Artist Interview: Jeremiah Craig on recording his new EP The Commandeer

*Photo Credit: Brynna Baldauf

About a month ago I contacted Jeremiah Craig with a usual “hey what’s up?” email.  After a brief exchange, we decided to do a series of interviews about his new recording experience.  For those who have not heard Jeremiah’s work, check out “Busy My Spade.”  We’re really excited about this series of interviews that will take us through Jeremiah’s recording process from writing inspiration through finished album.

1) So we hear you have a new project brewing.  Please tell us a bit about it.

In early December I finished writing a five song EP called The Commandeer.  Each song in the project moves into the next so all the songs together make one long song with a story and theme. The next step is to record it. I have most of my plans wrapped up all I have to do is get a few last things in order and I’ll be in the studio recording this nice bunch of songs.

2) Your song “Busy My Spade” has a dark quality to it.  Will the new album have any similarly dark imagery?

The imagery in The Commandeer is actually much lighter when compared to “Busy My Spade”.   “Busy My Spade” was a serious story about a person who made his living digging up people who had been buried alive.  The Commandeer is a tale of love and adventure, so it’s much lighter.  It won’t be romantic-comedy-light or Jack-Johnson-light but certainly a mood change from “Busy My Spade”.

3) What was the inspiration for the project?

I was in my last semester in college and working on my thesis.  One of my final courses was a general marketing requirement I had never completed and on the first day all of the students were put into teams for a group project due at the end of the semester.  After my group had become introduced and aquatinted with one another this one girl in my group sat in my chair where my stuff was and then said to me, “Oops, sorry I commandeered your chair.” I said, “Oh, nice word!” and I knew right then that I liked her. We started dating after that class.

If you haven’t puked yet, there’s a little more that inspired this EP.  After dating for a little over a year we decided to move because we wanted a little change and I wanted different musical experiences from a new music scene.  Phoenix seemed like the best place.  There were plenty of jobs from what we saw and the cost of living is very low.  Also, the music scene is pretty killer.  So without any job lined up, no relatives or friends in the area we packed up our cars and hit the road.  We were both unemployed and homeless for about a month, which is a very humbling experience.   We lived out of a motel until we both found decent work and then we were officially set up in Phoenix.

The first three songs are about meeting this girl and the last two are good old traveling songs about moving across the country together.

4) How are you going about finding a producer, studio, and all the goodness that go into making an album?

I used a producer for the “Busy My Spade” recording and it got a little pricy.  The end result sounded great but I already know how I want The Commandeer to sound so I think that I will produce this myself and get input from the musicians playing with me as well.

I try to treat the studio as another instrument and I like a studio to have a sound of it’s own.  I’m really not a fan of digital reverb, delay and other after effects.  I prefer those effects to be recorded naturally in the setting.  I’m very fond of old churches or schoolrooms.  Places with hard floors and/or high ceilings.  A place where sound can travel and I can get those natural effects.

It’s not a new idea. People have been doing it for awhile.  Bluegrass bands never used effects they just stood around one or two mics and recorded.  Led Zeppelin has done this too along with other well known bands.

5) For our techie friends out there, what kind of musical equipment do you plan on using?  What kind of guitar, in particular?

For The Commandeer recordings I’ll be using my Martin DCX1E, which is named “Jack of Spades”.  My Martin has a very bright sustaining full tone to it which I find perfect for the sound of the songs in this EP.

I didn’t want such a bright sound for “Busy My Spade” so I used a studio 1940s Gibson which I had also used on some songs in Gardener Hands, my first full length album.  The 1940s Gibson was a plunky, old acoustic blues style guitar and didn’t sustain as much as my Martin but it was the perfect sound for the “Busy My Spade” recording.

Another option I thought about was the Gibson J-160E guitar. I used the same Gibson J-160E that was used on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album on the song “She Knows Where To Go” from Gardener Hands. The J-160E sounded dull, kind of plunky and didn’t sustain very much.  Great for “She Knows Where To Go” but I think The Commandeer tunes need that sharp Martin brightness tone.

6) Do you foresee the new album sounding like your other work, or do you plan on “evolving?”  In Beatles terms, is this more Rubber Soul, or are you taking a ride in a Yellow Submarine?

I’m a sort of a story teller when it comes to my songwriting. I like to think that I’m a balladeer but whether I am or not is ultimately up to the listener.  The Commandeer is not drastically different from my other stuff.  It’s still has all the makings of a story, but this go around it’s a love story. I have never really succeeded with the happy love songs until these tunes. These songs are the only love songs I’ve written which I can stomach. Mostly because they’re not gushy and they are still plenty “manly” to make me feel proud when I sing them.  The sound of the EP on the other hand, will be somewhat similar to my other stuff.  Not nearly as produced as “Busy My Spade” but it will have more instrumentation than the Gardener Hands album.

My goal is to always be changing some aspect of my songwriting, sometimes it’s lyrics and sometimes its the music.  It’s a slow evolution, I guess, because I never really change both. It’s either the lyrics or the music and this time it’s the lyrics.

7) What would you like fans to know about this process?  What juicy tidbit of information can you give us that will have us clamoring for this album the day it “drops?”

For the people who may be new to my music I’d say that if you enjoy books like Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island and enjoy listening to new music you will absolutely, without a doubt enjoy The Commandeer and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

I expect this EP to be recorded very quickly because there will only be three instruments and my vocals. When I recorded Gardener Hands, it only took three evenings in the studio and it was done. Those songs were just recorded solo and that’s all I was able to pay for, so I really didn’t have a choice. It still came out with eleven songs on that though. For The Commandeer, I expect something similar and I’m going in much more focused this time too

I know that my fans will not be disappointed by this EP at all. It has the same elaborate feeling of “Almost Yesterday” and “l’Homme de l’Eau” but The Commandeer is more direct and definitely much more fun!

*Check out Jeremiah’s website here.

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