I recently got to chat with Josh Jackson (aka, Fiery Crash) about recording his latest album, In Clover; his musical beginnings and upbringing; and Peter Dupree. Read on…
EJ: You’ve been making music for a little while now. Please tell us about the first song that you ever wrote.
FC: I started recording with my friend Thomas Burns when I had just turned 15, under the name Quality Strangers. At the start of it all, we recorded an “album” that was 7 songs long with Thomas’s MacBook… the first thing I ever recorded was an instrumental cover of The Smashing Pumpkins song “Sweet Sweet.” The first thing I ever wrote was this number called “A Flawless Afternoon.” Man, it was awful. Thomas and I both agree that almost all of the really early stuff was just terrible. We were both really into post-rock music at the time, and we were trying to record these eerie instrumental songs with spoken word bits here and there… but it always came out really underwhelming because we had no idea what we were doing, and honestly it’s hilarious to us now. We thought we were making the most intense music anyone would ever hear! Wishful thinking, I guess. But I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
EJ: Your album, In Clover, was mixed and recorded thanks to the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal, but it was mastered and reproduced thanks to a successful Kickstarter project. What was your reaction when you heard that the project was fully funded?
FC: I was excited. I don’t really jump around or anything when exciting things happen, I kinda soak it in, I think. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Nehemiah Foundation, because they were adamant that it was going to be funded. To me, $6,000 is a lot of dough. Part of me was readying myself for it to fail, but I think it was supposed to end up this way. All that to say, I’m thankful that it worked out.
EJ: How was writing, producing, and releasing music independently different from working with the Nehemiah Foundation?
FC: For one, working in a place that I don’t live in takes a lot longer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I would record in my room, I would have a lot of time to fiddle around with a song, but I’d get really sick of it after a day or two. So in many cases, songs would be sorta rushed just because I wanted to move on to something else. That’s not the case for every song I’ve ever recorded at my house, but definitely for the earlier stuff, because I wasn’t nearly as nitpicky as I am now. But one thing about working with the guys at NFfCR is that they are another set of ears to work with, and they have a lot of knowledge on sound in general. One case in particular is tracking drums. At home, I would record drums with a single lo-fi mic, and that was that. Michael and Justus (the guys I worked with) know way more about miking a drum set, especially for getting specific sounds. There’s a song on the album called “Annie” that has my favorite drum tone on the entire album, and I had almost nothing to do with it. I told them I wanted a “drum machine feel” to it, and they ran with it and made it groovin’. Working at a studio with other people is more collaborative and honestly more creative than working alone in my room. I prefer the studio. Plus they handle pretty much all of the logistics, like sending the album to get pressed, etc… it’s refreshing.
In terms of writing, I like to take my time. As in, that process hasn’t really changed but I just have more time to revise things now. Since I can only take so many trips to the studio, I have a chance to “perfect” (whatever that means) the lyrics/song structure before I go in, so I like where the process is at now. Essentially, I have more time to notice the bad lyrics. And believe me, I write with an erasable pencil.
EJ: How has your upbringing or hometown shaped the way you make music?
FC: I’m the youngest of four kids, and I’ve learned a lot from my older siblings, as well from my parents. And those lessons apply across the board.
I live in a really neat town called Opelika. It’s an old railroad town that has grown into a big community with lots of trees and buildings. Some might tell you that it’s really lame, but I disagree. Opelika has a specific look to it, especially in the late afternoon. Like the whole town is covered in orange sunbeams or something. I don’t know, but I love it. It’s not perfect, of course, no place is. But it’s my hometown, for sure. The way it looks is definitely inspiring. We also have a high school football team. Go Dawgs.
EJ: I have to bring up that in your Kickstarter video you are wearing a Lionel Pritchert and the Wolfington Brothers shirt. You also even have an older song titled “Peter Dupree.” Please tell us a little bit about that.
FC: A few of my really close friends and I enjoy Thomas Gore‘s humor about as much as we enjoy the movie Hot Rod… a lot. Everything about it is so calculated and subtle, and yet so stupid. It’s hilarious. That being said, he’s not well known and that’s a shame. Peter Dupree deserves more recognition than he’s getting. Let’s face it, he’s breaking musical boundaries: he can sing, play guitar, and tap his feet. Sometimes he falls asleep in his own songs, and his feet just keep on tapping… I’m a fan of Balloon Shop, too, for all the same reasons. A lot of things on YouTube aren’t funny at all, and videos from Thomas Gore are like rare nuggets of comedy gold. That’s my opinion, anyway.
EJ: You are currently a college student. How do you balance writing music and performing well at school?
FC: My dad would answer this question with one word, “prioritize.” That’s my answer, too. The two things balance each other out pretty well. It was a lot harder to do that in high school, though. I was lazy about school then. Instead of writing a paper I’d rather be jamming with my friends. My parents would tell me, “It’s alright to ‘jam’ with your friends, Joshua. You just have to do the more urgent things first!” And the craziest part? They were right! Parents, man.
EJ: Is there any song in particular from the new album that has a cool story behind its writing or production?
FC: I could tell you about all the left-field production stuff we did in the studio, but that would be a novel. I guess one of the songs has a cool story behind it. The last song on the album is called “Meadowsville.” The story goes: when my sisters were little kids, they (and some of their friends in the neighborhood) would go across the street to Mrs. Sarah Meadow’s house. Mrs. Sarah was an older lady, and she had a garden in her backyard that my sisters would play in. They named the garden Meadowsville. From what they’ve told me, they would pretend it was a small town, and that they all supposedly lived there. Mrs. Sarah was always nice about it, whereas, a lot of folks would probably get mad about little kids playing in their gardens all the time, but she never did… Mrs. Sarah passed away in 2013, but Meadowsville is still in the backyard. That was one of the things my sisters talked about when we got the news, and not too long after that, I sat down and wrote a song about it. It was weird, because I wrote it really fast and it felt right to me, which almost never happens.
EJ: What is your favorite instrument to play, and why?
FC: That’s a tough one. I will say that I’m probably the most well-rounded with guitar, though I can’t really whip out any Jimi Hendrix solo’s or anything. But I know how to get a lot of different sounds out of it… as for the most fun instrument to me, that would be drums, hands down. That’s why this new album was such a treat to record, because I finally had access to a studio-quality drum kit. Plus, drums are one of those instruments that are fun to play no matter the circumstances. Like, it could be a cheesy Air Supply song or something, and I would still have a great time playing drum set… to an extent, anyway. Yeah, drums are fun.
EJ: What has been your largest area of growth with regards to your art?
FC: I think that’s more for a listener to judge than for me to say. I like to hope that the songs are becoming more cohesive. And I hope that the songs are giving more of a message than just “I’m so sad right now, blah.” That’s definitely what all the songs were about when I first started writing as a 15 year old. Again, I can only hope what it sounds like now. The listener is who really decides, I think.
EJ: What is one thing that you hope to accomplish in the future concerning your musical career?
FC: I’m not that concerned about becoming famous and going on world tours. I’ll see if I can explain… So, I like to go running. It’s a good stress reliever and I get to be alone with God when I do it. Sometimes I’ll take my iPod with me, and that’s always been when music seems to stick with me the most. Which is weird, I know, but it really does. If there’s anything I want to happen, I want the music to find someone in those times, not necessarily while they’re exercising, but when life is just hard, you know? I want it to be something that God could speak through, just something to say “you can be OK.” On paper it sounds silly, I guess. I try to help people like that in real life, in a personal sense, and I think it would be great if I can make art that does that, too. I’m not saying it always works, but I’d hate to think that I couldn’t try.
EJ: Is there anything that you’d like to say in closing about your latest album, In Clover?
FC: I hope the music finds everyone well, and I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.
WE\ARE\MIRRORS offers its sincerest thanks to Josh for taking the time to do this interview. Be watching for our review of In Clover this Music Thursday. In the meantime, check out Fiery Crash at the following links.