You guys recently released your new EP “OCCAM’S FOIL”. What’s been your reaction to the success of this EP?
Good morning…nice to be with you, especially under such strange and scary circumstances.
I am so pleased that it’s been received as well as it has been! This is my 6th record, and it has garnered by far the most attention of any of my albums. Occam’s Foil is currently charting in the TOP 200 on college radio, and the reviews have so far been uniformly positive, so we really feel like there is a lot of momentum.
When we got out of the studio in late 2019, I had an inkling that we had something special. I always finish things on a note of hope, but this one felt different. I remember that I got the final mixes from Eddy (Garcia, the drummer and studio engineer for Little King), I took them out into my backyard and isolated myself with some high quality headphones. Now, my backyard is pretty quiet and surrounded by trees, so I was in my own little world…perfect for a first “final” listen. After the second song was done, I was literally in tears. We DID IT! There is some magic in there, somehow…I felt like people were gonna feel it, too. And they have.
What led you guys to make this new EP?
I have a compulsion to keep writing and recording music, and while there has been a lot more space and time between albums than I intended, Little King has been “consistently inconsistent” for over 20 years. The last EP, OD1, was released in 2014 and had only 3 songs, so I was overdue for another musical and lyrical statement.
There have been a lot of changes in my life since OD1 came out, and I felt it was time to release an album that reflected those changes. The song “Happy Home” from that record may be the most emotional thing I’ve ever recorded – people still tell me how much it moves them. So, I felt that I needed to write a follow-up to that song to mark myself safe from that period in my life. That’s how “The Skin That I’m In” was born, and I think it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s really a combo of excellent performances and a guitar solo that speaks to the triumphant nature of the lyrics. I still love listening to it…our fans seem to, as well.
Life comes at you fast, and there were a lot of events during the time I wrote those songs that affected my state of mind. We recorded in El Paso, Texas, and that was the site of a terrible mass shooting at Walmart in July of 2019 and it was also a place where migrant children were being separated and held in cages away from their families. That inspired the first song, “Hate Counter.” The other songs on there all have a story, and we actually recorded a bunch of mini-interviews this year discussing each song’s meaning and recording process. Those interviews really shed light on those songs and I think they will draw the listener closer to my heart.
Any fun moments while creating the new EP?
I can say without question that it was the most fun I’ve ever had making a record, hands down. This album features a new bass player, my Domincan buddy Many Tejeda. He lives in Delaware near me, and we had been jamming for a year or so before we went into the studio. Manny is funny and never said no to a good time, so having him as a part of Little King brought a lot of levity to the album. But make no mistake – he is an incredibly talented guy and a really hard worker. He nailed all of his bass parts in less than 4 hours! It was really quite impressive.
Manny and I traveled to El Paso to join Eddy Garcia in his studio to record the new songs. Eddy and I have collaborated on the last 4 Little King albums, so he knows me well. Not only is he an insanely great drummer, he also is a talented engineer and mixer. As a producer, I love having him turn knobs and make suggestions. He really is more than an engineer…he’s like a co-producer. Also has to be said that Eddy has never turned down a party either.
Eddy, Manny, and my old friends in El Paso made for a lot of antics. My daughter lives in El Paso, too, so we got to spend a ton of quality time together. We would record during the day, work on the artwork (Manny actually built that church on the cover…and then we lit it on fire), and then go out at night for Mexican food, tequila, and live music. It was the best.
What do these five songs off your new EP mean to each of you?
As I mentioned, on our web site I have little video interviews that talk about each song in depth. You can find those here: https://littlekingtunes.
In short, this is the summary:
“Hate Counter” – My response to the Walmart shooting that killed more than 20 El Pasoans in July of 2019 as well as the situation with migrant children being held in camps on the border. I was angry, and the music and words reflect that
“The Skin That I’m In” – Triumph in the face of a life-changing move across the country, infidelity, paranoia, substance abuse, and finding peace in one’s own skin.
“Forgotten Mile” – Named for a neighborhood in Delaware where I wrote these songs, and also a place where turtles cross a busy highway from the ocean to Rehoboth Bay to lay their eggs and then return to the sea to try again the next year. A metaphor, for sure!
“The Foil” – A bit of comedy but also a serious story of religious obtuseness, the opioid epidemic, and following the masses rather than thinking for yourself (which is really the general theme of the album)
“Nerve #8” – This is the nerve that is affected by a loss of equilibrium due to an ear infection or inebriation…
What’s your friends and parents’ thoughts on the new music?
My friends have always been supportive. I don’t know if they actually BUY the music, but they are polite about it! With modern music sales, you can oftentimes see who actually pays to download your music, and that’s cool but a little weird. And eye-opening…at least I know my brother bought it!
As for my parents, they’re always super-supportive, even if they don’t really understand it. My dad loves music but isn’t particularly musical, if that makes sense. Don’t really know if he’s ever listened to a full Little King album. But he says all the right things!
My mom is a little more in tune with what I do, I think. I had an opportunity not long ago to drive with her from Arizona to Texas, which in and of itself was great (my mom and I are super-close.) We were visiting my daughter, who still lives in El Paso. Anyway, I had a captive audience for like 5 hours, so I actually got to sit with her and play some of my favorite Little King songs for her and explain the meaning of each. She was surprised, I think, how much thought and care has gone into writing these songs over the many years I’ve been doing it. Very cool, for sure…I think she has a much greater appreciation for my music now, and I don’t know that would have happened if I hadn’t locked her in the car and tortured her ears.
Are there any other projects in the works you guys can tell us about?
Yes, I am working on a new album! The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a lot of fodder for new music and lyrics. The first two songs are connected – “Shelter in Place” and “Flatten the Curve.” I am working on a 3rd song today, and it has a much more somber and mellow feel than most of the stuff I’ve written. Very excited to share it with our fans, for sure…more to come.
Do you plan on touring to promote the new EP?
We were! I had shows and festivals planned from DC to Nashville to LA and all points in between. It’s a small thing to complain about in the face of the death and destruction this pandemic is leaving in it’s wake, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I think these songs would be amazing in a live setting, and rehearsals were sounding fantastic. So we WILL tour this EP some day…but for now, it’s writing more music and praying for health for our fellow humans.
These songs, like all Little King tracks, are written to be able to translate to a live trio. We do use overdubs on guitars and some doubling of vocals, and we did include a violin and cello on “Skin” and “The Foil,” but for the most part I want to record songs that will sound basically the same live as they do on the album. This may limit us somewhat in the studio – I have an inclination to abandon this paradigm on the upcoming album – but for now it’s important that when someone falls in love with a Little King song from the album that they hear it sounding the same way when they come to a show.
Whats the best thing that’s come out of this career so far?
I think the coolest part of making records is being able to share them with my kids. As they’ve gown up (I have a 23 year old daughter and a 13 year old son), I’ve been “that dad” who has a career but also is a musician. Definitely not the dad at most playdates or school functions, for sure. But they have both heard all of the songs in all of their stages, particularly my daughter, as she was 6 months old when my first album (Transmountain) came out. From the writing, the playing it over and over again, the rehearsals, and the recordings, my kids have heard it all. And they are the subject of quite a few of my songs, which I think is a really fun thing to be able to do. That’s part of my legacy that I will leave for them.
What’s your biggest struggle in this career so far?
Balance! Kids, 2 marriages, a separate career, mortgages, family relationships, finances…they all can suffer if you’re not careful. I DO NOT make music to be popular. I don’t really care if it sells or not, as the point is for me to leave a legacy that I can be proud of. If I can listen back to songs from 15 or 20 years ago and still appreciate them, that’s a big win for me. So it’s not about sales or popularity, but rather about continuing to create and evolve. That’s not easy when life intrudes, as it invariably does. Somehow, though, I’ve made it work. Even if it seems like I only release an album every five years.
How do you want your relationship to be with your fans?
In my mind, I’m just a dude. A nobody. I may have some ideas and I may be super-motivated to share them, but that doesn’t really make me that special. Anyone CAN do what I do. As to why they don’t, that’s the real question. Perhaps I am more driven than your average musician, but I don’t for a second believe that I am better or more intelligent or more creative than the guitar player next door.
I want my fans to understand that I am just a model for trying hard and thinking a little more deeply. I want to challenge them to strive for something great, to maximize their talents, and to follow their heart. Life is tough enough if you’re doing what you love – imagine being stuck in a dead-end soul-crushing job or relationship. No bueno. So if they want to get in touch with me on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, I WILL get back to them. I still have a hard time believing that this many people care what I have to say. I am humbled. So I will always do my best to answer them and maybe help them along on their own journey.
What social media platform do you use most to stay connected to your fans?
Yeah, as I just said, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all @littlekingtunes) are all pretty active, although I pay the most attention to Facebook. We were sort of late to the party with IG and Twitter, but we have them. Our web site is always current and updated, too (www.littlekingtunes.com) and is a really great way to learn about the band and hear all of the last 5 albums. Of course, you can find all of our streaming links on there as well (Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and more…)
Look, I know that there are a million platforms! YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, TicToc, and more. I literally cannot keep track of them all. So I prefer to concentrate on the ones listed above and work on the music.
What was the craziest fan encounter you guys have had?
I had one fan about 15 years ago make a serious plea for me to procreate with her. I guess she wanted a little Little King. That’s all I will say about that, other than IT DID NOT HAPPEN.
Have you guys ever been starstruck by another artist?
Not at all! I love music and the people who make it, but if you’ve been doing it for long enough, you realize that we all put our pants on one leg at a time. I have met a few famous people, and fortunately they were all very nice and humble. Having said all of that, I’d probably have a moment if I met the surviving members of Rush, David Byrne, Roger Waters, Jimmy Page, Thom Yorke, Snoop, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. But not at the same time.
What impact do you want to leave on the music world?
I want people to think a little more deeply, to listen more critically, and demand a higher level of creativity from their artists and from themselves. I know I sound like “that guy” when I say this, but the recording and creation of music has drastically changed with the advent of Pro Tools. ANYONE can make a record with a computer. I hope that when people listen to Occam’s Foil, or any Little King record, that they can tell how much time and care went into the whole process. If we can just encourage that same ethos in others, that’s good enough for me.
What goals have you guys set out for the band?
More music, more live shows, and a greater level of communication with our fans (we call them the FOLK, or “Friends of Little King!”) I wanna see them on the road, I wanna have a cup of coffee with you. Everyone. After we have come through the Coronavirus madness, I know that we will all have a greater appreciation for each other, and I want to live in that moment and have my band join me in that celebration. Know this…the new record will certainly reflect that sentiment!
Do you guys have any last things you want to tell your fans?
Do not settle for anything less than exactly what you want. And when that changes, and it will, pursue your new goals with exactly the same passion. The pursuit of your dream is its own reward, and I know that may be hard to understand when you’re young, but it’s so very true.
I was a high school English teacher for a couple years (that was a TRIP), and I was always preaching about what I called “The Spiral of Time” to my students. Basically, that’s my philosophy as to why it seems like the older you get, the more quickly time passes. Look at it like this: A year to someone who’s 5 years old is 1/5th of their life. To a 50 year old, it’s 1/50th, and on and on…it’s a relative mathematical equation. That’s why, when you talk to your grandparents, it seems like only yesterday to them that they were young! A year is nothing to them. The moral? Grab it now, get it while you can, because you don’t get a do-over and there’s no better time than the present.