Ari Joshua On the Making Of “Country Stroll”
What was the creative process like for this particular "Country Stroll?"
Whenever I have a studio session booked, it gives me a purpose to create. I'm always ready to create, and there's always purpose all around, but typically I do a deep dive in the weeks before a session. For this song, it is a tribute to Bill Frisell. Frisell is one of my favorites, and he has worked with both John and Billy. I like to write songs for people, everyone I love will eventually come through in the music. Once I turn on the composer faucet, it just drips and flows. If we lived in a perfect world, I would compose every day, the challenge is, at some point in this reality one has to stop writing to make room for recording, and producing, mixing, and collecting art, and then figuring out how to get it to the ears and hearts and minds of the listeners. That has all become an equal part of the creative process.
Were there any memorable or standout moments during the recording sessions for "Country Stroll?"
Billy Martin and John Medeski are both legends. I have alot of respect and love for these human beings. The moments were all memorable, this session is now part of my Groundhog Day wish. If I could collaborate in a studio during the day and go home to a family, that would be the perfect day to repeat. Billy had a few things he told me that really sunk in, it really felt like just hanging out with my friends in high school and making art. Effortless and creative, that is how the whole experience was. It was all a blessing. Billy also told me a few times that I was gonna have more music then I would know what to do with. Since almost every note was captured so well by Chris Bittner, he was right. There will be a lot more to come. I really want to send so much love to these players and to everyone involved. Also, I want to send big love to anyone I get to play with in the future, it’s a blessing to have these moments.
What was your favorite moment in making the music video?
The art is by Paul Delaney, and he does a lot of these animal watercolor style illustrations. I grew up on MTV on the old tube TV. We had like 5 channels and MTV, so I like to have a video with each release. If you have time, you can see a lot of my videos on YouTube. I often make them all myself. It’s really soothing for me. I also like to make posters. I am about to take a class in design because I love it so much. If I could have access to a bigger budget, I would work with more artists, no doubt. The bear and the duck symbolize that we can all get along and enjoy this ride together. Sometimes there are different archetypes that want to clash, but all said and done, the country is for everyone; there is plenty out there to stroll with.
How do you approach collaborations with other musicians or artists?
I usually start with one person I want to really collaborate with and then I give myself about 2 weeks to practice and compose with as little distractions as possible. In this case, John offered we track in Woodstock at Applehead. I know a lot of really special MMW albums, and the Scofield recordings as well all happened there. We could have recorded in New Orleans, and in the city, but this was the best case scenario. When you ask what is best for others you can end up in better shape than you anticipated. All of John's gear was up there, and I spent alot of time in that area in my college years so I loved it. In collaborating I like to be out of my comfort zone, I like to be open to options. In this case, I loved Woodstock, I could live there; I really fell in love with it. Anyways, back to the question. After we find a time and location, I go into the studio with a bag of options and ideas. In this case, I wrote like 30 new ideas. Once I do the planning, then the thing is to forget about it till the moments come. We can choose to leave room for the other cats to share ideas, and sometimes even co-write if it makes sense. When you are in the room, there is a voice that can take over and make magic happen. I am blessed, I really do feel that once I have that trust and bond with the people I am working with, I am ready and able to put my heart and soul into anything at any time. I try to make the best quality art I can. I accept that this can mean different things at different times. The short answer is I believe in osmosis, and that we can add to the creation but making room for others.
Every composer has a unique style. How would you describe your musical "voice" or signature style? What sets your compositions apart?
In order to answer this, I am going to share a few things. I was born in Cape Town, and my family had a very worldly sense of art and culture. In the States, when I got turned on to music, I came from the blues, like a lot of cats, but I really had access to some great blues music growing up. I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix pretty early on. Before music, I wanted to be like Michael Jordan, so I shifted my image of his greatness and his influence over to the musical players I had access to. After really getting into the blues, the grunge era hit in my part of the world. I was immersed in that time; I was a teenager at a time when music was exploding around the world, and it felt like we were living in ground zero. Everything I learned was from records, tapes, and radio, so there was an exclusivity to the music that influenced me, and as well as a sense that it was all happening in real time. Within a short period, I was placed in the Jazz Band at my high school, and I started to dissect Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, and get exposed to classic albums from the jazz world. We would share recordings, and transcribe solos, and compare notes at lunch. Every album I digested from grades 6-12 became part of my DNA. I spent at least a few weeks immersed in each artist, and album, and I would sit and learn lessons from each note that sang to my soul. In return when I present my voice I express my soul, my feelings, and it’s an accumulation of all that stuff mixed with my life experiences.