‘smallsongs’ is a YouTube series brought to you by Americana Highways with small & stripped down performances on the streets of different cities, featuring musical acts at their rawest.
In 2020 I got a sneak preview of some songs off the upcoming Fishboy album “Waitsgiving.” We took a tour around the historic square in Denton, TX and we filmed sessions for “Snocone Creator,” “BBQ Artist,” and “Driver Choreographer”:
Americana Highways: When did you first start playing music & why?
Fishboy: I started playing music in middle school, writing melodies on xylophones in the back of the beginner band orchestra. At home I tapped things out on a baby grand piano my family had just been given. The same piano sits in my living room now. It’s prominently featured on Waitsgiving (our 7th and latest album.) It’s ten cents flat but in tune with itself so all of the songs follow its lead. Every time I play it I’m filled with nostalgia for the eagerness and desperation I had to write songs and get ideas out. My ideas have always been ahead of my musical abilities, especially with piano, but stumbling through these new songs in quarantine was a special kind of flashback.
Americana Highways: Who are your artistic & musical influences?
Fishboy: I’ve always had a heavy British Invasion influence, especially the Kinks. I love the way Ray Davies can boil down a story into a few lines of melody. For the past dozen years I’ve been writing narrative driven music with a lot of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lyrical story details. This was inspired by my favorite movies that require repeat viewing to take it all in. I’m a film school graduate who’s too introverted to pull a crew together so I write my ideas as melodies.
Americana Highways: What’s the story behind the new album?
Fishboy: Waitsgiving is a collection of ten songs about ten different characters in a small town similar to Denton, TX. We find out in the first song that a citywide holiday was created in the late 90’s celebrating a time capsule the townsfolk all decided to never open. As the album progresses, we see into the lives of artists and musicians old and young and the cause and effect of the holiday. Each song/character is thematically dealing with patience (or the lack there of) The songs are designed to seem like straight forward catchy folk pop songsat first and then reveal their detailed connections upon closer listens.
Americana Highways: What does your songwriting & creative process typically look like?
Fishboy: In 2018 I had a one year old and full time job an hour away which left me very little creative time. Frustrated and determined, I started writing these songs in the car while driving back and forth to Dallas (40 miles each way) by singing into my phone. I downloaded a simple 4 track app and would stitch together songs little by little, picking up where I left off the previous day. If a melody wouldn’t come or I was too burnt out from the day, I commited to thinking about every detail of the album I wanted to make. I drafted storylines, character charts, set lyrical goals, but more importantly told myself that this “album about patience” will take as long as it needs to take to get finished. Sometimes I would only write one line a day. Sometimes I would decide that my scratch guitar part (recorded at low volume in the kitchen the night before) needed adjusting and that I’d have to pause everything for the day. After a year and a half of writing, I attempted to regroup my band only to find that some of them had moved on. After six more months of false starts with new members the world was put on permanent hold with the 2020 Coronavirus. Panic set in. Not only had my narrative driven album about a holiday that causes a city to shut down been completely spoiled by reality, I genuinely felt like I may soon become too ill or die before it was documented. I spent my quarantined and furloughed days recording at home, trying to get anything down to tape (anything that my now 3 year old would let me) I made a sound booth out of the guest mattress. I self tuned my baby grand piano. I impatiently finished my “patience album” and brought it to the studio where the mixing engineer (Matt Pence) added drums and mixed in home recorded bass (Brooks Martin) and horns (Samuel Escalante.) The end result is my best album to date. Maybe a bit spoiled by reality but none-the-less worth the wait.