Strand of Oaks – Interview with Timothy Showalter...

Strand of Oaks recently released one of the most brutally honest rock albums of 2014. The brainchild of Tim Showalter, HEAL is an unflinchingly raw examination of the songwriter’s own faults and failings, a brave attempt to confront the demons that were sending him on a dangerous downward spiral. But HEAL is not some empty exercise in navel-gazing; it is a bold and bracing rock album that betrays Showalter’s love of the music he listened to growing up as a kid in Indiana. We caught up with the fascinating and engaging Showalter ahead of his Dublin show in Whelan’s on 3rd October. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Tim – for those who might not be familiar with your music, tell us a little about Strand of Oaks and how you got to the point of making your latest album HEAL? Great to talk with you. Well, I’ve been making music most of my life but Strand of Oaks has existed for about ten years.  I’ve made four record prior to HEAL.  I can’t really function without making music so obviously I love making records, but HEAL means something much more to me.  It feels like my debut in a way.  It took me ten years to find the courage and confidence of finally make the record I wanted to.  In the simplest of terms I had to lose myself to find myself.  When you accept the darkest and most honest points of your life there is little to be afraid of anymore.  I went through a pretty rough time leading up to writing HEAL and because of that I was able to approach writing and record without any hesitations.    Growing up in Indiana, which bands or musicians turned you on to music for the first time and how much of that music continues to influence what you do to this day? So many bands and records help define me.  Looking back I was slightly too young to fully experience the grunge movement but I was still heavily influence by the rawness of that time.  One record in particular was Jeff Buckley’s Grace.  It struck me so much deeper than other records, it was the first record to truly feel important to me.  My relationship with music has and always will be essential.  I’m constantly listening to and collecting records.  I understand the language of music and am constantly inspired by it.  We would probably need a whole other interview to talk about all the bands I’m digging these days.   J Mascis of Dinosaur Jnr plays guitar on the opening track of your album – how did that collaboration come about? Getting J to play was pure magic.  I recorded Goshen ’97 and my label suggested that J should shred on it.  Within 24 hours of talking he had recorded the track.  It’s very surreal to listen to that song and realize that my hero is playing guitar right along with me.   The opening track of Heal: Goshen ’97 – on the surface, it seems like a nostalgic look back at the days of your youth but then there is the repeated line ‘I don’t want to start over again..’ Tell us a little about that song. I think that song took about fifteen minutes to write.  I didn’t think about anything.  Just pounded out my favourite chords on the guitar and wrote exactly what I was feeling.  The song is really a celebration of getting through those awkward teenage years and making it out alive.   HEAL is an intensely personal album – there is no attempts to cloak anything in metaphor. It is direct and blunt and pulls no punches.  Was there a sense that you had come to a point where this album had to be made for you to be able to move on from some of the things...

Interview: Elliott Smith’s biographer William Todd Schultz...

October 21st 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the death of one of greatest songwriters of his generation. In his short life, Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith compiled a body of work that looks set to endure; his songs of fragile, luminous beauty appealed to those who grew to know and love his music in a very unique and personal way. Portland based writer William Todd Schultz has just written what looks likely to become the definitive account of the life and music of Elliott Smith. ‘Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith‘ is a fascinating, compelling and well researched biography taking us right through from his troubled childhood to his tragic death at the age of thirty four. Todd took some time out to talk to entertainment.ie about writing the book, Smith’s struggle with depression and the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.   Words & Interview by Paul Page Congratulations on the book Todd, it’s a fascinating read and a very thorough examination of the life and music of one of the greatest songwriters of the last 30 years. When did you personally first encounter the music of Elliott Smith? It’s hard to date these things since they sort of sneak up on you, but probably about a year before I started the book. My daughter went to the same high school as Elliott did, Lincoln High School in downtown Portland (where I still live now). She started getting into his music, listening to it more or less non-stop (after a similarly intense Shins phase), and I kept overhearing what she was playing in the study of our home. I couldn’t believe it. I was astonished. Every song–every single one–was so absurdly good. At the time, I’d finished two books, and I was reeling about for what...