Monday, June 15, 2009

Interview with Aaron Ball

Who: Aaron Ball
What: Front man for Somewhere In the Middle
Where: at RiverFest and recording in New Orleans
When: June 20 and this summer, respectively

Aaron Ball is a southeast Idaho musician, singer and songwriter. He's been the creative force behind Somewhere In the Middle for several years. You can catch them live at RiverFest, June 20th in Pocatello before they head to New Orleans and on to Nashville to record some new music in a professional studio.

In his own words:

For several years I have been in contact with Tom Drummond [bassist] from Better than Ezra (wiki) about having him produce an album for my band.

I first met him about 4 years ago when Better than Ezra played at ISU in Pocatello. And soon after we began seriously discussing working together. Between the events that have taken place in my personal life recently, then my almost cutting off the index finger on my left hand last year, and then his band releasing a new album and going back on tour, it has been a challenge to connect and make this happen.

We will be recording in Fudge Studio where artists such as Howie Day, Theory of a Deadman, Better than Ezra, Missy Higgins, The Mars Volta, Blondie, and the Family Guy TV Show have all worked. We hope to get some attention and continue establish ourselves as a serious contender in the independent music world and record a second album that will stand out musically, in a high end commercial facility working with seasoned industry professionals.

We are somewhat in our infancy as a band, although we have been playing for several years. We have a ton of time and experience on stage, but most of it has been within a couple hundred miles of home. We played 78 shows last year, but never got more than 250 miles from home. That should tell you a little about the music demand in our area; there are a ton of opportunities to perform in our area! However, it has been a tremendous hurdle for us to jump over and stretch out beyond our local area.

I know that many other artists in the area fight the same battle - After a while, you begin to be just “another local band,” and the bar band purgatory of playing classic rock cover songs 5 hours a night every other weekend is just around the corner. We don’t want that!

At a recent record label showcase for Capital records, we were told that our music was fantastic, and our image and show was very appealing and marketable. However, we didn’t have the experience touring and playing in enough large markets for us to be considered a serious musical act yet. That is the sentiment more often than not – only someone who is willing to drive an old van around the country is deserving of esteem as a musician.

We will always be considered a local band when we are home, and that is not a bad thing. But we intend to follow through with our dreams of taking what we do a bit further. Pocatello is a great place to be from. No it is not considered a mecca for music, but it really doesn’t matter where you are from. And there are some truly amazing talented people in our area, whether they get recognition or not.

For so long we have depended on the internet to help us gain fans, and it is an effective tool. But there really is no substitute for playing in front of people, and we feel like we are at a level where our music is quality, our show is quality, and we are ready to share what we do with more people. Plus we want it so bad it hurts! This whole thing of recording in New Orleans and Nashville is simply the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for Somewhere in the Middle.

SLG: Can you describe your music for those who haven't heard you before?

AB: There are a lot of words I would use to describe what genre I aspire to play – rock music that is modern, acoustic-based, middle of the road (not too hard, not too soft) melodic, family friendly, entertaining, inspiring and passionate. We have been compared to bands such as the GooGoo Dolls, 3 Doors Down, Cold Play, and a softer version of Shinedown. We focus heavily on original music, but we also try to put on a live show that incorporates humor, dialogue, and interaction with the crowd, and our own renditions of a wide array of great cover songs.

"Better Man," "Second Gear" and "Everything That’s Nice" are three of our original songs that have been staples in our live performances lately. Our lighthearted and comedic improvisation during our shows, with antics such as “Great Moments in Cowbell History,” “Magic by the Amazing Jonathan Brownly” and our own segments of “The More you Know” help to establish us as not only musicians, but also as entertainers.

While we try to keep performances fun, there is also a deep passionate and emotional side to much of our original material. As with most songwriters, we have written about some very difficult experiences in our own lives and hope that when we share these songs in our shows it will inspire those who are struggling themselves. Often, when the situation permits I like to share the story behind a song with the audience. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, but they hit people on different levels. Songs like “Nancy,” about a friend who found out her husband of several years was a bi-sexual crossdresser, or “Second Gear,” about the death of my son, or “Bitch and Moan,” our anthem for relationships, will smack you in the face and make you laugh, or cry.

SLG: Ok. So who's in the band and how long has this line-up been together?

Aaron Ball – Vocals, guitar
Jonathan Brownly – Drums, vocals, keyboard

This lineup has been around for at least 4 years in one form or another. We have kind of a strange lineup - although we usually perform as a three piece band, our third member varies from show to show, and occasionally we have a fourth or fifth member as well. Jon and I are the only regular consistent members, and we will perform with:

Bobby Price – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Mark Peck – bass guitar
Ryker Murdock – keyboards and vocals

SLG: Where are you from?

AB: We are all from Southern Idaho, currently based in Pocatello.

SLG: Past shows or venues you'd like to brag about? Past or future shows in the Pocatello area?

AB: We have been fortunate to build a fairly decent resume of shows, opening for a growing list of national touring bands and have played for some amazing crowds. But we also love the small intimate settings of places like Portneuf Brewery, where space is so limited that crowds are generally quite small - it gives us the opportunity to let our personalities shine and be more involved with the audience.

We have played some large shows, (our largest last year was approximately 16,000 in attendance) and we have played shows to 3 people. We’ve had successful shows, and we’ve had some really bad ones as well. Every one is a learning experience, and the bad ones help remind us to appreciate the good ones even more – we consider them our battle scars, and who would want to live their life without any scars?

We will be performing at the Riverfest June 20th, at the Idaho Music and Wildflower festival June 27th and at the Biggest Show in Idaho at the Bannock County Fairgrounds July 4th.

SLG: Any comments about the local live music scene, the music industry in general? What do you think is the best way to get your music out there?

AB: At first sight many claim that our area is lacking in musical diversity; I would have to disagree. What we lack are venues, and the support of the community officials to allow art and music to thrive. Rock music especially seems to have such a negative reputation that it is difficult to find places and opportunities to perform, money is really tight, and the places that promote live music often must fight the community leadership to do so.

However, there are places to play and shows to play; it is just much easier if you are playing anything but original rock music and if you want to play for free. It is, however, also a very exciting time to be musicians; there are so many opportunities for independent artists to self-promote. The music industry as a whole is really evolving, and it will be interesting to see where it is in another couple of years.

SLG: Recordings? Will you have CD's or more for sale at the show?

AB: Yes

You can find Aaron Ball online:

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