We recently had the chance to chat with good-songs-man Jason Karaban about conspiracy theories, songwriting in the biz and more! Check out our conversation below and listen to “Devil That I Know”, a new collaboration with Lucy Schwartz previewed here from his forthcoming Shift (9/4) release.
Jason Karaban – Devil That I Know
B3: Why is it you’ve found recorded music to be your ideal way to share songs?
JK: With technology and the internet, recorded music is the quickest and most convenient in terms of sharing your music… it takes seconds to get your music out there and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
B3: What lessons come from the Jason Karaban school of hard knocks that you’d like to share with any self-proclaimed reclusive-type musicians out there?
JK: It does help to understand what you are up against. I believe that the growth of technology and the rise of the independent artist is a great thing, but if you want to embrace it, you need to learn about it… If you aspire to be a musician who wants to make a living from making music than know the business that you are in. Unless of course you get very lucky and find someone who can do it for you.
B3: Roughly speaking, how many songs are chill in and unreleased in the Karaban-archives?
JK: Thousands. Roughly speaking of course.
B3: What is it about writing music that brings you peace, or a level of serenity?
JK: The process itself… because whenever anything truly creative happens you’re on auto pilot. Once you start thinking about it it becomes something else. The content becomes more important than the art, which in my experience doesn’t hold up too well.
B3: How has Los Angeles factored into your evolution as a musician and person?
JK: In a word, access. Los Angeles seems to be one of the meccas to where musicians and artists flock which puts a lot of great talent all in one place. As a person i’ve become a lot more humble and gracious after coming across so many artists who work twice as hard as I do and are so talented but are still struggling to be recognized.
B3: Do you think the music biz allows great talent to slip through the cracks for alterior benefits?
JK: Not on purpose…. otherwise we’d be getting into conspiracy theories.
B3: Have you written music especially for film or TV? How would you compare it with your album(s) material?
JK: Yes, I have, and the process is quite different because the overall objective and concept is being dictated by the film or TV show. And if you are the kind of writer who is a bit ambiguous in your writing, then you need to balance your ambiguity with something that people can understand and connect the song back to the subject you are writing about. It’s the difference between relying on your GPS for directions or just winging it… The trickiest part is that you have to deliver what whoever you are working for is trying to accomplish but at the same time you want to put your own stamp on it and keep it somewhat representative of who you are as an artist.
B3: If there is one thing that you would like people to take away from your new album Shift, what is it?
JK: I leave that entirely up to the listener…
B3: Are there any songs in particular on Shift that you feel especially close to?
JK: Yeah, but actually it varies from day to day depending on my serotonin levels.. at the moment I’d say “Pay with a .45”, “What Do You Say (To That)” and “Misplaced”.
B3: We can’t get enough of that tuba and trombone arrangement on “Succeed 101”.. it just seems like there must be a story behind it?
JK: One of the producers I worked with, Shane Smith, didn’t want any of my acoustic guitar parts to sound standard or recognizable as an acoustic guitar, so he did something to it with some sort of effect that emulated a tuba. After listening to it we decided to cut a tuba which the other producer, Barrie Maguire, managed to do using a sample.
B3: How did you connect with your label Ascend Records? It seems like it’s been a fitting relationship?
JK: I recorded an album for Maverick Records that ultimately wasn’t put out. The Ascend guys came across it and were enthusiastic about the music. They started Ascend Records basically to put out that record and we’ve worked together ever since. They are one of the few labels that I feel actually care more about the music and the artists than the business.
B3: Are there any contemporary artists that you are a fan of?
JK: Well, I’m a fan of everyone I’ve worked with on my records. Other than them… Tom Brousseau, Lykke Li, Conor Oberst, Jeff Tweedy, Paul Westerberg and my brother Dave Karaban come to mind.
B3: So we’ve got this serious Time Machine over at B3SCI HQ. Who is your dream collab with?
JK: Ideally both John Lennon and Nick Drake
Jason Karaban (Facebook)