Interview w/ Southern Soul Newcomers A Valley Son
Starting things off today with an interview featuring Southern inspired soul newcomers A Valley Son. Currently based in NYC, the band is reared from a very strong musical foundation with such diversity as Bruce Springsteen and The Allman Brothers firmly put on display to wow and marvel the audience with their wide ranging talents. It's not too often we come across such immense talent like this, so it was a real treat to sit down with the guys and talk about their beginnings as how they got started, their musical influences growing up, their experiences recording their debut EP, and what they like to do in their spare time away from making music. Here is my wide ranging interview with the gents:
Give us your names and roles in the band?
Trey Powell: I sing and play guitar and write the tunes.
Steve Bowen:: Steve ("Slim"? Haha) Bowen. Play lead and slide guitar; Helped Produce and Engineer the album. Do a lot of the artwork/photography/graphic design
Nate Osborne: I play drums and sing.
Seth Nicholson: bassist and back-up vocalist
Let's get a backstory of how the band originated and where you all met?
Trey: I ran into the boys at different places and different times over the 7 years I’ve been in NYC. We had all been in different bands and had varying levels of availability but eventually found our way to playing together. I think I met Seth first in the Bronx, then Nate through a mutual friend and eventually Steve who was in a band with a friend from my hometown. After a while you realize the music scene isn’t all that big in NYC and we all just kind of eventually ran into one another.
Steve: One fateful misty night at the Way Station. Trey and I had a mutual friend and our friend brought me out to see Trey play. I asked him if he could use a slide player and we went from there.
Nate: I met Trey in the Big City Folk scene and we played in band together that went by the wayside. Then he introduced me to Steve. A few months later Seth subbed on a tour with us and everything made so much sense that he became the permanent 4th member.
Seth: I met Trey many years ago through mutual friends in the Bronx. After many years and bands passed, he asked me to fill in on bass/drums for this band, which is how I met Nate and Steve. After a couple shows, they decided to keep me around. How does the band's sound reflect your upbringing and where you are in your lives?
Trey: I grew up on 50s 60s rock and roll and soul tunes mainly but also being from the south there’s an inherent twang in everything you do and I think the music reflects that. Lyrically, I think the biggest influences are my favorite writers. Marquez, Murakami, there’s such a lyrical quality and natural flow to their writing and when you read it aloud at times it can feel like a song; to me anyway. So I really try to pay attention to rhythm, cadence and meter when I’m working out the tunes, not just the melody.
Nate: We're from humble upbringings but found ourselves in this big city of complications. I needed the back beat of roots music to keep me grounded.
Steve: I feel like I've been able to be, and express, myself to much more of a degree in this band than with bands I've played in previously. It feels honest, raw, and soulful...which are very attractive qualities to me. I met Trey at a point in my life where I was just starting to peek out from a really dark place, and I was searching for a creative outlet as well as trying to piece back together who I was, who I wanted to be going forward, and how to fully embrace those things personally and creatively. This band has helped me do that a ton, and I'm very grateful to be a part of it.
Seth: For many years, I've been working in mimicking the breathy, dulcet tone of a female alto. This album is the closest I've gotten to that perfect dream. Take us behind what artists inspired you growing up and how they continue to inspire you today?
Trey: Chuck Berry, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, among many others. As I got older Elliott Smith, M. Ward, Phosphorescent and the Silver Jews were and are major influences. For me I can generally forgive anything if I believe an artist. Most people I don’t believe, but all those folks above I do. And that’s what we aspire to, honesty and being genuine.
Nate: I was raised on The Allman Brothers, Beatles, and Jazz and Gospel Standards. Today Hank Williams is really inspiring me.
Steve: Growing up (and to this day), my biggest inspiration comes from The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and just about anything that came out of Motown, Stax, or Muscle Shoals in the 60s and early 70s. Duane Allman is my guitar god. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Gaines, Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Ed King, and Derek Trucks are other some of my other favorites. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez was also a heavy influence, both through high school and college. His playing was like nothing I had heard, and it reminds me to not be afraid to play outside of the box or try something new in the moment, and to embrace weirdness.
Seth: Growing up, there was a lot of Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Dennis Brown, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and Randy Crawford being played in the house and at every family gathering. I developed a love of melody that turned into a deep appreciation for details in songwriting, performance, mixing, and production. I aspire to make my family proud with every bit of music I make and, hopefully, invoke the same joy I feel when I hear any of my old favorites. Go behind the recording process for "But The World Moves" and what it was like for each of you and what you learned from the experience?
Trey: We tracked the rhythm live in this wonder studio called Studio G. We then did the rest of it (vox, guitars, add’l instrumentation) at home. Working from your bedroom is super comforting and let’s you experiment more than you would when you’re under the gun.
Nate: Trey writes the most honest songs so I really just tried to support those intentions in the style and sounds of my drumming. It’s all about the song.
Steve: We tracked live as a band at Studio G, and then we re-cut guitars, vocals, some electric piano/organ, and did the rest of production in my room. Then Trey and I worked closely (though remotely) with my long-time friend Ryan Lee out in Cali who mixed the album, and finally handed it off to Dan Millice who mastered it over at Engine Room Audio.
I think one thing we learned is that making a record isn't getting any cheaper, so whatever you can manage to do on your own the better. Being able to work and record from home also allowed us to spend much more time focusing on getting the sounds we wanted at our own pace, without the pressures of time/money constraints that being in the studio induces. That also provides a much better environment for creativity and song-building. It worked well for us, and we learned a lot along the way that we'll take with us moving forward to the next album.
Seth: Recording at Studio G has been an absolute pleasure and a bit of an adventure every time we go there. Last session, I took advantage of the massive amount of basses they have in the studio and explored some different tones for a lot of the songs. Studio G has a way of breathing life into a session at the 11th hour, which is incredibly helpful when you're doing marathon sessions. What is your favorite song off the new LP that speaks out to you personally?
Trey: I wrote em and they’re all really personal but I’d have to say maybe...The World it Moves, or Mad god 20/20.
Nate: The World it Moves. I really dig the dark simplicity behind the fact that regardless of what we do in life the world will keep spinning.
Steve: I'm pretty partial to Take Me There and Take Me Back, which are really more instrumental interludes than songs, but I wrote those and they feel very personal. Behind those I'd say Sunset Park probably.
Seth: Mad God 20/20 Besides music, what do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
Trey: If I’m not working I’m at rehearsal or writing. Every now and then I’ll make time for soccer. I also have two dogs so they take up plenty of my time.
Nate: Camping and getting dirty. And I'm really into playing 90's Nintendo games.
Steve: I like to take pictures, being in, on or near just about any natural body of water, and watch good films and TV series.
Seth: I play video games like it's a second job. My older brother started me young with Duck Hunt for NES and I've been playing and enjoying games ever since. What's coming up next on the agenda, any tour dates coming around the horizon to Boston sometime soon?
Trey: New songs, new record, we’re touring out to the midwest again in October and then down to DC in November. Just trying to keep moving. Lastly, what is the most rewarding part about being in this band?
Trey: These are the most talented dudes I’ve ever met at their instruments and I’m just proud they want to work on these tunes with me. It’s always fun.
Nate: Forced social interaction
Steve: The friendship, the fun, and the music.
Seth: Definitely being on stage and seeing people light up when we’re hitting it.
Thanks to Trey, Nate, Steve, and Seth for being so rad in doing this interview. With getting insight from everyone in the band, you really have a strong sense of how the band operates internally, and you have a greater respect and passion for everything that they contribute to the musical foundation surrounding everyone. For more on A Valley Son, please 'Like' them on Facebook over here, and check out "But The World Moves" now available on Spotify right here and on Soundcloud at this spot here.