dialogue with treehouse artists

Interviewed by Esther Kim

What was the inspiration behind your most recent release?

My most recent release was “Loud Mouth”. It was one of the older songs I wrote for this album. It was the first song I wrote when I began to put together this album and it’s really just about speaking without thinking things through and the repercussions of that.

I like to think that I’m fairly thoughtful when responding to people - especially when it’s touchy but you know, there are certainly times when I speak my mind, am forward with things and sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

That’s really all “Loud Mouth” is about - just being a fucking loud mouth.

The way you released these songs- what was your thought process behind it?

So far, with these new singles I’ve been releasing, I took the album and played it for some friends and was trying to see who liked what songs. Friends who I trusted with their aesthetic taste in things. I also spoke to some PR agencies about what songs they liked. I started releasing them. I released “Daisies” in October and then November, I released “Loud Mouth”. I skipped December because everyone is gone for the holidays. So, my next release on January 24th.

“Daisies” seemed to have come together in a very accessible form. Almost like an introductory song because some of my stuff can get kind of quirky and weird. So, I felt like it was a good song to introduce people to my music.

Which was okay in certain ways. It kind of backfired because when you reach out to bloggers and magazines, they’re always looking for something that’s very fresh, original and creative. So, they might rather want to talk about something that’s a little further out in left field than a song that’s acceptable to the masses.

I don’t know, I might have shot myself in the foot with that song.

Then, I released “Loud Mouth” which is definitely out there. And then “Pinocchio” is coming up in January. Then, I have another song called “Beverly Hills” which is coming out in March.

Now, having released these songs this way, what have you learned?

I’ve spent my whole life on the music side of things and working behind the scenes on records. I also engineered and worked for a composer for a long time who did orchestral arrangements for bigger projects. He did, you know,  Evanescence and Miley Cyrus and Paul McCartney, Beck and all these bigger artists. I spent years doing that with him and learning about how to create the music side of things and had never understood marketing- at all.

My first album, I released the album and the music video and the single all on Thanksgiving Day- which is… not smart. I found that out later. It was a learning experience.

I tend to jump head first into things and do things wrong the first time but the (fingers-crossed) learn what to do right the next time.

So, I’m trying to do a better job this time. 

What’s the biggest form of self-resistance you feel as an artist? What do you do to persist through that?


Obviously, there’s a lot of self-doubt that can come along with it. I also really don’t like looking at myself on camera which is something I have to get through because with promotion and all that’s content-based, I have to show my face. [laughs]

It’s been a trip getting through that. What I’ve been doing is making little clips of me playing things. So, I can’t watch those. I film it and I get what I think is a good take and then I just release it. In the past, I would watch it and never post it.

So, a kind of self-criticism?

Yeah. I never want to- it’s funny because I love playing shows and having my friends come out. But I never want people to come and see my music only because they are my friends. So, that thought tends to linger when I’m promoting a show- there’s this fear that the only people who are coming to my shows are only coming because they are my friends and not because they like the music.

So, those are definitely things that I have to overcome.

Are there are any steps you gone through to overcome this?

Well, there’s just not watching my own content. [laughs]

What about feedback from your own friends?

Sure but at the same time I don’t think friends are the most honest people to ask- just because we’re friends and they don’t want me to feel like shit. So, I think that one thing that has helped is hearing from people that I don’t know that well. It’s interesting, there are friends that I know who don’t bullshit me. They reach out and give me support and stuff like that helps so much for any artist.

It’s really special hearing from someone you don’t know. Having someone reach out and say, “Hey, I really like your music.”

How does that make you feel?

It makes me like, “Oh, good” because you work so hard on something and it feels so good to exchange with other people- to give something to someone else and have it be well-received. Being able to create a good effect on people is so valuable.

It’s funny because I send out my music to people and I know people are listening and I hope people enjoy it but you don’t always hear that. I’ve had people come up to me and they’ll tell me they really loved a song I released two years ago and that’s the first feedback I’ve gotten. Oh, wow cool. That actually created a good effect on someone. As an artist, you spend so much time in your own head, in your own creative space, pushing stuff out and then finally hearing it come back is really rewarding.

How do you prevent yourself from giving in to comparison? 

I don’t know that you can. I think that you have to give in to comparison. I think that’s how people view things. People view things in comparison to things that they know. I’ll have people say, “Your music reminds me of Phoenix or Andrew Bird” or any of these other artists and I don’t set out to copy any of these artists. I’m not trying to be a knock-off but I understand that people have to view things as related to something they know. So, I usually just take whatever it is as a compliment. Like, if someone said “You sound like Katy Perry.” I’d be like, “Sweet, thank you.”

Have you ever received any negative feedback to where it kind of got to you and how did you now get back to staying positive?

Yeah, I’ve definitely received a lot of negative feedback [laughs] which comes with the territory. I think the only thing that keeps my head screwed on straight is that I have this idea that with six billion people on the planet, if 99% hates my music and 1% percent likes it, I’ll be really successful.

I like that. Why do you make music? What’s the point?

What is the point? That is the question.

I don’t know. It’s the one thing that I’ve done my whole life. I tend to get really creative or really into something at a certain time and then maybe fall out of interest of certain things but music has always been there since I was very young.

Music is interesting in that you don’t need anything to do it. If I want to sing, I could just sing. I don’t need anything. I could be naked on a desert island and I could still have music. There aren’t many art forms that you can say that about. A painter needs paint, a filmmaker needs film- a lot of arts need a medium and I guess the only medium you need for music is really just air.

Is there a driving force for you?

Yeah. Thankfully recently that has changed but until recently, for the longest time, my biggest driving force with music was that I didn’t want to die without people hearing my idea. So, I would have an idea and what would kind of drive me to get into the studio and record it was that I wanted to have something that would outlast me.

I knew that if I record this song and die the next day, people could still hear my ideas.

I don’t know how healthy that is- the be driven by death. [laughs] 

Recently, it’s lightened up a bit and it’s been more of an interest in the creativity itself- interest in the arts and making things that people like, that people can enjoy.

I think as an artist, one of the roles of an artist to is to make life worth living - you know, you work your job so you can pay your rent so you can live- but I think the artists’s job is to make that life worth living. So, if you can do that, it’s very valuable. Anytime that I can make a song that someone listens to while they make breakfast or whatever they’re doing with their day, that’s important I think.

A lot of people use music as an escape, right?

Yeah and also, I try with my lyrics. I try and give people another way to look at things. I try and put some creative thought into the songs and into the lyrics themselves so that, I don’t know, hopefully lift people up from the literalness of their existence into something higher.

That’s good.

[laughs] That’s what I’m trying to do, at least.

What do you feel art’s role is in society and how do you see yourself impacting that role?

You know, like I said, the purpose of art in society is to make peoples’ lives worth living.  Make their lives enjoyable. I also think art shapes societies so much and has such a huge influence on our lives and the social landscape- I hope that artists can maybe look at the society and the future that they are creating and recognize the impact that they have and hopefully create a future that’s better than our current state.

That’s what I’m hoping to do. I love so much music out there.


You know, like I said, the purpose of art in society is to make peoples’ lives worth living. Make their lives enjoyable. I also think art shapes societies so much and has such a huge influence on our lives and the social landscape- I hope that artists can maybe look at the society and the future that they are creating and recognize the impact that they have and hopefully create a future that’s better than our current state.

Who’s your favorite artist right now?

Who’s my favorite artist right NOW?

I have no idea.

There’s a lot of goof stuff coming out. There’s certain music that’s pushing the whole drug and sex culture and I mean, sex is great. I’m not into drugs. I like to have fun but I just hope that artists can create a future that shifts back to something a little more wholesome. I don’t know, maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

I really like the lyrics of the past a bit more. You listen to them and they’re really beautiful- the concepts of the songs in the 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, 30’s- they were very meaningful, lyrically. I don’t know but I still dance like an asshole when certain current songs come on.

If you could dwindle your music and sound into a single lyric, what would it be? 

It might be from “Pinocchio”- the opening lyric is

“Painting lines on my face

and dotting the whites of my eyes

does anyone feel like they’re in constant disguise?”

Wow, that’s good. Why did you choose that?

Because, I sometimes feel like I’m creating something that doesn’t fit. I’m trying to create music the way I hear it and I don’t know where it fits. People tend to hear things in relation to what they know and I don’t know how to categorize my music. I mean, I can kind of talk about it and usually resort to telling people the instruments that are on a song. Pinocchio has clarinets, saxophones woodwinds, strings, upright bass, drums guitars, synthesizers and a lot of harmonies and stuff like that. That gives a better impression than just saying like, “It’s…alternative…rock.” [laughs]

I have trouble figuring out where I belong.

Definitely. Do you feel like maybe you have too much knowledge since you worked with composers?

It’s possible. It’s possible that I’m taking the view of creating an orchestral score and applying that to guitars and pianos, bass and drums. I sometimes worry that I get a little complex with my instrumentations but also, that’s how I hear it in my head and that’s what I’m trying to get. Whatever I hear in my head, I’m trying to make it so other people can hear it too. Sometimes, when I do that, I’m creating a little bit of disconnect.

How so?

Because it doesn’t relate to any other kind of music. It may just be my own self-doubt but I worry that I’m making something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else but me.

I doubt that.

What’s your favorite atmosphere for performance?

I love packing people into a smaller venue and performing with a string quartet. Strings have such a powerful sound to them. It’s such a beautiful thing to watch, too- seeing a quartet play pieces. Just by itself, is incredible. Whenever I’m able to incorporate that into my live set, there’s such an incredible energy that comes off of that. The combination of orchestral with upright bass, synths, drums and guitars and stuff- there’s such a unique vibe that I really am trying to create.


photo no. one by: Marcus Meisler / HMU: Omayma Ramzy

photo no. two by: Josh Grondin