Apr 24, 2014

Interview with the band Tall Walker performing at CIMMFEST on May 1, 2014 at Subterranean

Interview with Tall Walker for CIMMFEST, 2014 conducted by blogger and writer, Melody Perpich

For more information about the festival go to https://www.facebook.com/CIMMfest

For more information about Tall Walker go to http://tallwalkermusic.com

Who is Tall Walker?

The musicians are Ben Johnson (drums), Chris Hershman (bass) and Nick Bays (vocals, guitar).

MP: Hey guys so nice to get a chance to talk with you before your gig at Subterranean on May 1st.  I’ll just start off with a couple of easy questions first before I start getting personal.  Where did you all meet? I know that Nick is from South Carolina but you did not all grow up there right?

Chris:  I am from Munster, IN originally and have now been in Chicago for 7 years and Ben has been in Chicago for 9 years.  The two of us first met at the City Church of Chicago.  We eventually met Nick at the church in 2012.  I just looked at him and thought that he was a musician.  We got him on board to start playing with us.

MP:  What were you all doing before Tall Walker?

Ben:  I played with a couple of bands before but nothing as committed as Tall Walker.

Chris:  I played in smaller Chicago bands and toured with some other more well- known bands but I really was looking to create something original instead of just being a “hired gun”.  I did learn a lot from playing with bands like Empires and Seabird.  That experience helped me to be ready for something like Tall Walker.

MP: I have to admit Tall Walker had me sold when I listened to your gorgeous cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” from your Fearless Radio gig on YouTube.  The raw emotion and soul was undeniable.  You really made the song yours Nick! I am not sure I want to hear Drake’s version now.  How does this song’s R & B flavor translate for you to the music that you are writing and your self-titled Tall Walker EP, which is classified as more Indie rock?
Nick:  I heard that song, the instrumentation and the arrangement and it just makes you want to bop your head.  I loved that it was a simple arrangement and a straight- forward love song.  I really connected with it.  My voice lends itself to the soul side based on my own experience growing up in the church.  I sang from a very young age and sang mostly gospel and hymn style music.  More soulful vocals and songs have a sense of home for me.  Some of the aspects of growing up in the church can’t help but filter into my writing.

MP:  Do you all hold day jobs or does the music sustain your lifestyles?

Nick:  I work as the Music Director at the City Church of Chicago which allows me to write, arrange and organize music from 9 to 5!

Ben:  I am a music producer and song-writer and I work with various artists.

Chris: I am a filmmaker.  I work with the Chicago Music Exchange specializing in music videos.  We have been collaborating and have a close relationship with Nikon  camera company which has allowed us to create and film a video about Tall Walker.  This is a unique project in that it features Tall Walker behind the scenes and is about the actual shooting of a music video.  This has allowed me to bring my passion for our music and information about the band into my “real job”.

MP:  What advice do you have for other music artists who are thinking about making music as a profession?

Chris:  The key to success as individuals and as a band is staying loyal to what you want to accomplish and our instruments.  Building a life based on music being part of your identity and lifestyle.  Nothing is overnight but it becomes easier over time.  The main thing is being committed to your instrument and to playing with other musicians.

Nick:  I agree with what Chris said and would add that you have to devote the time to writing music.  You have to choose to spend time writing music above anything else.  I personally choose not to have cable or Internet in my house.  Any free moment I have is spent picking up the guitar or sitting at a computer to work on songs.
MP:  Well that answer lets me segue nicely to my next question!  Since music comes first and can really be all consuming, do you have time to have relationships?  Is it easier to date other musicians or performers?  The girls want to know!

Nick:  Well I am single and I would not say that my music and being in the band gets in the way of meeting girls but it depends on how much you can juggle.  For me it is refreshing right now to focus on my craft.  I am not shut off to dating but I would say that there are different seasons.   Some seasons there is time for work and other seasons, time for play!

Chris:  Right now I am the only one in the band in a relationship.  She is a theatre actress and is constantly at rehearsals and shows so she knows and understands the life and touring demands.

Ben:  Since Nick and I are still available we will set up a kissing booth at the end of the show!

MP:  What are you working on now?  Do you have plans for a full-length album?

Nick:  We are recording our second EP this summer and plan to release it by the end of summer, 2014.  We are discovering new creative sonic elements with the new project.  The rock element has already been brought out.  We are now looking to embellish the elements from the first EP with new production elements.

MP:  I have noticed by listening to your EP that your lyrics are somewhat contemplative and melancholy, tugging on the heart-strings.  Will your new EP have the same tone or do you plan to change it in any way?

Nick:  The new music continues to blend the lyrical and musical writing together.  The new EP will still have contemplative lyrics.  This is who we are, still heartfelt and anthem-like, music that is “heart on our sleeve”.  The main difference will be sonically.  A first pass through on these songs will add new elements that will make them more fun to listen to.

MP:  When I listened to the song “Clouds” the lyrics made me think that it was about death or loss.  Am I on track or off base?

Nick:  Lyrically this song is somewhat ambiguous.  I wrote it during a time in my life where I was wrestling with faith and the definition of truth.  Trying to find self-discovery in other people but people change and waver.  The lyric “punching clouds” represents taking it up with yourself or a higher power, more of an internal truth found in yourself.  Ultimately you have to ask yourself about our truth.  This song is very personal.

MP:  In contrast to “Clouds”, the song “Stay” seems to reveal that a partner is straying or cheating and you have a willingness to forgive that person.  Do you find this to be a new twist since most songs about cheating are not about forgiveness but about revenge or anger?  For example, Miley Cyrus wrote the song “FU” about her break-up, which is the opposite of forgiveness.

Nick:  This is a heart on your sleeve song.  It tells the story of being in a relationship and not necessarily dealing with someone “stepping out” or cheating.  It is more about releasing doubt and “what if” this is happening.  I started writing this song in January and one night after drinking way to much bourbon, the lyrics “Lover stay where you are” just bled out of me.  These are very honest lyrics.  It was just processing and openly saying what I was feeling about what was going on in the relationship.  There is a redemptive quality to the song.  The “let’s just get this out on the table” idea.  If the person works through it and you put it behind you and go the distance.  Many songs don’t have this aspect.  This reveals the despiration in the song and gives it tension.  I think it’s a very real situation.

MP:  Do you have bands or other artists that inspire you?

Nick: We really enjoy the musical arrangements and sonic textures from bands like M83, Washed Out, and Snowmine.  I like more of these types of production elements and want to marry this aspect with the rock n roll element that we already have.   I want to watch the sound evolve and think we will enjoy playing this new music live.  It will be more fun.

Chris: Switchfoot also really encourages us as individuals.  They have been very kind to us, have taken to our music and have been nice to give us props for our music.  I see them as kind and real people that have a great attitude and have not become jaded by the music industry.  They inspire me to want to make money in the music industry while still loving it.  They are balanced between their music and family lives too.

MP:  I have to ask the obvious question:  How did you come to name the band Tall Walker?

Chris:  One of the songs we played in a previous band that I was with was called “Tall Walker”.  “Tall Walker” was performed by a friend in this other band.  She has remained involved with Tall Walker, on the creative side designing the graphics for the band.

MP:  What is your favorite venue in Chicago to perform at?

Chris:  We love Schubas, Lincoln Hall, Subterranean and most recently The Whistler.  Love that place!  I have to say that there is something magical about Lincoln Hall but at the same time, when we released our EP at Subterranean it was the most electrifying performance between the crowd and the band.  We are so very excited to do the show for CIMMFEST at SubT and we plan to be bringing out tricks!

MP:  What kind of stage do you see yourselves performing at in 5 years and where do you see yourselves in general by then?

Chris:  I want us to be funded by our music in 5 years.  We have the potential to be a band like Wilco.  We have albums of music that we want to be enabled to make.  We want to play and network our way up.  We’d like to tour constantly with acts that we are in love with. We plan to be around for at least a decade.

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