The vocals…started when I was in grade school…I always liked impersonating people…I would practice in all the ranges (falsetto, tenor, baritone) and I would have some success in all three ranges.
Today we chatted with Joe Dawson of the band Moth Mountain, we discussed his origins in music, how the band came together, musical influences, the songwriting and the recording process, and what’s next for the band.
This podcast is brought to you by Balancing Act: Teach, Coach, Mentor, Inspire, a collection of candid observations on the challenges facing business leaders today. Balancing Act is authored by Dr. Andrew Temte and is available today on Amazon and other fine bookstores. Today we chatted with Joe Dawson of the band Moth Mountain. We discussed origins and music of the band coming together, influences, songwriting and recording process, what’s next for the band, and where people can find out more. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.
Brent Hanifl 01:05
Amy Gabay 01:06
And this is La Crosse Local.
Joe Dawson 01:10
My name is Joe Dawson. I was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin at St. Francis Hospital, 1980. I got into music, probably, my parents had mixtapes that my dad had made when he was in the Navy during Vietnam. So, it was like a lot of Beatles. And like some other weird stuff that you probably only heard like if you were stationed in the Philippines. So there was that early on. And then probably when I was seven, my godparents had MTV. And I saw like my first music video, which was Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar On Me. And I thought, wow, that’s those guys. Really. They’ve got something, you know. I mean, you’re very young, you know, so I was pretty taken away by the spectacle of all that. Probably, I think my parents bought me like a Shopko electric guitar, like when I was nine, and sort of tried with that for a while. Until, you know, I got a little older and a little more better at actually knowing how to practice, and not being a toy, and actually being an instrument, and then upgrading to like a Mexican Standard Stratocaster. And actually being able to play it was a big deal, too. The Shopko Special, not so good. But, yeah, probably from 12, 13 on, really going at it from there.
Brent Hanifl 02:43
How did this band come together? You guys have been together for a while. Is it more of a moniker for you? Or is it a, you talked about, you know, going from a two piece to now a three piece, I believe?
Joe Dawson 02:54
Well, it was probably around 2010. I had met Matt, maybe the year prior, he was in a band. Well, he was his own band at that point, he used to play in a band called Rearview Mirror. And they had been like apart for some time. And he was doing his own solo project called Brahmin Shamin. And then he had put out, I think, a flyer at Dave’s Guitar Shop looking for musicians. And I was looking to do more music outside of the band that I was playing in at the time, which, you know, we were playing a lot in a basement, not playing out, and stuff like that. And so I agreed to go over there. I knew him loosely through Dave’s Guitar Shop, I used to work there. He actually replaced me when I left the shop. And so I started playing bass for his project. And we kind of struck up a friendship, we had a lot of like mindedness and similar philosophies and you know, just a friendship and we started there. And over the course of that year, I started experimenting, writing some different stuff from what I was doing with the group I was playing with, not so much the Hard Rock music. And you know, he said, I like your voice, you should come over and let’s try and record some of this stuff. And, so we did a four song EP in 2010 together, and it just kind of kept rolling from there.
Brent Hanifl 04:25
Listening to this album that you have, Always Never Again, man, it seems like it’s just a, you know, a variety of influences. Like I hear everything from, you know, Uncle Tupelo to Lyle Lovett to, you know, an interesting sort of falsetto similarities to Jeff Buckley and John Grant, and almost like a Crooner, a Crooner sort of component on the song The Vine. What’s the vocals about?
Joe Dawson 04:52
The vocals. I mean, it kind of started when I was in grade school. It started with, you know, going to music class and being in choir, and they would try to teach you about the three ranges. You know, your falsetto, your tenor, and your baritones. And I always liked impersonating people. So, I would always try to practice impersonating people in movies and television, and then singers. So, if I was trying to learn, you know, a song, like when I was younger, if I was trying to learn a Pearl Jam song, I would try to sing like Eddie Vedder. If it was Radiohead, I would try to sing it like Thom Yorke. And, so I would just, I would practice in all three ranges and would have some success in all three ranges. Influences wise. I mean, as far as up to Moth Mountain, I would say, start with the women always. Always start with the women. Leslie Feist, probably that first Moth Mountain record wouldn’t be what it was if it wasn’t for the music that she’s made. I listened to a lot of that at that time. Nina Simone is a big one for me. I don’t think anyone sang like her or has since. Nikko Case when I was younger, and then when I was older, Patsy Cline. When I was in college, Jeff Buckley was a big one. A real big one. There’s a line in Black Hole Sun where Chris Cornell sings no one sings like you anymore. That’s another one. Nobody really sings like that guy anymore. And yeah, Thom Yorke from Radiohead. I used to listen to a lot of Radiohead. I think a lot of people that were in college when I was in college, did. And then Jim James, from My Morning Jacket was another one. And then I mean, musically, I was getting into Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, kind of bouncing all over the place. Yeah, I don’t know if all that really panned out into like the record. But yeah, that’s kind of where I was at, from what I was listening to at those times.
Brent Hanifl 06:57
Yeah, just listening to the music today. I mean, it was just, it was a real treat to hear that sort of different range and its different, but original. But also it all kind of fit together, and it was nice to hear. How do you go about writing your songs? Is that something that’s music first? Or is it quick? Or is it something that’s long and tedious?
Joe Dawson 07:17
It really would be more quick, than long and tedious. I always found that the songs that I would end up keeping happened pretty fast. Music wise, I would probably toy with that for a night or two. And then I would usually kind of have some words, a lot of like mumbling, murmuring. I would just, you know, record it quickly on an iPhone. I felt like, this is something I want to keep pursuing. And then kind of flesh out the lyrics once I was, you know, happy with the bones of the song. And then usually I would take it to Matt and see what he thought and, you know, he would start producing almost a little bit in practice, like, well, it’d be considered a bridge. I probably hear that in my sleep sometimes. Have you ever considered a bridge? Like, okay, I hear what you’re saying. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So that’s how we would do it. Nowadays, it’s more of, you know, when I have some spare time. It’s sort of the same process, get some memorable chords, have a few free key phrases that are in my head and apply it to that. Just kind of let them naturally.
Brent Hanifl 08:39
I’m sure, like everyone else, you know, you’ve probably been affected by the global pandemic, you know, related to playing out. What’s next for the band? I mean, is it something that you’re just kind of waiting to see? Or have you been building an arsenal in some sense and ready to explode back out there?
Joe Dawson 08:56
It’s a little of not been really planning anything, and also, like having an arsenal. We started a record, a second record, several years ago.We did five songs, recorded the bones of them basically like the drums and the bass. And we did a scratch guitar, scratch vocal. And life kind of happens. And I had my first child. We had to slow down a little bit for that. You know, some other things kind of came along. My dad had some health problems. We had some losses in the immediate family. So I just kind of had to take some time away in 2018 and put things on pause. We were kind of sniffing around resuming work and getting back out before the pandemic hit and then the pandemic hits. And we thought, well, there’s not really much point. Everybody we know is not working, they’re not playing, they’re not doing shows, its not safe to do shows. Professionally, I haven’t skipped a beat. I guess I would be classed as an essential worker. I work as a facility manager slash technician at a grocery store. So I, I reported for my 40 hours a week, regardless of what the pandemic was doing. We’ve kind of gotten to the point now, with the vaccinations that we’re thinking it’s gonna be feasible to do something in the future, like within this year. Get back out into the world. And we’ll be doing it a little differently this time. The first time we did it mostly live in a room, it was Matt and I doing the guitars and the drums. No click tracks, we wanted to keep that organic process, part of the record. And this time, we’ve captured that with doing the scratch tracks previously, but we’ll be finishing it remotely, individually. Anything that he is going to add on he’ll do at his place. And then my finished vocals and guitar work, I’ll be doing here at my place. And once he and Kyle are both fully vaccinated, I think we’ll we’ll get back in a room together again, and finish what’s left.
Brent Hanifl 11:26
Since I guess, 2018, you know, going through just you know, normal life changes and also some, some major changes with death and also pandemic. Has this process, you know, going through this and living through this experience, has this been something that’s been not necessarily beneficial, but beneficial in creativity? Or is it been kind of something that, you know, people during the pandemic have kind of, I guess, kind of, I guess, gone inwards a little bit? Or has it been something that’s been a little stagnant for you this past year?
Joe Dawson 11:55
I would say probably a little more stagnant. You’re preoccupied with all this, at least, I have been. From a professional standpoint, there’s been so much more involved in operating day to day than you could have imagined over a year ago. I’ve said, and other people that I work with have said, it’s like this last year has felt like two years. You know, it does occupy your thoughts. And then, I am now a guy that has three kids in the house and busy all the time. So, where you used to have several hours in the evening to kind of hone things or pick things over, you’re kind of squashing that into a few minutes here and there during the day. Or maybe you’re just like jotting it out on your phone or on a notepad and then waiting for some time later in the weekend to exercise the idea. But at the same time, having all this time off means I have a Dropbox that has like 29 song ideas in it, too. So there’s fruit being grown on the vine right now, and so there’s a lot to go through and I’m pretty excited to get back into it.
Brent Hanifl 13:17
Cool. So if people want to find out more, what’s the best avenue for them to you know, check out your music or just kind of follow along and see what happens here in 2021, 2022 with the band?
Joe Dawson 13:29
We have mothmountain.com, that’s our main website. That’s $12 a year. Now we just got enough Tic Tok streams to make $1.79 back on that, so we need a few more to break even this year on that guy. We’ll get there, I know. I’ve got the Facebook page. The Moth Mountain facebook page is probably updated more frequently than that, so either of those are great.
Amy Gabay 14:02
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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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