Hey Rowan, stoked to hear you’re on the road touring! Can you tell me a bit about your 2018 Summer Tour thus far?
It’s been a lot of fun; the first leg took me from Los Angeles up to San Francisco with some shows in between. Then I came back to San Luis Obispo for a week off to rehearse with my friend, Addison Rifkind, who’s been playing guitar with me for the second set of shows. Now we’re about halfway through that second leg of dates.
You’ll be traveling across California, Oregon, Washington, and Montana during the tour. What’s it taken to set this up?
We’re covering a lot of ground this time—mostly it’s reaching out to venues ourselves and booking shows that way through email and calling places. We’ve had a pretty DIY approach to booking. We did a tour last summer which followed a similar path so we’ve been able to use those connections to get gigs this summer. It’s definitely validating to be able to build off of the work we put in last year to keep moving forward.
What was it like playing the San Francisco Free Folk Fest last month?
It was a cool event! I already happened to be playing in the Bay Area that weekend so it worked out that I was able to stop by for a set. The venue was really nice in a cool old theater, definitely a fun space to play.
Tell me about your new songs for this tour.
So we’re kinda mixing up our sets with a lot of older material and then a handful of new songs I’ve been working on. I graduated from Cal Poly in March and I’ve just been hanging out in San Luis Obispo for the last couple months writing and working on booking this tour. Most of my newer songs have come out of that and are reflections of my time here and then looking forward to what’s next.
You’ve been a pretty big part of the scene for the last several years. How has playing music in San Luis Obispo shaped you as a musician?
San Luis Obispo has definitely been good to me. I think a lot of my songwriting is rooted in specific places and experiences I’ve had here, so it’s definitely provided me with a lot of material. Also it was a great place to establish myself, being a small town where word gets out quick. Especially at the start, having people come out and listen to my tunes and keep coming back helped give me some added confidence in my writing and incentivized me to keep it up I think. Maybe most importantly though was that I was able to meet players like Addison, who’s still playing with me. They’ve really helped my songs come to life whether on the record we made last year or during live shows when we had a full band going. It’s been real special to hear my songs in that way and I’m super thankful that those guys were down to learn my tunes and bring them to life.
You’ve also been a staple act at the Shabang concerts. How do you feel that has evolved, and where do you see it in five years?
It’s been great to be a part of, and each one seems to get more and more legit. This last one was killer and I expect the next one will follow that pattern. I’ve known Carson (Stone, one of the organizers) and some of the other guys involved for a while now so I’m excited to see where they take it. I know they’ve got some cool stuff in the works.
At Shabang X, you played drums with The Nighttime Hat Society. Could you tell me about that project, and also if you play any other instruments?
Yeah that group has been a great time and it was fun to play the Shabang in that capacity for a change. We started playing together earlier this year, the group consisting of Scott Erdiakoff, Justin Swanson, Kevin Hegyi and myself. Those guys had some songs they’d been working on and so we started playing mostly just to bring those songs to life. But yeah we mostly just were playing on our own until we played at Kreuzberg one night which led to a bunch of other gig opportunities that we kinda stumbled into from there including the Shabang. It was real great playin drums with those guys though, they’re all incredible songwriters and it was a good change of pace for me.
Right around the same time, you also starred in a Blackbird Sessions video. What’s it been like working with Blackbird Guitars?
They’re great people, and the guitars are super cool and play beautifully. They’re made out of Ekoa which is a material they created that’s similar to carbon fiber but uses linen fibers instead. But it’s super renewable and eco friendly and sounds great, super durable too. Any skepticism I had of the sound coming from a synthetic material rather than wood, especially for an acoustic definitely disappeared after I played one. Hopefully we’ll be doing some more stuff together in the future.
What types of different tunings do you use?
I don’t want to go too in depth with them but most of the tunings I’ve been writing in lately are some kind of open C.
Regarding your last EP, White Brittle Bones, I LOVE “Trapped Inside.” Can you tell me about the last half of that song and what went into the rock-out at the end?
Thanks man, that’s one of my favorites as well and it seems to do well live too even without the whole band. I decided to put it on the end of the EP because of the way it builds up and the ending was a way to shine some light on Addison’s playing. I think with the EP I wanted to have a set of songs that showed the range of stuff the band was capable of and “Trapped Inside” had room in it for the harder rocking stuff at the end.
There seem to be some heavy underlying themes in White Brittle Bones. Were there any life events in particular that shaped the creation of that EP?
All my songwriting stems from personal events or experiences I’ve had, and the EP definitely has some darker tones in it. I don’t know about getting into the details of each song though. I think part of my goal with songwriting is to do it in a way that it remains personal and honest to myself and my experiences while still hopefully being accessible and relatable to listeners so that they can find their own meanings in it.
You’ve got a very unique folk vocal style – one that’s driving but laid back at the same time. What are three albums that’ve heavily influenced your own songwriting?
Most of the stuff that influences my writing is pretty guitar heavy. I’d say the top 3 these days are I Forget Where We Were by Ben Howard, A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs, and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson.
Finally, what are you most excited about over the rest of this summer?
Right now I’m just kinda living day by day and enjoying the tour and the shows we’ve got lined up. Once I get back I gotta get busy figuring out what’s next.