Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Counting 10

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Counting 10So I have never met these guys… nor have I talked to them on the phone. (I say guys… there is a girl in the band!) Everything I have done with this band has been done via email. That just goes to show the power of digital communication. They came to me… I don’t really know where they came from. But who cares, they are awesome! They originally sent me a copy of their album to prepare for the interview, and there was a very nice note included. A personal touch like that goes so far. Past that, they are an incredible band, and are packed with talented musicians. That, and they showed interest in me bringing presents six bands for six bucks to the Windy City. They will also be the first band confirmed to play on that show this Saturday, March 17th. Anyway, let’s move on to the interview. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Counting 10.

So you guys are from Chicago. I love the Windy City. What part of town do you guys live in?

(Mike) I live in the south loop near Soldier Field.  I love the city, too, definitely the best city in the world. No offense to Indianapolis! I’ve been fortunate enough to live all over the city over the years – Lakeview, Wrigleyville, loop, south loop, Printer’s Row; each neighborhood has it’s own feel. It’s really a great place to be.

(Carrie) I’ve lived in a few different neighborhoods as well (Wicker Park, Irving Park) and currently reside in Uptown, where drug deals, gang gatherings, and some fairly terrifying bums are all just steps away! (I’m half kidding). There are some really cool landmarks (e.g. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge and Aragon Ballroom) by me and I’m fairly close to the lake.

Living in Chicago, does that mean you play in Chicago a lot?

(Mike) Yeah, so far we’ve played exclusively in Chicago. We’ve been lucky so far and have developed relationships with some great venues and have established some key contacts around the city. We have been talking about expanding in the Midwest next spring/summer, so look for us playing in Milwaukee/Madison, St. Louis, and maybe even Indy if you’ll have us!

(Carrie) I would love to play more Midwest towns like Mike mentioned, especially those within a four-hour drive. We’ve played in some really great Chicago venues, of all of them, I really like the set up of Goose Island Wrigleyville a lot – Swizzle Steve does a great job organizing shows there. Elbo Room is another favorite, with consistently good sound. We’d love to play some additional venues like Schubas and The Hideout (two of my favorite in the city).

I want to see you guys perform! Every show you have is in Chicago… come to the Circle City!

(Mike) We would love to come to Indy! I hear some blogger out there throws a pretty sweet concert series “six bands for six bucks.” We’d definitely like to meet up with that guy!

(Carrie) Yeah – Hey…do you know anyone with any good music connections in Indy? We totally have get in good with someone there, would love to play in Circle City!

Ted, you play the cello. I recently was introduced to 2CELLOS. Have you heard those guys? They are on tour with Elton John and I can’t wait to see them perform!

I have heard of them, but I haven’t heard them play yet. I’ve heard pretty good feedback about them, so I’ll definitely need to check them out sooner than later.

Tell me a little bit more about The Inside Project. What was that, and how did that lead you to Counting 10?

(Mike) When Carrie and I first met up and started playing together, we really didn’t know what this “project”, for lack of a better term, was going to become. We both had similar influences and backgrounds, and we both wanted to move to more of an acoustic-indie sound. We started out playing some songs I had written a few years ago but had never put any lyrics to and started playing around the city as an acoustic duo. The Inside Project was our “work-in-progress” name until we had firmly established our sound and what we wanted to be. Once Carrie and I had a handful of covers and originals done, we were ready to start filling out the sound and started auditioning for percussion, strings, etc. Once we had a lineup and a sound, Counting 10 was born!

(Carrie) Ditto that! Well said, Vogus.

Back to Counting 10 for a second… where did that name come from? It’s not hard to count to 10 you know!

(Mike) Carrie brought that name to the table, I’ll let her tell you that story!

(Carrie) It in fact, is not hard to count to 10. I can do it in a few different languages! I wanted a name that held more personal meaning and would also differentiate us a bit. I have fairly eclectic musical tastes, but tend to find myself most drawn to folk/singer/songwriter types which is also the style of music that comes naturally to Vogus and I. I remember one day I was sitting at work, on the verge of an anxious meltdown, and I had my Pandora station on. The next song that came on just spoke to me in that moment – both the chorus and the line, “Sometimes the fastest way to get there is to go slow / And sometimes if you wanna hold on you got to let go.” The song was called Count to Ten by Tina Dico, a Dutch singer/songwriter. I downloaded every single one of her songs I could get my hands on and all of them spoke to me in similar ways. I find similarities in both how and what we write – she is a huge influence.

That’s really cool. I will have to check her out. So, do you all have jobs outside of music?

(Mike)  Yep, Steve (percussion) and I both work for a publishing company on the north side of the city. Teddy is actually headed back to school to get his PhD at Southern Illinois University.

(Carrie) Yeah we all keep pretty busy! I just celebrated my three-year anniversary with CareerBuilder – I currently work in the career services department (we help students/people in transition prepare for a successful job search). I also do backing vocals/keyboards for a Chicago-based band called V is for Villains, which is a totally unique electronic/industrial rock band. And I still try to relive my college soccer glory days on a few recreational teams in town.

So I can’t get enough of “In the Living Room”. Tell me a little bit more about that project.

(Mike) Well, the one thing I love about this band is our transparency with our music. Over the past year, our sound has really evolved and we’ve been able to share that evolution with our fans. Almost every show we’ve played we have debuted a new song or have shared an idea we’ve been working on with our fans. We really wanted to capture these songs as they were written – literally the four of us writing/practicing in my living room! So we had a batch of seven/eight originals that came together very quickly and we recorded all of them and put 6 on the EP. I think we were able to really capture the songs in their basic form and it turned out pretty good. It actually feels like we’re sitting in someone’s living room playing these songs… and going back to the transparency I talked about earlier, our fans will get to experience these tunes as we create them and modify them. We are planning to head back into the studio at the end of the year and put together our first full length album and these songs will continue to evolve and grow through that process. Hopefully our fans will enjoy the evolution of our sound as much as we do.

(Carrie) Yes Vogus, yes! He is much more eloquent than I give him credit for sometimes. We definitely wanted to capture the “living room” theme with our music. We created something really honest with “In the Living Room” by keeping the recording simple, accessible and relatable without sounding contrived or cliché.

You guys worked with Industrial Music Works to mix and master this release. What was it like working with those guys?

(Mike) Carrie introduced us to them as she is good friends with those guys, in my opinion they were fantastic to work with.  And check out V is for Villians, their band is pretty good!

(Carrie) Nicholas Santiago was one of the first people I was introduced to in the Chicago music scene with his former band Digital Mindy. As I mentioned above, I just recently teamed up with him again to do backing vocals/keys on his newest and most exciting project, V is for Villains. Nick’s vision and drive is just inspiring. He’s a few years younger than I am but has been writing, recording and performing music for well over a decade. He’s an incredibly talented self-taught audio engineer – he even taught himself how to program lights/lightshows (which I’m pretty sure involves binary code). My brain just exploded. He was amazing to record with. He knows exactly how hard to push to get the best work out of the performer without making the performer hate him! A true art in my opinion.

Let’s shift gears here for a second… In your opinion, how has social media changed the way people absorb music?

(Mike)  Social media and music/file sharing, in my opinion, is making the need for big label support obsolete and unnecessary. In the old days, you needed labels to get your music in front of people through radio, record stores, etc. Now all you need is website and you can push your music to an infinite number of people. We sat down as a band a few weeks ago to talk about what we want to accomplish as group, and our unanimous decision was NOT to pursue getting signed by a major label. We want to be a recognized regional band and get into licensing and things like that, and we don’t need a label to achieve that.

(Carrie) Ditto again. We definitely want to do as much as we can ourselves and maintain the rights to the music we are creating, that helps us stay true to what we’re trying to do.

Playing has to be stressful… at least in the beginning. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

(Mike)  Every band makes their mistakes on stage, so I usually don’t get too embarrassed. We completely botched a Decemberists cover on stage a few weeks ago, but we recovered and laughed it off and moved on.  The crowd appreciates that, too.  We’re human, we’re gonna screw up occasionally!

(Carrie) One of the first open mics I ever did was back in college. I wrote a song about my male roommate, whom I “might” have had a huge secret crush on. I had just started playing the song when he got to the bar with his friends. I blanked on all the lyrics mid-sentence and ended up strumming the guitar for several measures before I figured out what the hell I was doing. But, I think a lot of vocalists, from the green ones to the incredibly seasoned forget lyrics to even their oldest material. As a band, like Vogus says, we typically just laugh at ourselves a lot.

There is a photo on your website… it’s also on your Facebook page. Heck, it’s even on the cover of your new album. Where did you guys take that photo?

(Mike) Again, Ms. Hegenderfer hooked us up on that one! The photo was actually taken in the back area where they store the kegs at Goose Island Brewery in Wrigleyville.

(Carrie) Yeah, I was introduced to an incredibly talented photographer, Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography, through my first band Everelle. He’s photographed a ton of major rock bands including Wilco, Neil Young, The Tragically Hip, etc. I invited him out to shoot our first major show with the full band at Goose Island Wrigleyville. We were wandering around looking for a good place for a band photo when we stumbled across this sortof creepy and dimly-lit back storage room and home to many, many kegs of beer. We knew that is where we had to do our band photos!

Oh man, the stories I have in that alley… I am good friends with Borrow Tomorrow, and have been in that alley several times. They play Goose Island quite a bit. Anyway, this question is for the guys… do you ever feel threatened by having a female lead? (I mean that in the best way possible!)

(Mike) Not at all.  In fact, when I started looking for people to play with a little over a year ago, I sought out a female vocalist. For some reason, the stuff I write just lends itself to having a female vocal over it. And Carrie has the ability to make words “fit” a piece of music really well. That’s a tough talent to have and she has knocked it out of the park on a lot of our songs.

(Carrie) Aww, thanks Vogus! As I mentioned above, we definitely work super well together and the type of music Vogus writes definitely inspires the lyrics right out of me.

So who writes all of the lyrics?

(Mike) That would be Carrie! On the EP I wrote the music and Carrie wrote the lyrics, with the exception of Myth. I wrote the lyrics and music for that one, it was actually the second or third song I ever wrote about twelve years ago. I love that little song! Going back to the evolution of our music, we are all starting to engage more in the writing process as we get more comfortable with our sound. Carrie just wrote the music and lyrics to a killer new song called The Simple Things, so stay tuned for that one. It will definitely be on the record.

(Carrie) Thanks! I get a bug up my butt every decade or so to actually write a song on guitar… I am hoping to minimize the gap between songs moving forward and to possibly brush up enough to be able to play more rhythm guitar on stage.

Who are some of your favorite bands? What’s on your iPod right now?

(Mike) That’s always a tough question since we all listen to so many different bands and styles of music. For me, Pearl Jam is hands down my favorite… I have a bit of a sickness when it comes to them, I’ve seen them over fifty times including a streak of seeing them at once a year for the last twelve years. Aside from them, I listen to a lot of Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, The Beatles, Fever Marlene, Locksley, The Head and The Heart, Kings of Leon (the OLD stuff!)… but I also listen to a lot of hip-hop including The Roots, De La Soul, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Eminem. I try to listen to as much music as possible for as many genres as possible.

(Carrie) When Vogus and I first sat down (our first meeting!) at Schubas Tavern, I knew we would be a good fit because we liked a lot of the same types of bands and had similar influences (although, truth be told, Vogus has a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Eddie Vedder). I listen to a range of artists… I mentioned Tina Dico as a huge influence along with a whole bunch of other folk-type singers (Ani Difranco, Dar Williams, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, A Fine Frenzy, Rilo Kiley, Meiko), more alternative old-school rock bands (Garbage, Incubus, Metric, Cake, Travis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guster), more contemporary indie rock bands (Mumford & Sons, Band of Thieves, Death Cab, The Decemberists), artists that taught me to sing back in the day (Pat Benetar and Heart) and, I feel like I have to give a shout out to an amazing lyric-writer and story-teller (and the first person I ever saw in concert at age seven), Neil Diamond. No jokes!

Those are some good bands. Please tell me you guys have discovered Spotify. It’s a game changer in my opinion You guys on Spotify?

(Mike) We haven’t been on there yet, but it’s on the list of things to do.

Not your own… but what’s the best concert you have ever been to?

(Mike) Can I give you my top five?  That’s a tough question, but I would have to say that Pearl Jam at Soldier Field in 1995 was pretty unbelievable. PJ in 2000 at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin was great too (it was an outdoor show in October and was 26 degrees outside). I also got to see the Bridge School Benefit show in 2006 out in Califonia, its an acoustic show put on by Neil Young every year – the lineup included Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters, Counting Crows, Trent Reznor and Brian Wilson. Last but not least, I just saw Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field two weeks ago, amazing show.

(Carrie) Oh man. Incubus was a pretty bad-ass concert, I think I went maybe eight or so years ago? They broke out some of their stuff from S.C.I.E.N.C.E., so I was pretty amped about that. But also, Guster puts on a pretty great concert as well (also from back in the day). And, after my first Neil Diamond concert when I was seven years old, I went back again and saw him twenty years later when he came to Chicago. He’s still got most of it.  I would LOVE to see a band like Garbage or Metric play again if they ever go back on tour.

So living in Chicago, you have the Cubs and the White Sox. Which team takes the cake, so to speak?

(Mike) This year, neither! They are both terrible, but I have been a long-time Cub fan and actually lived across the street from Wrigley in one of the roof-top buildings for two years. Ultimately, Chicago is a Bears town and we’ll never forgive you Indy punks for beating us in the Super Bowl in 2006!  If we had ANY other QB besides Rex Grossman in that game, we take the title.

(Carrie) wa wa wa wa. I would not call myself a Cubs fan. If I had to choose, I’d go with the White Sox. I’ve sat in one of their corporate boxes before, and man is that dessert cart delish.

I’d say Holding Pattern is my favorite song from you guys… do you all have a favorite song?

(Mike)  Thanks!  I love that song, too. But if I had to take a favorite from the EP it would be Blister.  That was actually the first song Carrie and I put together and it just came together beautifully in the studio.  My current favorites are some of the new songs we’ve been writing – In The Interim, The Stranger, Like A Disease and The Simple Things are all coming together nicely, so stay tuned for the new record!

(Carrie) Ditto, I love the newer material we’ve been working on – and of course Blister will always have a special place in my heart. I was still very much feeling the lyrics when we recorded it in July 2010 and so everything on it is so intensely honest. I loved being able to work closely with Vogus on the arrangement as well.

Do you play any covers, or is it all original work up there on stage?

(Mike) We have a handful of covers that we throw into the mix – the usual suspects are Shuffle Your Feet by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie, Indifference  by Pearl Jam, Hey Ya! by Outkast and Poker Face by Lady Gaga. We try to pick covers that you wouldn’t picture an acoustic band playing (i.e. Hey Ya! and Poker Face) and make them our own. So far, the response has been great.

So Goose Island is in Chicago… one of my all-time favorite breweries. Are you beer drinkers? If so, what is your favorite Goose Island brew? (I know you guys play there… I see it on your schedule. Funny thing is, I love that room. I have been there several times with Borrow Tomorrow. They are based in Indy, and they play there a lot.)

(Mike) My favorite GI brew is 312. We’ve been lucky to have a great relationship with them and have played there a bunch, it’s kind of become our “home court” if you will! If you haven’t been to Piece Pizza yet, you need to get there ASAP!  Great micro-brews and the best pizza in the city.

(Carrie) What a wonderful question. I’ve turned into a real beer snob lately. I can’t drink anything domestic. My favorite GI brew is Matilda, I liked it so much I named my chinchilla after it (she goes by Mattie for short though).

Matilda is my favorite too! Oh man, what a great beer. Anyway, I know it’s a long time from now… but where do you see yourselves in five years?

(Mike) Ahhh, great question! In all honesty, I would like to see us have a few records under our belts, expanded our touring to the rest of the mid-west and have some licensing deals in place for radio and TV. But a lot can happen in five years, so who knows!

(Carrie) I HAVE to go on tour in the next five years. I have to know that experience. I would love to have licensing deals as well!

Thanks so much for taking the time to sit and talk this afternoon. Now… I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

(Mike) We really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and really enjoy reading your articles. Hopefully the last six bands for six bucks was a success for you and we’d love to come out to Indy and play at the next one… or, play one in Chicago? Make sure you drop by our Facebook page for show updates, album updates and new music… and don’t forget to “like” us!  Thanks again Ricky!

(Carrie) Ricky, thanks again SO MUCH for the opportunity to chat with you – we love your blog – and I’m sorry it took me so long to get this back to you – I was out on vacation.  We can’t wait for the six bands for six bucks in March! So looking forward to continuing to work with you!

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