Maintaining the Focus | White Pines Interview

Maintaining the Focus – Joseph Scott of White Pines

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

The beauty of music is its ability to approach you like a long lost, old friend or hit you with such a dizzying state of déjà vu, one must give a second look and listen at the sound of possibility and promise spilling into their ears.

Amid the embracing, joyous, and sometimes melancholic tones, White Pines seamlessly rises from the depths and mesmerizes the listener with a blend of Midwestern folk, psychedelic rock, and ambient acoustic melodies.

Drifting across our emotional spectrum with an array of cosmic journeys (“Churchyard”), sonic blasts (“Hinterlands”), restless thoughts (“Half Beast”), and youthful nostalgia (“Warriors”), the Akron, Ohio project paints an honest portrait of humanity, one containing brushstrokes of disappointment, beauty, desire, and the pursuit of happiness.

The latest album, The Falls, showcases the continuing curiosity of singer/songwriter Joseph Scott, which in turn provokes a childlike wonder in any who get caught in his cozy and intricate musical web.

Garret K. Woodward: What was the approach towards this record, compared to your last release?

Joseph Scott: This record was very different for me. In past recordings, I’d try and make the songs sound more or less as if they were being played live. With this one, I just tried to make as many sounds as I could, without any ambition beyond the recording itself. I used way more tracks, more instruments, more effects, etcetera. I wanted to do something that scared me a little, do things that I wasn’t sure would work. I think I grew a lot in the last year, personally, and the music kind of reflects that growth.

GKW: Who else worked on the project with you? Where was it recorded?

JS: The two people who played, besides me, were Stephen Clements (drums, piano), and Joseph Minadeo (piano, synthesizer). We recorded their parts at Joseph’s house, down the street from mine. Other than that, all the other instruments and voices were done by me, recording in the spare bedroom of my apartment.

GKW: What is your process when recording? Melody first, then lyrics?

JS: I like to write as I record. I write lyrics all the time and keep them in a notebook. Then, when I have a song worked out structurally, I dig through the notebook and see what lyrics work. Sometimes, though, I’ll just write lyrics as I’m playing guitar, singing whatever comes into my head. As far as the actual recording is concerned, I try to keep things influx as long as possible, before calling something “done”. I’m constantly deleting and reworking parts, to make sure I’m always responding to what the song needs. It’s my way of making sure everything stays spontaneous.

GKW: The Falls feels like it has a fuller, more direct sound than with previous releases. How are you evolving as an artist? Are you starting to come full-circle with your art and pursuit of your true calling as a musician?

JS: I don’t know if I’d say that specifically, but I definitely feel like I’ve turned a corner in the last year. Songs are coming more quickly and I’m starting to understand how I want to present them. I’ve always wanted my music to be more than “folk”, so I’m trying to expand my vocabulary a bit, in terms of the sounds I’m able to make.

GKW: How has your stage presence or confidence changed onstage since the last release?

JS: Playing live has become a lot easier. I have a band now, with Stephen and Gabe Schray, and we’re really making these songs into something that, I feel, is more interesting than what I’ve done before, lots of echoes, lots of volume, but still soulful. I’m more excited when we play live now, because we’re doing something I’ve never done before.

GKW: How’s the reception been from others?

JS: Everyone seems to really like it, which is a relief. It’s so different than other things I’ve done. I was nervous that people might think it was confusing. Luckily, though, people seem to be getting onboard with it.

GKW: What are your hopes for 2011?

JS: I want us to tour as much as possible. I’m also recording a lot, so hopefully I’ll have the next record done by this spring. I’m writing songs very quickly right now, so I think our release schedule should be pretty prolific over the next year.

GKW: What’s your state of mind right now?

JS: I feel focused in a way that I haven’t felt before. I’m trying to maintain that focus for as long as I can.

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