music

Dave Insley

Dave Insley writes and performs some of the best twang-driven country music around (If not the best). He will shake the legs of anyone who appreciates great tunes -- with the vocal charisma of Willie Nelson and George Jones, and a timeless sense of production and arrangement, in the style of Patsy Cline and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Dave Insley is a mammoth talent.

WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES AT THE MOMENT?

I like that the question includes the phrase “at the moment,” because like many artists, my influences change frequently, even daily. Sometimes it’s the rhythm of the washing machine or the clank of the garbage truck, sometimes it’s Buck Owens or George Gershwin on the turntable, or it might even be the theme from whatever cartoon my kids are watching on the television.

I listen to, enjoy, and draw from all styles of music, and I particularly admire the writing of Harlan Howard, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Merle Haggard. One of my all-time biggest musical and lyrical influences was my father, who was not a songwriter, but who was very clever with words. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Buddy Rich and Tennessee Ernie Ford records, but if you ask me again in a few days, it will be something else.

WHAT IS YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LIKE?

My writing process is hardly unique, but (I hope) the results sometimes are. The words and music come in periodic cycles, sometimes with broad gaps of time between. My best ideas don’t really feel like they originate in me at all, but rather flow through me from somewhere else.

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My job is to be paying attention when this happens and dutifully record the proceedings; sometimes the ideas come crowding their way through my head so quickly that I have to hustle to keep up, and don’t have time to reflect on them until much later. The key which unlocks all of this might be some topic I’ve had on my mind for a while, or issue I’m struggling with, or it might simply be a chance encounter with a particular combination of words, or an unusual turn of a phrase.

Part two of the process comes later and is more deliberate and craftsman-like; parsing through the flow of words and melodic ideas to gather and organize those which fit together, in support of the idea, while maintaining a good deal of objectivity, and being a brutally honest editor. I can be very tough on myself during this phase, in the interest of avoiding self-indulgence; I will happily throw out more than I keep, or even the whole shooting match, as necessary.

The whole process is a little bit like someone dropped off a pile of lumber in my yard, and my job is to build a solid house out of it, one that is functional and will keep the rain out, and one whose overall style was suggested by the building material itself. I find the entire process immensely satisfying, regardless of what I do with the resulting composition. Oddly, the more personal the content and results, the more universally the ideas seem to be understood by others. This might be the key to turning “art into commerce.”

IF YOU HAD A CHANCE TO SEE ANY PERFORMER AT THEIR PRIME, WHO WOULD IT BE?

I would have liked to have seen Elvis at about the time of the ’68 Comeback Special. 

Alex Di Leo

Alex Di Leo writes solid pop music. Modern, catchy, and memorable hooks galore. Di Leo is primed for radio success and a long future as a pop music songwriter and performer.

1) Who are your biggest musical influences at the moment?

At the moment my musical influences are kind of all over the place to be honest. I’m into so many things right now that it’s making it harder for me to focus on a specific direction for new material.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to let it happen naturally. In the beginning I was always inspired by bands like ColdPlay, Pheonix, The Killers, & Snow Patrol.

My recent influences would be Flor, Bleachers, Lovely The Band, Barns Courtney, Odesza, & X Ambassadors. They all inspire me in different ways.

2) What is your songwriting process like?

My songwriting process is never the same. Most of the time I don’t grab my guitar or sit at a piano with the Intention to write a song. Usually for me, writing a song starts with a melody that randomly pops in my head and me immediately recording it on my phone.

I could be at the beach or on a flight..it’s always random. I’ve noticed I’m usually inspired when I’m traveling, especially to new places. The whole new experience thing, in general, definitely sparks something. I normally take that idea back home to build from there and typically I work from the piano.

My latest single “Brooklyn Bridge” was re-written 3 times. Four years ago I wrote the original idea. Last year I thought combing it with "Kiss Those Lips," another song I wrote around the same time, would  work perfect.

So the day I recorded vocals I went in the studio with that intention. A few minutes before I was going to track the vocals, a couple different melodies popped into my head.

My producer and I sat there for the next couple hour rewriting the whole song except for the chorus. This was probably one of my favorite writing experiences and it made me realize how inspired I become when coming up with things on the spot.

Where do you see your music career in three years?

In three years I’ll be 25..which is kind of scary. I hate how fast life goes. But I hope to accomplish more than I ever have. There are many more songs to be written.

I hope in three years I’ll have established myself as a writer and be able to tour the U.S. and Europe with a significant fan base. I also hope to be charting the Alt charts frequently.

Raye Zaragoza

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Raye Zaragoza writes songs that rattle the social and political climate. Her lyrics are to the point and her message is clear: Zaragoza is a "voice of change." We asked her 3 questions. Here are her answers: 

Who inspires you as a writer?

Everyone around me, the ground beneath my feet, the wind, the trees, and cities. I like to write about the most wonderful and darkest parts of life. I try to always open my heart and my eyes to everyone and everything I see - because you never know who or what is going to inspire you.

What is your songwriting process like?

I am always writing songs. I will sing ideas into my phone, or write ideas on paper all the time. Sometimes, I will think of a line that will stick with me and then I will write a song from that line.

One of the first songs I wrote was a song called “In This City” because I couldn’t get this line out of my head - “In this city, I feel pretty.” It stuck with me, almost haunted me, until it became a song. But I think most of my songs are an outcome of an overwhelming emotion that just needs to be expressed. I will pick up my guitar, and just start jamming with chords and sing whatever comes into my head until a song is formed.

What messages do you wish to spread through music?

Ultimately, I want my music to heal. I want people to listen to my music and know that they are not alone. Music got me through my darkest times, and I hope that my music can do that for others.

I write a lot of songs about fighting for our rights as human beings, and I am always outspoken about my social & political beliefs. In these times we’re in, I think it is an artist’s duty to be vocal and stand up for what they believe in.

I am grateful that my song “In The River” was able to spread awareness during the Standing Rock Movement, and I hope to continue to write songs that can be the voice of change.