Ready to Shake Things Up? Midas Whale!

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It usually takes years for a musician to become an “overnight sensation”. Such is the case with Ryan Hayes, also known as 1/2 of the epic and eclectic duo “Midas Whale”, who recently exploded on the music scene thanks to their strong performances and witty humor on the hit television show “The Voice”.

I sat down with Ryan to find out more about him, and what comes next for the folk duo.

Linescratchers first became aware of you when you were part of the brother-sister duo “Sunshine Brady and the Moonlight Lady“. Tell us a little bit about this project – how did it get started? Did you record or perform or both, and what was the music like?

RH: Sunshine Brady was my first performance project. I have always been a writer of music or musician of sorts, but to stand in front of people and play was an entirely foreign thing that I wanted to try out. I recruited my sister Becca because performing solo is very lame in my opinion. She has a way of making people comfortable and that made performing very easy. The music was fun and folky and we were a hit in Rexburg in no time at all. I think a lot of people were drawn to what we did because we refused to take ourselves seriously. We never recorded, though some live recordings do exist if you know who to ask.

Was that duo your first serious effort with music? If not – where did you really get your start with music?

RH: It was my first effort as a singer, but no. I played the trumpet since I was 11 and I had been writing music on the guitar since I was 14.

You mentioned you think playing solo is lame…

RH: I always work in groups. Like I said, I think solo artists are lame. For me, I get much more joy out of hearing one of my songs sung by another person than I could ever get from singing it myself. Deep Love is a prime example of this. It has grown into a family of 40+ people with many moving parts and I am content just being a part of the motion rather than the star.

How did “Midas Whale” get started, how long have you been together, and where do you see yourselves going?

RH: Jon convinced me to form a duo specifically for the show in August of 2012, so this is a brand new thing. Jon and I have collaborated for several years on producing a rock opera I co-wrote with Garrett Sherwood called Deep Love. We thought that going on national TV would help us to promote Deep Love, and even though it wasn’t talked about on the show we have certainly given Deep Love a sure future by doing this.   Midas Whale itself was an instant fan favorite on the show and our untimely departure was a shock to the nation. We are now entirely devoted to keeping Midas Whale a household name and actively increasing our reach. We are hard at work raising money for an album (via Kickstarter) and planning for a summer tour.

You have a sound that is very original, and yet completely classic at the same time. Tell us a little about what music and what artists have influenced you.

RH: My sound probably seems original because I don’t listen to much contemporary music. If you were to listen to music from the early to mid 1900’s you might hear something familiar to what I write. I am a big fan of the piano plunkers like Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin along with singers like Bing Crosby and Yves Montand. The writing and singing style of those days appeals to me for its melodic value and as a result can’t stomach much of the rhythm driven music of today.

How has being on “The Voice” this year impacted you personally and professionally?

RH: It has been very nice to see the degree of personal pride my friends, family and acquaintances all take from it. Many people I know personally who have had it rough this last year have found strength and pride in seeing me on TV. It’s weird how that happens, but I know I would feel the same way if I had seen some schoolmate of mine doing the same thing. If I can be the means of raising someone’s spirits then it’s all worth it. Professionally I would say that this season of the Voice has marked me as a musician. Before, I would have hesitated to call myself a musician. Firstly, I am a working geologist and secondly I don’t see myself professionally in the same rank as people who have striven all their lives to master an instrument. THOSE are true musicians in my opinion. The reality, however, is that I think more about music than any other thing, and being paid to do it makes me qualified for the title. I have started calling myself a musician, and it’s beginning to feel less weird.

What was your favorite experience/favorite part of being on “The Voice” ?

RH: I would say the most amazing part of it all is becoming familiar with and close to all of the singers on the show. I feel like many of them are my kindred spirits and I can’t even imagine not knowing them. I made relationships with people there that I will keep for the rest of my life. Initially I thought that they would all be the reality TV type that are competitive and arrogant, but what I found was quite the opposite. They are some of the kindest, most genuine and talented people I have ever met. I know that I’ll be working with many of them for years to come.

In my circles, people seemed pretty surprised and genuinely interested that a couple of young folkies were able to speak fluent Spanish with Shakira and that you had both lived in foreign countries.  Did this prove to be an opportunity to have conversations about the gospel, as part of your explanation of how/why you had these skills and experiences?

RH: Hardly. I don’t try to hide the fact that I am LDS, but I don’t try to advertise it either. When people would ask me how I learned Spanish I would simply say I lived in Ecuador, and that was usually enough for them. I am always excited to talk about the gospel but will only open up if I feel like the moment is right.

There were several LDS artists featured on “The Voice” this year…

RH: Yes, Ryan Innes and Amy Whitcomb were both on the show and I have grown rather close to both of them. Coincidentally we were all eliminated on the same week. I am so honored to have known both of them and we all plan to go on the road together this summer.

How has the public reacted to your music? Has the LDS Music community embraced you?

RH: I think the timing is perfect for our music. We are at the beginning of the new age of folk music, both nationally and internationally. Because of my lifelong love affair with the genre I feel somewhat like I do have something to contribute amid all of this. I feel right at home doing it. I think the LDS community in Rexburg stands very firmly behind us, but we’re working to win over Utah. We claim Rexburg because we met there, but the fact is we live and work in the Wasatch area.

I agree that the time is right for a new folk emergence – just look at the recent success of  groups like Mumford and Sons and others who have displayed clear folk influences in their music.  Even the commercially driven show American Idol produced a folk-flavored winner in 2012 with Philip Phillips. So – What is next for you?

RH: Kickstarter, then album/touring. We’re very hard at work to make sure this all happens.

Where can people find out more about you, buy your music, see your shows, etc etc etc?

RH: Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/MidasWhale and https://twitter.com/MidasWhale

and interact with us on our website http://www.midaswhale.com/

Midas Whale is in the last week of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign – if you enjoyed them and would like to support them, please act quickly to help make sure their album project becomes a reality.

Matt Mylroie is an independant music producer, audio engineer, songwriter, and musician from Tampa Florida and a semi-regular contributor to linescratchers.com.  You can connect with Matt via the contact info on linescratchers or at www.driftwoodtidemusic.com

Ready to Shake Things Up? Midas Whale!

Thank you for blessing me with a mind to rhyme and two hype feet

Fine, he considers himself religious but non-denominational (no longer LDS). And fine, this is a cover. And fine, he’s an actor*. But it makes the cut because A. This was a performance at a Mormon ward talent show. B. Gosling’s got the moves C. Gosling’s got the haircut. D. Gosling’s got the pants. Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

*He actually does have a band but it’s indulgent celebrity rock band stuff so it can safely be ignored.

Thank you for blessing me with a mind to rhyme and two hype feet

It’s not easy being Cove Reber.

In 2004, a 19-year-old Mormon singer from Vista, California, sent in an acoustic demo tape to a band that was, in his mind, already legendary. Saosin had only released one EP, Translating the Name, but it became so popular through touring and careful use of online social networking that the EP sold tens of thousands of copies. Not long into 2004, however, vocalist Anthony Green, who was feeling homesick and dissatisfied with the direction of the band, left to form Circa Survive, and a nation-wide audition then took place to find a new singer.

When Beau Burchell, guitarist of Saosin, first heard Cove Reber’s audition tape, he thought Anthony was playing a trick on them, because Cove’s vocals sounded so much like Anthony’s. It was no joke. Cove, though young, already had experience playing in local bands Mormon in the Middle and Stamp Out Detroit, and his vocal similarity to the Saosin’s founding singer got him hired. For Cove, it was a dream come true to be hired by a band he looked up to so much. Fan reaction was mixed. Continue reading “It’s not easy being Cove Reber.”

It’s not easy being Cove Reber.

…but are they active?

Aaron Eckhart

I had a conversation with Ian Fowles last week about “celebrity status” in Mormonism. Mormons tend to have a fascination with other Mormons who achieve greatness in art, music, film, etc. Evidence for this would be the Famous Mormons website, of course Linescratchers, and a few other sites online with lists of well-known Mormon celebrities. Even more infamous is our tendency of “wishful thinking” rumors. These are rumors that a certain celebrity is Mormon, even when they’re not and have never been (Elvis, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, etc.), based on an exaggerated rumor, or some sort of slight interaction with the church at some point.

Why do we care so much? Actually, that’s a pretty good question. We Mormons spent the first half of our history as a very peculiar people, living in the mountains with our polygamous wives, stealing passers-by and forcing them to swear oaths of loyalty to Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Temple. Okay, well, that’s perhaps it wasn’t that, but it’s no lie that we weren’t exactly “assimilated” into American culture. Peculiarly, sometime in the last 100 years, we’ve reversed this image. Now, we’re the clean-cut, conservative representatives of traditional (some would now even say outmoded) American family values. Explaining how we managed such a reversal is beyond my abilities and the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that we are uniquely concerned with how we blend in to American society. So perhaps we like hearing about Mormon celebrities because it means we’ve “arrived” on the American scene. Not only does it mean we’ve successfully blended into American culture, it also means we have talented members of the church out there being recognized for their skills. Continue reading “…but are they active?”

…but are they active?

David Archuleta – The Other Side of Down review

The Other Side of Down is the latest offering from LDS singer and American Idol alumni, David Archuleta.  Being LDS, a musician, engineer, and producer may qualify me to critique this album, but my greatest qualification might actually be that I am the father of 3 young girls who fit a significant demographic portion of his fan base.  Also,  I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to hear David sing live, in a very “up close and personal”, accapella performance  – so I’ve seen his talent in its most raw and simple form, and was eager to compare that to the production of his newest album.

David’s producers have tried to squeeze him into a radio-friendly, tween-compatible, pop format.   For the most part, they’ve succeeded, but stylistically this album feels just a bit “forced” at times.  Sure, it fits the format in many ways – catchy melodies, electronic beats, loads of synth sounds, lots of layering and production quality, and of course the terribly over-used “telephone” sounding effect on vocal delays and overdubs.   But there are noticable differences between this album and many of the cookie-cutter masses. Continue reading “David Archuleta – The Other Side of Down review”

David Archuleta – The Other Side of Down review

Elliott Smith and the Community of Christ

My first exposure to Elliott Smith was on my mission, from an extremely music-savvy companion who just happened to have a copy of From a Basement on the Hill (I’ll refrain from relating his name, just in case our mission president is reading). I loved the album, but when I got home and read more about Elliott Smith, his story was just too painful for me to get into much of his other work, especially when combined with my inevitable post-mission blues.

Over the weekend, though, I caught a sentence on his Wikipedia page that piqued my interest, and I went on to read a section from his biography. In Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing by Benjamin Nugent, the author mentions that Elliott Smith spent a number of years in his early childhood in the RLDS church (now the Community of Christ). His mother, Bunny, married his stepfather, Charles Welch, in 1973, when Elliott (then Steven) was almost four years old, and the wedding was officiated by an elder of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is unclear how long he and his family attended that church, but by middle school he was instead attending a Methodist church. Quite a bit of the angst in Smith’s upbringing came from a troubled relationship with his stepfather Charles, and later in his life, Smith came to believe that Charles had sexually abused him at some point. Continue reading “Elliott Smith and the Community of Christ”

Elliott Smith and the Community of Christ