Indie-rock band Straw Dogs has recently released their sixth record, 'Immaculate Machine'. The album features 14 new jams that show off the bands ability to create infectious melodies and harmonies, lush instrumentation, and lyrical stories that will keep you coming back. Their talent has landed their music in national advertisements for Toyota and Eddie Bauer, in indie films, and in the major motion picture "Feast of Love" starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear.
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 was always into music. My mom was a semi-professional piano player and so there was a lot of singing in our house. When I got to those years as kid and teenager where I would just lie on my bed with headphones on, I felt so much freedom and magic and escape -- just lying there! -- thanks to music. So when I got a guitar and took some lessons, and got sick of playing covers, I just naturally started to write my own stuff. Then that became what I really wanted to do musically.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
We were on tour, heading back across the U.S., and we had gig in Laramie, at that place where, only six months after we were there, poor Matthew Shepard was basically kidnapped and lured to his death. We get to the venue, and the place is closed up and no one can be reached. We had just driven all night across Nebraska, so we were pretty much toast. Well, a friend in town knew the owner of the Buckhorn Tavern, this wild-west kind of place with the old style bar back, complete with a bullet hole in the mirror behind the bartender. So he gets us a gig for that night, and right as we're about to go on, the bartender says, "By the way, as long as you're playing, you get half of every dollar spent in here. On breaks, you get zero income." We had just put out our first record! We didn't have four hours of music! So every guitar solo went an extra 10 minutes, and I think we played everything we knew at least three times. Finally, our lead guitarists hands were just raw and bleeding, so we had to call it. When we were packing out, a fight broke out in the street, the cops showed up -- and then so did the owner of that other place that screwed us out of the gig -- and she handed me a couple hundred bucks! Not bad. Of course, then we had to pack into the van and drive to Montana all night. . .
What has been the high point of your music path?
Playing on a good bill is always fun. Appreciative crowds are hard to beat. But for me, when I'm somewhere and hear someone singing one of my songs, that probably beats all for me. It means a little bit of something I've done has made its way into another human being's head and heart.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Songwriting for me is almost always on my old, beat up Ovation that literally fell out of a truck on the freeway. It has a big crack in the soundboard that actually makes it sound really good. Anyway, I'll be on the bed on a Saturday morning, hanging out while my wife reads. And she's such a focused person (or maybe just so used to me she can tune me out!) that I can write a whole verse, pre-chorus, and chorus without her even noticing. Then I'll ask her to listen and she comes at it with completely fresh ears -- and then she immediately lets me know if its worth finishing. :)
Please take a moment to watch the captivating music video for their song “Fire Outside”
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?
It's unfortunately but not surprisingly about the money. I've got several professional musicians -- touring pros -- who play on my records and also live. And they will be the first to tell you that for them, even touring Italy and Brazil and wherever, it's still pretty much blue-collar work. It's hard and the pay is not fantastic and there are no benefits. So the hardest thing, I think, is just to keep doing it. To keep finding the fire and inspiration and time and audience. And that last one, an audience, which typically requires promotion, might be the toughest of all because when you've written and rehearsed and recorded and mixed and mastered your new record, it's tough to get that second wind and take on the promotion. But it is necessary. It's absolutely critical.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I think it would be Dave Matthews. I met him once at my daughter's school concert my daughter, and he was just such a nice guy! I bought him a beer and we just talked about music. And my wife is a huge fan of his, so if I shared the stage with him then I'm sure she would come. . .
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
We always joke that if the last rehearsal before a show is really good, then the show won't be. And the opposite is also true, so I secretly always hope that we aren't quite on it during our last rehearsal. My guess is that if your last rehearsal is crappy, it makes you more focused on doing well. But who knows? Rehearsal for me is really getting my head into performance mode. I try to always do it in low light, just like it's likely to be in a venue. That helps me get my process in shape.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Every song presents some challenge. Is the lyric accessible but not to the point of being cheesy? Has this melody made its way into my head because it's from another song? Writing a song is going somewhere you've never been. And I think it was Pete Townshend who said that crafting something original and good and complete in the three-and-a-half minutes you get for a rock song is never easy. But none of the really good stuff in life is easy, right?
What's coming up in the future?
The new record just came out, so we'll do some shows and whatever else comes along to spread the good word about that. And I already accidentally wrote a new song, and I've been talking with one of my longtime collaborators Darren Smith about doing an acoustic record. We used to tour just as a duo and I absolutely loved it. So intimate, and you don't have to lug around any drums or a bass cab! (No offense to drummers and bassists, of course. Nothing beats a good rhythm section!) So I think the next record might be an acoustic EP or maybe even a full-length.
Tell us where fans can access your music?