OK Sweetheart Talks "Home"
Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:21:18
You'll want to visit OK Sweetheart's Home over and over again.
Like any timeless pop record, there's a bittersweet beauty coloring the canvas of duo's debut album. Singer Erin Austin croons angelically over a beach-y psychedelic haze as the songs nod to classics of the '60s while touting a decidedly modern passion and honest. Austin certainly opens up painfully at points on Home—most brilliantly during "Leaving"—but when her voice takes flight, all traces of sadness disappear. You're left with one of the best debuts of 2011 and a landmark for this young outfit…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino, Erin Austin of OK Sweetheart reveals the stories behind the songs and welcomes us into Home.
Did you approach Home with one vision for the entire record?
This is my first record ever. A lot of times, bands—especially if they're younger—take every song they've written since they were nine-years-old, pick their favorites, and put them on their first album. I really hesitated doing that. There's the whole paranoid idea of a songwriter making a really great first record and the second record potentially flopping. I think that has to do with the fact that a songwriter will save up all of these songs over a lifetime. I decided I wasn't going to use any songs that I had written up until that point, and I was going to start writing for this record. I gave myself a four-month period to really get into it. I'd just written emotionally before.
If I had the feeling to write a song, I'd write a song. It wasn't really a discipline at that point in time. I decided to get a studio space, go there every day for four to five hours, practice, and write. Some days, I'd have absolutely nothing even close to usable [Laughs]. Other days, I'd get a lot of good stuff. I took four months to do this every day for the entire week. At the end of that, I picked all of the songs on the record. I felt all of these flowed and worked pretty well together. That's just the writing side in terms of the lyrics, progression, melody, and form. The production side took a number of years to get through. We recorded for about a year and a half in Denton, TX. It took us that amount of time to figure out where we wanted to go. I wanted to have a net with different takes on songs. We have a '50s beach vibe for "Grudge" but only strings on "Leaving". Production-wise, we wanted to cast a wide net so we could go wherever we wanted on the next record. There's a good variety, and it leaves people wondering where we're going next.
What's the story behind "Leaving"?
Honestly, I was going through some problems in this long-term relationship that I was in. Even before it ended, I thought to myself, "What would it feel like if this were ending? If my relationship with him were ending, what would that look like? What it would feel like at the very core?" Actually, that's a very personal song. Some of the songs on the record aren't, but "Leaving" is very personal to me.
It is very personal, but there's a beautiful side to it. Was it important to you balance sadness with these gorgeous melodies?
Catchy melodies do really well. They stick in your heads. That's what listeners want to hear. Also, people want to hear lyrics they can relate to and that mean something. If I can pair up a melody someone will him after they hear it with lyrics that actually reach people, I've accomplished my goal in terms of the bare bones of a song.
Does "Before You Go" touch on the same themes?
It wasn't actually about me. It was a combination of things. My grandfather was dying so there was this idea that my grandmother was losing her husband and what that would feel like if I was in her shoes. Also, my sister's husband was a marine. He was going off to Iraq. Both of these things were happening at the same time. It's this idea that "Before you go to die" or "Before you go to Iraq", I might never see you again. This is what that last interaction or night together would feel like. It's personal because it deals with people I know and love, but it wasn't something I was experiencing personally.
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with these songs?
Most definitely, I think people can relate to stories. When you paint pictures, it gives the audience something to remember and grasp onto. That's part of what good songwriting is. You want to say something through a story without saying it. Sometimes, you just say it though [Laughs]. In "Can't Stop This", I got my first gray hair to today and I don't have any kids to blame. It's very in your face. You can do that or tell a story and get across an emotion musically, lyrically, and melodically without revealing everything. If you don't give it all away, that's what makes songs relatable.
Do movies and reading influence you?
I'm really bad about watching television and movies. I haven't had a TV in about six years. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. We didn't have cable when I was kid so I didn't watch a ton of TV. I love movies and television but I don't really have a whole lot of time. I used to read a lot when I was younger. I go through phases now that I'm older. I can't put a book down for a couple of months. Then, I don't want to read at all. I have a lot of friends, and I try to be very observant in my relationships and experiences with people. A lot of people are dismissive of individuals they're uncomfortable around or whatever, I really try to be friends with all kinds of people because I learn from them. I get a lot of great experiences through relationships with people, and that's where many of my stories come from. I'll observe others' lives and what they go through. I do like to read a lot of short stories and, not necessarily poetry, but inspirational quotes. I know that's really strange, but a lot of times there's an interesting turn-of-phrase or little sayings. I can work with those and build a whole song off of a colloquialism.
Have you checked out OK Sweetheart yet?