“It’s really mind blowing how many people were involved in the process of making a record back in like the 60’s or 70’s. Nowadays, you can find a guy that records music, does graphic design, shoots videos, and can market you on social media. All of that is pretty much what needs to be done in order release.” – @thewesternsons
Episode #277 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax
GETTING TO KNOW BLAKE RIGDON of THE WESTERN SONS
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
It’s a weird world. I’ll start with that. But I think what makes the music industry such a strange thing to talk about, is how in between the old world and the new world it is. When you look at the make up of a major label, there are so many roles. There’s the PR branch, the A&R team, the producers, the executives etc. It’s really mind blowing how many people were involved in the process of making a record back in like the 60’s or 70’s. Nowadays, you can find a guy that records music, does graphic design, shoots videos, and can market you on social media. All of that is pretty much what needs to be done in order release.
For us, the latter was the situation. Nick Benik, who I can’t speak highly enough of, is a one-man machine at Beatnick Sound. From the ground up, we created “Frontiers” with Nick – and I loved that we did everything DIY. Of course, we didn’t have the skill sets to do it just us four, and that’s where Nick came in and helped us process and produce our ideas so that the content didn’t suffer. Were totally not opposed to big labels and they definitely beat out the DIY model when it comes to capital and reach, but Beatnick Sound was such an amazing fit. I don’t think we could’ve made “Frontiers” anywhere else.
Social Media is power! I had this professor in college that would talk about the “Gatekeepers of Society”… sounds ominous right? It was her way of referring to the types of censorship that have historically been a part of media. In ancient times, it was those who could afford to learn how to read and write. After that, the person who owned the printing press chose what got printed and what didn’t. And you can even look at the highly selective networks of modern day cable and FCC censorship on radio as types of “Gatekeepers”. That’s where social media on the Internet comes in. I don’t think there has ever been such free and accessible media in the history of humans. So if I had to choose one thing that I really like about social media, it’s how unrestricted it is.
Singles vs an album…
When it comes to releasing music, which I’m not going to pretend to have some well rounded and developed opinion on (I don’t), I think it’s best to look at the content you’ve created. Like, if I had three songs recorded and wanted to release them, it might make way more sense to release three singles as opposed to putting it out as one EP. That way each single can get attention instead of just one EP release. We also live in such a multimedia world of videos, blogs, and photos that seem to be inseparable from music when it’s released. I think it’s important to take stock of how all those elements are going to look when you go to release music. It’s really hard to release a full length without doing videos and artwork for the content. Where as releasing a single, doesn’t hold the same expectations from people.
I got my start in music begrudgingly…
My mom used to check me out of kindergarten when I was 4 years old for piano lessons. Let me just say – it’s very easy for a waddling 4 year old to resent music theory and classical symphonies. Looking back it was an immense advantage, thanks Ma! Eventually, I picked up one of my dad’s guitars (he used to play guitar in an a rock band in the 80’s), and started figuring out the music I wanted to play. I would spend hours at our piano in the living room figuring out Ben Folds and Billy Joel songs, and then migrate to my bedroom to emulate Joe Walsh. That’s about the time when Garrett and I started playing music together. I’ve known Garrett, our lead singer/bassist, since 2nd grade – and I remember us both being completely sold on playing music together by 6th grade. Fast forward through many years of middle and high school bedroom playing and you get to the college years where The Western Sons roughly started. I met Tyler at a foggy, solo cup littered, college party at the University of South Florida. We became friends and really clicked with where we were in life and how much we both wanted to pursue music. We would write songs every night in his studio apartment and I would save my attempts at recording them under a folder titled, “Western Son”. Garrett moved to Tampa that year and suddenly it all made sense. My child hood friend, and my collegiate wing man were the perfect people to go on this journey with. Our drummer, Kyle, entered the picture through a friend of a friend. Despite being younger than us three, the boy wonder can groove. He’s been our little brother ever since we all decided to create this music.
I spent 2 weeks in Belmopan, a mountain town in Belize. After that I spent the next four months working at a summer camp in New Hampshire and road tripping all around – NYC, Boston, Montreal and all those rad little New England towns. At the end I returned to the University of South Florida to finish my degree. I guess Frontiers was a response to how shitty it can feel coming home and getting back into a normal routine. I was so riveted by all the new and different people I’d met, that to return home only made me feel like I’d been slighted by time.
The first line, “Tonight, is reason enough to go along with the whispers in my ear”, really says it all. I was just looking for even the smallest reason to pick up and go somewhere different again. And that’s where you run into to a lot of confusion with others. I feel like a lot of people think of travel as some final destination where you can pull over, take your Instagram photo, get a hotel, and mentally check your “Things I’ve Seen” list. It’s so not that. It’s the flat tires, drunk arguments, bad directions, spending a night with a girl you just met, waking up and wishing you had more than one night, euphoria, paranoia, making new friends, getting screwed over, running out of money, finding food, and being utterly exhausted with a smile on your face – because just short of a stick of morphine to the heart, there is the sensation of being somewhere that feels like a Frontier. Whether or not someone has already been there to instantly-gram-it.
That’s how I started writing “Frontiers”. Garrett and I finished the song really late one night at my apartment and I just remember being so stoked on the chorus. We’re both Hunter S. Thompson junkies, and love his way of embracing the grotesque parts of our country. That guy would intentionally travel to the most dismal landscapes of America and he never left anything out, good or bad. To Garrett and I, that man truly sought his own Frontiers so nodding at him in the song really felt genuine to us. Purchase Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/frontiers/id1023266830
The main intention of this band…
and the record we made, kind of fall in line with what I was saying about the song Frontiers; we wanted to be honest about the life we knew, and the life we wanted. There was a line from “On The Road” that I kept taped to my wall when we were writing the album. Kerouac wrote, “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” That’s where the name for The Western Sons really emerged, a halfway point. It’s a name that represents how weird it is to feel like you’re in between some past life and your future.
Beyond that, The Western Sons was never artistically decided on. At least, we didn’t start the band knowing what type of music we wanted to make. I guess that’s really due to our approach. Garrett, Tyler, and I always saw this band as a way to finally write the songs we wanted to write. The production of our album Frontiers was then left up to who can play what instruments, and what sounds do most justice to a song. Luckily, we’ve been able to work together and compromise on things like a well-oiled machine – and no one was expecting that.
The Western Sons really lives out of Orlando…
Interestingly, Florida has seen some funny music phases. We grew up going to Warped Tour as kids and that pop-punk/ hardcore scene kind of dominated the music that was coming out of Florida for a while. Today, that’s way different. We’ve found such a cool and welcoming scene in downtown O-town, that you kind of scratch your head and wonder where it was when you were growing up. From psychedelic rock bands like Swimm, to total grunge rock, we’ve found some great venues to play at with awesome bands. That being said, the reason we stayed in Florida is largely because we started the band in college here and recorded the album at Beatnick Sound in Satellite Beach. The pieces kind of fell into place with the people we know here and that’s why we decided to stay and make our debut record “Frontiers”.
Being a child from flatlandia i.e. the swamp that is Florida, I love being in the mountains and hiking. There’s just something hypnotic that happens about 30 minutes into a hike where you’re simply walking and you don’t even notice it anymore. Albeit, those first 30 minutes include thoughts of how the hell did I age so much since the last time, and damn were doing this for 3 miles?! But… I swear something happens when you get in that flow state, and I love feeling like I’m on a mission to get to the top. Hiking is also one of those pass times that’s really abstract in how it rewards you. Once you pass the tree line and get to the top of a bald and rocky mountain – there’s literally nothing. Just a damn good view. Might not be a good hobby for those who are adept at cost-benefit-analysis.
I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
I would love to have 5 minutes alone with Duncan Trussel. Might be an obscure name to some, but he’s a stand up comedian that has a podcast I listen to. Hilarious guy, and he’s a total hippy, but I love how he can get on a microphone and rant for 10 minutes about literally anything. Actually, I would be fine if our whole 5 minutes was a Duncan rant. It’s crazy he’ll start talking about grocery shopping on mushrooms and then end up on some insightful discussion of Indian Religion. I don’t know, I like people that can keep a conversation going – But above all, I admire how interested he is in people, and how genuinely curious he seems. Being present and aware of the people that cross our paths every day is something that I’m always trying to be focused on more.
The emphasis on being current and trendy…
This is definitely a subject to tread lightly in, because a lot of artists do have a strong attachment to the genre or movement that their music fits into.. and I think that’s great! I guess the trouble with asking me this question, is that we really haven’t found where we fit in completely. We all listen to tons of music, old Motown records, EDM sets on soundcloud, and Tyler has the classic rock lexicon of a 60-year-old man. Probably better actually. As far as being “current” or “trendy”, I think the Internet has spurred some type of golden age. For example, if you’re into making music that sounds like it was recorded on tape in the 70’s, there’s and online scene for that. If you want to make electronic dance music, there’s definitely an online scene for that. So, if you want to be new or trendy, you have an audience. If you don’t, you still have an audience. There wasn’t much pressure at all on us to make the “newest” thing. The word “balanced” is probably the best way to describe how we approached being current and holding on to all the classic inspirations we loved. We love good production and catchy hooks that you find in modern pop music, but we also love old school gritty guitars that punch through an analog compressor – for us its all about combining new and old sounds to do justice to the song.
I am most afraid of…
I think I’m most afraid of sharks. Or at least that’s a fear that seems reasonable when we go surfing in satellite or cocoa beach all the time. Supposedly we’re the shark bite capital of the world, but I think that’s just bar talk rubbish that I heard at the pier. Plus, it’s not like some South African Great White is perusing around those warm waters… Right?
My personal definition of success is..
Man, I really wish I had some mind-bending philosophy on what success is. I know when I’ve been successful, and I know when I’ve failed. Perhaps my definition for success is just that: personal. Because it is kind of a shifting goal post. What you want today might not be what you want 10 years from now. What you want today might lead you to whole new host of goals worth striving for. It really is an endless quest.
But… there are those things in life that really strike conviction in you. For me it was music, and it’s been that way for a longggggg time. So, maybe success is simply getting to work on the things that you feel a deep conviction for. That sounds wholesome, I’ll go with that!
My over all goal for my life & career is…
Hmmm. Maybe this is a little arrogant, and please send me your hate mail if so, but I’m not so sure about my ability to plan for Blake in 10 years time. It kind of feels like writing the last chapter first. However, I’m a huge advocate of setting 6 month goals or 1 year goals. Those are the time frames that feel real to me. I know that 2 seasons come in 6 months, and I also know what a year feels like – So those types of goals are really rewarding and help me move forward most.
To better answer the question though, an ideal career path would lead me in some way towards making a good living by creating music. And with that, I would love to see The Western Sons grow into something that has a strong community – I want nothing more than to have a strong connection with the people that enjoy our music. Till then I’m going to keep hashing it out a half year at a time!
3 Ways that I challenge myself…
1) Have a good time. The goal: I’ve learned the hard way that stressing out over minutia is a great way to exhaust yourself. And when your sick and tired of something, sticking with it and reaching a goal is impossible. I swear it actually is challenging to try and a have a good time when you’re fuse is getting short, but who wants to be the guy that ruins the party.
2) Listen more than you talk. The goal: I already know everything that I could say to someone. I have no idea what I could miss out on by not letting someone else speak. Also being a part of the music world, you start to realize how disorganized and uncharted this path can be. So I try my best to eek all the experience and stories out of musicians I meet that have accomplished things I aspire to.
3) Eat less, Move more. The goal: I don’t want to get fat.