Today we’re highlighting Andrew Levin and Greg Owens & the Whisky Weather in our latest edition of Bands Interviewing Bands. I love this series because it gives us the chance to highlight a little more of the behind the scenes that happens when musicians talk to other musicians—you know, talking method, lyrics, production, and all the little things in between.
To introduce our two artists today:
Andrew Levin has delighted audiences across the globe with his unique and soulful approach to music. His instantly recognizable sound is eclectic, experimental, and accessible, meticulously forged from years of working with different musicians from many walks of life and genres. Commitment to the craft shines through as Andrew is equally adept at writing a powerful song, creating evolving soundscapes, performing on a variety of instruments, and weaving this together in a way that makes sense.
Greg Owens grew up in a small rural town in West Tennessee just 80 miles North of Memphis. The youngest of four siblings, Greg often spent hours making mix tapes of their CD collections. Inspired by the songs of the nineties featuring The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains, Greg started playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 10. By 16, he was packing out local dive bars and felt he had found his purpose.
Alright, alright, I won’t keep you waiting anymore. On with the interview!
Greg Owens: I know you play guitar and piano. Do you play any other instruments?
Andrew Levin: Yep! I play drums and bass as well as do a lot of sound design type of stuff. Of course I also sing vocals, which I would consider an instrument in its own way. I naturally suck at singing, so I had to work extra hard on that aspect of my musicianship.
AL: Do you usually start with the lyrics or the music? Or a little bit of both?
GO: Usually I’m sitting with my guitar and I start playing a chord progression that inspires a melody, which then inspires lyrics.
GO: Which instrument do you find yourself writing on the most and how does that influence your songwriting? For instance, is a song you write on piano going to sound wildly different from a song written on guitar, or is it pretty much the same?
AL: That’s a good question! While I do write on piano, I tend to mainly write on acoustic guitar. Reason being, I thoroughly believe that a well-written song will fit with any genre of music, arrangement type, etc, and I find that the simplicity of acoustic guitar can help me get there.
AL: Do you find that the best songs you write come to you in a short period of time, say an hour or two, or do you find yourself writing songs over a few weeks? When I mean writing songs, I am referring to the chords/melody, not necessarily the arrangement.
GO: Most of my more popular songs seem to get written relatively quickly. The first draft anyways. I always go back and edit. I did recently finish a song that I started writing a decade ago and I really like it.
GO: What inspires you to write? Are you generally writing about more personal things that are specifically happening to you or do you normally get inspiration from an outside muse like books, other music, or perhaps other people?
AL: It completely changes day to day. I generally like to tell stories, paint a picture, etc. My favorite musicians have inspired me to be a better person, to be more empathetic, and to think of things differently. That is really my main goal with writing my own music.
AL: What instruments are you playing on “Shouldn’t Be This Hard”? What is your production process usually like, and how much rehearsing do you do with your band before going into the studio?
GO: On my new single, “Shouldn’t Be This Hard”, I play acoustic and electric guitar. So, being a singer/songwriter in Music City, I don’t really have a band. I just have, kind of a revolving door of musicians I call on, and they work with me if they’re not busy with another project. Most every musician here is a hired gun. For this track, I cut the demo with my friend and producer/engineer, Taylor Lonardo at his home studio. We then sent that to our friend who plays drums, Matt Heller, and all three of us recorded the rhythm tracks at Matt’s home studio.
GO: In your new single, “If I Died Today”, you sing “I wanna know what you’ll say when I’m gone”. I know as I get older this question comes up more often for me. Is this something you think about a lot and ideally, what might someone say when you’re gone?
AL: To be perfectly honest if isn’t something I think about a ton. It was more inspired by hearing what people have said about others after they pass away and whether or not what they were saying was genuine. Ideally, I’d hope people would just remember me as a kind person with a good sense of humor and a passion for music/community!
AL: I know that you talk about there being too many choices in “Shouldn’t Be This Hard”. Do you believe love is a gamble or an investment? Or both?
GO: I think it’s both. I’d say at first, it’s a gamble. There’s no real way to know if it’s going to work out forever with someone before you start a relationship. Then, as you become more confident in the relationship you invest your time and energy so, in that way it’s an investment.
GO: I got the chance to dig through your song catalog some and one thing that stuck out to me was how impressive the production was. Are you involved in the production side of the music or do you hire someone? Are you working out of a home studio setup or is it more of a commercial studio?
AL: Thanks! Yes I produce the majority of my own stuff. Production is a big part of what I do. That said, I do like to work with others as well. For this past song I collaborated with my friend Will Mandell at his studio, Broken Horn Studios in San Mateo, CA. He did the final mix down, recording, played bass and we worked together to get some real cool guitar tones.
AL: I’m interested to hear about your experience in Nashville. Being a California based artist (I’ve lived in LA for several years as well as SF), Nashville always seems like this cool, parallel universe of a music scene.
GO: I can’t imagine living anywhere but Nashville. The music community is super tight-knit and very diverse. That being said, it’s really tough. There’s a ton of talent here. I’d say that’s how living here has influenced me the most. It’s really made me step up my game. Some of my favorite local bands are The Weeks (rock) and Skylar Gregg (Americana).
GO: Let’s end with a fun one. If you could assemble the perfect band with musicians alive or dead, who would be in that band?
AL: Oh man… I’m gonna get weird with it. Not sure if this would work but if it would, it’d be beautiful: Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Atticus Ross, Jaun Alderete, Jeff Beck and Tony Royster Jr.
Greg Owens & the Whisky Weather:
Bands Interviewing Bands: Andrew Levin (top) photo credit: Stefan Aronsen. Greg Owens & the Whisky Weather (bottom) photo credit: Alex Crawford