Weston Horn on collaboration, what makes an album and Bruno Mars
A Q&A with the frontman of Weston Horn and The Hush, which just released their second album, "Vol. II: Don't Give Up."
Weston Horn and The Hush just released their second album, "Vol. II: Don't Give Up."
Weston Horn and The Hush's "Don't Give Up" was featured recently on the TulsaTalks podcast. The Tulsa band's sophomore album, "Vol. II: Don't Give Up," is streaming now through Spotify, Google Play and other services. The record can also be purchased through their website or through most digital retailers. Physical copies are available through CD Baby.
How do eight like-minded musicians meet and agree to start a band, anyway?
Like everything in life worth doing, it takes time and hard work. I approached Mat Donaldson (drummer and musical director) and Steve Snyder (bass) first, because to me, there wasn't a better core band in the world than these two. I think the reason they signed on and why, subsequently, every member after them signed on, was because I was able to show them my heart for the band and, partly, the direction for this project.
I genuinely wanted to create music that made people happy, but also a show that was different than what people were used to seeing, especially in Tulsa. A show that would take people away from their daily lives, their job, their stress, their issues and transport them to a place of entertainment and joy and maybe even inspire belief that there is a little bit of magic left in this world. That being said, the band coming together has felt nothing short of predestination. Every last member that is in the band now is as much family to each other as we are to our own blood.
That sort of bond allowed us to do things differently than most bands. We practiced, wrote and recorded the first album before we even really played a show. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to treat this band as professionally as possible and that it would take patience and a love of the journey instead of the destination. I wanted our first show to create a "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" moment of, "Who are these guys?" I also knew from the beginning that I didn't want a label or a music executive to imagine what they needed to add to the band. I wanted them to see a finished product. So, we bought matching suits, worked on choreography and had a product that was ready for shelves before our first show. I think that overall vision and heart made it easier to get the right people on board and in the band, and it's been a family ever since.
What inspired the decision to name your two records "volumes"?
I say this line a lot, but I was a nerdy home schooled kid. I read books every night and loved not only classic music like Dean Martin and (Frank) Sinatra, but also classic literature as well. I truly believe all the reading as a kid helped my creativity and education when it comes to my abilities as a wordsmith and songwriter now. I ended up going to college at 14 years old. My mom would drop me off at college my first two years in a conversion van. That is where I developed my sense of theatrics, quick wit and entertainment skills, as I lied constantly about my age, who dropped me off and why I looked so young. That, in addition to my mother and my grandfather being, for lack of a better word, huge book geeks, led me to the conclusion and the feeling that "volumes" felt perfect.
Does "Vol. II" pick up where "Vol. I" left off? Was the "sequel," as it were, in mind during the production of "Vol. I"?
Yes and no. Mat always says that albums are snapshots in time of where the band is at that moment. So, "Vol. I" is a perfect representation of where we were and "Vol. II: Don't Give Up" is a perfect follow up and sequel, as it illustrates very much of where we are now. It also is bigger, it has more hooks, it's more grandiose, it's "more us" than "Vol. I," so it feels like a nice progression.
When I say "more us," I believe this album shows us playing to our strengths, settling into "our sound" and who we are as a band. "Vol. I" was a collection of songs that I had personally written over the span of seven or eight years. I brought them to Mat, who helped clean them up, and then we presented them to the band. The horn section, funnily enough, was really an afterthought.
I had grown up always wanting to have a band with horns, but even being as naive as I was back then, I knew that would be tough. So, I wrote the songs without the horns being a focal point. I think our listeners will find the horns a much more vital role to this album now that we know they are here to stay. Also, "Vol. I" was recorded when we were a relatively new band. Contrasting to that, when "Vol. II" was being written, we had been together for two years at that point.
e had been playing together on stage, learning each others' styles, personalities, gifts and we had really started to become the tight knit family that we are now. So, "Vol. II" is much more of "our sound" instead of one person's. I had a band with some of the best players on earth and it would have been silly to not play to their strengths, utilize their brilliance and find out who we were together. I consider myself incredibly blessed that I feel we captured all of that on "Vol II: Don't Give Up."
How many takes in the studio before a finished Weston Horn and the Hush song comes to fruition?
Well, not as many as one might think actually. The Hush is full of professionals who have not only mastered their instruments, but also understand the importance of continued hard work. We recorded both albums at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Los Angeles. The studio is legendary, complete with a Grammy wall displaying B.B. King's and dozens of other incredibly world-renowned artists' awards for records that were recorded there. It is humbling and sacred just to get to play music in the same space as some of our heroes.
However, the staff is always blown away at our preparedness and our professionalism and say how refreshing it is to work with us. They always tell us stories of bands spending months and months in the studio that walk out with less done than we accomplished. We work so hard for months before we get in the studio that the band is hitting perfect first takes more times than not. We tracked the entire 12-song album in three short days. In my admittedly limited scope of knowledge, that is incredibly rare for a professional album, and it is a testament to the talent, the love and the hard work of my family in the Hush.
If you got to choose any band or artist from any period, for whom would you love to open?
I am answering this question selfishly, as our band has pretty varying musical tastes and influences. As much as I thought it would be Huey Lewis & The News, The Rascals or members of the Rat Pack, I find myself answering Bruno Mars. I say him for multiple reasons.
One: I think he is creating some of the grooviest and catchiest mainstream music the world has seen in a long time. Two: I like that he creates a show that is incredibly entertaining by investing his time into choreography and creating a grandiose and legendary performance that still has a really genuine feel to it. Three: I am also no fool. He is one of the biggest artists ever in the world, and opening for him would be a huge boost to our own success. I find myself being too honest, so in sticking with that I must admit that I thought about trying to name some obscure independent band in an effort to sound cultured and hip, but I like Bruno Mars ... and his millions of fans ... that might potentially also love us ... if he were to read this and let us open for him.