep it light, we are doing this because we love it after all, why make it homework. You can push yourself all day long, but there is a finite amount you can push the people around you before you become an asshole they never want to see again.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
It's not out yet but it's called "On The Borderline". The song is about a girl I dated for a few months over a summer, I loved her, so much so that I thought about giving up everything for her, my plans of traveling and tour, exploration, all of it. But the tragedy of the whole thing was that I couldn't, I loved her sure, but not enough, I was on the borderline. When you are at that place you can just taste the promise of something better, and when you step back from that line, you regret it, even if it was the right choice, even if you know it was the right choice. So a chorus came to me one day shortly after we parted ways, but the verses were a struggle. I spent 9 months, almost everyday thinking about it, what I wanted to say, how should I say it, how do I really feel, what am I willing to give? As you can imagine, this created a lot of tension with very little relief. But one day it was just time, I had grieved the moment, I had enough distance between then and now, and in about 2 hours I wrote both verses and a bridge to finish the song. I must have spent 40-50 hours total, siting down, banging my head against the wall, waiting for something, and in 2 hours it's just done. The lesson is that sometimes you need that time, sometimes you need the 40 hours, because the more you dig, the more you begin to understand, and finally an epiphany comes, and it saves you from yourself.
What's coming up in the future?
I have hunkered down and built a studio in Arlington, Virginia. I'm going to be recording new records, producing artists in the area, working with studios and independent record labels, hopefully getting it all enough off the ground to do this for a long time to come. In the Fall I'll be back on the road, another tour, another adventure.
Tell us where fans can access your music.