Our guests this week on the Art of the Song Coffee Break are Zach Broocke and Marlaina Youch who make up the songwriter duo Slings & Arrows.
Want to listen to the full interview with music? Listen on our podcast here now: Slings & Arrows
Katie: I’m sitting with Zach Broocke and Marlaina Youch of Slings & Arrows and they’re here in L.A. from Nashville. Welcome guys, it’s so nice to be sitting here with you today. I’m so glad you could stop in.
Marlaina & Zach: Thanks for having us.
Katie: So, you guys are on tour. How long have you guys been on tour for now?
Marlaina: Since beginning of December.
Zach: December 4 was our first show in Portland.
Marlaina: Yeah, we left Nashville December 2.
Zach: We played a great residency up in Portland at a venue called Al’s Den where we played seven nights in a row. It was really fun, a great room. Great folks, put you in a nice little hotel.
Katie: That’s great. And you guys have both lived in L.A. before, so how is it being back in LA?
Marlaina: It’s crowded.
Zach: We have a love/hate relationship.
Marlaina: Being in Nashville, everything is just calmer all the time, so when you don’t live here, you’re not used to how hectic everything is at all times, but it’s really good to be back and go to all of our favorite places and see all of our friends so it’s been really fun to be back.
Katie: And you guys met in Nashville, correct?
Katie: And you were saying too last night, I had the pleasure of seeing these two last night at Hotel Café, and you guys were saying on stage that you had met originally through a co-write, correct?
Zach: That’s right. Yeah, we have a mutual friend, Jessica Caine. She’s a great songwriter as well.
Marlaina: Jessica introduced us. Actually, the first time we met was when we went to go see Tim Jones play and Tim Jones was my friend from L.A and your friend from L.A. and we both knew him and Jessica knew him and so she was like, “Oh, we’re picking up this guy Zach to go to the show. I think you’re really going to like him.” I’m like, “Whatever, I just moved here. I’m not trying to date anyone.” And you show up in bell bottoms and I’m like, “Who is this guy?”
Zach: Smoking a cigarette.
Marlaina: Yeah, and I’m like “Ok”. She goes, “He lives in East Nashville.” And I’m like, “Isn’t that where the hipsters live? I don’t want to date someone that lives in East Nashville. You’re crazy.”
Zach: I was the one hippie in East Nashville.
Marlaina: She goes, “No, he’s not really hipster. He’s more like a hippie.” So I was like, “Ok, that’s cool”. And we hit it off right away. Then she’s like, “Oh we should all three of us write a song.” So we scheduled it.
Zach: And then I bailed.
Marlaina: You bailed the first time. You were like, “I have a conference call.”
Zach: I probably did. You’ll never know though.
Marlaina: And we had driven all the way to East Nashville and we were waiting for you and you called and cancelled and we were like “Ok” and then Jessica bails on the second time and it was just you and me.
Zach: We wrote this song called “Black Leather and Booze” that’s on Marlaina’s solo record. We played it last night.
Katie: Oh yeah, it was great. It got the house rockin’ too.
Marlaina: It did! People were like, “Did you plan that?” I’m like, “Well no, we didn’t plan that. They really didn’t know the song. They had never heard it until right at that moment”. Because the band came in at the last moment.
Zach: But they’re so damn good they just picked it up immediately. It even changes keys in the second verse and they still nailed it. It was quite a moment. It was very cool.
Katie: Yeah. You were saying you hadn’t played together in a real long time too.
Zach: Yeah, some of the fellas, the drummer in particular, Jamie Wollam, I think the last time we all played together was ten years ago at The Troubadour. He’s been on the road with Tears for Fears as the drummer for that band for the last three years I’d say. So I literally haven’t seen Jamie in ten years and we had a very brief, well not that brief, three hour rehearsal the night before the show and it was just so incredible to have such chemistry with these guys that felt like we hadn’t missed a beat. Everybody was right back in it and we just fell together like old times.
Katie: Songwriter magic right there.
Zach: Yeah, it was really neat. It was a bunch of fun to play last night with them and see all these friends that we hadn’t seen in a really long time. We just hope we get to keep playing with them more and more.
Katie: Absolutely. So take me back. Zach, we interviewed you about four years ago and we learned a little bit about your history, but if you could just both of you give me a sort of down-and-dirty of how you got into music originally.
Zach: You go first.
Katie: That’s my dog. He’s interrupted a couple of interviews now. For our listeners, it’s Mr. Bones.
Zach: He has something to say.
Katie: Bones does have something to say, and he’s going to say it.
Marlaina: Mr. Bones. Well, I’m originally from Seattle. I grew up there and I pretty much since I could make noise was singing and watched a lot of Disney movies so all those songs. I was a big Celine Dion fan by the time I was in fifth grade and I could belt out every Celine Dion or Whitney Houston tune.
Katie: Well, you got the voice for it too.
Marlaina: A lot of diva music and then I went on to do musical theater and my voice didn’t really fit that role as much because I was much more into the big diva pop songs. My voice teacher at the time she could just not get me to sing show tunes. I was just not having it. I wasn’t interested. So she pulls out this book of jazz standards and I start learning jazz standards. When I was probably about fifteen I started singing everything in The Great American Songbook and then started playing in jazz clubs in Seattle. I actually met Dr. John and I performed with him a bunch and we’re good friends now. I’ve known him since I was probably like eighteen and have played some shows with him. Then, from there, I think I was down in L.A. and I met some people and they said, “Would you be interested in going to New York?” and I’m like “Yeah, of course” and I’m like nineteen at the time. So, I’m like in New York and like meeting the A&Rs at Sony and Warner Brothers and Atlantic, all those places, at the time I didn’t have any original music, it was just my CDs of live jazz recordings so they had me meet with the people in the urban music department, which is not really where I would fit in. I’m not Rhianna, so it wasn’t a good fit for me. They were like, “We don’t know where to put you because you could go totally country, you could go totally pop, totally urban music. We don’t know where to put you and there’s not really a market for jazz.” So I was like, “Ok, I guess I should start writing songs”. So I actually went to my voice teacher who is a songwriter.I actually just came from her house and we were catching up and she’s like, “Oh my god, I’ve known you for eleven years, I can’t believe that”. So I was like, “I need to start writing songs”, so we started writing together and recorded some stuff here and I eventually moved down here and started playing out here. I was just trying to figure out what’s my sound, where do I fit into the music business? I don’t know because up until then, I could sing whatever you told me to. “Sing something like this!” and, ok, I could do it.
Katie: What were your first songs? Were they sort of folk/Americana?
Marlaina: No, they were much more like pop country stuff. We still play a lot of them out. My newer stuff, my solo stuff, they fit in together. They all have a bit of me. I definitely do take a lot of my jazz influence into my writing and then I love rock ‘n roll/country, so it’s kind of a combination of a lot of different elements but it makes the songs stand out and be a little more unique than some other female country songs out there. They have a little bit more of an edge, at least that’s the feedback that I get commonly like “Oh your songs are really cool, they have more of an edge than what we’re used to hearing in Nashville”. So I think it’s because they have rock ‘n roll and jazz influence.
Katie: Then how did you go from here in L.A. to Nashville? What incentivized you to make the leap?
Marlaina: Honestly, I wanted to move to Nashville before I moved to L.A. I didn’t actually want to live in L.A. I was just coming down here a lot to do music and my best friend lived here and she was like “Come on, just move in with me for the summer. My apartment is month to month, you can leave whenever you want.” I ended up getting a job working at a restaurant and I just ended up staying a lot longer than I initially planned on so my route to Nashville got delayed a couple years but I eventually made it out there. I’m glad I lived here for a while, I definitely wouldn’t take those years back. I had so much fun.
Katie: Yeah, I’m guessing too it really informed you when you moved to Nashville and saw the difference in the music scene there versus the music scene in LA. We were talking a little bit earlier about this, do you want to go into that? Because I thought it was a really interesting point.
Marlaina: Yeah, I think that the music scene in Nashville it’s cool because it’s so focused on music and the whole culture there is pretty much focused around music whereas L.A. it’s definitely much more around film, TV, fashion, every other industry, but Nashville it’s cool to go there from here where all the musicians are very spread out and you don’t necessarily see them all the time. Nashville, every you go, there’s music. Everywhere. All the time. And songwriters playing and you go down to Broadway and there’s cover bands playing and there’s cover music and you go to a writer’s round and hear awesome original tunes and sometimes not-so-awesome original tunes. But I think if you moved there, you’d learn really quickly to step up your game and do better and work on your craft so you can keep up with all the talent that’s there because the standards of musicianship are very high.
Katie: Yeah, and in the previous interview that we did with you Zach, you were saying that the standard there is so much higher than any other place that you go, even when you were at Berkelee. You go to Nashville and the quality is ten times higher than anywhere else you go. That’s pretty intimidating, but you guys have had a really good reception in Nashville.
Zach: Yeah, for a relatively new band.
Marlaina: And for a tough town. But people don’t dish out compliments if they don’t mean them. That’s for sure.
Katie: What do you think it is about your music that resonates with people on a broader scale like that?
Marlaina: Definitely think it’s the songs and maybe the way we perform them. Probably I would say the songs and our chemistry singing the songs.
Zach: And I think that there’s a quality of both of us singing. We have very different timbres to our voices so I think the combination of the two has it’s own sound in a way that we can’t accomplish just as solo artists.
Marlaina: Also, I think a lot of our songs, they’re all very different. We don’t play songs that all sound the same whereas you put on a normal country record and a lot of the songs they sound real similar and there’s not a lot of diversity in the music, but because we come from different musical backgrounds, I think it will bring a lot of different elements to the table and we’ve got some of our songs are kind of more southwestern desert rock because we love The Eagles.
Katie: Did you guys naturally fall into that rhythm with each other easily or was it something that you really had to work at?
Marlaina: It was pretty effortless.
Zach: Honestly, the first time we went out on tour was, what, the summer of 2015?
Marlaina: It was a couple years ago. We were still under each of our solo names, but we did do a couple songs together and most of those were covers and then people liked it so when we were back in Nashville, and you were playing your “Tug of War” and I was like, “That would be cool as a duet. That would make a lot more sense as a duet” and “That was Me Then”, which was our single. Those were the first two initially that we recorded as duets and then “Lay In My Arms”, you had already written that and it had a female part and we went in and cut it with my vocal. So the first few things we’ve done have definitely been, we’ve been taking older songs and rearranging them…
Zach: Reinventing them and turning them into Slings & Arrows sound and that specific vibe to them.
Katie: Yeah, because even “That Was Me Then”, you were saying in the Lightning 100 interview that I watched….
Zach: You did?
Katie: I did! I was stalking you guys online.
Marlaina: I think Catalina was live streaming so I think it’s on our Facebook page.
Katie: Yeah it is on your Facebook page.
Marlaina: None of us knew how to do it so she had to call an intern in to do it. I was like “I don’t know how to do this” and she was like, “We don’t either”. I think FB live was new. I didn’t even know you could go live on FB.
Katie: It was very entertaining and very helpful too. Getting back to “That Was Me Then”, that was the song that you had written five years ago, right? With Shane….
Zach: With Shane Tutmarc, the same guy that was playing guitar for me when we did the interview in Albuquerque.
Katie: I think from the interview you were saying that “Oh you came along…and this should be a duet” and you guys made it duet and, the thing is, I can’t see it any other way. It’s insane to me.
Zach: Right. I had recorded the song and I always had felt like there was something missing from the song. Either it needed some backgrounds or it needed another guitar part of something and I was just like, “This isn’t all the way there yet”, so I just kind of threw it on a shelf.
Marlaina: You were going through old songs on your computer when I heard it and the same thing with “Whirl” which we performed last night for the first time. I was like “This is really a cool song” and heard that one and I was like, “You’ve got some really cool songs on here, why aren’t you playing any of them?” So we went in and dug up some songs and unfortunately some of my solo material didn’t make sense to have you singing on it, but we can write some new ones.
Zach: And we will.
Katie: I’m really curious about that, do you guys start a lot of times from your songs that you go back to and say, “What can we do with this?” or do you start from scratch a lot of times? Is it a mix of both?
Zach: Just because the band is so new….
Marlaina: And it’s been taking off rather quickly, we haven’t spent a lot of time writing.
Zach: Honestly, it’s only been because of the demand that this even happened really. We’d go play a show and, like Marlaina said, people would come up and say, “Hey, do you have anything on one of these discs of both of you singing?” and I said, “We don’t now, but the next time we come to town we will.” So I went back to the studio…
Marlaina: We only had a few months before the next tour out so…
Zach: Let me plug Geoff real quick. So my buddy, Geoff Piller, owns a studio in Nashville called Electric Thunder and we’ve been working out of that studio for the last four years now and we’ve probably cut 38, 40 songs, something like that, along the timeline and so when we were under the gun to throw some stuff together, we just started going through the songs and found a couple of gems. It was a very easy process to record, we just went in and re-recorded the vocals together at the same time and two, three takes of it and we would have one that just lined up perfectly. We have this ability to understand when each of us is going to stop or start a phrase or how we’re going to approach the phrase. It’s just this inherent thing that we have that we’re very lucky to have. It’s not a struggle at all to find that harmony and that placement.
Katie: That really comes through in your music too. Not just watching you guys perform live, but also listening to your music, it’s very much a conversation between the two of you. I would imagine that a lot of people resonate with that sort of intimacy that you have.
Zach: Yeah, there’s a few new songs that we haven’t recorded yet. There’s one called “Set Me Free” that we wrote with Ryan Sorestad and we decided, we had written the song, and it was another one where we went “Man, this is just way stronger with it being a duet. It tells more of a story. It gives the other point of view and really lifts the chorus”. “That Was Me Then” is the anti-love song. “Set Me Free” is obviously very much a different flavor.
Marlaina: It’s a bacon and eggs song.
Zach: The bacon and eggs songs, yeah. The thing I love about being in this band is that we’re able to explore different parts of being in a relationship. The good times, the bad times, the celebrating the victories and I hope that it comes across in the music that we make and the music we’ll continue to make.
Marlaina: We keep it real I think.
Zach: That’s right mama.
Marlaina: We’re not faking anything. Everything is pretty much what you see is what you get with us.
Zach: It’s just too hard to try to do something else. Just be authentic.
Katie: Absolutely, and I would imagine having to explore those themes through your songs would only strengthen your relationship generally.
Katie: I want to talk really quickly, you guys did a beautiful song before we started recording called “America”. Talk to me a little about the inspiration behind that. It’s a very timely song.
Zach: I wrote the song with a good friend of ours. Her name is Christina Bailey, and ironically we wrote the song right around July 4, right about two weeks after we had met that I wrote the tune. We were just sitting on the front porch hanging out and I said to her, “I’m tired of Lee Greenwood making all the damn money on July 4 because he’s got that song and he just cashes in. Let’s write a July 4 song.” Once we had the idea, the framework for it, it fell together very quickly. I think we wrote it in, whatever, everybody says “Oh we wrote that song in 15 minutes”, it was not 15 minutes. It was probably 18 minutes. Regardless, we hit a groove and sometimes, at that point, you just got to try to keep up with the pen. Just get it out as soon as it comes in your head. It’s a song that over the years that we’ve played. Seems to resonate more and more with folks no matter where we go. We played a writer’s round back in September at The Bluebird in Nashville and there was this couple, an older couple, probably mid-60’s or what have you and obviously from out of town, the guy had $1200 cowboy boots on and nobody from Nashville, other than Brad Paisley, wears $1200 cowboy boots. So he comes up to me and he was like, “Man, that song America really moved me”. For me, as a songwriter, that’s the job. Reaching somebody is why you do it. So I said, “Thanks so much” and he’s like, “Yeah, I wish there were other songwriters that had the balls to write a song like that.” I didn’t know what to say. I guess, “Thanks?” But it seems to resonate from folks in Nashville, Portland, Seattle, L.A., everywhere, Idaho….
Katie: It’s a song that I think can go across the board no matter what your political affiliation might be. Anyone can really resonate with that message.
Marlaina: It’s all about togetherness.
Zach: It’s like, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans and we’re all going through this thing together. Everybody’s got a paddle and we’ve got a row in the boat. Instead of the divisiveness that’s happening in society right now (at least American culture), whichever side of the fence you’re on, at the end of the day, what is real is the people that are around you that make America. That kind of togetherness is just a hell of a lot more poignant than pointing the fingers and the blame game.
Marlaina: I think the coolest part of America is how different everyone is and how you can get along with people.
Zach: It doesn’t matter the color of your skin or who you choose to love, you still have people around you, there’s a sense of community and that’s what America is. I feel like we’re moving in this wild direction. So, for some strange reason, that little folk song, it’s got legs, as they say in Nashville.
Katie: That’s exactly what I was thinking. I feel like it’s a very important song for the times and I think that it will continue to be more important as the months go by. So thank you guys for doing that song.
Marlaina: Yeah, it’s going to be our second single.
Katie: Oh good, I’m so happy to hear that.
Marlaina: How many times did we cut it the wrong way?
Zach: Oh, we cut that song four different ways. Three different ways the wrong way and then she goes “Listen, let’s just do it the way we’ve been doing it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
Marlaina: He was getting all excited and wanting to throw everything at it and I was like, “I don’t think we need to do that.”
Zach: Well, it’s like we had this drummer and we had this guitar player and we’re just like, “Let’s see what we can put together” and the more stuff we three at it, the less authentic and the less poignant the lyric was.
Marlaina: The version that we’re using now is one live take in the studio. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a song where the whole thing we’re using there’s no compromise or anything. It’s just a one-line take. You, me, and the guitar player and the overdub is the harmony stuff.
Zach: Two lines.
Marlaina: Everything is just the two of us playing live.
Katie: I think that’s what you need for the song anyway for the message that you’re getting out, I think that sounds perfect. It’s needs to be that.
Marlaina: Yeah, it’s just a magical moment where it all came together.
Zach: Yeah it was take four, something like that. We swung at it a couple times, like “Eh, let’s walk out of the room for a minute, smoke a cigarette, walk back in, have a little bit of Coca-Cola” and we hit it.
Marlaina: Got to have our American Coca-Cola. We’re recording in America.
Zach: We pushing this stuff and were like “I think it’s the one” why don’t we come in and listen to it?
Katie: So you made a point that America is so great because we have all the diversity of people in America and you two are a good example where you’re coming from very different backgrounds and influences as well and you somehow make it work. We talked about your background; let’s hear a quick version of your background Zach.
Zach: The Cliff’s Notes?
Katie: Yeah, the Cliff’s Notes version. If you want to hear more you can listen to the other interview.
Zach: These days people don’t know what Cliff’s Notes even is.
Marlaina: They just Wikipedia it.
Zach: Right. I’m originally from Waukesha, Wisconsin and my mother’s side of the family is from southern New Mexico, Artesia, grew up in, what do you call it, I’m having a brain fart, middle class, remember that?
Katie: Remember when there was a middle class?
Zach: Middle class family and I moved via Wisconsin to Boston to go to Berkelee College of Music for a year and a half and then a couple of my professors said, “Hey, if you want to be a songwriter, you’ve got to move to Nashville.” I didn’t know anything about Tennessee, probably if you asked me at that point I couldn’t even spell it right. So I got in a Penske truck with my friend, Andy Hall, who is in a really cool bluegrass band now called The Infamous Stringdusters and we moved down, neither of us knew anybody, and just started pounding the pavement and making friends here and there and made a record in 2004 and we toured it all up and down the east coast and southeast, then I moved, because of my friend, Jared Leifert, who is actually right there, not that you can see him, and he said, “Hey man, move to Los Angeles, I’ll put a band together, and let’s be in a rock band”. So we did that. I moved at the end of 2004 to Los Angeles and put together a really great band, played all over and did that for about five years. Then I kind of got burned out on Los Angeles because being from Waukesha, Wisconsin I’m used to seeing lots of space and it felt kind of claustrophobic. The hassle of it all was kind of draining on me. So I decided I wanted to move back to Nashville and been there ever since 2009. It’s officially home since my folks have now moved from Wisconsin to Phoenix, so I don’t have any family in Wisconsin anymore. Over the years, it’s just been honing the craft of writing as many songs as I can. I have this saying somebody told me, I can remember who told me, I want to say maybe Roger Murrah, and was like “I always write hits, just sometimes the s is in a different place” but you got to get through that stuff to find the good nuggets of songs that you can turn into something that really speaks.
Marlaina: And the song you wrote with Roger Murrah I think is such a good song, and we’ve played that one live. We actually didn’t play it last night, but we love to play that song.
Katie: Which song?
Zach: It’s a song called “Heartaches for Hire” I wrote with a great songwriter Roger Murrah, he’s in the Songwriter Hall of Fame. He wrote “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” for Alan Jackson, “High Cotton for Alabama”, a bunch of Reba hit songs, and an entire record with Waylon Jennings before he died that sadly never came out. So I had this title and I had a progression and I had been working on it for the better part of six months and just couldn’t find that center and he came over and told me the title and said, “This is kind of how it goes” and we worked it up. It took us three different meetings to finally get the tune where it needed to be, but I’m really proud of that song and it’s on a solo EP that you can pick up if you ever catch us on the road. Marlaina has her solo EP as well on top of the Slings & Arrows EP.
Marlaina: That’s one I think we should recut together.
Zach: Yeah with a full band.
Marlaina: We do it live and we do it together and it’s so cool.
Zach: Yeah when we’re touring it’s just the two of us.
Marlaina: I think it’s also one of those, it tells a different when we do it together.
Zach: Yeah, it’s all about that creative person. It’s centered around the singer/songwriter and the struggle of finding success, but it can be, if you pull the camera back a little bit, you can see, even if you’re any kind of creative person, a painter or a writer, there’s a certain arc to getting to the place where you’re making the best art and the song is kind of about that. So it’s called “Heartaches for Hire”.
Katie: I love that concept too that when you guys actually do that together it changes the narrative as well and I think that’s a really important thing. We have songwriters listening to this or artists in general and that collaboration can change the story. People get so involved in their own stories sometimes.
Marlaina: Yeah I think it’s cool when we do. A lot of it is about how we rearrange the songs and we sit down and move some stuff around.
Zach: This verse feels better for Marlaina to sing or this verse feels better for me to sing.
Marlaina: And this would make more sense for me to sing and for you to sing this. So we have to sit down and look at the lyrics.
Zach: And then create the conversation within the framework of the lyric.
Marlaina: That’s already there and sometimes you got to change a few things to make it work.
Katie: Yeah. Maybe that’s some of things that makes you guys so relatable too. With listening, we were talking before off-air with Marlaina and we were talking about how you can come across some songwriters and it’s so hard to relate to them because they’re so in their own little hovel in their own little world, so you bring someone else into it and you have this collaboration and conversation and suddenly you bring everyone else in. I think that might be one of the things that is just really beautiful about you two working together. So I really appreciate it.
Marlaina: Cool, thanks.
Katie: I just want to ask one more question too, because we’re kind of running out of time a little bit here, so when you guys got together and you’re bringing all of your different influences from different places, do you guys have different creative processes, different writing processes?
Marlaina: Yeah, we do.
Katie: Tell me about that a little bit.
Marlaina: Zach definitely likes to start with a groove and he plays it on guitar….
Zach: Sometimes for days.
Marlaina: And I think when we wrote the first time that was something that was hard for me to write around music that was already there because I usually like to start with a story or an idea or just lyrics and write something that at least have a verse or chorus of lyrics and then put music to that. Every writer you write with has a different creative process and so learning to co-write with people is something that is very Nashville.
Zach: It is very Nashville.
Marlaina: We have friends that will move there and they’ve never co-written in their life and they think it’s the weirdest thing but, ultimately, I think you want the best song possible and sometimes two brains are better than one. Three brains are better than two.
Marlaina: Sometimes, but everyone comes in with a different perspective and they can look at something…there’s a song of mine that is a song called “Crooked Mind” that our friend Mike Meadows had already written and I came in and rewrote all the lyrics pretty much. You guys had this awesome groove and the lyrics…
Zach: Cool title and there were some things that were real neat about it but…
Marlaina: Cool title, but didn’t really make sense as a story. Just sounded like cool words but didn’t really have a message per say, so I was like, “Let’s change this to this” and I was getting all introspective because it’s more an abstract song.
Zach: Well, that and we had Mike singing the demo and he’s a big manly guy and then to put a female vocal on it changed the entire story immediately and it made it a hell of a lot cooler.
Marlaina: Yeah. Our first version of it was this super hard rock metal, not metal, but it was like a super hard rock version of it, which was really fun because it’s so different from what I would normally do, but I like that kind of music but I think, ultimately, we both love all the same music. There’ll be times where I like girly pop stuff that you don’t like and I have to listen to it a lot in the car when I’m driving by myself, but for the most part, a lot of the same influences and a lot of the same tastes when it comes to music. We’re both huge Tom Petty fans and Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles.
Katie: I think that’s probably helpful too because you both are very I think outspoken and firm in your opinions. You’re not stubborn, but I think you guys are very rooted in who you are as artists which probably helps when you’re co-writing too because I think maybe, this is just conjecture, but maybe if you’re young and you don’t really know who you are as an artist, that can be a little challenging not to get overtaken by someone else in a co-write.
Marlaina: And we’re different in certain ways. Like you tend to overthink lyrics way too much…
Zach: Yeah, I like to work a lyric, backwards, forwards…
Marlaina: You beat it to death. You’re like, “Alright… what if we change this…”
Zach: “What if it’s ‘the’ instead of ‘an’”.
Marlaina: He really likes to overthink everything and I’m like, “You’re thinking about it too hard, just let it breathe for a minute”.
Zach: Yeah, what is going to reach the most visceral response?
Marlaina: Yeah, I was like, “Think about what is the main message that we’re trying to get out and we can tweak a line here or there…”
Katie: So it seems like you’re (Marlaina) more focused on the story and you’re (Zach) focused on the specifics. That works out real well.
Zach: The specifics and the music of it.
Marlaina: I’m like the navigator of him. I’m like, “Ok, that works really great, but what are we going to say after that that makes it more relevant? Where is this going? We can sit and worry about this line when we have a clear focus of where we’re going.” So I feel like I make the road map. And you like to sit and nitpick.
Zach: And make the groove.
Marlaina: And make the groove.
Zach: I make the road, you write the map.
Katie: Well, I love that. Before we close out, do you guys have any advice for songwriters starting out that you can pass on? Words of wisdom.
Zach: Keep after it. Surround yourself with the smartest people that you can possibly be with….
Marlaina: Draw inspiration from wherever you can….
Zach: Listen to every song from your favorite artists and learn what makes that song cool….
Marlaina: Why you like it….
Zach: Why does it reach you? But remain authentic to yourself, because everyone has their own voice and it’s tough sometimes to feel like you stand out, especially now in this world where everybody can make a record, but can you make a great record? And that will be the never-ending challenge as long as I live at least. Who knows? Is going to be striving to beat the song you just wrote.
Katie: I think that’s a good approach. Well, Marlaina and Zach, thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me today. I really appreciate it.
Marlaina: Thanks for having us. It’s been fun.