INTERVIEW: TimeSlip

TimeSlip’s Mark Taylor at Birdy’s Live. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

In honor of tonight’s first of three “Battle Royale” second-round bouts at Birdy’s, in which TimeSlip will be participating, Hear! Hear! brings you four new videos, interspersed amid this fascinating conversation I had with the band’s lead singer and songwriter Mark Taylor. He had a lot to say about the band’s songwriting focus, their disinterest in being “mainstreamed” and how much he loves their southwestern sound being compared to the cinematography of Breaking Bad.

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Can you tell us a little about how you started the band?
That’s something of a long story.  I guess you could say it began when I was watching my granddaughter, who was about 4 at the time, playing with other children out back.  It was clear she needed to learn some social skills in a structured environment.  We couldn’t afford pre-school but Fishers United Methodist Church was nearby and I started taking her up there for Sunday school. There was a regular service during this time so I would hang out and listen to the message.  I filled out a guest card and mentioned I played guitar and was subsequently hounded until I gave in an joined their worship band.  Immediately the two people running this band bailed and left me holding the bag.  I had to quickly assemble a group of musicians and that’s how I found Curt Grasso, who is a wonderful classical guitar player by the way.  I got my friend Mike Haemmerle to run the sound board as he had deep experience.  Once I learned he had played sax and bass clarinet in high school and could read music I hounded him to buy a bass.  I knew he was a natural bassist – and he is!  Eventually the worship band thing started getting old and they phased that service out.  I wanted to form a secular band anyway because I had left a very good jazz band back in Tempe, Ariz., when we had to leave to come to Indianapolis for family reasons.  We found drummer Tim Baumgardener through Craigslist. Tim has been very active on the Indy music scene, especially as a radio host.  I met Brad Moore at a Christmas party and hounded him until he gave in and agreed to play keys for us.  I met Guy Holbert through my friend Allen Stratyner who is very active in the Indianapolis blues scene and the best harmonica man in Indiana, hands down.  TimeSlip in its present form has been together since last summer though some of us go back a couple of years playing together in that church band.

Tell me about your writing process and what you think makes a well crafted song?
First I have to tell you about our music and my overall approach.  I write almost all the material we play though Curt is coming into his own as a song writer and has penned a couple of songs.  Many of my songs originated as little motifs I created that were intended as instrumental pieces for that jazz band in Tempe I’d mentioned earlier.  Timeslip started off playing covers to get a sense of one another and learn to work together,  but my aim was always to get to originals using a sound that people would enjoy.  I’m not a good enough guitar player to make it in the Indianapolis jazz scene but have a genuine love for jazz, artists like Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, etc.  I got the idea to write music that would appeal to a rock audience but incorporate a lot of jazz elements, my stealthy way to get the typical pop/rock listener to listen to something like jazz.

But seriously, I want to learn something when I write and play, using jazz structures pushes me to increase my understanding of music in general.  Other well known artists have done similar things — Steely Dan, Spirit and Zappa come to mind. The Police, who were very crafty in their writing, are probably the group with the most success.  Anyway, most of the stuff I write comes from little instrumental motifs that I composed for the Tempe band.  I simply expanded and added lyrics.  Lyrics are the hardest part of what I do.  I cannot write lyrics that are not genuine and from the heart so I refer back travelling in my earlier life, growing up in Colorado, living in the Arizona desert, and honoring people who have been important in my life.


TimeSlip – “Sad Joann”

Is it difficult to find songwriting inspiration?
I have found that I have to MAKE myself sit down at the piano and write, inspiration doesn’t often just appear in my head.  I sit at the piano and begin experimenting with various chord-leading concepts with my left hand and then fiddling around with scales over those chords with the right hand – this is referred to as “key of the moment” where the scale is constantly moving based on the chord being played.  I use very deliberate constructs like the V7 to the I chords to add tension and release at just the right place.  I also experiment with various tried and true progressions like I IV V, ii V7 I, I vi ii V and look for different ways to mix and match these.  I use a lot of chords with bV and V7 sus 4 because these seem to create a real sense of spaciousness and mystery.  Those kinds of chords fit that kind of desert jazz rock theme I like to use in my writing.  The band pokes fun at me because nearly every song has a Major 7b5 or a minor 7b5 somewhere in the chart.  Eventually progressions and melody lines will shake out of that experimentation and I have things I can stitch together to make a song.  My writing got much more interesting when I learned music theory concepts.  They aren’t necessary for writing but as an analogy, if I’m going to build a house I want as many tools at my disposal as possible.

For the lyric writing I sort of meditate on what does this music lead me to within myself, and then I’ll take that and run through memories until I find the appropriate story that goes with the mood.  Now the problem with this approach is you have to remember that the listener needs to be able to relate the song to their own life experience. But that is essentially the process.  Zappa used to drop little “doo dads” (his words) in his compositions like poodles, tweezers, etc.  I have a couple of those too.  I have successfully incorporated the word “ghost” in nearly every song I’ve written.  Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.  It’s just something I noticed cropping up in my lyrics (Jung would have loved this I’m sure) and now it’s very deliberate.  I write the lyrics and think “how can I get the word ghost” into this song.  It’s just something fun I’m doing.


Timeslip – “But You Weren’t There”

How has your writing shifted recently as you work on new material for the band?
Recently I have been experimenting with telling stories of a non-personal nature in a couple of recent pieces.  I wrote a kind of “fractured fairy tale” book a couple of years back — shameless self promotion, it’s available on Amazon.com under the title MOOSE LIPS. So I just tried doing the same thing, tell an entertaining story but over a rhythmic form. “Day of the Dead” is based on a true story that happened in the old West near Prescott, Arizona.  I took those events and added a ghost story.   The song “Dos Cabezas” (Two Heads) refers to a ghost town in Southern Arizona, I added a supernatural bar (“where nobody cares about your name”) that appears if the visitor to the town is in the right state of mind, a kind of Twilight Zone story.  I recognized a need to get away from introspective moods in my songs because so much of what we do is cerebral in nature and, you know, when people go to a club or a festival, they want to have some fun.  I think the finest song I’ve written is SAD JOANN and there’s some pretty serious stuff in that song (child prostitution and exploitation).  In order for me to write a song that is “cheerful” I have to sit down and say “lighten up Mark, write something that it fun already!” 

I rarely write in straight up major/minor chords.  Once you get that extended harmonic pallate that jazz is built upon under your skin it is very hard to think in major/minor (I iii V) terms – and that’s a problem because your typical listeners haven’t had their ears conditioned to accept those sounds. A quick story about this:  I recall sitting in a parking lot in Salt Lake City while traveling with friends.  They put on Miles Davis at Fillmore East and I said “I will NEVER like this shit!”  Boy was I ever wrong.  Miles is one of the key people I draw inspiration from today.  His music informs almost everything I do though most listeners likely won’t make that connection.   Miles is also all up inside Joni Mitchell’s music. Much (but not all) of what listeners respond to comes from conditioning by guys in suits who decide is “marketable” and “air-worthy”.  That’s changing with the advent of the Internet.  Jack Bruce is an artist I admire who has successfully bridged playing “pop” with a lot of pretty sophisticated musical devices.  Most people know Jack as the bassist and lead vocalist of Cream, but even in that band, Jack wrote almost all of their music, he was able to bring elements of jazz into a wildly successful band. 

The writer has to fashion the music and lyrics in such a way that it sounds familiar but has unexpected twists and lyrically you want the listener to apply the story to his or her own life.  An example of this is found in our Song “But You Weren’t There” where the singer is telling someone that they waited all day but that someone never showed up.   It could be a lover, a drug dealer, God, even a dog!  Whomever, the listener gets to decide who that is.  At the same time you want to expand that listener’s experience.  They should feel:

1.  I know this, I’ve been here (in this feeling) before

2.  There is something different about it this time… oh! there’s a surprise I hadn’t expected

3.  I know what this guy is saying!  I can relate to it

You see, it takes both a musician and a listener for music to appear.  This is why I shake my head when I attend a concert and see someone continually snapping pictures throughout the show.  That camera is getting in the way of the process needed for music to appear.  I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious but it is absolutely true.  My goal as a song writer and performer is to make the hair on the back of the listener’s neck stand on end at least once during a show.  There is an energy that arises between a musician and someone who is really listening.  I saw Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie many years ago in the Paramount Theatre  when I was hanging out in Seattle.  After the first piece they played you could have heard a pin drop in that crowd.  That was so powerful of an experience.  I want to make music that facilitates that kind of participation in the moment by listeners.  And also to have a rockin’ good time too!

Does the band ever write songs together?
No, I typically come armed with a chart for the players.   Curt is doing the same.  It’s rather like creating a blue print for a home and then leading a group to build that house.  I bring that and then the band builds the house together and each member gets to add their own ideas about how we decorate that house, colors, are the shutters, etc.  The guys do whatever they like as long as the ideas stay true to the function of the song itself.  Brad and Curt have been very helpful in arranging the songs I bring.  Occasionally someone will make a little mistake and new ideas will grow from that.  A good example of this is my song “Ajo Way”.  I was listening to a rehearsal recording and the bassist made a mistake.  That little flub inspired me to put together what we call the Ajo Interlude in the middle of “Ajo Way” where we have all of that beautiful, soaring guitar weaving going on.  A real sense of setting out on the open road in the Sonoran Desert was inspired by a bass guitar flub.  

What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Depends on context.  It’s always about context isn’t it? From a pure musical perspective it has to be Jack Bruce’s “Out Into The Fields”.  There are several versions of Jack’s tribute to the great Otis Redding out there and they all make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.  I need to take the time to analyze that song and figure out how he’s doing that, it’s lightning in a bottle.  The West Bruce and Lange version is literally Wagnerian in scope – you can find that on Youtube.

From a lyric stand point it would be words by Pete Brown (Jack Bruce’s writing partner)  The words to “White Room” are so amazing  “Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes” Are you kidding me?  Jesus that’s incredible stuff in that song – look up those lyrics!  I’m also very fond of Brown/Bruce  Theme for an Imaginary Western.  Those lyrics are cinematic in scope.  I’m also a big fan of just about anything Adam Duritz writes – “Round Here” will always make my hair stand on end, especially his version with The Himalayans.

From a cash perspective it would  be “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf or maybe “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter. Can you imagine the royalties those two songs continue to pull in after decades?  Comfortable retirement for writing a song!


TimeSlip – “TimeSlip”

What do you wish someone would ask you but they never do?
Why do you feel jazz music is so important in American culture?

What would you do with your songs if given the chance to do a proper studio recording? is it difficult to get the spontaneous nature of a live performance into a recording?

I like to hear a lot of layers and small nuances in recordings and would like an opportunity to hear our songs produced with that in mind. I would also welcome the creativity of a producer outside of the band. I think you can get too close to your music and become somewhat possessive with little room for creative “evolution”

I think the live experience will always be more dynamic and organic  in nature compared to studio work and that’s the way it should be. Recordings are simply reference points to navigate by when you are playing live. I’m not particularly interested in rehearsing the band to sound exactly like the recording. In my mind there is no creative growth in that approach. I don’t look at songs as being static in nature. It may sound a little mystical but I think songs appear and then take on a life of there own.  Every performance of a song SHOULD be different. I’ll quote the late great reed flute man Eric Dolphy here: when you hear music it is lost in the air; you can never capture it again.

How have fans reacted to your evolving sound? Are you happy so far with the band’s progression?

Well we are really only just building a fan base though a few have been following since the beginning  I think the are hearing the writing getting better and better; more sophisticated but without being pretentious or sterile. A couple of the fans have been to some of the places out in the desert that I write about and it gives me tremendous pleasure when they tell me ‘”Yeah, you really captured the spirit of the desert.”  I’ve received numerous favorable comments about what we are doing so people “get it” even if they don’t necessarily understand the mechanisms we are using to get that wide open, spacious sound

I’m very happy with the band’s progression. We have the right musicians to manifest that sound I’m after. Tim can swing those drums exactly the way I hear them in my head. He’s really getting it together with sensing the power of dynamics instead of just pounding away. Brad is superb on keys and more importantly he keeps me on my toes and challenges me to write interesting stuff. Curt is great at complementing my guitar parts. I’ve never found anyone to play guitar with who really gets the concept of “orchestrating” through inversion of chords Curt and are are never playing identical guitar parts. Mike is a natural bass player. He started about two years ago and he’s rapidly reach a place where he’s doing interesting and sometimes surprising things with his bass lines. He’s worked very hard. He needs more confidence in his playing. Guy brings the soul and spirit to me, nothing is as personal and expressive as a wind instrument. I’ve given up some of my solo space just so I can hear more of his playing.


TimeSlip – “Day of the Dead”

I love the desert imagery you put into the arrangements of your songs. It’s almost like putting into music what Breaking Bad‘s cinematography did for showing the American southwest in a new light. Is that something you’re consciously doing, or is it just a natural offshoot from your time in Arizona?

I love that breaking bad reference!  I write about the desert because I simply feel so connected to life, our planet, God or whatever word you want to use for a sense of the sacred.   The places I sing about are in an area that the Tohono O’Odham people regard as the world naval where Li’Ito created the world. I can really feel that same stirring when I’m out in the Sonoran Desert.  There is something of a deliberate “branding” we are doing with the Southwest. There’s so much to write about and it gives us something I think is rather unique in Indianapolis. We’re that psychedelic jazz rock music from the desert. I like that lable.

Any parting comments?

I only wish more American audiences could appreciate “jazz” music.  When pop exploded in the 60’s,  jazz artists got left in its dust and that’s a shame.  Jazz takes the listener to a place that is very unique in that moment – very Zen in concept.  It is SPECIAL! even SACRED! People are missing out on some wonderful music.  It took me a while to “get it” and it only comes from being willing to open your mind up to new sounds.  Jazz is America’s cultural gift to the world.  It’s very popular in European countries and in Japan.  Many of America’s great artists ended up moving to Europe because they could not find work here.  That’s sort of tragic really but you know that old saying, “A prophetic is never accepted in his homeland.”

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Dead Sara

Dead Sara’s Emily Armstrong. The band will be playing Birdy’s Live tomorrow night!

Another week gone, another great show coming up at Birdy’s Live! This time it’s the inimitable Dead Sara, whose song “Weatherman” I cannot get out of my head! “Go for the kill, ’cause no one else cares!” Emily Armstrong howls by the song’s end, and it’s impossible not to want to find as much more to hear as possible. The band’s latest, “Mona Lisa,” fits in more of the blues sound of bands like Delta Rae into their harder edged sound. If you want to get in on the ground floor and hear them before the band blows up nationally, you’re not going to want to miss tomorrow night’s Birdy’s set. The band’s fresh off a tour with Muse and they’ve been touted by Dave Grohl as one of the bands you simply have to hear. Once their sophomore album Pleasure To Meet You takes off there’s no limit to how far this sound can take them.

Tickets are still available for the show — check out their live performance of “Something Good” on Seth Meyers’ show, and then guarantee your spot up against the stage, only $10 in advance!

THE LIVE WIRE: Stackhouse

Stackhouse at the Birdy's Battle Royale (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Stackhouse at the Birdy’s Battle Royale (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

If you happened to make it to last week’s Battle Royale edition at Birdy’s, you caught Indianapolis’ best 80s hair metal act in their element. Stackhouse brought a ton of fans and won over the rest of us, easily earning themselves a spot in the next round. Their unabashed enthusiasm for all-things metal was contagious, as you can hear and see for yourselves via their song “Two Is Better Than One,” which I have included below. Scroll down for great photos, and then make plans to attend the Battle’s second round on April 17th when they’ll again compete for a chance at the $5,000 grand prize.

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INTERVIEW: Good Guy Bad Guy

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Good Guy Bad Guy at Birdy’s Battle Royale (credit: Jonathan Sanders)

 

If you missed your chance to check out Indianapolis punk band Good Guy Bad Guy when they played during week five of Birdy’s Battle Royale, tomorrow will be your perfect chance to hear them and twenty more locals ready to win you over to Naptown’s punk dark side. 5th Quarter Lounge is sponsoring Punk Fest 2015, starting tonight and continuing all day and night tomorrow with more than thirty regional bands all competing for your attention.

I had the chance to talk with Stephen Ajamie, lead singer for Good Guy Bad Guy earlier this week, and he had plenty to say about the band’s past and future, the difficulties in drawing large crowds to last-minute gigs, and why you should make sure to get to 5th Quarter as early as possible for their noon performance.

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First of all, what’s the story behind the band? How did you guys get started?

It’s an interesting story, I guess. Back a year or so ago I was trying to get a band together so I put a posting on Facebook. And then Shane, who is actually our bass player we had for a little bit, messaged me and said “hey, I’m starting this thing out, do you want to come play with us and see what you like?” So I went that route — it was Shane and Amir, and then they also had a singer named Kevin. So we played for a couple months and then unfortunately Kevin couldn’t show up to practice for six weeks in a row, which was awesome. [Laughs.]

But we kept practicing and eventually we did hook up with Phil, our drummer now. I came in not knowing what the music was going to be, but Phil came in looking for a pop punk type band, which obviously we don’t play. We haven’t yet truly established a sound, which is funny. But it was the four of us … me and Shane took the vocal duties because we kept looking for a singer. We’d both sang with a band before and figured we might as well just do it. He left the band last year in April, so we’ve been rolling as a threesome ever since.

We’ve looked for a bass player here and there, but the three of us have good chemistry so I’m honestly not that worried about having a bass player. Having two guitars, me and Amir don’t really play a lot of the same stuff. We’ll do a lot of the same chord stuff together but then we’ll switch it up, alternating the lead. It’d be nice to have a bass player to fill out the sound, but then again when you’re playing with the same guys for long enough, the chemistry we have is so good that a lot of the stuff we’ve written so far just came out of jamming. Amir might start playing something at the beginning of practice, or I play something, and once Phil comes in then we go back and organize it. But I think that’s the best thing I love about playing with these guys.

You said you haven’t really pinned down your sound yet. What influences were you guys bringing to the table?

Oh man … I know Amir’s really metalesque, it seems. And I’m into that pop punk genre, while Phil’s all over the place with his interests. It’s interesting that I think the influences we listen to don’t really end up coming out, if that makes sense. I’ve always said a couple of our songs — “Hello Cleveland” and “We Got Phil” — they almost have an AC/DC thing, which is straight-up rock. And I never really think about them as an influence. But I listen and there it is.

My own musical taste is all over the place. One week I’ll want to listen to Stevie Wonder all week and the next I’ll want to listen to nothing but Michael Jackson. Even though I always joke “I hope they don’t take my punk rock card away,” because the scene can be so “you better listen to this or you’re not punk enough!” Every day though there’s a different influence on my mind, and that should be the punk rock attitude anyway. The whole idea behind punk is to be accepting of variety, non-conformity.

Do you ever find yourself re-writing or arranging your songs on stage?

Only when we’re practicing. On stage maybe by chance we might decide to extend something out, but I don’t think it’s ever by design, honestly. Usually right before practice we’ll get there, and we practice every Saturday so there’s consistency. We don’t have a lot of songs, so we’ll play through our set every week and then we shoot out ideas and just run with it. I think when we’re done with Punk Fest we’re really gonna get the gears going writing new stuff, because we have been playing these same songs for probably the last year. And I’m ready to add a couple new songs to that.

Have you had the chance to do much in the studio yet?

Nope. All the stuff we’ve recorded was recorded by ourselves in Amir’s basement. We’d mic up the drums first, then our guitars, using my iPad which has GarageBand on it. I’d rather go into the studio though because it’s a lot of work doing the mixing and mastering on our own.

But you got good demos out of it.

Yeah and the thing is these days your home studio, you can almost make that into as good quality, with the right microphones and the right setup, as a studio. I’d like to get back into a studio though — I’ve done it once, because when I interned at a studio their reward was that I got studio time. So with my last band we went in for like six hours and I played and did all the mixing and the recording, which would never happen again. It’s just too much, but a good experience to have. At least I kind of know what to do, and even Amir and Phil, we know what we want to hear. So we might as well do it ourselves. Maybe when we hit the big time we can go into a studio.

You played Battle of the Bands at Birdy’s, and you’ve got Punk Fest coming up. Have you had a whole lot of big shows yet in Indy?

We did Melody Inn’s punk rock night in October, and last June we did Morristown’s Summer Music Festival out in Morristown, Indiana. We did Sabbatical once, but that was a last minute gig. That’s the thing too — we keep getting stuck with these “Oh! We need a band now!” gigs. The Battle of the Bands was unfortunate, because we didn’t know until that Tuesday that we were in. So while we didn’t bring many people out, we really couldn’t. Our fan-base is a lot of married couples with kids, so you can’t just tell them on a Tuesday to come out on Friday last minute.

I’m really curious about the Punk Fest because we’re playing at 12:15 in the afternoon. Hopefully people do show up, but you can only tell so many people, you can only throw it out there so much. But from the looks of it there’s not that much else going on this weekend so that might help.

It’s funny that you’re playing just after noon. Any earlier than that and you should probably just say it’s not early but late, an extension of the night before.

Exactly! And I think Punk Fest actually keeps going from there until early the next morning. If someone survives all the Friday night bands, then stays the whole day Saturday, they’re a true fan!

What are you guys wanting to do in the future? What do you want to push yourselves to do — would you rather tour more or write more?

It’s funny because we never talk about it, we just kind of go. So I hate to say there are no plans, but we just keep saying we want to play more. Even if it’s just every couple months, we just want there to be some consistency so people know of us. Honestly, we don’t have plans. As long as we’re enjoying it, that seems to be the goal. When it feels like work we’ll probably be OK calling it a day. But right now we have fun practicing and when we play shows, even if there’s just two people there I feel like we get a good response. Battle of the Bands was a tough crowd for whatever reason, but hopefully that was just a blip in the road. Because I thought we played the best we’d played in a while.

What do you want to say to people who haven’t heard you before but are thinking of checking you out at Punk Fest? What would make them want to get there early?

I think our music is the best thing we offer. It’s simple, you can sing along, and the personality we bring with our music really fits. We don’t try to be something that we’re not. I’d say just come out to the show, see how much fun we’re having while playing. You look at some bands and it’s like they’re just up there going through the motions. That may be their gimmick, but even if you are going through the motions, at least act like you’re interested in it. We’ll definitely interact with you and keep the crowd engaged. If you want to come get heckled, heckle us! We’ll throw it right back. But just coming out, seeing all the different bands too. There’s going to be a good variety. I’ve got a couple bands I’ve kept tabs on because I do want to talk to them after their sets, if I can find them in the crowd.

THE LIVE WIRE: Paul Thorn at Birdy’s Live

Listen, laugh, love. Paul Thorn coming to Birdy’s Live on March 28th.

If you’re looking for something to do on a Saturday night and you enjoy bluesy music with a twist of humor, Paul Thorn is your man and Birdy’s Live is your venue of choice. Thorn, who has been performing his brand of acoustic blues for nearly two decades, will hit the Birdy’s stage on March 28th at 8:00, and it’s not too late to score advance tickets at just $25! (Price goes up to $30 at the door). From the Birdy’s website:

Paul Thorn’s new album Too Blessed To Be Stressed stakes out new territory for the popular roots-rock songwriter and performer. “In the past, I’ve told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life,” the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. “This time, I’ve written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I’ve done it with a purpose: to make people feel good.”

It’s that feel-good purpose that really sets him apart from the crowd. “That’s Life” showcases his more serious-minded side, a heartfelt ode to a life well lived and the pain in having to say goodbye, but then he can segue into something darkly comic as “I Don’t Like Half The Folks I Love” (below) with its tale of family love-hate that even James McMurtry could get behind: “Me and my former best friend had a big falling out — I caught him with my wife so I punched him in the mouth. We just can’t hang out anymore, but I still wish them luck … I don’t like half the folks I love.” It’s “Choctaw Bingo” without the meth … what more could you ask for?

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Sean Fournier

With songs that cross paths with Flobots, Chris Merritt and the poppier moments of Chris Thile’s solo work at equal measure, I have to call out Sean Fournier for being among my favorite pop discoveries. “Break My Heart” is a perfect example of his Flobots-oriented bent, the Connecticut songwriter bringing all the hooks great pop music demands while layering in dense lyrics Jason Mraz would appreciate. Having heard most of his last two albums via his page on Tradiio, I can say this song is just an example of what he can do. “Broken-Heart Red” fits in with the best of Chris Merritt’s synth-based originals, and “Origami” brings the two influences together even when it relies on lyrics flirting with cliche (“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put you together again”). He’s been recording for most of the last decade, touring colleges and honing his craft. His latest, Brace Yourself, is available on iTunes.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Marcus Valance

If you’re a fan of Damien Rice, David Gray or David Ford, there’s plenty about Marcus Valance worth cheering about. I heard him thanks to Tradiio, a music discovery site based in Europe where you literally can “invest” in artists you find there, in the form of a virtual musician stock-market. I was immediately hooked by the London-based songwriter’s “Stood In The Way of the Son,” which featured a stuttery snare-line layered under piano and bass and a bare, sincere vocal and hints of trumpet. If Bebo Norman hadn’t recently chosen to retire from music, this is what I could hear him performing in a stripped-down form.

If you enjoyed the song as much as I did, you can sign up for Tradiio’s beta via this link and then visit his page on the site. I like the concept of investing in musicians and then seeing that payoff when others discover the music you enjoy, giving “sharing” a tangible result. You can follow my investments via my profile on the site.