SMI contributor Madison Warnock and SMI Founder Greg Roth share their experience and thoughts on Andrew Joslyn’s record release show to celebrate Andrew’s solo project, ‘Awake at The Bottom of The Ocean,’ put on by our friends at Seattle Secret Shows.
Greg has known Andrew Joslyn for a few years, and Madison brings her own unique perspective, given that she is the fiancée of said Mr. Joslyn. Both share their collective thoughts on Andrew’s new record and live performance which recently took place in Seattle at a secret location.
February 18th was the celebration of Andrew Joslyn’s freshman album Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean; it was a culmination of 30 years of practice, over a decade of professional musician-ing, and two years of heartbreak, perseverance, and the unforgiving practice of joyful diligence.
Madison: At the Filson store in Seattle that night, Joslyn banded together a myriad of musicians, all who have impacted his music career, and many who even contributed to the album. As his fiancée, and admittedly the most swoony Joslyn fan there, I had a front row seat to the spectacle; and a backstage look at the battle for the last 2 years that lead up to this night.
Greg : It was a very special evening. I know Andrew well. We spoke a few years ago about the making of this record and the progress. As you know he had to put it on the shelf because of the Macklemore Lewis Tours, Judy Collins etc. Andrew created tremendous momentum and then the tragic event happened which would alter Andrew’s life and ultimately the musical direction of the record. You know more than anyone what it took to make this record. One of my vivid memories of the evening was watching you and your family watching Andrew. It was very emotional. The moment was not lost on me. It is something I will always remember and cherish as one of my favorite musical experiences.
Madison: The creation of Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean started with the onus to create his own sound. Andrew, having worked for many years collaborating with other musicians, and composing string arrangements for every genre and subgenre and new genre you can think of, was in a place of awakening–or rather trying to figure out how to wake up.
This dawn was onset by his musical inspirations. He was inspired by the classics like Smetana, Rimsky-Korsakov, and John Barry, the rockers like Tears for Fears, Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, and Portishead, and even his peers and co-collaborators like Jherek Bischoff, Owen Pallett, and Cataldo. His process always began from the beginning, song titles first, lyrics when applicable, and then instruments were added in, one by one. But after experiencing a devastating house fire (6 months into the process), where everything was lost but his cherished violin, some Dan Stiles posters, and the remains of his relationship at the time (yay, I get to talk about the ex), the workmanship of the album changed. It became something he had to write, not fodder for his career.
Greg: Very cathartic indeed – I think if one goes through some type of tragedy but with no outlet to work through it, it can be a very continuous dark path. Andrew has lent his talent, heart, and soul to many in the Northwest music community. He deserved to make something for himself but obviously the subject matter and overall feel of the record was impacted by those tragic life events. The pain, sadness, self-doubt and darkness is all there on the record. It is powerful material. It is even more powerful performed in a live setting. Andrew and the band were absolutely brilliant…but they always are!
Madison: Andrew’s creation of the album took on an identity of its own. The sounds became more complex, they played sweet with certain chords, but rang dim with dark lyrics. The style decisions he made were brave and they were raw, because they had nothing to compare themselves to. The tracks on the album live on their own, but the body as a whole could go almost unclassified in the spheres of genres. What do you do with a collection of baroque pop, mixed with orchestral dynamics, trip hop, orchestral pop, and a bunch of other things? Really I don’t know how the world classifies genres these days, and Andrew’s work, albeit very personal to me, is still rather an impossible album to define.
Greg: Obviously, Andrew is a very musically educated in the classical music space. His classical training and chops provide him a solid musical base to compose from. Regarding. the musical direction of this record, Andrew defies categorization. Andrew managed to incorporate a lot of genres and styles that he enjoys, showcasing his versatility and his diverse musical portfolio. Andrew simply channels multiple genres through his own artistic composition and delivery.
Madison: But what I can say is it’s robust, original, and just plain interesting. The tracks on the album are arranged in a way so that the listener is told a story. And here’s how it goes:
Track 1: Social media sucks, it’s complex, it’s not real life, but it lives in our hands every day and breaths life into our minds so much so that we don’t really know the plastic world we really live in. (For those fellow English major nerds out there, like Andrew and I, you might notice the Emily Dickinson reference in this track.)
Greg: I don’t think social media is bad or good, it just his. It is us who give it meaning. With social media comes great responsibility. There are several examples of it benefiting humanity but there are obvious examples of the dark side of social media – bullying, misinformation, hatred, bigotry etc. It seems like social media has opened up a window to our collective souls, for better or worse. Our true colors as a species have are been exposed. The filters have come off. Lately and sadly, a lot of it is very ugly.
Track 2: Fame and success will get you only a far as you can carry it, and then it’ll crush you.
Greg: My theory is that most of us are conditioned to fail. We may not like failure but it happens a lot more than success. It doesn’t feel good but it is familiar, we are used to it. We almost become comfortable with it. Such is life. As a species, most of us are not conditioned to handle success or fame. It comes much less naturally to us. There is no textbook here. I worked around the entertainment industry for years. I sat down with a few people that society would consider famous and had a lifestyle that most would envy. I am here to tell you that based on my conversations with those that have experienced wealth and fame, is that it truly does not buy one happiness.
It takes a very spiritually, emotionally and intellectually strong individual to handle what fame throws at you. Fame is a result of a massive amount of people knowing who you are because of what you do, for better or worse – whether you like it or not. Some of it is intentional some of it unintentional. The pressure to maintain a certain level of fame can be difficult and expensive, maintaining a lifestyle that your peers, fans and industry expect. Not to mention the challenge of maintaining a certain degree of quality artistic output on a consistent basis. I have mostly seen the darker side of fame from the seat I sat in at a particular time in my life.
Track 3: Relationships tend to fold over on themselves, constantly going back to the same arguments, tendencies, and all those things that we don’t like about our partners. This is especially apparent when you’re in a relationship that is ill-matched.
Greg: I have a bit of experience in this department. : ) I agree 100%. From my own experience, I realized in retrospect that I could easily be triggered by my ex-girlfriend or ex-fiancée about things that I had not reconciled within myself. Some would call it mirroring. At the end of the day, well… I have to own my part and failings.
Track 4: People have to follow their own pursuits. So that means sometimes they have to move. Usually that’ll break up a relationship. At least, it did in this scenario.
Greg: Sometimes relationships take a natural course. Even if things don’t work out in the long run, there is a reason beyond our own understanding at the time, that the two spirits came together at that specific time for various reasons. There were things to be learned, emotions to be explored and songs to be written.
Track 5: Bad relationships really are bad. And when two people aren’t aligned and the relationship is poisonous from the start, it’s probably not going to be cured. So write a song about a past ex, have your recent ex sing on the track, and have yours truly/future wife write the lyrics with you. Bold move? Or badass song?
Greg: I think it is a brilliantly bold move and also gives so much more authenticity and impact to the music. Can you say Fleetwood Mac “Rumors?” A lot of relationship drama that made for iconic hit songs on THAT record! I thought that Aubrey Zoli crushed it during the evening’s performance of “I Should Have Said Goodbye Before I Met You,” (the number that featured Andrew’s ex-girlfriend). Aubrey was above her normal register, but she sounded fantastic on this haunting number.
Track 6: Being an adult is hard. It’s hard when there’s really a kid living inside of you and you don’t feel ready for the world. But you eventually figure out that you are. And you move forward. Stumbling. (Another lit reference here, as the song was inspired by the notable book, “Catcher in the Rye.”
Greg: Agree, that is why I have decided that I am never going to grow up! I am enjoying still figuring out who I am so yes, good points Madison.
Track 7: When your apartment burns down and you lose everything it’s really terrible. You have to deal with your life burned before you; not only are your possessions lost, but so is the stability of “home”.
Greg: Oh man (pause)…I will never forget the moment that I read Andrew’s post on Facebook and saw the photos after the fire. Tears filled my eyes and sat in silence for a while, trying to empathize as best I could.
Track 8: Your one year-old cat is suffocated in the fire. An innocent being and the first real instance of you having to take care of another life and being responsible for something other than yourself and your needs.
Greg: This is tough. I have two cats, I have lost two cats due to old age. I love my cats very much. The fact that he lost his beloved pet along with his home, belongings, was simply heartbreaking. The fact that it happened to one of the most talented and nicest people that I have met in this business, made it doubly sad, to say the very least.
Track 9: Being a full-time musician is a 24/7 job. You’re a small business owner, you’re always on the clock, always having to network. You can’t just be artistically inclined you have to have professional prowess. You have to run head-first into the flames, knowing that your heart will be broken time and time again. And in the end, you’ll be probably still feel unsatisfied. But this will fuel you to push on until your fingers and your soul can’t handle anymore.
Greg: Andrew Joslyn = talented and sensitive artist with an indomitable spirit.
Track 10: Life is not meant to be easy, in fact it’s rather sucky at times. But if you can strive to be the best version of yourself, if you can work to improve–to see the light in the world– then maybe, just maybe, you can lead a happy life.
Greg: Given everything that Andrew went through in the making of this record and reconstructing his life, Andrew has handled himself with grace, dignity, and class. I deeply admire him and respect him for that even more than his talent.
Track 11: Finding enlightenment comes only after finding the light in the darkness and turning it on. Push on, dream on, and “do you” for the right reasons. This track was the culmination of the album, as it ought to be, pulling in different melodic components and similar riffs from the other 10 tracks.
Greg: Amen sister. Also, he met you – so Andrew’s path took a very positive and loving turn. : ) I remember when I saw you two together the first time early in your relationship and I said to myself and out loud, “these two look like they should just be together.” I was right!
Madison: Aww:) I really don’t know how I got so lucky.
Now let’s talk about that release show. Andrew was able to represent the album in a live format exceedingly well. The scope of each track was represented with so much fullness and body that each song played was a show in it of itself.
Greg: Andrew always puts together a great band of musicians for his string quartet projects. For this record and for this show, he assembled a brilliant outfit of guest musicians and artists. The songs were even more powerful in a live setting than on record, which is a testament to the strength of the material and quality of musicians in the band. He and the ensemble he assembled not only met but exceeded my expectations with regard to the delivery of the material from the record. They were able to replicate the record live with added energy from the audience and dynamics of the room and because of the emotion in the room and the intimate setting.
Madison: At the beginning, when the first song started, an instrumental called “Paris Without Lights,” (funny enough it was the first working song he ever showed me back in the beginning of the relationship) the audience was immediately captivated. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. I surely didn’t think I’d need tissues, but knowing the work that went into the album, the months and months of additional preparation that went into arranging, practicing and planning for the show, and admiring someone so much, and knowing how hard they’ve work for something made me just start to sob. I finally calmed down I think by the end of the second track.
Greg: At the beginning of the show, I had to look over at you to get your reaction. Watching you watching Andrew added a whole different dimension to my experience of the performance. There were a lot of folks in the room who were not aware of the details of the subject matter of Andrew’s record and the meaning of the performance that night. By the way, I really enjoyed meeting your family. It was clearly apparent to me how much they love Andrew. It was another beautiful moment from a special evening among family, friends and community.
Madison: Thanks Greg! The show was a landmark experience for Andrew and our families. I was also so impressed with the performances of the band and the guest singers. Aubrey nailed it as you mentioned; but not only did she excel at “I Should Have Said Goodbye Before I Met You,” but she also stunned with her performance of Coal Miner (originally sung by the great Adra Boo), “Bachelorette” (the Björk cover from the 90’s), and dueted with Eric Anderson for the final track, “Mantra for a Struggling Artist.” Eric himself sang a cover of his own tune from his band, Cataldo, “Short Goodbye to No One In Particular,” along with the Beck song, “Please Leave a Light on When you Go,” and “Spinning Wheels,” from Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean, and again with Aubrey for the final tune.
Will Jordan provided vocals for the track of his contribution, “Plastic Heaven,” Shelby Earl wowed with her performance of “Icarus,” again her contribution to the album. Apart from the special guests and friends, Andrew surprised the audience with his own vocal performance. I can’t deny that I was blushing the entire time, but he sang the tune “Paper Tiger” also from Beck. I’m definitely a fan of him singing more, hopefully on the next album.
Speaking of next things, Andrew has a bunch of projects and shows coming up that’s going to keep our lives very busy!
Currently, he’s working on another film score; a western called, Abilene. He’s still busy creating weekly soundtracks for the podcast, Casefile. Which if you like creepy murders I’d recommend checking it out. In case you missed out on his release show, or are wanting some more Joslyn, he’ll be having another show at the Triple Door on June 2nd. There’s also rumors that he’ll appear at an upcoming festival.
Needless to say there’s a lot going on in our lives. Oh, and I forgot to mention he’s composing an entire score for our wedding ceremony in August. I’ll make sure to be prepared though with tissues that day. I’m going to need them.
Greg: Very exciting things ahead for you both – It will be quite an adventure indeed! Many of us are definitely looking forward to attending your special day. The community will definitely be coming together for that very grand musical and spiritual union!
Here’s the lineup from the show:
Passenger String Quartet only: