Separated by just under 11,000 miles, New Zealand’s Lachlan Grant (left) and San Francisco’s Seth Lael (right) had the opportunity to get to know one another in our latest Bands Interviewing Bands. These two singer-songwriters share their creative process, their struggles and triumphs within the industry, and a question that’s always on every artist’s mind—how to fund their pursuits. Check it out below.
Seth Lael: How does technology affect your music creating process? In the book “How Music Works,” David Byrne says that technology dictates music. Is this true for you?
Lachlan Grant: Great book! A very inspiring read indeed. I agree with David Byrne and his philosophy towards music technology. Being born into the technological boom of the 1990’s, I grew up using computers and was able to develop a fluent understanding towards technology from an early age.
At around the age of 16, I developed a strong desire to understand and learn the art of guitar playing. To my benefit, I was able to access useful information as soon as I turned on my computer. I would simply search a ‘tab’ of what song I wanted to learn and work it out from there. Tablature provides a way for everyday people to learn and play the guitar or (other fretted instrument) without needing to understand music theory. Thus more and more people became able to learn independently.
The impact of technology enabled me to teach myself to understand music without the aid of a teacher and after developing the basic fundamental skills through tablature, I was then motivated to learn and understand music theory. I still write songs in a notebook and work them out on my guitar, but because I came to understand music theory I am able to compose scores for my songs on a computer program called ‘Sibelius.’ I start by notating the guitar and vocal parts and I then compose bass lines, string sections, vocal harmonies, drum patterns, etc. to build a complete song. I can then export a MIDI file from Sibelius into an audio engineering program called ‘Logic’ and begin building a song. Without the impact of technology, I would not be able to implement my creative process.
Lachlan Grant: As a songwriter, how do you find the encouragement to continue writing when no one seems to be listening?
Seth Lael: I think songwriters should write music that they themselves like and write for the joy of writing, no matter what people think. I view this as a fundamental value over fame or fortune when writing. [I also think] if songwriters do want to get their music in front of listeners, they should study the craft of songwriting and hold off on putting it out into the world until they are confident that someone will want to listen.
Seth Lael: When did you decide you wanted a career in music? Was there a specific moment when you realized this?
Lachlan Grant: My decision to pursue a career in the music industry came when I was in my final year of high school. Like most teenagers, I had no idea where or how to direct my life, but knew for sure that I loved playing music and that nothing else made me happier. Upon these thoughts and feelings, I chose to commence a Bachelor of Music at Otago University in New Zealand and completed it three years later. After finishing my degree, I took what I had learned about songwriting and embarked on a nomadic lifestyle towards mastering my craft. It was this moment when I realized I had completely committed myself to establishing a career in the music industry. Still trying.
Lachlan Grant: As an independent artist how do you find the financial support to continue creating art while keeping up with the on-going costs of establishing your career?
Seth Lael: The only reason I was able to do my recent second album to a standard that I wanted was because the album was partially funded by my pre-orders on Pledgemusic and my part time job as a sound mixer. I’ve realized now more than ever that there are start up costs just like other businesses when pursuing a musical career. Thinking more like a business owner while running my current campaign has really helped me to feel comfortable investing in it as well as having a more professional attitude.
Seth Lael: In my 20 years of playing in bands I find that using “hired guns” to play with can be very beneficial in saving rehearsal time, reliability, and overall chops. Having charts and recordings are imperative. I’ve hired drummers and bass players to show up to gigs already knowing the material. That being said it is hard to replace the vibe you get from playing with someone that is really into your project or you’ve been playing with for many years as friends. There is a magic you get from having a real musical relationship that has been built from years of playing together but, we didn’t all grow up like the Beatles so you may have to hire the town drummer.
Bands Interviewing Bands: Lachlan Grant & Seth Lael. Photo credit: Lachlan Grant (left): Dean Opie Seth Lael (right) self-portrait