Scott Jason of Thriving Ivory
Thriving Ivory (Clayton Stroope on vocals, Scott Jason on keyboards/piano, Drew Cribley on guitars, and Paul Niedermier on drums) are back with their sophomore release on Wind-Up Records Through Yourself & Back Again. The album has a lot of what you would expect from Thriving Ivory – sweeping orchestral soundscapes set to the lyrics of our lives while also offering up some surprises like a lot more uptempo songs than their previous release.
Not wanting to let too much time pass between releases the band took a recording studio with them on the road in the back of their tour bus so they could write every day. They carried their previous writing and recording experiences along for the ride resulting in an overall very cohesive album that allowed them to push their creative limits.
The first single is an upbeat tune called “Where We Belong”, it sets the tone for the rest of the album but definitely doesn’t define the overall sound, it simply contributes to it. Songs like the guitar and piano ballad “Come November” is stark in contrast but incredibly delicate and beautiful showing that not every song needs bells and whistles to be effective and goosebump inducing. “Love Alone” and “Motorcade (So Long, So Long)” are lyrically driven songs that will leave you singing their choruses in your head long after the song has ended. Others like “Cobwebs” are more reminiscent of their first release, the collective showing that Thriving Ivory has so much more depth than their first album ever allowed us to see. One thing is certain, this band continues to grow as overall musicians and songwriters crafting some of the best pop songs delivered this year.
One of the things I was most drawn to on this album were the lyrics and how impactful they were to me personally so when we had the opportunity to catch up with pianist/lyricist/songwriter of all trades Scott Jason to talk about the new album, I jumped!
Interviewed By: Mary Ouellette
A lot of people may not know that you’ve been making great music for quite some time now but you kind of broke into the mainstream with the success of your debut album on Wind-up Records. Coming off of that and working on your new album do you feel that the songs have an overall theme to the new album?
That’s a great question. I feel, regarding Through Yourself & Back Again, both the songs and the album as a whole have a cohesive quality about them that may not have been so prevalent as they are on the first record. We, like many artists, have learned a great deal from our experiences both in the studio & on the road.
Unlike the first record, which we are very proud of, the second one we were of course granted the ability to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, what we liked and what we didn’t and so on, and use those experiences to our advantage. While it’s hard to pinpoint one single underlying theme for a song, let alone an entire album’s worth of songs, I think our listener’s will be able to connect at a very deep level to the songs and themes carried throughout our second record.
A lot of the songs on the new album started in a studio in the back of your tour bus. Can you tell us why you decided to implement a studio on your bus and how that impacted the writing process over all?
The first record, again like many artists, is comprised of a select 12 songs of years and years of writing. The same privilege is not granted for a second or third record as it is very important to minimize the lapse in time between full album releases. So much so, in fact, we’ve released singles that aren’t exactly off of any record in order to keep our listener’s content with content, pun intended. So getting into the habit of writing everyday, no matter location or touring schedule, is incredibly important. A tour bus is big enough in that it allows for such writing & recording. A van, on the other hand, is more like a two month episode of “Survivor”.
You guys have been together since college, almost a decade now. I’m sure that could lead to both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to writing. Have you had to overcome any obstacles in the writing process due to knowing each other that well?
In my experience being in a band carries a dynamic that is not so different than the dynamic of a relationship or family. And in a subjective field such as music, there will always be disagreements; this is natural. What would be so special about music/art if we all (as in every listener) felt and understood every song the exact same way? Well I guess it would be special but it would belong next to things like math, science and anything bound by logic and reason. Emotions are not rational. And thank God for that because how could we ever argue how right our opinion is!?!?! (ha!) Simply put, yes. I believe obstacles are part of the creative process. And like everything else in life, anything worth doing is bound to have a few.
You’ve noted that producer Mark Endert helped you become more self-aware in the studio, can you tell us what you mean by that and how it affected you?
Mark Endert is not only one of the most amazing producers/engineers/mixers to work with, he is truly an amazing person as well. He has become a very good friend of mine since he remixed “Angels on the Moon” a few years back. Mark takes a bird’s eye view of not only the current song we’re working on, but the album as a whole. He thinks of things like radio format, verse length, pre-chorus setup, etc and all while maintaining the more extraordinary attention to detail. I remember a time when we spent an hour or so nudging a percussive sound back and forth between just a few milliseconds. One way it felt like this and another like that- both were in time and “correct”. When we finally zoomed out of whatever world that was, we laughed with an understanding of how both ridiculous and important what we had just done was.
We know and love Thriving Ivory for your larger than life soundscapes but on this album you show us some new sides of the band. One song in particular I’d like to ask you about is Moonlight. It’s a lot more stripped down than what we’re use to hearing from you. How did that song come together?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a story of sitting atop a mountain for 6 months with no human contact and then coming down renewed. The truth is, it was written in the back of our tour bus in a hotel parking lot in New Jersey. After John Mayer’s CONTIUUM record came out I found myself listening to him more than I had in the past. I was really impressed with that record and the way his song writing seemed to grow. I’ve heard a lot of people referencing U2 when they hear “Moonlight” and I can definitely hear it too. The truth is, if I had to say, that song was inspired by the writing style on CONTINUUM with songs like “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.”
You opted for a more up-tempo poppier tune as your first single “Where We Belong” – what was the thought process behind selecting this as the first single and was it a conscious effort to go for a more up-tempo tune as an introduction to the new album to show off another side of the band?
Tempo is more important than we realized. In radio, these days anyway, it seems tempo is almost as important as the quality of the song itself. While we’ve always dreamed of being successful and we’ve always believed our songs where “radio-ready”, our first album was written without the knowledge of such things. Our experiences in touring the U.S. and Canada with frequent visits to radio stations have taught us quite a bit. Many writers, not all, will tell you that it is harder to write an up-tempo song that it is to a write a mid-tempo song or a ballad. I can say this is definitely true for myself as well. Even when writing with uptempo in mind, it’s very easy to find yourself wandering back into mid-tempo land. Thriving Ivory will definitely be pumping out a lot more of all tempos. And definitely more uptempo songs than we have in the past.
I think one of the things that I love about this new album is the layers. The music for each song really draws out a particular emotion and then the lyrics just enhance that so with that in mind, I’m wondering, what comes first for you, the music or the lyrics? Or does each song dictate its own path?
That’s a very interesting question that gets asked quite a bit. It’s also somewhat hard to answer because not every song has the same seed. For me, a lot of times I begin with what I want to write about. Developing a theme, or a message, and then delivering lyrics that stick to this theme. On the other hand, music may be the start of what’s to come. I’ve heard of a lot of artists with great songs taking this approach.
For us, there’s really not one particular way we go about it. But when you’re onto something you think could be great, I think it’s important to follow through all the way to the end. It has been said that the hardest parts about songwriting are starting the song and finishing the song.
The musicianship on this album really seems to shine through on all accounts – do you feel that you were all really able to allow your individual talents to shine more on this album because of the diversity of the song styles?
Absolutely. Each band member was given a lot of freedom in what they were laying down. While everything we laid down may not have remained in post-production, the freedom was there. And that mindset can allow one’s creative abilities to really open up and branch out.
Do you feel that there’s one song on the album that really encompasses the album as a whole?
No. And I must say I’m glad there’s not. I like that only three weeks into the release, I’ve heard at least one fan saying their favorite song was “X”- and I’ve heard or read “X” as being every song on the record.
In listening to the song “Motorcade (So Long, So Long) I got to thinking that I might want to keep it on tap for my next break-up which led me to wonder…have you ever broken up with someone via a song and would you be against me using this track for my own devices?
Well I don’t think any of us have sent someone an email with an Mp3 attached and said, “Make sense? It’s over.” Kinda harsh I would think, haha. But there is a song on the last record that touches on this subject. As for you breaking up with someone via sending them Motorcade…you have our full permission! Although he may also think you’re trying to get on his good side by sending them a song. Maybe a little text would help? Phone call? Face to face?!?!?!?! Human contact?!?!?
If you’d oblige – please tell us one random thing about each member of the band that people might not know.
Clayton’s family had to attend weekly family therapy…because of Clayton.
Clayton has seen every movie ever made.
I collect National Geographic.
I am allergic to NYC cabs & Reality T.V shows.
When it comes to taxes, I am the only person in the world with a negative IQ.
Paul’s family makes their own wine
Paul’s name on Words With Friends is “Dr. Woozy”
Drew is REALLY good at golf.
Drew has a 15 year old cat names Dean. (she’s mean)
When Drew was 13, he started a band with his brother and called themselves by their initials, ACDC. They had no idea there was another little band with the same name.
What do you hope music fans will take away from your album as a whole?
We hope our fans can connect with our music on a deeply personal and intimate level. We hope our fans can be moved by our music the way we are moved by the music and artists we love. After all, this is the reason Thriving Ivory began in the first place and the reason we continue to make music today.
Scott left us with this trivia question, any takers?:
INTERESTING FACT: The second record had a different title than the one it ended up with. It was somewhat of a last minute change. It too, was a lyric off the record. See if you can guess what it is? (Submit your answer in the comments section below! We might have a cool TI prize for the right guess!)