Photo credit: Jason Guffey
Beauregard and The Down Right’s Steppin' Out is a spirited show of steampunk reggae and dub punch. With a keen eye, Beau muses on political inequality, hazy nights and the urgent necessity of love. Beau accents his lyrics by modulating from sunny croon to teeth-bared growl; going from Bob Marley teaching self-care to Tom Waits at a 3 a.m. poetry reading. On “Atlanta Anthem”—an epic sketch of his hometown—Beau offers a mouthwatering tasting menu of the Atlanta music scene with an eclectic blend of horns, ebow, and a ukulele.
Preorder Steppin' Out Here
SC: I like how this song uses place to drive its narrative. How do you see Atlanta fitting in to the song? Is it just a location? Or is it also a character?
BH: I see Atlanta as my home and it most certainly has its on life. The people and history of this city make it come to life though as its own character.
SC: This song is titled “Atlanta Anthem” but it’s at a slower tempo than we normally associate with anthems. Can you tell me about this choice?
BH: The slower tempo of the song for me kind of sets the pace for the story of a year in the city to unfold. Kind of like a folk ballad with a tangible story line that you can easily imagine yourself drifting through. It’s the pace of the story more than the song, I suppose. I wanted a listener to be able to digest the story as it blossoms rather than being bombarded with word salad and losing track of the narrative.
SC: The song begins in the summer and ends in the winter. Can you tell me about that choice?
BH: As far as the change of the seasons go, its more about the experiences and the time that they happened within the storyline, but it also ends on a winter season to wrap up the feeling that the sentiment is still the same towards the city—and its people and art—year round, even in colder slower times. The feeling of a connection to the landscape of Atlanta rain or shine, so to speak. It’s a beautiful, weird place and even though the city sometimes creates a love/hate relationship for its occupants, it’s still our city and we value and protect its uniqueness. Or try to anyway.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Atlanta Anthem”?
BH: The process for writing “Atlanta Anthem” was kind of loosely related amalgamation of certain events that I had experienced within the city. Mostly touching on specific location I frequented, or events that stood out in my mind. It was also part of the process to pay homage to some of the artists in this city through a storyline of how I perceived certain happenings around town.
For example, "its a Friday night down at 529" is a line setting the location and atmosphere for the rest of the story in that verse. If you are familiar with Atlanta nightlife and the music scene you should instantly get an idea of the environment. The verse goes on to say "watching jungol play for the very first time wearing body paint under the black lights" if you have ever seen Atlanta's twin brother outfit Jungol, this line becomes instantly relatable and paints a picture of the experience. I wanted a listener to be able to dive into this without too much description of the happening and find a place within the narrative as it flows together. Each verse kind of comes together with that same formula.
SC: What is your writing practice like? Do you write every day? Or do you wait for inspiration?
BH: I try to set some time aside daily to kind of test out ideas and lock into a feeling for my writing style. Honestly, my process is a little unorthodox, I suppose. I don’t really sit down and write out outlines for songs or anything like that. My process usually begins with a melody or a personal emotion or both and either a song comes naturally and is usually finished within an hour or two, or it doesn’t come at all.
I would say inspiration and my sentiments just pour out when the time is right and a new creation is born. Its kind of surreal and strange, I guess. I never really sit down and try to work a piece out, its just there or it isn’t. I can’t force it.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
BH: Sticking with the theme of Atlanta, there is a wealth of talent in this city—from painters, poets, MCs, songwriters to producers, visionaries, street people making jewelry, etc.—I find the community and all its multifaceted uniqueness are an ever changing sea of inspiration.
As far as the song writer community goes, I’m constantly in awe of how the writers and troubadours from Atlanta and around the country that I have come to know are ever changing and growing; developing their craft and plucking heart strings. I’ve spent a lot of time hosting open mics and visiting songwriter nights and showcases and watching the progression and growth of these incredibly talented people; observing the process from unknown to making a record to crafting ever deeper more powerful songs.
I’d rather spend my money on a local songwriter showcase than a big national act because the heart and soul is omnipresent in those places. Watching someone pour their heart out in front of strangers with a piece of art that helped them make it through high and low times is very touching and a constant reminder to keep pushing and expressing those deep-seeded feelings that ultimately create the truest representation of life as an emotional creature. Hemingway said a man alone is doomed, and I believe that to be true in the artistic world. Observing other artists finding comfort in their expression brings a kind of elation and hope.
Drew Williams' solo LP is a cathartic blend of rustic earnestness and psychedelic imagery. On “You Already Know” Williams nakedly sings “our greatest compromise / still won’t stop the show” with a Neil Young backbeat. Williams’ sparse arrangement feels as threadbare like a favorite sweater. It’s a quiet song at times, but it is held together with a defiant cry towards camaraderie, and a prayer for the uncertain future. The song ends with a descending electric guitar, urging us onward, despite the inevitability of our collective failure.
You can listen to “You Already Know” here.
SC: I read the first line as both a reflection on writing a song and as the beginning of a parting address. Can you tell me about the first line?
DW: Oftentimes it’s really tough to begin something. I think of the opening line as more about the struggle to express yourself in a meaningful way, in spite of all that’s going on (or not going on) in our lives.
SC: I love the first refrain “Our greatest compromise / still won’t stop the show / but you already know”. Can you tell me a little about it?
DW: This song, to me, is ultimately about what is understood whether it is discussed openly or not. And then there’s the potential disaster and humiliation from assuming too much. The refrain “Our greatest compromise...” serves as a poignant summary of the most personal unspoken agreement, perhaps between lovers, or maybe... collaborators, business partners, etc. I don’t know. You fill in the blank. Although you’re going to have make certain sacrifices, nevertheless, don't give up the thing that most defines you. Be your biggest, boldest, truest self no matter what. Trust yourself and trust others.
SC: What was your writing process like for “You Already Know”?
DW: First of all, this song was one of the easiest songs for me to write of all that I’ve written so far. It was completed in two very brief writing sessions, 80% completed in the first 15 minutes. I don’t get that lucky that often. I guess there was just enough readily-experienced turmoil and beauty in my own life at the time to bring the song out of me so directly. With most of the songs I’ve written a particular “feeling” permeates and manifests during a writing session, or jam session, and that “feeling” might lead to the formulation of few lines that ultimately provide the thematic platform for the song to unfold upon – if I wholeheartedly pursue it. From my perspective “You Already Know” is definitely a prime example of that process yielding convincing results in short order.
From a musical standpoint, as I was drafting these reflective lyrics I imagined and composed the musical accompaniment as a boozy 1960s country love-sick ballad kinda vibe. The chord progression I ended up with shows that sort of stylistic vestige, I think. But, perhaps thankfully, the music morphed into something else more raw and contemporary when it came time to perform and record the song.
SC: What is your writing practice like? Do you write every day? Or wait for inspiration?
DW: I’m generally not a disciplined writer. Sometimes I am. I go through spells. I regularly collect raw material from old people and old books, such as: quirky adages, similes, character names, anecdotes from classic and ancient literature, etc. However, that material rarely makes it way into my songs. Just like with exercise and general fitness; I’ll stick to a strict routine for a few days, maybe even a week or two, then I’m back to being an entitled slacker who only pursues the most compelling whims.
I actually write very frequently and consistently – just usually not with a structure or specific goal. I just scribble lines, couplets, or rambling philosophical prose. Songs usually arise for me after a lot of seemingly unrelated writing, and emotionally and/or intellectually-charged personal endeavors together have sort of crystallized into an almost instantaneous form of expression. Little to no contrivance. I don't necessarily wait for inspiration, but rather I condition myself to make the most of the moment of inspiration when it arrives. Ideas or concepts for songs are not the problem. Many people can conjure a premise for a song from one angle or another. The trick, for me, is to allow yourself the freedom and self-confidence to pursue that first hint of a song, whatever it is, with the purpose and devotion of a primeval hunter. Don’t let it get away. You can’t afford to let it get away. That particular animal-song probably won’t ever be right in front of you under these conditions again. Seize it. Make it yours.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
DW: I currently reside in Grand Canyon National Park, and although the music scene is very small here, its great because everyone knows everyone that writes and plays music. It’s very different from the bigger cities I’ve lived in the past, like Boston, and more recently, Atlanta. The number of artists and songwriters seems endless in cities of that size – which is amazing. Although I’m now at the Grand Canyon I still kind of consider myself a part of the songwriter communities of the other places I’ve lived. I can’t help but be inspired when I encounter and become acquainted with other songsmiths, doing their thing; and who are so immersed in their work it’s seemingly impossible to tell where the song ends and they begin – or vice versa. It’s exciting as well as reaffirming to be reminded that this craft, and way of life, is a very legitimate “human” occupation that shouldn’t be dismissed as marginal and/or reckless. We’re in the business of growing souls and building legacies!
“Country Roads Town” is a moving depiction of longing. Singer Johnny Delaware ponders “are you happier now without me?” as monoliths of feedback grind against tranquil rhythmic acoustic guitar. The song splits influences between late 80s Dire Straits and the earnestness of post 9/11 Wilco. Throughout Delaware’s lyricism is evocative with vivid imagery “smokestacks rising out from a paper mill / South Dakota spirits blowing through the hill”. Stick around for the ending, which ascends with panic attack snare and cinematic guitars. Delaware joined me for a chat about lyrics, writing, and the magic of Charleston.
You can download a free copy of “Country Roads Town” here.
SC: I love how there is a tension in this song between its brooking musical landscape and its lyrical declaration of love. Can you tell me about that choice?
JD: I generally always make the music first when I write a song— whether it be me or with my band mate Clay Houle. It lays down the mood to know where the song should go lyrically. When I wrote these chords, it really brought me back to South Dakota's Black Hills to the countryside right on the foothills outside of Spearfish, where I went to college for a few years. Horses would run next to barbed wire fences and you could see their breath from the cold. The sun would fall and the sky would literally look like it was on fire; a stunning place to drive around and rip cigs.’
I began to think about my memories there, and my family from South Dakota who I really have nothing in common with anymore. I have a lot of love and pain from these people up there, but I really wanted to focus on my heart in this song. It's so easy to turn from people who don't understand you. I wanted to sing from a caricature of myself & let them know I will always have a wellspring of love, somewhere within, even despite those differences and what they did.
SC: I was moved by the lines “seems like a lifetime now since we’ve been close / people tend to grow apart, I still care about you though”. Can you tell me a little about them?
JD: This was directed at my mother. The lyric says it all.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Country Roads Town”?
JD: I remember when I first moved to Charleston, I lived in the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. I wrote the chords of this song in my bedroom and never got around to writing lyrics until 3 years later. Sometimes I'll write songs and forget about them. Even years later the chord progression to Country Roads Town would play in my mind while walking around Charleston. That's when I knew I had a special song and needed to write powerful lyrics to back it up. Taking it to the studio, Clay Houle of The Artisanals really captured the emotion of this track by adding all the feedback guitars and Garth Brooks power chord hits (with the low octave piano —something we like to do a lot with our productions)
We would start playing this song live and jam out the ending, so when we re recorded this song, we added the extensive outro with the snare drop, trombones and fuzz guitar solo.
SC: Tell me about your songwriting process. Do you write every day? Or do you wait for inspiration?
JD: It's different every time. Sometimes I write a song in ten minutes, and other times it's a culmination of salvaged parts from multiple tracks that conflates years later. I love writing on my 12 string guitar, but wonderful songs and melodies just pop in my head while walking around Charleston, which I do all the time! Sometimes I'll write lyrics over Clay's riffs, like For instance "Roll With It." The piano can spark some beautiful songs, too.
Typically I write when the inspiration comes. I'll never force a song or stress out. We already have so many to get recorded. But if I do go a couple weeks without writing something, there's an underlying anxiety to stop being lazy and do my dharma.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence you?
JD: It's been a bit impalpable touring and listening to people from all over the country speak so highly of the Charleston music scene. I always knew the local scene was a special place, with so many up and coming bands and national mainstays, but there was a part of me that figured it could end up a well kept secret forever. Which it still kind of is.. like in a purgatory state. Music fans know about us, but the music industry really doesn't. But I really don't care what the industry thinks in the first place. Nor should any other artist in Charleston. They're a bit insecure, kind of like those kids at high school lunch who need to sit with the same people everytime so they feel validated. It's such a trendy and political business, and the Charleston music scene doesn't need to cater to that. So I'm proud to say I'm from here and to be a small part of this blossoming, and can say The Artisanals will never bend our art for an A&R rep.
I love seeing all the local bands in Charleston touring and doing all they can to spread their music. Other musicians from other music cities have a bit of a head start, but everyone's persistence and will inspires me to keep pounding the rock. It's all that we have to do.
Youth Model’s “Symmetry” is a melodically upbeat rock song that is as catchy as it is chilling. “Symmetry” evokes a dream collaboration between Ric Ocasek’s winning pop sensibilities and Thom Yorke sci-fi paranoiac lyricism. Singer Matt Holmes’ lyrics weave a glitched-up postmodern narrative about fear and singularity. When the bridge lights up with Holmes’ fugue state malfunction of “I’m finding it all myself, / I’m fighting it off myself” the song is crystalized before re-spawning with its eerily metronomic chorus. Youth Model’s drummer Randy Borawski joined me for a chat about the song, co-writing, and the spirit of Charleston.
You can pick up a copy of Symmetry here.
SC: I love how the song’s bright music creates a tension between the lyrics. Can you tell me about this choice?
Matt and I are big fans of 90's rock: Toadies, Smashing Pumpkins, Del Amitri, and Toad The Wet Sprocket and of course the Big Three from Seattle: Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. That's where our reference point lies, but we continue to evolve our tastes as newer acts have come on the scene. Well, newer than the aforementioned, bands, like Wilco, Kings of Leon, The Strokes and Spoon. For the drum sound, we're referencing Nirvana's In Utero. I think the drum sound is a bit more slick than that record, but still has that big and loud feel. As far as the tension between the lyrics goes, Matt explains that all he can write are sad songs. Even if they appear to be musically upbeat, chances are the subject matter of the lyrics is dark and dreary.
SC: At the end of the second verse Matt sings “So we'll go without sleep / while they're sharpening their teeth / watch as we slip right by / don't pay no mind anyway.” Can you tell me a little about these lyrics?
RB: Symmetry as a whole is is basically about not letting fear and trepidation pull you away from having close relationships with people, whether that be your spouse, girlfriend or friends even when things get messy. We all know relating to people can be a challenge sometimes. As far as the exact meaning of these particular lyrics, we leave the interpretations up to the listener.
SC: Tell me about writing “Symmetry”.
RB: Matt is the main songwriter in Youth Model. Once he's written a tune, he'll send us fully realized demos with him playing drums, singing, playing guitar, bass and/or keys. Then, I take the idea or direction of the drum parts on the demo and make it my own. Ben, our guitarist, then adds in his parts. Once we get in the studio together with our producer, we make final arrangement decisions, doubling choruses here, changing intros, outros and bridges there, etc.
SC: Can you tell me about the band's writing process? Do you write daily or wait for inspiration?
RB: Matt writes when the time allows and inspiration hits him. He has said that he writes his songs around the chorus, and there is a main theme in a song, but the lyrics are open to interpretation. He tends to write in stream of consciousness mode.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
RB: I think the spirit of the Charleston music scene as a whole inspires us to write and perform live at a high level. Even though the days are gone of million dollar record deals, we want to make the best music we think our band can make as we continue grow as musicians.
Skymonk’s “To Have And To Hold” blends the plea of a failing marriage with an apocalyptic backdrop of guitars. The song is ensconced in smart clatter with call and response guitars, which suggest the circular questioning of the lyrics. The second verse picks up with Kelly Nash’s wooly images of America and post modern melancholy, “Now we need assistance / we can’t run in this car alone. / We’re so tired from the road”. The four-piece band's smart counterpoint balances out the anxious message with Nash’s closing provocation “come on truth and dare”. Nash joined me for a brief chat about friends, early morning writing, and finishing songs.
You can listen to To Have And To Hold here.
SC: I hear a call and response between the guitars in the song. Can you tell me about how that relates to the message of the song?
KN: The call and response is an element representative of the speakers in the story, the conversation between the two lovers. We imagined it as the way an argument works, people talking over one another, spilling into each other's speech with moments of brief silence then bursts of volume and expression. Granted, there is only one perspective from the lyrics, we wanted to represent the other party musically. The story of this song is a snapshot of a marriage falling apart.
SC: Tell me a little about this lyric in the second verse “Now we need assistance / we can’t ride in this car alone. / We’re so tired from the road”.
KN: This lyric is further explaining the struggle at hand in the second verse. 'Assistance' refers to family support. The car is representative of the family. The "we can't ride in this car alone" also refers to the children that are part of this picture, referenced again later in this verse with "But we're alive and we're doing fine". "We’re so tired from the road” is describing that you can't combine certain chaos with family. The speaker tried for a while but the chaos one person brings makes the whole family "so tired from the road".
SC: Tell me about writing “To Have and To Hold”
KN: This song was hard to write. Its inspiration comes from a dear friend of ours, his very real turmoil and ultimate end of his marriage. This song, he wrote all the lyrics in their entirety, I only helped edit. We wrote "To Have and To Hold" in late 2015 and started playing it live to test the water. The song is different from the rest of our work and I wasn't completely sure it fit. However, we loved playing it because it's a challenging piece of music and the ferocity behind the lyrics that drive the tune and the energy. I love that quality about the song.
SC: Can you tell me about your writing process? Do you wait for inspiration? Or do you write on a schedule?
KN: I write consistently in the early mornings, whether that's guitar riffs/ideas or lyrics or record on my phone chord patterns or melodies. There are roughly 80 something ideas/riffs currently sitting in my phone. That certainly doesn't mean they're all good, hah. My problem is finishing songs, always has been. Some days, a couple really great ideas make their way to the page or recorder that can be reworked and tweaked to become something really worth working on. Other days, nothing shows up and I end up noodling. But over the past year or so my writing process has gotten much more disciplined. I take one idea and compile an arrangement, then bring it to the band. We then work on them together as a group and everyone writes their own parts. We look for feedback from each other as we move through a tune to ensure we're serving the song best. Everybody has to feel the song if we're going to continue pursuing it, otherwise it ends up getting thrown out.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
KN: I'm blown away by some of the talent and musicality we have here locally. I find myself humming a melody line from one of the groups in town and I aim to try and create something like that, an infectious melody or idea that finds it's way into your head when you're doing something else. That inspires me to write better and makes me very much aware I need to step up my game. I can always write better and I have much to learn. We're excited to play a small part in our songwriting community and continue writing and releasing new material, maybe in the process, inspiring others to do the same.
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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