‘On and On’
Some musicians dedicate their life to music. They forego other careers and relationships to concentrate on keeping the band together and hitting the road as often as possible.
Other musicians create music while making a living doing something else. In many ways, those musicians are freer from many of the constraints that hamstring professional musicians who are forced to comply with label, audience and venue demands.
Boone musicians Todd and Emily Marriott have kept up with their musical interests even while pursuing other careers and starting a family (they had their second child, a boy, three weeks ago).
Working with Doug Kaufman of Atomic Studios, the Marriotts and a handful of guest musicians have created a superb new album. The Marriotts, under the band name Battle Victorious, have recently released “On and On,” a wonderful collection of original songs.
“Last year, Doug Kaufman asked us if we wanted to do some recording,” Todd Marriott said. “We jumped at the chance, and, in July of 2011, we spent a week laying down some guitar, vocal and drum tracks. Doug produced, mixed and mastered the album and really gave it some magic. After that, we funded the manufacturing of the CD with the help of friends and family through Kickstarter.com.”
“On and On” is the couple’s second full-length recording. In 2009, they released “Hello” on the Visible Media Group, now Madison Line Records. They also have released a five-song demo.
“I started to love music while drumming in the band, Alien Outlet,” Marriott said. “It was something that me and my friends started for our senior project in 2001. I just sort of always wanted to do something musical, but never had the opportunity until then. I started off on the drums, but quickly moved to songwriting for the band, as well. Our project was to write, record and perform a number of original songs. Luckily, I’m pretty sure that the only recordings lie with the band members and our families.
“Emily has loved singing since she was a kid. She did a lot of musical stuff in youth group, but wasn’t in an official band until Battle Victorious began in 2005.”
For “On and On,” most of the songs have a gentle, Jack Johnson-esque vibe to them, with the real star of the show being the clever interplay between the Marriott’s voices. Sometimes Emily takes the lead, as on the wonderful “Here We Go,” while at other times Todd takes the lead. On some songs, such as “Little Girl,” the two blend their voices into one lead instrument.
The contrast between Todd’s steady grounded vocals and Emily’s soaring voice is really the element that will keep listeners coming back to this album again and again.
According to Marriott, the couple approaches collaborative songwriting from a variety of angles.
“It works in different ways,” he said. “Sometimes we get annoyed when trying to mingle our thoughts together on paper. Other times we feed off each other’s energy, and the song seems to write itself.
“What has been happening a lot recently is that I will have a musical and lyrical idea and jot down a verse and chorus with a melody. Then I play it for Em, and she tells me what she likes about it and where she thinks we could change a few things. We go over it together and tweak it till we both think it’s ready. She really wants to start writing more, but has been super busy with the newborn.”
Both Todd and Emily are finding that life with kids is one that makes making music a little more complicated but a lot more rewarding. It shapes everything they do.
“It is unfolding every day,” Marriott said. “We are just trying to figure out how to make it all work together. Right now, music is more of a hopeful hobby. It’s something that we do because we believe in our songs and what they stand for. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll be a family band someday? On the other hand, if our kids want to take up something that pays the bills and become doctors, then we would be happy for that, as well. As far as shaping our music, we are consistently overwhelmed at the life entrusted to us. Some of our newer songs, such as ‘Little Girl,’ are directly inspired by our kids.”
The Marriotts also find inspiration in their faith, and although none of the songs on “On and On” are overtly preachy or gospel-oriented, the theme of a higher power emanates through many of the songs.
“Our songs do reflect our beliefs, and we believe that, ultimately, the answers to questions we all have are found in Jesus Christ of the Bible,” Marriott said. “We really do believe that nothing on earth is beautiful without him. A lot of our music has universal themes, but each song is definitely meant to direct a person to who Jesus is.”
The album was recorded at Doug Kaufman’s Atomik Studios in the High Country. A veteran of film and television soundtrack work, Kaufman’s music, sounds and production skills can be heard on SyFy, MTV, Lifetime, The History Channel, “The Billy Graham Television Special,” Augsberg Press and NPR, among others.
Kaufman’s touch in the studio goes way beyond knob turning. As a musician, he adds percussion, guitar, bass, xylophone, organ, mandolin, banjo, glockenspiel, accordion, keyboards, synthesizers, tuba, trumpet, cello and violin.
That wide range of accompanying instruments, most of them acoustic, gives “On and On” a timeless, ethereal quality, keeping the listener guessing as to what sound is coming next.
“This project was a blast to work on,” Kauffman said. “Todd and Emily were living in Utah at the time, and they flew into North Carolina for a week to record the album. We recorded the guitars and vocals in that first week, and all the additional instrumentation was layered in later.
“I focused a lot on traditional folk instrumentation like mandolin and banjo, but I also tried to add a lot of interesting little orchestration with bells, drums, accordion ... anything I could get my hands on. Daniel Ames, another local musician, also came in and laid down some great cello tracks.
“It’s always great getting to work in the studio with really creative songwriters like Todd and Emily.”
“On and On” is that rare album that lives in its own gigantic world, a studio album that expands the horizons of the recording studio.
For more on Battle Victorious, visit http://www.battlevictorious.com.