The International Treasures

Interview: The International Treasures: The Big Warm Hug


The International Treasures photo by Tom Smouse

International Treasures

The International Treasures are Doyle Turner and Ted Hajnasiewicz, and they’ve teamed up for their recent release: Together, We Are the International Treasures. The album has bright folk songs with warm strings, cello and fiddle accenting every step of the way and is a real optimistic collection.  It’s well worth the listen and The International Treasures are exceptionally talented.  We had the opportunity to sit down with Doyle and Ted for a chat about the project and more, and found that they’re warm and funny together too.

Americana Highways: Can you tell us about your new album Together, We Are The International Treasures? What do you want people to take away from it?

Doyle: I think that Ted says it best when he says that this album felt like a big warm hug from the beginning to the end. We had so many moments of magic and just pure joy while creating this album. From the first day tracking, there was this inspired and joyful discovery that all of these people were on the same page and rowing in the same direction, musically. When we listened to the initial rough mixes from the sessions, Ted and I both wanted to make certain that we didn’t do anything in the mixing and mastering process that altered this warmth and familiarity that came from those recording sessions.

Ted: For me, I’d love folks to FEEL, to some degree, what we felt making this lovely piece of music. The entire experience has felt like a big warm hug to me. Knowing that warmth and love translates to the ears and hearts of listeners, makes me very happy.

AH: What does your album title, Together, We Are The International Treasures mean to you?

Doyle: Both Ted and I have individual things going musically, and originally, we were given the name “The International Treasures” by our dear friend Matthew French. Ted came up with the idea of calling the album “Together, We Are The International Treasures” because we have our individual musical pursuits, and when we create together, this is what we are – we’re the Treasures. As we recorded, mixed, and mastered, we mentioned that Troy Foss, the sound engineer and owner of Supple Studios was SO integral to this process that he was “The Third Treasure.” As we got to know all of these wonderful musicians who recorded with us (Joe Meyer, Mikkell Johnson, Dean Severson, Ricky Parker, Nikki Lemire, Brent Fuqua, and Steve Peffer), we realized that The International Treasures was bigger than the three of us. Together, all of us, are the International Treasures. Matthew French’s song, “Leave A Little Love” appears on this album, and when we sing this song at a show the crowd will sing along with us. At that point everyone there is participating in the making of the magic, and are all International Treasures as well.

Ted: It’s a bit of a bold statement, to be sure, if read only on the surface. As if we think highly of ourselves. But if you dig deeper, it’s not just about Doyle and me. It’s all of us. TOGETHER, we are treasures. I’m not sure I realized that, when the band name came about – though the name wasn’t OUR idea to begin with.

But the fact that we’re part of something so amazingly sweet, powerful and lovely – that’s tremendous. WE GET TO DO THIS. What a gift. What a blessing!

AH: How did you two come together and why did you decide to make an album together? 

Doyle: Ted and I met through an online songwriting group during the pandemic. When we did a co-write together, we felt this ease and comfort in working with one another. We continued to write and began to perform together. We found even bigger feelings of synchronicity and “rightness” as we played together. Finally, Ted suggested that we record an album. We began doing demos, but what changed the whole project was a tour through Century Oaks Studios in St. Joseph, MN. Joe and Susan Meyers own the property and use it as a hub for music and musicians. When we walked into that studio, there were bluegrass musicians jamming, and the sound was so warm, so rich, and so sublime. That moment inspired Ted, and he dreamed up the idea of recording an album in that space with bluegrass musicians. We were fortunate enough to have some of those very same musicians we heard jamming that night on the record, and that warm vibe translated to this album so beautifully.

AH: What do each of you bring to the studio?

Doyle: Ted has a genius, perhaps several geniuses. He has this production sense and savvy that is the basis of all that the Treasures have done together. He can hear production ideas so quickly and so accurately. It was Ted’s call to bring Nikki Lemire, a concert harpist, on to the project. That idea led to so much magic for this album. Also, when Ted writes, he has this sense of what makes a great song, and it guides our writing. Finally, Ted has this huge and vibrant sense of play that leads to the very best ideas and draws the very best performances from everyone around him. He is fun to be around, in and out of the recording studio. I tend towards lyrics in the collaborative process. Ted brings the groove. For the record, Ted has this down-range vision that leads to a solid project plan that we can follow from demo-ing songs to the album release day.

AH: How is this album different from your solo albums? Do you feel you took some new chances in the studio together as a duo and if so what were those?

Doyle: This album was the nirvana of collaboration. We had so many talented people involved in the creation of this album! Each musician is just the finest of humans, who just happens to be super skilled and generous.

As far as new chances, Ted came up with the idea of recording this album live off of the floor. I remember him telling me that it could fail, and that we were going to keep our best takes, even if those takes had a few warts. From the first moment recording, we felt this synergy and loveliness that gave us these beautiful and warm takes. I think there’s a palpable sense that Ted and I trust each other and are willing to step off of the musical cliffs together, knowing we have one another’s backs.

Ted: The difference, I think, is that we’re each bringing our “thing” to this. It’s truly a collaboration between the two of us. And while we are brothers, we each have very unique styles and tastes. I think that’s a beautiful thing, to blend them and see what comes out. It certainly excites me.

The entire process of recording this album, doing it mostly live off the floor in the studio, was something neither of us had done in years. It was a bit scary – but BOY did it work!

AH: You have an amazing vocal connection. I hear fantastic harmonies between the two of you. How do you decide who takes the lead and how the harmonies play out on songs? 

Doyle: I rely heavily on Ted’s ideas for how the songs are arranged. The harmonies we both feel out so that we are supporting and yet allowing space. The harmonies evolved as we played the songs more. There’s this implicit trust that the other person is going to do what’s best to support the other person and serve the song.

Ted: If I had my way, Doyle would sing it all. And I’d just sit in the audience. But then no – I’d miss the sweet part of getting to sing with him.

I like what Doyle says about “implicit trust.” I think that is perfect, a perfect description. I feel like we just “fall in” naturally, most of the time. There is very little struggle or feeling forced with him. It just WORKS.

AH: Who does most of the songwriting?

Doyle: The songwriting on this album is a mish mash of songs that we’ve co-written, like “Nice To Know Ya” and songs that Ted has written (“Nothing Changes”) and songs that I have written (“Gimme Some More”).

AH: Tell us about your 40 second album opener and fun loving snippet of Johnny Cash’s song: “Egg Suckin’ Dog”? There has to be a story here?

Doyle: OH there IS a story! I grew up in the hinterlands of north-central Minnesota, and would come out to the breakfast table every morning to hear the pork futures, harvest report, tractor advertisements, and 1970s country music of KFGO radio.

My parents were HUGE Johnny Cash and June Carter fans (the Turner archives even contain signed memorabilia!). Also, my dad played and sang a lot as I grew up, and would sing Johnny Cash songs to us. Some of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar were Johnny Cash songs, so “Dirty Old Egg Suckin’ Dog” is a song that I’ve used when doing my sound checks for years. When we got to Century Oak studios to record, I started doing my sound check thing, and the rest of the band just kind of fell in and created this moment of “Oooh, this is going to work, and we all are playing so beautifully together!” That moment is one that Troy Foss captured, and it became the first song on the album, because it captured that feeling of what that moment of discovery and joy was like.

Ted: I’ve always loved this, when Doyle would soundcheck with this song. I’d step in with a harmony, just cuz it was fun. We never did it in a show though, not sure why?

When we started working out songs for Together, I wanted this to be a sort of intro. Make it like Doyle’s soundcheck. My silly vision was Doyle and me around one mic, and maybe add that old timey radio effect to it.

Then we were going through takes. This take, was actually listed ast “take 0” for another song – and we heard this, and we were both like “THAT’S OUR TAKE”! It was just so NATURAL. A great tone-setter for this album.

AH: I see Ted was named the Midwest Country Music Organization’s 2022 Maverick Award Winner…what mad skills did Ted have to win that?

Ted: Hahaha – no skill necessary! The Midwest CMO designed this “Maverick Award” for folks to tend to “pave their own way.” Kinda cool.

We all tend to do what we see others do, because we see it worked for them. And while that makes sense in some areas (“Judy took a left, to avoid driving off the cliff, I think I’ll do the same”), I don’t think it does when deciding YOUR creative path. Sure, we have influences. I want to be like Willie Nelson or Jeff Tweedy or Tom Petty. I don’t want to BE them. I’d be a pretty weak copy of them. So it’s best in my opinion to take traits of your heroes, and copy them “naturally,” like a child might copy their parents as they grow, but more let them just infuse into YOU. It’s more comfortable, vs me feeling I gotta stand like Petty stood on stage, or “how would Willie sing this line.”

I “think” that’s why they voted for me. They see a bit of an odd-ball in me maybe? But they see something different than the same old too? I dunno. Maybe I look like Tom Cruise (haha).

AH: Doyle was selected as finalist in the 2023 Red Lodge Songwriting Competition…congrats! Doyle, can you tell the readers what you think is the key to writing an excellent song and is there a song you wish you wrote?

Doyle: Thank you! Red Lodge was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot by going there last June. I heard some stellar singer/songwriters like Gold Pine and Jess Jocoy. I think an excellent song connects with the listener and gives the listener an outlet for whatever they feel. A good song can sear a heart. A good song can crack open your chest and help you to feel not so alone. Is there anything more important in the world than to be made to believe that we are not alone? There are SO MANY excellent songs that I wish I’d written. One that’s been living in my head a lot lately is Travis Meadows’ “Better Boat.” It just feels as though this narrator is laying it all bare. This song feels as though you are getting the bald-faced, deep down truth. There’s this economy of words that is so skillful. There is the use of everyday language that is accessible to everyone who hears them, but yet it gets at such a deep vulnerability, such a deep sense of the struggle that we all face as we try to do this human thing. Obviously, this is a song about wrestling with addiction, but it is so accessible and true for everyone. “Sometimes it’s hard to change a man” is a line that feels so true for each of us as we try to be the best version of ourselves.

AH: Should people listen to your album from start to finish, or is there one particular song that you recommend they start with as an earworm?

Doyle: Ted has been teaching me about the value of listening to albums from start to finish, and he spent a ton of time and thought working on the sequencing on this album. He takes the concept of albums as telling stories to heart, and this album is one that has a designed flow, THOUGH I would suggest taking a sneak peek at “Nice To Know Ya” if you are a too-anxious-to-wait-until-Christmas-morning-to-open-your-gifts kind of person!

Ted: This is of course my opinion. But definitely, almost ALWAYS, start to finish. I’m a HUGE album fan. So I like to start and finish. And we try to make our albums lead you through the journey. If you are a single song person, that’s totally cool too. I’d probably go with the singles then – “Wild,” “Nice to Know Ya,” “Leave a Little Love.”

No scratch that – carve out 38 minutes, put some headphones on, go lie down in the corner of a room, stare at the ceiling, and listen from start to finish. Then do it again. That’s the best way.

AH: What is next for The International Treasures?

Doyle: Besides world domination? Ha ha! We are planning for our next individual projects. I have a solo album that is in the dreaming stages and Ted has 18 or so projects both solo and with his band Hebba Jebba. Here’s something that is exclusive to the Americana Highways readership, but we’re starting to talk about a single where we ask for production help from one of our favorite musicians and songwriters, but we have to ask them before we reveal who it is!

Ted: We have some super fun shows coming up in November! A sweet theater in Northern MN, one of the sweetest listening rooms in the country. We’re really looking forward to them.

Then we’ll take a bit of a break around the holidays/end of the year.

THEN – we’ll just continue to do what we do. Doyle is working up songs for a new Doyle album. I’m super excited to hear how that comes out, and hope to get little glimpses of it along the way. While Doyle and I are dear friends, I’m also a big old fan-kid of him. So the thought of more Doyle music, makes my heart happy.

I’ve got songs for a new Ted album, as well as for my rock and roll unit HebbaJebba. One of them will probably see the light in 2024.

We are writing, together and apart. We’ll continue to do that, and delight in the process, and see what shakes out for another Treasure album down the road. Or a single. Or maybe we reveal to the world that WE are actually the Artificial Intelligence, and we’ve been writing all your term papers for the last year? Who knows?

Thanks for chatting with us, Ted and Doyle of The International Treasures.

Find their music on Bandcamp here:

Enjoy some of our previous coverage here: Video Premiere: Doyle Turner Best If I Forget

Check out our review of the album here: REVIEW: The International Treasures “Together, We Are”

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