James Wyatt Crosby
James Wyatt Crosby
When they went away to school, I inherited their instruments and started writing and recording my own songs." Crosby's early songwriting efforts caught the ear of Toronto Sun music critic Darryl Sterdan. "Initially, the music I would record with my friends was this kind of grand-scale lo-fi stuff that was kind of funny and good-hearted. The first song my friend Andrew and I ever recorded was a cover of 'Monster Mash,' if that gives you an idea," explains Crosby. "We had a recording project called Logs in high school, and we made this epic indie pop song called 'Fishstick Mountain' about a sailor who gets stranded on a floating garbage island and then befriends a monkey. I sent it to the Toronto Sun to get reviewed in this column called 'Garage Band Idol' and they actually liked it." Sterdan praised Logs' "dreamy, spaced-out flights of psychedelic noodling (think Flaming Lips meets Polyphonic Spree)." Crosby continued to produce music while studying at the University of Ottawa.
"I was living alone in Ottawa studying English literature and I had a solo project called Garbagio," he explains. "Those songs are a bit darker, but still pretty much lo-fi style pop tunes. I would send them to my friends who were all far away at the time. They sound pretty crummy, quality-wise, but I tried to make them catchy and fun.
I was really influenced by Ariel Pink at that time and the whole DIY/bedroom rock thing." When asked to elaborate on his musical influences, Crosby rattles off a list of over 35 favourite artists "in no particular order." It's a rambling and diverse list that includes Iggy Pop, Katy Perry, John Maus and Dolly Parton. "My musical influences change all the time and I can usually find some element I like in most songs. But I'm usually drawn to music with some kind of pop-y melodic element, like some kind of singable quality." After leaving Ottawa, Crosby studied audio engineering at Toronto's venerable Harris Institute. "My new material is still home-recorded, but I've learned how to do things in a less haphazard way," he explains.
"O.T.O.T.W." is Crosby's first single released under his real name, James Wyatt Crosby. "I had an early version of this song that sounded too much like James Taylor – super slow and acoustic – so I added drums and sped it up. I used a mix of real recorded drums and electronic drum samples because I felt the real drums gave it some feel and character, and the electronic drums helped make the drums clearer and punchier," he explains. "There's also an autoharp in the recording which has a really sweet strummy sound and glues the whole song together," he adds. Most of the song's effects were intentionally printed to tape during the initial recording, adding an indelible atmospheric wash to the mix. Production-wise, it's a calculated risk that pays off.
Crosby also pitched the song's vocals up, adding a sweet, dreamy edge to the track. "I sometimes like changing the pitch of a song because it lets me hear my voice in a different way. I can listen in a slightly more objective way and get new ideas." Crosby's lyrics, delivered over a happy melody and lush dreampop arrangements, take a gloomy turn as the song drifts back and forth between bliss and melancholy. "I wanted to make a song that explains the feeling of being in a really good place while knowing that it's fleeting and things will ultimately change," explains Crosby. "I was listening to The Smiths and Talking Heads a lot when I was writing and recording it.
I feel those bands do a good job of making songs that are simultaneously happy and sad, and that's kind of what I was going for." "O.T.O.T.W." by James Wyatt Crosby is available on June 8, 2015 on iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify, Rdio and more. Visit: maisonneuvemusic.com 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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