23 Mar ON TOUR WITH THE 10X
Okay, okay…when I typed “on tour” I didn’t mean I was physically present but rather that I was telephonically present during the band’s drive from Nashville to Chicago. (Zip it! It still counts.) Before we go any further, there’s a confession I have to make: The 10x will always occupy a share of chic real estate in my social media heart, since it’s the first indie band (I hadn’t already been listening to) that I followed on Instagram. (Yes. THE FIRST!) Finding new indie music was one of the sole reasons I joined Instagram; I wanted to find artists I hadn’t yet heard on SiriusXM or on Spotify.
I connected with The 10x just as the band released “Flashback”. Love at first listen is not an overstatement. On a balmy and breezy afternoon, I was in my Jeep traveling up the PCH with the Pacific to my left when my playlist reached the song. (I had dropped it into place earlier that day while waiting in line for my coffee.) My eyes opened wide at the opening notes and then even wider as the vocals crashed through the sound. Twenty-six seconds into the track I already knew. I knew it would deliver, and I also knew it would take me someplace my other songs hadn’t. I took a sip of my iced almond milk latte and looked to my favorite travel companion. He turned the volume up. I continued to listen and watch the waves to my left.
Just as the ocean ebbed and flowed, so did the rhythm of the track. There’s something hardly describable about the emotions which dance throughout “Flashback” that anyone who’s loved and lost or even crushed and lost can relate to. Vulnerability, yearning, adoration, pain, and resolve – the addictive type of sentimental cocktail one could only mix and serve oneself. (Yeah, I’m still into it.) “Flashback” isn’t just a song. It’s an experience. And so are The 10x’s other songs: “Dark (Higher)”, “Stay”, and “Skull and Bones”. Listen to each and you’ll have your own feelings blended until smooth. (Listening links provided below. Seaside road trip recommended but not required for listener enjoyment.)
There isn’t much to report in terms of my reaching out to The 10x and then The 10x agreeing to the MMM interview (other than the awkward smile on my face and the strangeness of the few days leading up to the call where the sun never ceased shining). The day of the call brought quite the surprise: while I was fully prepared to meet the rock star behind the music, I was amazed to meet the intellectual. The interview progressed as all previous have thus far: in a mind-bending fashion that leaves me with even more resolve to continue connecting readers with only the most promising rising artists. This one came with an added bonus, though: I was able to catch an Instagram Livestream of The 10x’s magnetic performance of “Flashback” at their Muncie, Indiana show just a few days later. I did jump repeatedly and grin wildly with phone in hand, but I also vowed all the more resolutely that I WILL see The 10x in concert when they play in The Golden State AND take my friends along with me. (You know who are!)
The conversation from our interview is chronicled below in a pure Q & A format.
Q & A:
When did you first start making music?
10x: I have been playing music since I was seven or eight. I started playing cello – that’s actually my main instrument. I’m classically trained and attended the Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan. Interlochen is also an academy and a college and a couple of other things, too. Josh Grobin, Sufjan Stevens, and Jewel all went to Interlochen for different disciplines. I went there for cello. I started a LONG time ago, and that, of course, over time evolved into my wanting to play guitar, bass, and drums as well.
How old were you when you recorded your first music for a band – when you knew this was definitely something you wanted to do even if when you listen to those songs now you laugh?
10x: I think we were twelve – I was twelve. It was a tape recorder that we put in my basement. There was a wall, like a hole underneath the stairs. We put the tape recorder in a blanket inside of that and then closed the door. We played in the room next to it, and it wasn’t too loud for the tape recorder. We had written three or four songs, and we’d play them. Then, we’d also play “All The Small Things” by blink-182 and listen back to recordings. I have it! It’s at my parent’s house still. That was fourteen years ago.
What’s the story behind the band name?
10x: I’ll tell you what it’s NOT. It doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with the business book titled The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone. I didn’t know that book existed until the band name was solidified. I mean, I listen to motivational things, but I haven’t listened to or read that one – maybe because I have the same band name. I plan on keeping the REAL story behind the band name a secret for a long time.
Can you tell us a little something about each of The 10x’s four songs? (First, the self-titled 3-song EP – “Flashback”, “Stay”, and “Dark (Higher)”, and then the most recent, “Skull and Bones” (feat. Ben Schuller)?
10x: We’ll start with the three-song EP. “Dark (Higher)” was written, I think, in 2012. It’s a very old song; the way it exists now is not what was written then. It was initially written as a song for a band that I was in. We had a lot of opportunities. We were playing in the Midwest, and then the normal band thing happened: somebody left and connections fell through. For a long time, I kind of hobbled along with that band, still pretty hurt about the situation.
When I left that band, I decided I was going to re-record the last few things I wrote on my own. I drove to Atlanta with two of my friends and we recorded the drums. Then I came back and produced “Dark” the way it is now, and I put it on an EP for that band. I decided not to release it; and, about a month later, I had the idea to start The 10x and to work on music without worrying about anything. Not worrying about how the dynamic was between people, not worrying about how it would come across, not worrying about who would listen to it – but just to really do what I felt was ME. Just bring it out. “Dark” sort of became that platform. I drove from Michigan to Pittsburgh to buy a synth. In the same day I drove down to Nashville and that synth is the ARP synth that is featured on a lot of The 10x songs. That synth helped to shape “Dark”. When I added that in, it gave me a clear vision of what I needed to do for the future songs. “Dark” is by far the oldest song – it was there the whole time, and just got tweaked and turned into what 10x needed it to be.
“Flashback” and “Stay” were actually written in the same week, I think, which is crazy for me. I usually write a little more spread out than a week in between. I was doing dishes at somebody’s house and I had a lot of hurt about a different situation, and I looked at a cup and just started singing “Flashback” in my head. I heard the whole thing in my head, and so “Flashback” was really just a battle to get the sound out of my mind, to get the whole song out onto a recording. “Stay” – in the car, earlier this morning, I found a video of the work in progress while I was working on those songs. I would take videos at the end of the day and just listen to them when I got home. “Stay” started out as an acoustic guitar playing two little notes and a drum kit – that was the whole song in the beginning. That was all I heard. That track came together piece by piece. It sounds sort of happy, but it’s SO sad. It’s truthful. It’s passionate. That’s who I am.
I started writing “Skull and Bones” in Michigan. I found a demo from a long time ago that had a little melody on it that I liked. When I moved to Nashville, I started working on that down here, and it turned into what it is now.
I feel like each song is its own being – its own thing. I guess my job is to make sure I bring each out of me and give it life.
How would you personally describe the music you create as The 10x? (You can use any terms you want, and you do not need to stick with set genres.)
10x: It’s indie pop. I would definitely explain it that way to someone. On a deeper level, there’s a lot of orchestration, and for lack of a better term a lot of people would say something like ‘epic’ or ‘big’. Every song is huge and powerful and meaningful. I really don’t always think about it in terms of genre or anything like that. I’m trying to make a powerful song that a lot of people can enjoy and that a lot of people can connect with. And that’s just because it’s me. That’s who I am. I am the person that stays two hours late at a show, because I get caught up with every single person. I want to talk with fans, because I want to connect with them. I think the music writes itself in that way, in that who I am comes out. I want to connect with you and to give you that. That’s a little deeper than just a genre or trying to explain a sound, but that’s also the reality.
My favorite thing about music is that there really is no competition. Nobody EVER discovers a new artist and says, “I already listen to two hundred bands, I really CAN’T check this new song out.” There is NO competition. If you are doing something that touches people, it’s right; and I think that learning that and having a strategy that’s working is slowly changing my life and is slowly changing other people’s lives, too.
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
10x: I want people to get out of it whatever they hear. I had a conversation with someone not too long ago regarding what “Skull and Bones” is all about; and, instead of telling them what I wrote it about, the first thing I said was, “What does it do for YOU? What does it make YOU think about? How do YOU connect with it?” There are a lot of songs that I listen to that bring me up, that pump me up, that help me overcome times in my life, and maybe what I get out of a song totally isn’t what the person that wrote it was thinking about. That doesn’t make anything right or wrong. I would rather somebody listen to “Skull and Bones” and think, I’m gonna accomplish this. I’m going to go after this. This song is pumping me up for my day, because I know it’s going to be tough. I would rather people get what they hear out of it, rather than hear me say, “No. no, no! THAT’s what this is all about.” I don’t get that. I don’t have any pride.
What was the catalyst behind your move from Michigan to Nashville? And what is it like living in Nashville as a music artist?
10x: Yes, I think this is a good question and will give some insight into how music is different in different places. Michigan has a really interesting climate, and not weather-wise, but musically, especially for unsigned artists. Everybody up there is great and is passionate, and there are certain groups of people that are working really hard and achieving success and seeing good things happen. I didn’t feel like I could bust into that. I didn’t feel like I was a part of that. A big reason I moved was because I wanted to go to a place that was more of a hug rather than a landing spot.
Nashville is that. It’s a hug for everybody and everything. There are people from Nashville, but you will meet twenty people not from Nashville before you meet one person from Nashville. And that’s a beautiful thing, because you have a lot of people passionate about what they do coming through or now living in a certain place. That’s powerful. A lot of the success that The 10x has seen in the past three or four months is NOT because I moved to Nashville, but is because my mindset changed. In Michigan I had the tendency to sometimes feel like a victim, because this person that controls everything wouldn’t book me a show, or because these people who are doing stuff haven’t noticed that I have the ability to help, too.
When I was able to leave that mindset behind, the only thing that was left was: Well, what do I do? And that’s how The 10x Instagram started, and that’s how a lot of the songs started. That’s how the collaboration with Ben Schuller started. Everything that has transpired between gaining a manager, working with a booking agent, and now driving to Chicago to play a show – I don’t think that that would have happened if I would have stayed in Michigan because of ME. I think that my mindset was what needed to change.
Your lyrics are always on another level! Do you have a routine or do something in particular to thrust your mind into the creative zone?
10x: Honestly, my family, especially my now-wife Taylor, makes fun of me a lot for my word choices. I always pick words that cause people to ask, “Really? You’re really picking THAT word? No one even knows it! Pick a different word.” And so, the lyrics are funny because a lot of them are pretty literal.
Bruce Springsteen – GREAT storyteller. That’s something I really envy. I mean, some of his lyrics are probably real, and some of his lyrics are probably a story that he made up. I can’t do that. I wish I could. I wish I could just imagine things differently and write a story lyrically about it, but I can’t. A lot of the lyrics are really literal. They are just a different word for the literal thing. For example, the ‘wasteland’ in “Skull and Bones” is how I view my life right now. Instead of saying ‘my life’, I just call it ‘the wasteland’.
I’ll tell you this, too. I’m not going to take any credit. It’s never conscious. A lot of times, the lyrics will get written and I’ll read them a week later and think, Oh! That’s what I meant! I learn things about myself when I think about the lyrics. You realize, this is what my heart was saying. This is what my sub-conscious wanted to get out.
Again, something really literal: the part in “Stay” – ‘Berlin, Paris, Tokyo’. That week I went to the bank and I took out a couple thousand dollars, because I was thinking about buying a one-way ticket to Berlin, just taking cash with me, and maybe never coming back. I was riding my bike A LOT when I wrote that song – I would go on a seven hour bike ride, not to race or anything. I would wear normal clothes, leave the house, and bike around neighborhoods I had never been in all day. I felt like that was the only thing I could do then.
How do you determine when the lyrics are final?
10x: I record EVERYTHING. I will start the song from a drum beat or a guitar part, and so it’s up to me to say, “This song is done.” Writing it happens when I record it sometimes, too. Very seldom is there a demo for a song. There’s no demo for “Stay” or for “Skull and Bones”. There’s a one minute demo of “Flashback”, but it has barely anything on it – I think a guitar, one little drum kit, and a vocal. It usually doesn’t happen like that.
For a lyric to be finished, I don’t know. I never thought about that too hard, other than if it feels right. Since I am writing the song I know this is the right thing to say. There have not been many times where I have had to go back and change things. Most times, what happens is I write the chorus of the song, and I think, this is AWESOME! This IS the chorus. And then, immediately after I think, well, what do I do for the verse? And so, I kind of like battle inside, and usually the second verse is the last thing to be written. Usually, the whole song is written and then I figure out what the second verse is. It’s kind of, like, the bane of my existence: second verses. At the end, it usually feels right. This makes sense. This is what I’m trying to say. This is a good iteration on what the song needs to be saying.
Where do you like to record? Are there certain places you always work with?
10x: So…I’ll spill the beans early, and I won’t wait for you to ask! The four songs that are already out will be on a full-length. Right now, it’s like 75% done. There are three OTHER songs totally finished, and then there are a lot of ideas. There’s a fourth song that, I want to say, is like 80% there. It’s actually a big goal of mine to finish a full-length. I haven’t put out a full-length since 2006/2007. It’s been ten years since I’ve put out a ten-song album, so I’d like to do it.
I’ve done everything. I’ve recorded everything. We recorded drums in two places so far: at Glow in the Dark studios in Atlanta and at a garage in a church in Michigan. Everything else has been done wherever my studio has been, so either: in the basement of my parent’s house in Michigan or now at my house in Nashville – I have a studio room. Everything so far has been self-produced with the exception of Skull and Bones. I co-mixed that with a guy named Kyle Dreaden. The full-length album will be self-produced as well – if we have to record anywhere, there’s a studio in Nashville we might have to end up recording drums at. We’ll see.
If we were to re-record something or to record a new full-length, I would want to go down to Atlanta to Glow in the Dark – it’s a beautiful studio, beautiful room, and beautiful compound. Matt Goldman is a great guy. I would love to rent the studio and have his help with getting things set up. Then, I’d like to sit at the controls and press go.
You obviously just teased all of us with the mention of this upcoming full-length album. Do you have ANY sort of estimate of when it will coming out – will it happen in 2017?
10x: It will ABSOLUTELY happen in 2017!
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to The 10x in studio or onstage?
10x: I think, so far, the craziest thing that has happened is the first show that we played. We had TEN people onstage! It was tremendous in every way. It was difficult. It was exciting. The musicianship onstage was amazing, but it was clearly just WAY TOO MUCH. Now that we are going and playing these shows, it’s obvious that it was a good call to scale the tour crew down. The EP was out, and I had been working on one of the songs that’s going to be on the full-length. We went to practice it and it didn’t sound ready, so I pulled that one and we literally only played three songs. We were the headlining band that night and we only played three songs. And, there was a glitch on the computer. Just, everything was amazing – take that how you want to.
I’m sure, if you catch me three months from now, I’ll have even MORE stories. This weekend, we’re playing Chicago, Indianapolis, Muncie, and Cincinnati. Next month, we’re playing in New York City and in Boston and another place not yet confirmed. The following month, we will be in Texas.
Who is onstage with you now? Is it just you or do you have other musicians onstage still?
10x: The setup we had before tours was: a guitar, a bass, and two drummers. We modified that to have two multi-instrumentalist musicians playing throughout the set. Taylor Von Borckdorff plays bass, synth, and guitar. Parker Moore plays drums and the sample pad, so at some points he has multiple drum sounds going on. And then there’s me, and that’s our current tour crew. It’s enough to play the most important pieces, and then we can just run the things that we can’t play, like the orchestra and other sound effects.
What artists have been monopolizing your playlists lately?
10x: I’ve been listening to more motivational speakers than music lately, because I NEED it. I listen to Les Brown all the time. He’s my hero. He’s rocks! I think something that he said is helping me finish this album. Les Brown said, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”
What is the last song you listened to on repeat?
10x: I’ve been listening to Bon Iver’s “00000 Million” on repeat as well as “Wow” by Beck. “Wow” blew my mind the first time I listened to it. It really is SO strange on your first listen. On my second listen I started to understand. I think I was lucky because the first time I listened to it, I saw the lyric video and then the music video and I think that that song was really thought of as an art piece. Those two pieces of media really brought it together for me, and developed maybe what Beck saw and heard in his mind. I love it. Beck has a REALLY cool dance move in the middle of the video, too.
If you could have five front row tickets to see any band (currently living) perform live, which band would you pick and who would you take?
10x: I would definitely go see U2 again! That was BEST concert that I have ever been too. It was shattering. I actually didn’t really even want to go concerts after that – I knew nothing was ever going to be that good. Everything was going to be subpar. Playing cello, being a master of your craft, is a big part of that. And so, my whole life when I went to see other bands playing or when I played I wanted to make sure that I had mastered what I was going to do. I really don’t like to be in any way unprepared. To see U2 nail it was amazing, because I’ve seen a lot of other bands that are prolific and amazing that, as a musician, I thought, Wow – that’s NOT all the way there. That’s more like 92% and not 100%. I appreciated that about U2 a lot. I have seen other bands, though, that do make that 100%. I’ve seen Walk The Moon, and that show was incredible. For the tickets, I would see M83 – I have not seen them, yet. I would go see Bleachers again – that would be nice.
As far as who I would take, I would take the people I know who would enjoy that specific concert with me. I have a friend in Chicago who is a HUGE U2 fan. If we were going to do it, HE would NEED to be there.
What’s the most discouraging comment you’ve received as an artist, and how did you move forward from it?
10x: As far as comments go, I guess I’m the kind of person that anytime that maybe I’ve not done something well or not been able to do something well, I’ve always just worked to be able to conquer that. I think the most discouraging thing that’s happened is when people who are supposed to be on your encouragement team can’t see your dream and they brush it off. Hopefully, if you have people in your life that are like that, you can explain to them that just because they can’t see whatever they want for themselves, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do what you are trying to do. I don’t think a comment necessarily would discourage me as much. I would love it if someone told me I was terrible, because the next time I opened my mouth to do what I do, I am going to prove them wrong.
That was my favorite answer by far, because people REALLY need to hear this stuff. So many people become dissuaded from what they *most* want to do. Many times your closest friends and your loved ones can’t see the vision that you have, and they don’t understand that you are willing to put in this immense amount of time to make your vision come true. And it’s something that not only applies to music and the arts, but also applies across every field.
10x: What people don’t understand is that us doing the things that we feel that we must do is necessary for us to be happy. If someone that I cared about didn’t support me and told me that I was never going to make it, it wouldn’t just hurt my drive but it would affect my happiness and my belief in myself, too. And that’s the hardest part: to BELIEVE that you can do it, to BELIEVE that you can finish it. It’s important to have somebody that believes in you if you can’t believe in yourself – even if it’s a recording of somebody telling you that they believe in you. When we say that we can’t do something, if someone else says that we can do it, we will eventually believe them, and then believe in ourselves.
I really like the notion of finding out who your hero’s heroes are. I was listening to the conversation that Anthony Gonzalez from M83 has on his album and he talked about some music that he listened to. For me, it was important to read about that artist and to listen to them and to hear what inspired them. Good god, if a hero to a musician I love is speaking, you better believe I want to be there. I’d think, Give me EVERYTHING that you’ve got!
Please let MMM know THE moment the full-length album is available, so we can post about it and start listening!!!
Connect with The 10x:
Listen to The 10x:
YouTube: User: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpFexdG5UhmABtun_iT6GRQ
Listen to what The 10x is Listening to:
Spotify Playlist (User: Ivy Cayden, Playlist: MMM: The 10x)