Listening to countless numbers of records, singles, songs, voices every week can be a monotonous and tedious endeavor. Things start to sound the same, voices bleed together and guitar lines go from one song to another and the realization that there truly are only so many chord progressions that exist seeps into your mind. That is, until the tedium of uniformity is broken every so often by a special moment. That is what happened the second I heard Kayla Schureman‘s voice.
The record kicks in with “Airshow” and as strange as a comparison as it sounds, it brings me back to early 90s band “Big Head Todd and the Monsters” in how the chorus kicks in with is melodious flow and sweet, mellow-honeyed tones. It’s rare that I get as excited listening to a song as I do with these songs. There is something really special in Schureman’s voice that elicits some balance of nostalgia with something new and fresh. The perfect storm of musical elation…all with that hint of sadness and melancholy that I yearn for in a song.
Then “Enough” hits and the country tinged sepia colored fringes of the singer-songwriters music is made very evident. Two voices singing each word together until the break where her voice takes center stage and soars. Its country music, but its not overly so. Its the subtle inflections and colors of classic country in her voice and writing style that really make it stand out. Its not so much honky tonk as is it a slow drift down an old dirt road. Not so much a barroom brawl with twangy guitars as it is a lament for the downtrodden and reflective types to gaze upon. Introspective but relatable. Heartbroken, but heartfelt.
The entire record is a collection of well written, beautifully performed song after song. A continuity that flows wonderfully, but never seems dull and is stippled with line after line of hooks that sink into your head and snag you up in their catchy authenticity.
I caught up with Kayla to ask a couple questions about her inspiration, her muse and where the songs from this record stem from and how they get to where they are today. In this record I have found one of my favorite new voices in roots/folk music and quite possibly my favorite record of 2017. Check it out and be the first to get this record when it comes out on March 28th.
RLR: I could may a few assumptions in regards to your influences and inspirations, but I would rather hear it from you. I feel like a lot of artists listen to certain records when they are arranging, writing or planning a new album. So what were you listening to during the process of creating this record? Do you feel any of that influence seeped into your own songs?
KS: Well, the songs were written over the span of many years, the band arrangements were put together in a few months, and the record was cut in a week. So, my influences were wide and spread out during the creation of this record. Once we started mixing the songs I found myself referencing Ryan Adams and Fleetwood Mac records. I was also listening to The Voyager by Jenny Lewis a lot last summer during the time we were mixing, so my ideas were saturated with that vibe as well. I know my guitarist, Evan [Palmer], pulled a lot of his inspiration for the guitar arrangements from Jason Isbell and Lucinda Williams records.
RLR: In that same vein, were there any artists or records that made you truly want to create music and be a musician? Stuff early on in life or even later that made the choice to put this record out and perform?
KS: Early on I was at the mercy of my parents music collection which was a lot of Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, and 90s country. I knew music as a part of everyday life whether it was blasting in the house or the best part of a cross-state drive in the backseat of the van. I started drumming when I was eleven and got pretty obsessed with the technical side of playing and learning an instrument. When I was sixteen or seventeen I got into a record called, The Animal Years by Josh Ritter. Although I had mostly been playing drums up until that point, this was the first record that made me seriously want to write songs and lyrics. A few years later I had the same feeling when my friend played me, Failer by Kathleen Edwards for the first time. A desire to perform did not come as easily and is still something I push myself to do, but I remember being at a Jenny Lewis show in Los Angeles ten years ago and wishing I had her delivery. Still do.
RLR: We share a friend in common in Zach Schmidt and the first time I heard your voice was on his tune “Dear Memphis” and I immediately fell in love with how you sing. I am completely unfamiliar with the music community in Pittsburgh aside from the two of you, but a huge part of why Red Line Roots exists is to create some semblance of community in New England. So, what is the music community like around you? Are there any spots that you frequent that you dig to play at? How about other artists that you are listening to from your own musical landscape down there?
KS: Thank you, I love that song of his. I moved to Pittsburgh five years ago and after about a year of living here I started going to a weekly open mic run by a great local musician named, Henry Bachorski. That’s where I met Zach and heard him perform for the first time. I instantly knew we were going to be friends. His songs cured some sort of home sickness I was feeling. Not for home, but for someone who was writing in the same musical landscape as I was. Since then I’ve grown to really love the scene here and I feel really fortunate to collaborate with Zach on his record, but also with all the guys in my band while making Kiss The Ground: James Hart from the Harlan Twins, Nate Campisi from Locks and Dams, Rich Kawood from Mariage Blanc, and Evan Palmer from All on Seven. There’s a great bar in the Northside called, The Park House where I like to play and go see local bands. During the summer Three Rivers Arts festival, Hartwood Acres concert series, and Weather Permitting concert series are a few to check out if you’re in town.
RLR: What does your writing process look like? Are you a “scrap with some scribble in your jeans pocket for weeks at a time” type or do you have a more “sit down and finish this tune” mentality when it comes to penning a song? What is your muse?
KS: A song gets written in one sitting, but when I sit down to write I usually cherry-pick from notebooks and phone notes that I collect over time. I would say it’s a combination of both methods. I write the things I need to hear. If I’m ever stuck I will put on a record that I’ve never heard before and take notes during my first listen. These notes come from my subconscious because it is human nature to try to relate to something. Doing this has a way of shaking my own thoughts, feelings, and ideas loose. Once I have those pieces of rubble in front of me I can eventually piece them together and work out a song.