Interview: Daron Macke of Wedding Day Rain

February 20, 2014
(This post originally appeared on All The Write Notes.)

Singer/Songwriter and Musician Daron Macke is one-half of Wedding Day Rain, the indie pop duo behind IMOGEN UNLOCKED, the companion album to Kelsey Macke’s debut novel,  DAMSEL DISTRESSED.
IMOGEN UNLOCKED, an album of original songs inspired by the book, will be Wedding Day Rain’s full-length debut. The duo  released an EP of Christmas standards, Rapt in Bows, in December 2013, which you can check out on iTunes and Spotify.  They also plan to release an EP of original songs in the Spring of 2014. 

I interviewed Kelsey about her book several months ago, and now it’s time to talk to Daron about the musical side of this exciting, multimedia project!

Hi Daron! Tell me a little about your history as a musician. Have you always been into songwriting? What instruments do you play? How long have you been doing this? 

Thank you so much for interview Megan!  Hello to the All The Write Notes readership…I’m excited to talk to you all.
I started playing guitar in my late teens and was playing lead guitar in my first rock band three years later. This is where my skills as a player really started to blossom—jamming with other musicians. Sure, you can learn plenty at home and practice until your face turns blue, but until you step into a stinky garage or a grimy rehearsal studio and start banging out songs with other people, your craft is missing something. There is a synergy that happens in a band situation that is really unmatched. When the group is working on a song and you all change to the same chord at the same time or you intuitively know when a rhythm will change, it’s amazing. It’s creation.

I like to think I can play anything that has strings, but my focus is on guitar. I play acoustic and electric guitar, bass, some keys, and I sing. Some of these things I do better than others, but those are the tools I use to express myself musically.
As for songwriting, it ran hand in hand with my guitar playing. I started writing original music as I was learning to play guitar. I was never really one to play other people’s music, despite playing my share of cover tunes. For me, I preferred playing my own melodies over other people’s music. I would use that improvisation to help me develop new musical ideas and transfer those ideas into my own songwriting.

Writing music comes fairly easy to me, so a lot of my early songwriting was instrumental. I’ve written plenty of songs with words, vocals, melodies, harmonies, etc., but I’ve found that my best songs have been written with other people. Of course my ego despises the fact that I just wrote that, but it is the truth. Know thyself.

Top three favorite songs of all time. Go.

Just three!?  Wow…ok.  Bristol Shore by Eric Johnson, Pride And Hunger by Lowen and Navarro, and With Or Without You by U2.

And now, what’s your most favorite song to belt out in your car?

Oh boy. I’ve got a few, but the first one that comes to mind is I Dare You by Shinedown. Brent Smith has some pipes and I like his vocal melodies (I really need to be warmed up to sing this well!). I will also offer a confession. Barry Manilow. Yes, I am a Fanilow! His greatest hits are always in rotation.

(Note from Megan: FANILOW!!!! Ahahahaaaaa Barry Manilow fans are so funny.)

How did you and Kelsey become Wedding Day Rain? And where did that band name come from?

Our approach to a band name was pretty simplistic. It rained on our wedding day. To paint the picture, we were barefoot on a mountain top in the desert southwest, it started raining, and then there were two rainbows overhead. It was an amazing display, and the pictures are fantastic!

What’s your songwriting process like? Do you and Kelsey write the songs and music together, or does one of you take lyrics and the other take melodies?

I mentioned earlier that writing music comes pretty easy for me. With that in mind, I will write something on acoustic guitar and play it for Kels. She will start to sing a melody and if the song gains ‘traction’ then we will write the lyrics together. This isn’t set in stone however, as either of us can contribute whatever we like to the process.

You and Kelsey usually do Studio Saturdays where you work on your music. What’s that like? Give me a quick rundown of a day in the studio working on Imogen Unlocked.

If we had a camera to record this, people would freak out! Being married to your bandmate is both very cool and very difficult at times. Artists have egos pure and simple and when your spouse accidentally steps on that ego, things can get messy. Over time we have developed a method that works for us. We figuratively (and sometimes literally) wear different hats while working on music. Our marriage is temporarily put on hold as we work through the recording process. We are able to offer criticism, respectfully of course, with the understanding that we are musicians trying to make the best songs we can. It’s hard work, but good work. When we are done, we take our hats off and say hello to each other as a couple.

As for the technical side of things, I will record the music and have it ready to be sung over. Since Kels is the primary singer, she will sing first and I will engineer the recording. Once her lines are done, we trade places and I sing while she runs the session.

Who are some of your personal musical influences/role models?

Since guitar is my main instrument, my main influences are guitar players: George Lynch – such aggression when he plays, Eric Johnson – melody and artistry, and Nuno Bettencourt – flashy and technical.

An interesting thing you might have noticed is that these guitar players play fast, heavier music and yet I don’t incorporate that into my songwriting. Imogen Unlocked is all acoustic guitar based and will be performed in the same way. Oddly enough I don’t have an explanation for this…something for me to ponder…

Do you have a favorite song on Imogen Unlocked? 

That’s a hard question because I have several favorites, but I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one it would be My Strength. This one stands out for the way the song was written. I had a couple of pieces of music that I had been playing for months and nothing ever really manifested. Once we started writing songs for Imogen Unlocked, we smashed those two pieces together and My Strength was born. I also like the message that this song conveys. Sometimes people are judged by appearances, financial status, education, etc.  My Strength is about the surprise felt by those who wrongly judge others when they find out just how talented and amazing these people can be. 

Daron and Kelsey Macke have been making music together for over a decade.

Individually, they have experience performing for crowds of thousands and on national tv broadcasts, but together, they’re at the beginning of their journey. The pair married in 2005, and resisted the call of a musical union for a while, each continuing to work on their own projects. Creative collaboration requires conflict-fighting for the perfect line, exact melody, or specific mood-and inviting that tension into a relationship can be dangerous business.

In 2011, the music was tired of waiting, and songs began to form, whether they liked it or not. After several discussions about the separate identities of spouse vs. bandmate, Wedding Day Rain was official.

Their musical style is a mix of soaring harmonies, catchy choruses, and lyrics that linger. Guitar based instrumentation in a classic singer-songwriter style and modern vocals accentuate their singable, folky pop songs.

You can learn more about Wedding Day Rain by visiting their web site, and you can find them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


BETWEEN is now available for pre-order. Related: I am a lucky person.

February 8, 2014
Saturday mornings are pretty hectic around here. My oldest is trying out cheerleading for the first time and we have a game every Saturday at 10:00am.

Since I like to sleep until 9:00am, this is never NOT crazy.

And this morning, as I'm running out the door, I got this text from one of my closest friends in the world, the lovely Kelsey Macke.

I don't know if you guys know how preorders work. I didn't. But basically, once your publisher buys your ISBN number and everything, they enter all the book info into the sales system and then you wait. You don't know exactly when it will go live, you just know it'll be sometime soon.

My ISBN and info were submitted over two weeks ago. I've been working on book two all day every day (or at least it feels that way), so while I was SUPER EXCITED to know that the preorders for Between could open up at any minute, I generally forgot about it unless someone asked me. (My brain does not multi-task. I can literally focus on only one thing per day. And lately, that's ALL book two. Sorry, family. Sorry, personal hygiene. Sorry, LIFE.)

But this girl, my Kelsey, has been waking up every single morning and checking to see if Between was available yet. Every single day, you guys. And I had no idea until this morning when she sent that text.

I called, and the first thing she says is, "Well, I got up this morning, and like I do every day, went to this little web site called Amazon and typed in Between…" and I have no idea what she said after that because I squealed so loud I scared my children.

This blog post is a "Hey! My book is available for preorder now!" announcement, but it's also a little ode to Kelsey Macke, because she's slammed with book stuff and album stuff and teacher life and wife life and a million other little things, but if she hadn't taken a few seconds this morning to see if Between was on Amazon yet,  I wouldn't have noticed for several more days. I have the best friends in the whole world.

(And if you want to go check out Between in all its glory on Amazon, feel free!)


An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Nick Flora

February 6, 2014

(This post originally appeared on All The Write Notes.)

My friend Nick Flora is an alterna-pop singer/songwriter out of Nashville, TN. Flora has been writing songs and touring full time for close to a decade. His debut solo record Great Escape (2009) and the follow-up Hello Stranger (2011) are both prime examples of Flora’s grasp of dynamics, heart, and humor. His latest release The Reintroduction Of Nick Flora boasts a bold step forward and as fellow musician and frequent collaborator Stacy Lantz put it is “full of anthems, stories, heartache, and of course, wit.” To check out his music, click here.

Nick and I became friends over a year ago because as we all know, I appreciate funny people, and Nick’s tweets are some of the funniest around. (I’ll wait here while you go follow him.) He was writing his third album while I was tackling book edits, and we bonded while sharing stories about our processes. Songwriting has always been something of a mystery to me–I can barely write a short story; I have no idea how someone makes a point in a 3-5 minute song–and Nick was nice enough to take the time to answer some of my questions about songwriting. Enjoy!

Where do you get your ideas? Do you choose the topic or does it choose you? 

I’d say both. Sometimes I have an idea or something that keeps popping into my brain and I’ll try and tackle it.  But sometimes I’ll just sit down and something that’s been hiding in my subconscious will emerge unannounced and almost write itself.  I can plan all I want to write specific things but the best songs are often the ones that your brain was working on when you weren’t aware. It’s magic!

When you’re writing a song, are you thinking about the listener or are you writing what you need to get out personally? Does knowing that other people are going to listen affect your process at all?

I try to accomplish multiple things when I write. I do think about who’s gonna hear it and if someone else can relate, and that makes me work harder to make sure it’s as honest and true to my original vision as possible.  Weirdly, it’s often the stuff that’s so personal and I don’t think anyone will relate to but me that becomes the most relatable and most-often requested songs.  Which is great encouragement to always write what matters to me and what’s personal.

I know The Reintroduction had a theme–reintroducing people to your style as it’s evolved since the last album. Do you generally have themes in mind when you’re putting together an album? 

Usually, yes. But sometimes the theme reveals itself later.  Or I try to make the theme broad enough so I’m not writing with my metaphorical “hand tied behind my back.”  With The Reintroduction, I wanted to write about certain themes such as starting over again, not being defined by ones past, and moving forward when you are your own worst enemy, among others.  Fortunately these are things I come face-to-face with on a regular basis these days so it wasn’t hard to mine for experience when writing.

At what point do you know a song is “ready” and make yourself move on to the next song?

That’s a tough one. And the least scientific answer I have: you just know.  Over time when writing you figure out by listening to your musical gut that you’ve said everything that needs to be said with the song.  When I started out, my songs were 4-5 min long and pretty boring. But that’s ok! Because over time I figured out that I can say the same thing with the same emotional punches and get the same points across in a 2 min song, if I do it well.  Why say something with 3 verses, if you can say it with 2? It’s a game for me, like cleaning out the clutter to get to the good stuff.
It’s also important to remind yourself that there will be other songs to write.  So if this one doesn’t nail what you’re trying to say, maybe the next one will.

Pick one or two favorites of all the songs you’ve written, and tell me about them. Why are you so fond of them? 

They’re all my babies! *said in Oprah voice*  Haha, but really I’m proud of my songs. I wouldn’t have released them if I wasn’t.  But if I have to pick a couple I’d say:

“Lost At Sea” from The Reintroduction mainly because it’s just a story told start to finish, but to write it, Andrew Osenga (my producer/co-writer) and I had to write the story out in every detail and decide which parts to extract and highlight in the song.  We wanted to make sure and tell the story but at the same time evoke emotion and understanding even if you don’t know the story in it’s entirety.  It’s really hard to do but really fun when it works.  So it needed to work for those “in the know” and for the uninitiated. And I think we did it.

Also my song “Tired Of Me” is one I’m really proud of. I wanted to write a song that was a conversation back and forth with a couple that’s at the beginning stages of their relationship. The guy is an “Eeyore” type who can’t help but point out how he’s gonna inevitably screw up the relationship, and the girl believes that greatness is in store for them if they’ll just put that stuff behind them and walk forward together. My friend Stacy Lantz plays the girl in the song and it was fun to write from opposing points of view especially in some parts of the song when the two are saying differing things but are actually in harmony with each other. Quite literally.

What/Who are some of your musical influences? 

I love anyone who writes from specific or rarely spoken points of view. I’ve listened to 1000s of hours of music so anyone who can bend my brain with a viewpoint I hadn’t heard from or considered before is my favorite.  Songwriters that do that consistently are Ben Folds and Randy Newman.  Others that I find myself trying to be more like are Jon Foreman, Brandon Flowers, Arthur Alligood, Andrew Osenga, etc.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career up to this point?

That’s a tricky question.  Every time I make an album and it simultaneously meets and exceeds my goals for it, I’m proud.  I always set out to make the best album that’s in me in that moment, and if I accomplish that then I’m about as proud as I can be.

Do you have advice for someone who wants to become a songwriter?

Find your specific voice and own it. The world already has a Mumford & Sons, a Paul Simon, and a Jason Isbell. What it needs is a YOU.

In the words of Lester Bangs (ala Phillip Seymour Hoffman) from Almost Famous,  “Be honest, and unmerciful.”

Interested in the humor that makes Nick and I friends? Check out this post for the first set of ridiculous answers he sent me to these questions!


An Interview with Nick Flora, the Self-Appointed King of Sarcastic Charm

I'm over on The Write Notes today with an interview with singer/songwriter Nick Flora. Nick is an alterna-pop singer/songwriter out of Nashville who's been writing songs and touring full time for close to a decade. I've been telling Nick for months that I wanted to do an interview with him about songwriting, and I finally emailed him some questions last week. 

He responded within five minutes, and I was like, "Wow! Note to self: Nick can fill out an interview CRAZY FAST."

And then I read his answers.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Nick.

Where do you get your ideas? Do you choose the topic or does it choose you? 

I just google Hall & Oates lyrics and rearrange them to make new songs. 

When you're writing a song, are you thinking about the listener or are you writing what you need to get out personally? Does knowing that other people are going to listen affect your process at all?

Personally I don't think that's anyone's business.  It's annoying that others are listening to what I write.

I know The Reintroduction had a theme--reintroducing people to your style as it's evolved since the last album. Do you generally have themes in mind when you're putting together an album? 

Usually the theme is how much money do I wanna make and how many drugs have I done the night before I record.

At what point do you know a song is "ready" and make yourself move on to the next song?

I set a timer for 3 min then start playing random chords and singing gibberish. When the timer goes off, that's when I know the song is done.

Pick one or two favorites of all the songs you've written, and tell me about them. Why are you so fond of them? 


What/Who are some of your musical influences? 

I prefer to think of ME as the musical influence for others.

What's been the proudest moment of your career up to this point?

When this interview is over.

Do you have advice for someone who wants to become a songwriter?

Don't do it. More money for me.

To see the "real" answers Nick supplied a few days later, as well as links to his music, check out my interview with him on The Write Notes!
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