Interview with Kaleb Jones of The Young International

It’s been about a month since you guys released your self-titled EP.

Yeah, it’s been going awesome. We’re excited, we’re happy with the reaction. People are really loving the album. It’s been a long time coming making this album.

When did you start writing the songs for the EP?

The process started during the beginning of last summer. We wanted to write as many songs as we could and get a really good bunch of songs to choose from. We went into the studio with about 20 written and we had demoed out about 15 of those. From those 15 demos, we narrowed it down to the five songs that are on the EP. From there, we went into the studio at the end of August and put the finishing touches on them. It was a pretty arduous process. We wanted to introduce ourselves in the best way possible; that’s why we went to such lengths.

With such a nice batch of songs to choose from, why not make a full-length instead?

The music industry’s changing. It’s not an album-driven industry anymore, as far as I see it. Really, we wanted [to make] an introduction, and not overwhelm people with a mass of songs that they couldn’t digest. The good thing about demoing out all those songs was that we learned a lot about ourselves as songwriters and musicians. We plan on releasing new music all the time instead of a big album full of a million songs.

Right. It’s rare to spend two or more years on an album nowadays.

Yeah, absolutely.

Mitch Dane co-produced the EP along with The Young International’s drummer, Thomas Doeve. How was it working with Mitch in the studio?

He’s an absolute master in the studio. You can see [that] with what he’s done before with some awesome artists like Jars of Clay and some really successful albums. His studio, called Sputnik Sound, is really like a space station. They set it up to feel like this old, really vibey, science fiction novel-esque place. It’s really inspiring to work him. He’s a zen master in the studio, he really is. He’s such a calm and soothing guy in the studio that he just pulls the best out of you in a great way. He goes with the flow, which is refreshing in the studio.

Was the album tracked live with Mitch?

Yeah, we went in and we tracked live at Sputnik Sound with Mitch. Almost all of what you’re hearing on the record is us four in a room playing our instruments and messing around all together in one room. That’s really what we brought Mitch in for — he’s an engineering genius. We really wanted to capture what we do together. It’s easy to separate everything and do drum tracks, then bass tracks, and continue to layer everything. We wanted a different feel on this album. We wanted to be in the room and feel the music together while we were playing it live, and see what comes out on the tape on the other end. Everything else — the sprinkles and icing on top of the cake — we did at our home studio. The heart of it was us working with Mitch at Sputnik Sound.

Tell us a little about your songwriting process.

The way we usually do it is I’ll have an idea and I’ll scratch it down on a piece of paper. The inspiration, the lyrics, and chord structure is what I love — that’s what I love about songwriting. So what I’ll do is take random moments or random feelings that I have and I’ll put down that basic idea — that skeleton of a song. Then we four get together, plug in, and that’s where we get creative and really fill out this picture we’re trying to paint. I’ll make this outline and then the band will blow it out of the water and create this whole new body of work that we didn’t even know could happen. We’ll tear the songs apart and put them back together, adding bars, measures, or a beat here and there.

So the songwriting is a collaborative effort as well.

Absolutely. We co-write as a band; we’ll break off into pairs. I like the idea of bringing real emotions and real feelings out. If David, the bass player, is feeling something, then we need to write and capture that feeling. I do a lot of the lyrics, but the inspiration comes from everywhere and everyone.

Tell us about the song “Shadowboxing.”

We were on the road and we were in the middle of nowhere with nothing around. I was driving the van and everyone else in the band was sleeping. I do a lot of thinking, a lot of reflection and writing whenever I’m driving by myself in silence. So I was driving and I saw this green road sign, like you would see on any interstate. It said “strike at the wind” and it had an arrow pointing left. I looked to the left, but there was absolutely no road there. It blew my mind because first of all I was like, “What the heck is this sign doing out here and why is it pointing to no road?” Just the phrase “strike at the wind” had so much imagery. Those four words just really inspired me, and made me think about how sometimes there are signs leading places that don’t look like they’re going anywhere. Sometimes things seem so unachievable; sometimes [when] we’re striking at the wind, it feels like we’re shadowboxing. It’s about trying to overcome the fact that you can’t see that road.

Your new music video for the single “Ruckus” came out not too long ago.

It was our first produced and what we thought to be well-made music video [laughs]. It was so much fun to do. If you’ve seen the video, a day of work smashing things is not so bad. It was a blast.

How is it being an independent band?

We all went to school for either music or for music business. We consider ourselves a music factory; we do everything in our house and we’ve done everything DIY for so long that it comes naturally to us. We also each have our designated role within this music factory. We all live together in Nashville, TN and have a studio in the basement that our drummer, Thomas, works out of. He’s a brilliant engineer and producer. Chase [Gregory], the lead guitar player, is incredibly talented with web media and graphic design. He does all of our graphic design and all of our web work and promotion. David [Deaton], the bass player, has taken on the beast of a role of booking us as a band, which is not an easy thing to do. He’s knocked it out the park. We’ve done many national tour dates completely booked and organized by ourselves. We’ve become a business of sorts. We all have our roles professionally and creatively and musically. It’s a lot of fun because it always keeps us on our toes. There’s always something to do.

Would you say that there’s a big rock scene in Nashville?

I think if you came and lived here for a week you’d be very surprised at the rock scene. We have such incredible music. We better — we’re Music City. The rock scene’s a lot of fun for us because when we play shows with other local rock bands, they’re our best friends. We’re always playing awesome shows with our best friends who are just incredible at music and songwriting. It’s always inspiring us to be in this scene because our friends are making such good music. We’re all rooting for each other and it’s a community more than a scene, the way I see it. I mean, there are some great rock bands coming out of Nashville; [just to start], you’ve got Kings of Leon and Paramore. There’s also a band called Civil Wars that’s tearing it up right now. They aren’t necessarily rock, but they’re in the community that I’m thinking of.

Another cool thing that you guys did recently was write a song called “A Different Light” for a movie soundtrack.

Through a myriad of circumstances and connections we were asked by Randy Jackson to write a song for a movie that his production company was producing. They gave us a synopsis of the movie and asked us to write a song for the soundtrack. The funny part about it was: they asked us to write it, we sent them the demo of the song on a Wednesday, and they told us they loved it and needed it by Friday. We were like, “You need the song or you need the version that’s going to be on the soundtrack?” They were like, “Oh, you know, the final cut.” The next day, we woke up first thing in the morning, went straight into the studio and tracked the song beginning to end, mixed it, mastered it, and everything all in one day. It was a very long, but rewarding day. It was a great opportunity for us and the first time we got to do something like that. To be able to work with Randy Jackson’s production company was an honor and kind of surreal.

And that was before you released your EP, right?

Yeah. It was an awesome opportunity and we were very honored and pleased to do it.

What’s up next for The Young International?

We love playing live. It is just the ultimate reward as a musician to get up on stage and share what you’ve spilled so much of yourself into. Our goal as a band is to connect with people through our songwriting and through what we say with our music. We want to make music that people love and we want to make music that people can connect to. Playing live is just the best way for us to do that. Other than that, we’ll be working on writing new music. As an artist and a songwriter, your rewards are few and your work is great. The opportunity and idea of continually creating and finding new ways to express yourself and express things that people go through is exciting and challenging.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yeah, I’d like to encourage people to start looking into the Nashville rock scene. There are some artists in town that are going to be huge. If you’re one of those people who like to find [out about] things on the ground floor, look into the Nashville rock scene. There are things coming out of here that I’m ecstatic about.

Also, keep a lookout for new content, videos, and songs from us. We have new music coming, it won’t stop.

Cool. Thanks, Kaleb.

I appreciate it. Thank you.

Pick up The Young International’s self-titled EP.