Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Elmwood

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with ElmwoodGreat live music is hard to come by. But when I hear a band like this I have to do whatever I can to get involved. Image taking a guy like Dave Matthews and putting him into a blender with Bruce Springsteen. That is what we have here for you today. These guys bring so much energy to the stage. They are a typical party band, but they are also extremely original. There is a saxophone in there somewhere, and the lyrics are being belted by a man who has felt pain and pleasure just the same. They are not a band I would want to see a music video for necessarily, but they are a band that I beg to see live. And they play a lot of live shows. If living in the Circle City you can see them at The Rathskeller quite often or at a wide range of venues all across the Midwest. They hail from Nashville, Tennessee and produce some industry standard sounds. I have only seen them perform once, having caught their last show at the Rathskeller, but can’t wait to see them again. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the guys of Elmwood.

Elmwood seems pretty common. Where did you come up with that name?

Yeah, I guess it kind of is. It’s actually a street name. For us it was the end result after several failed attempts to come up with a name that made us seem cooler than we actually are. So we asked ourselves what our street name was. There you have it.

How long have you guys all known each other?

We have been together for about two years. We all met on Craigslist.

Where do you guys practice?

Anywhere we can. We try to go to friends’ houses/basements, studios, hotel parking lots, a van bench seat, backstage. Ruston writes in custodial closets, and Derek practices in vacant bathrooms when we’re on the road.

Where are you all originally from?

Derek is from Hot Springs, Arkansas, Ruston’s from everywhere, Don’s from Keyser, West Virginia, and Justin’s from Cleveland.

If you could live anywhere else in the world where would you go?

I would pick either Ohain, Belgium or somewhere in the south Alabama. Justin would go to Cobh, Ireland. Donnie wants to own one of the homes on Pebble Beach golf course. And Derek would go to British Columbia, Alaska, Tahiti, or the Dominica Republic.

You guys have a pretty solid MySpace page. Who designed that?

We have a great web designer. You can click here if you want to see more of her work.

You are also on Facebook. And YouTube. And Twitter. How do you guys keep all those social networks straight?

We keep it going all the time either at home or on the road. We all share certain aspects of each one like blogging or tweeting or uploading photos. We try to keep a system going.

What are your thoughts on all those social networks?

Overall, it gives us a unique chance to have a vast amount of personal contact with fans of our music, to network with everyone who’s interested in the tours, set lists, guitar tabs, etc.

Where do you get inspiration for a new track?

Lot of times we jam in soundcheck on a riff or a groove. But really we all love to improvise in a way that tends to focus on a song or the rough bones of a song, whether it’s one Ruston brought to the table or a completely new one we write together.

You guys play the Rathskeller quite a bit. You like playing the  Biergarten?

It is seriously one of the best places to play in the Midwest. Dan McMichael, the owner, is the most easy going and hospitable guy. He loves, LOVES, bringing in all kinds of music and expects you to have more than one of their many German beers with him after the show. The people are welcoming and the food is incredible. We are so enthusiastic about it because treatment like that is very rare on the road.

Do you drink beer when playing in the Biergarten?

We will definitely have some great beer there after we finish our performances. Like I said, we love The Rathskeller.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

Side jobs here and there, but mainly all music.

What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

About 4,500.

The smallest?

Literally nobody.  Except the bartender. He was on a smoke break.

You have a ton of shows at the Wild Wing Café. Is that a cool venue?

It’s a fun and very relaxed atmosphere. Great wings and a great staff. The sound systems are usually very well managed as well.

I like the saxophone. Any reason for throwing that instrument into the mix?

For some reason I’ve always been fascinated by the sax. Since I was a kid, more how it stands out in a rock-based music. So when I put an add on Craigslist for another instrument, it was definitely going to be sax.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

We all come from completely different musical backgrounds and influences. Everywhere from jazz, bluegrass, bebop, folk, fusion, rock, funk, emo, hip-hop, etc.

You have a ton of likes on Facebook. You must be pretty popular huh?

Well, we just want to keep things growing and connecting with our fans on a friendship level and Facebook let’s us do that.

What are you usually drinking on stage?

Water with and without ice. Ruston drinks this vegan sports drink called Vega Sports Optimizer. It’s made completely from plants and seeds.

Explain a typical Friday night for you.

On a stage either in a nightclub, bar, amphitheater, arena, cafe, or theatre, playing very loud for a new audience. After the show we hang out with new friends and others who dig our music, then drive all night or part of the way to the next city. Saturday’s usually a lot like Friday.

Tell me a little bit more about Developing Artist Management.

Well the reality is they are a company smaller in size that works very hard for all their clients no matter if they are superstars or up comers.

Where can I get some Elmwood merchandise?

You can get some on our website or at any one of our live shows. We also have two albums on iTunes, including a new live album!

If you could only perform one song for the rest of your career, which song would you choose?

Either Fool in the Dark or Wood Duck.

Based on the design of your MySpace page and the design of your website, I see you understand the power of branding.

We like the idea of representing every aspect of ourselves in a uniform way that characterizes us, and leaves a familiarity with fans of our music who keep up with everything we do and offer.

Who does all your graphic design work?

We do a lot of it ourselves along with help from our web designer.

Tell me about Dreaming Little Things.

That album is very special to us because we weren’t even a full band when Ruston booked studio time to cut some demos with Nash Johnson, our first bass player. Derek hadn’t even answered the ad online yet. And the day we met in the studio was really when we were like okay, we’re actually gonna attempt this. It was like, oh man. Hope this works! Here, this is a song called Night Caper. Go! That was essentially how it went. And it surprised us all.  Alan Shacklock, our producer, was impressed by the demo, and asked if we’d like to do 8 more and call it an album. We cultivated the beginning of our identity there, and a realization that hey we randomly happened upon this magic. Which is usually how magic works.

I just saw a movie about dreams. Have you seen Inception yet?

Yes, it was a mind trip. Literally.

How did you all react to the passing of Michael Jackson?

We had a lot of respect for Michael Jackson.  No matter how you feel about his social life, I think he was an incredible entertainer. I don’t think a lot of people realized the life style he must have lived being so young and having to entertain all his life.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Anywhere but this damn van. No but seriously, we hope to get as many fans as we can, play as many shows as we can, constantly building through relationships with the people that support our music. Anyone is welcome and considered officially invited to listen and take part.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

To be remembered for being honest in making great music.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

Just would like to pull from the deepest gratitude in our hearts and thank our families, friends, and fans of our music, for their support and invigorating faith, which,  without we would literally not be doing this interview in a twelve passenger van flying down the interstate, headed to the next city. Thank you. Hope to see you all very soon!