Little Orange Room Sessions is a one-take, one-shot, “living-room”-style performance video series recorded in Eugene, Oregon. Each two-song session is recorded in the 125 square feet that I use for mixing, producing, and sometimes even recording entire albums. Little Orange Room Sessions grew out of my crazy love of music and mixing, a growing curiosity about film and cameras, and a deep-seated passion for performance and the art of song.
Session #15: Stackhouse and the Garden
Stackhouse and the Garden is a string and harmony laden West Coast folk pop outfit composed of Collin Stackhouse (vocals, fiddle, banjo), Emily Anderson (vocals, ukulele), Julay Brooks (vocals, guitar), and Erin Esses (cello). Their debut album Hottest Summer Yet was slated for an April 24th release but has since been pushed back to June 1st due to the current pandemic. The lead single “Lockstep” was released a few days ago on April 15th. Collin Stackhouse recently took the time to answer some question via email.
*In light of the recent Coronavirus pandemic I decided it would be appropriate to include Venmo and Paypal information (with consent of the artist) for any fans/viewers who would like to leave a tip. Our hard working songwriters and musicians are taking quite a hit right now and any little bit helps. Thank you.
LORS: It’s interesting to me that everyone in the band is so spread out – Portland, Alaska, LA, Bellingham. Are there a constant stream of demos and ideas going back and forth from one another? Do you find writing/working together at a distance can be as much of an advantage as it can be a hindrance?
CS: Hi Tyler! Thanks for the questions. As far as the constant stream of demos and ideas, there is certainly going to be more of that in the coming months, with increased social distancing measures. We have started working with each other with our co-writing hats on, but for our work this previous year it has mostly been me sending out dozens of short audio recordings to the band members on about a monthly basis. There are obvious disadvantages to having a band spread out across the West Coast, but there are other advantages that are becoming more apparent. Probably, my perspective has had to shift to accommodate the reality of setting up this kind of band. One advantage is the fact that our getting together is… special. Anytime that musicians get together it feels wonderful, which is especially pertinent in these months when we can’t. When Stackhouse & The Garden gets together from our combined distance of 1220 miles, we have to make something special happen. It makes me want to craft performances that are uncommon. It also kind of accelerates the pace of work that we do, and makes us have to rise to certain occasions. For example, the weekend that we came to the Little Orange Room Sessions we also filmed two music videos, had a photo shoot, started setting up our Kickstarter campaign, and did a performance. It’s a lot of self-created pressure, but I find it generally fun.
LORS: Your debut album is coming out April 24th. Or that was the plan anyway. Is that still the plan? I know a lot of schedules are being pushed back and adjusted around the COVID-19 pandemic.
CS: Gosh, I like that you are asking these questions. Frankly, it’s helping to decide some things. The self-quarantine and total upheaval in the world has put me into a bit of a despondent, aimless funk, tinged with fear. I think these feelings are permeating through most people I know right now. So, to answer your question, we are going to delay the release of the album by about a month. On April 15th we will release our first single, Lockstep, on all platforms. April 24th will be the launch of our album Kickstarter campaign… barring any more humanitarian disasters. There is no manual for musician etiquette during a pandemic, and it feels close to impossible to guess what will come next. I was planning on this Kickstarter for months, so will continue down that path. Our main goal is to spread the word about our art; to share with folks that there can be beauty and humor and sarcasm and joy in such terrifying times. If not now, then when? Why not have lofty goals? Another very tangible and less lofty goal is to recoup the cost of the album’s production.
LORS: You describe the making of the new album as a “whirlwind September week.” Can you talk a little bit about the process – how it all came together, where it was tracked, inspiration behind the new album, etc.
CS: It was totally wild. I keep using the adage with the band that we are shooting for the moon, and landing among the stars. It is cliched, and accurate. I’ve known all the members on the album for several years, but they met each other on the Monday of that week. Emily Anderson is a pop singer in Los Angeles, who grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska with me; Erin Esses is a cellist who teaches and plays with the fiddle community in CA and Bellingham, WA; Julay Brooks is a singer and guitarist here in Portland with prodigious knowledge of tons of instruments; and Joe Pomianek and Steven Skolnik are members of Varelse, the Nordic/American instrumental band I’m also in, led by Portland’s Amy Hakanson. Those are the wonderful folks that were brought together for the project, and for the most part none of them had met before that Monday in September.
My previous solo alum, Again Again, was released in 2018, and I found the process to be really drawn out. I wanted this next project to be more collaborative, and I decided to heed Emily’s advice for her own solo project, which is to work with the people that you trust and respect. There was a lot of trust in the whole process; I asked all 5 of the other musicians on the album to basically give me a whole week of their time, to thoughtfully prepare my convoluted arrangements before we met, and to listen to me speak at them non-stop a whole week straight. It was terrifying, but, to have these musicians that I respected lean into the project and the songs bolstered my confidence in what I was doing.
The inspiration for that approach has come from other bands that I have know have done similar things. If it is possible to write a whole album in a week, it should certainly be possible to arrange and record one. The songs are all snapshots of moments in my life from the past 3 years; falling in love, fear and anger about death, being single at a wedding, worrying about climate change, living in the past, acknowledging how our current economic system is failing the most vulnerable… through the lens of a live folk-pop album.
We cloistered ourselves in a house in McMinnville OR for the week, and practiced for about 12 hours a day. We filmed a music video on Wednesday, performed a show on Thursday, and recorded all 10 songs on the album live at Killingsworth House that weekend in Portland, OR, with Daniel Leussler.
LORS: Guy Clark sings, “Some days you write the song / some days the song writes you.” Which line best describes you?
CS: Yes. Both. Most of the time it seems that when I try too hard, nothing comes. Often the best inspiration is when I’m riding my bike.
LORS: Any music you’re listening to (old or new) that I should put in my ear holes? Or any good books you’re currently reading or just finished?
CS: I’m listening to the Austin-based band The Deer’s “On The Essence Of The Indomitable Spirit” as I type this, and am really excited about the Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards’ album, “Bitter Better”. I just finished Adam Rutherford’s “A Brief History Of Everyone Who Ever Lived”, which is awesome, and broadly about genetics, migration, and sex. I just ordered Nick Jaina’s first novel, “Hitomi”. If it’s anything like his other books or his music, it’s going to be great.