Here’s our interview with Tim Showalter, the main man behind Philadelphia band Strand Of Oaks. Tim and I bonded right away over our mutual love of cats. Heal the new LP from Strand Of Oaks is now out on Dead Oceans.
Northern Transmissions: You’ve mentioned how at at fifteen you found salvation in music, really believing in it’s powers to help you. Who, or what inspired you?
Tim Showalter: When I think about it, I’m pretty sure I was much younger. I got inspired by Don Henley. It really moved me more than the songs we had to sing in school. A few years later I heard the song “Today” by Smashing Pumpkins, and it affected me in a huge way. I got on my bike and raced over to buy it as soon as I could. I didn’t want to play any sports, I just wanted to wear strange clothes. I really loved the idea of listening to The Smiths and getting sad, and I didn’t want to live like regular people did. I’m really not sure what I would have done if it wasn’t for music. I might have made a good car thief, haha.
NT: Your new album is titled Heal. You were going through a pretty turbulent time in your life. Was making the record a cathartic experience for you?
TS: Many things happened during the making of this album, including a serious car crash that my wife and I were in, which we were pretty lucky to survive. Before that, my marriage almost collapsed. You’re dealing with someone who isn’t hiding anything. I go through a tough time or experience, and I write about it. I toured for about two solid years, and this is a way to avoid problems. If you’re married it is tough as well. I was avoiding things, and it resulted in a breakdown. I was kind of lucky in the end, as thirty songs came out of the whole thing. I’ve written two full albums worth of music since then. I feel lucky right now, I just finished another song. I’m not sure how great it is, but I’m happy to be able to do it.
NT: One of the tracks on the album is entitled “JM”, a tribute to the late Jason Molina. How much of an inspiration is he to your writing?
TS: I only met Jason once. His music pulled me in deeply. I felt like I really knew him through his music. He saved me. I listened to his records over and over again, many times. I am actually so influenced by him that sometimes I worry that I might be plagiarizing him, haha. The thing that I most admired about Jason, is that he wasn’t full of self pity. I don’t think he wanted to go, but I guess his body finally gave out.
NT: You made a video for the song “Shut In”, an extremely personal song. The clip is tongue in cheek, but pretty touching at times. How did you find the experience?
TS: I can’t take any credit at all. I was really lucky to work with the director Zia Anger, and she did absolutely everything. I love comedy, it comes from sad experiences. Richard Pryor grew up in a whorehouse and we laugh about it. We wanted to tell the story and add a bit of comedy to it. I said the words to the song into the camera. Zia really nailed the whole thing perfectly.
NT: Is it emotionally taxing playing your songs on some nights?
TS: I was really nervous preparing these songs for the shows. The first night we played them, it all went away. We have to close every night with “Mirage Year”. It’s so liberating playing and performing that song. I’m excited about playing the new songs. I want people to hear them as much as I want them to hear the album. I’m also lucky to be taking a great band on the road with me.
NT: Before becoming a full time musician, you were a school teacher. Do you miss the regular structure of it?
TS: I miss the feeling of accomplishment. In music, it’s tough at times to see what you’ve accomplished. When teaching, you see progress. Kids are learning how to read and write, and you watch them improve and grow. It was a great feeling seeing that at the end of the year, but I think I found my calling in music.
NT: Which five albums are inspiring you these days?
TS: Sharon Van Etten – Are We there Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw The Greatful Dead – Dave’s Picks Peter Gabriel – Plays Live Sun Kil Moon – Benji