Big Ditch Road
Big Ditch Road
It wasn't until years later that he would learn to play an instrument, but the need to create was realized early on. “We had a little radio in the kitchen, and it was always on,” he continues, “So I guess I was exposed to music at an early age. Mostly classic country music... And my family is very musical.
My aunts and uncles are very musical. Everyone was able to play piano and harmonize." When he was a teenager his parents suggested he try the acoustic guitar. “I didn't want to have any of that. I wanted an electric guitar because I was into metal,” he says with a chuckle.
But he tried it out anyway, feeling out the chords as he went. “It's obvious that I have taught myself. I'm not very good. That's the great thing about Minneapolis—you don't have to be the greatest musician in the world.
And really, all I ever wanted to get out of the guitar was enough of a melody to get a song written.” As an adult, Wald has more than proven his ability for heartfelt, thought-provoking songwriting. Big Ditch Road's new EP, The Jackson Whites, is the fourth release from a band that is continually evolving its sound. Though there are elements of The Jackson Whites that are familiar—Wald's piercing, unflinching vocals and the wailing moans of Brian O'Neil's pedal steel—the majority of the new EP is a departure from Wald's past work, which mostly consisted of sprawling alt.country ballads and inward-looking lyrics. Whites is significantly more upbeat and positive, becoming downright poppy at times, which Wald says was a conscious move mostly inspired by his decision to stop listening to contemporary music. “We've never wanted to make the same record twice, we were always interested in moving in different directions,” he explains, “But I had a tendency to become very influenced by things that had already been done.
It really started to irritate me. And so I stopped listening to everything and anything that was newer or supposedly cool or anything. I started reading a lot of books, and I actually listened to a lot of Miles Davis' fusion period... it was an effort to try to get myself to move in a different direction more drastically.
By not listening to anything.” Wald says that the first song he wrote on the new record was “The Jackson Whites,” a catchy and up-tempo track inspired by the real-life Jackson Whites, a group of people of mixed descent and unknown origin who live in the Ramapo Mountains along the New Jersey–New York state line. “I wrote it in five minutes and it sounds like it, so that's fine, that's the way it was intended. But that set the tone, and everything just kind of followed it in a more blatantly pop direction for some reason.” In fact, Wald wrote most of the songs on this year's Whites and last year's EP The Great Dissent around the same time, but wanted to release them as two separate EPs because of their thematic differences. Though Wald jokes that he is “the slowest songwriter in Minneapolis/St. Paul,” Big Ditch Road has released their albums at a relatively fast clip and have maintained a high level of quality songwriting through each sonic turn.
Much of this can be attributed to Wald's natural talent for songwriting, which he says comes in creative bursts. “Usually, what happens is I'll have nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, and then I'll write three songs in 15 minutes,” he says. “Really, if a song takes longer for me to write than 15 minutes, I don't write it... Basically, one line will come to me, and a melody will come to me along with that line, and then a concept, and then it's all done in no time whatsoever.
The more that I try to sit and think about things, that's when I write crappy stuff.” Whatever the reason for Wald's innate sense of songwriting, let's hope that the creative outbursts don't stop anytime soon. If The Jackson Whites EP is any indication of what's to come from Wald and Big Ditch Road, we have a lot to look forward to from this established yet continually developing band. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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