Dallas Higgins - 06.28.12
Well, here's the surprise of the year.
Twenty-four year-old Massachusetts native Dallas Higgins, former member of the bands Foredoes Me Quite and The New Sea, is releasing his debut solo EP End of Days, later this year. As of now, he's only released one song to the public, "Chasing Trains," a gorgeous ode to introspection.
Much like City and Colour, Higgins says and does so much with just a voice and a guitar. His voice is easily his biggest asset and he has an innate ability to know when to pull back and push forward. It is a trait that seems easy to possess but few ever do. Higgins certainly does. Reached by phone from his home in Mansfield, MA, he shed some light on songwriting, the video and his hopes for the future.
AP: How old is the song "Chasing Trains." Did you write it a few months ago, or is it a couple years old?
Dallas: I wrote that song about three years ago. But I only got a chance to record it about six months ago.
AP: Why did you only get a chance to record it six months ago?
Dallas: Well. I had a lot of time to write a lot of new songs. And "Chasing Trains," was one of the first songs I wrote in that last batch of songs I had, a few years back. It has just kind of been on the back-burner, waiting for me to get into the studio. But I made sure to include it when I went into the studio.
AP: Do you remember where you were when you wrote it?
Dallas: I was in my room, actually. A funny thing is, where I live, there is a train in the distance that goes by, and I always hear it around midnight. Like a horn, from the train, in the distance. Subconsciously that kind of went into the song. And the song just went from there.
AP: Did you know you had a good song on your hands when you finished it, or did you have to tweak it to get it to where it is now?
Dallas: I liked the idea at first, but I definitely had to tweak it. I posted a clip of me of playing it live, a few years ago, and shared it with my friends, way before I started this project. People seemed to really like it and complimented me on it, more so than any other song I had started on. So it went from there. And then, it really came together, when I brought it to the studio. It was a process.
AP: You had mentioned you recorded the disc in Michigan. Tell me about it. How'd you end up there, how was the experience?
Dallas: I actually used to record around here in Massachusetts with a producer named Ray Jeffrey. And he recorded my old band. And then I just kept working with him. And then he got a good opportunity working with Marc Jacob Hudson in Michigan. And he moved his whole life out there. He happened to contact me and wanted to start working together again. So I immediately got on a flight and went up there, and recorded there. I liked the idea of it , working with a producer I was comfortable with. And the studio, it's in the middle of the woods. There's nothing around for miles. And the studio itself was great. Taking Back Sunday has recorded there. It was kind of cool walking in and seeing all the albums on the wall that have been worked on there. There were a lot of albums I had listened to when I was younger.
AP: So tell me about the studio itself and that experience. How did it shape your sound?
Dallas: The studio was great, too. They have really great sound there. A ton of equipment. I hired a drummer, and a keyboardist. I'm just on my own with my solo stuff, so I wanted to help enliven the songs. And they both did great, too. That weird ambient keyboard part at the end of "Chasing Trains," that's the keyboardist I hired. His name is Nate Cogan. He is currently a touring musician for Taking Back Sunday. And the drummer is Dustin Brills. He also did some touring with Good Charlotte at one point.
AP: Tell me about the video. Who created it, how was it created, etc?
Dallas:That was actually done by me. It was kind of a random thing. I knew that I needed to release some videos with the song. That's kind of what you have to do nowadays to get your songs out there. I'm currently making videos for the other songs on my album first. "Chasing Trains" came as an accident. I taped myself kind of on my way to work. On a drive. And it started out as a simple thing. Just a drive. And I put a watercolor effect on it, through the software on my camera, and I put the song there, and tried to match it up. And I was like this is cool, I can see the video doing this. I worked on it for about four weeks. Every day for four weeks I was working on it. Then I kind of added some other flashback scenes to try and tell a story and it kind of just came together. When it was done, I sent it to Ray. And Ray told me what to add and take away. After that, I had about 22 drafts of the song, and the end result is what you see now. I think it was as good as I can make it.
AP: Do you study graphic design or video animation at all?
Dallas: No, this is the first video I've ever made, myself. I've never really done this. I'm really into songs making artistic statements. I kind of take my inspiration from Radiohead and Death Cab. They have a cool sense of artsy videos, and that's kind of what I am going for. And I searched around for people to make the videos for me. But I found myself waiting to hear back and I sort of started the video for "Chasing Trains," on my own and it just kind of went from there.
AP: You had mentioned that your album End of Days is due out early this fall, how much of it is completed? How much of it is left?
Dallas: Well, it's not a full-length. It's a six song EP. It's all done being recorded. We finished all that in Michigan. Right now, I am taking the time to make videos for every song on the disc and release them one by one. "Chasing Trains" was the first. As for the EP, it still has to be mastered. And it will probably be a digital release. As soon as it gets mastered and more videos are done, then I will release it to the public. I'm guessing early fall. All the work is essentially done, I just have to get these videos done and get the EP mastered.
AP: Tell us a little bit about the album End of Days.
Dallas: Well, it's not all like "Chasing Trains." That's actually one of the ballads. There is a good mix of ballads, and some upbeat rock songs. There's a few songs with piano, that sort of sound like, As Tall as Lions, I guess you could say.
AP: So what's the goal after this upcoming July date with The Company We Keep? Is it to go out there and start touring heavily?
Dallas: Well yeah, for sure. but, honestly this upcoming show, I didn't plan on playing it until I had the record out. I wanted to just kind of push the Internet thing first and I isn't know what would happen. I sent the songs to a promoter I work with in Providence. And he just really loved it. I had never seen him so floored by anything I've ever written. And he went to work at getting me a show. So I sort of had to hustle and get a band together and hurry to get it done. We are going to play the set as a full band. We've been practicing like crazy. I had about a month to get a band together and I think we're just about ready. Once the record comes out, it will be all about playing out live.
AP: Are we going to hear any more songs from that album later this summer?
Dallas: I'd say probably August. I'm almost done with another video. I think I am going to make that my MO. Finish a video, release a song, and go from there.
AP: Do you prefer to write songs based on personal experience, or do you draw inspiration from books, movies, and friends' experiences?
Dallas: I definitely base songs on life experiences. I usually write an idea or a melody before I put any real substance or lyrics to a song. I go with the chords. Kind of the emotion I am feeling, and translate it to the sound of a song. After I will sit down and try and make sense of it. I think the songs kind of just come to me. Writing lyrics is the last thing I do. The lyrics to "Chasing Trains," kind of came to me naturally. Sometimes I go into the studios with words and I am not even sure of what the songs mean. And then somehow the producer or another musician will make sense of it. And it breeds new life. I think sometimes I talk about things that are a little abstract and people can't grasp it.
AP: Such as "Unkept Fires Old and Maimed," huh?
Dallas: <laughter> Someone was giving me crap on that the other day and telling me about that. And I was just like, "Yeah, I don't know man. I don't know."
AP: But at the same time, you want lyrics to be open-ended, so different people can take different things from them.
Dallas: Yes, exactly.
AP: Had you always wanted to pursue a solo career or did it just happen by accident?
Dallas: I had started out playing in bands, and when that didn't work out, I had to actually get rid of all my equipment. And then I bought an acoustic guitar. And I played that for about a year or two. I just wrote songs whenever I could. I had a list of 30 or 40 songs and I narrowed them down to a handful. But I knew that I was writing songs that were more full. I had played acoustic shows before, but I always felt like they were so limited. I needed something more. I think there was a process. I went to the studio for myself and hired the musicians. But I knew at some point, I didn't want to just be a solo act, I wanted a band out there. I spent all the time writing the songs on my own, that I guess, it kind of was an accident. And once I was going in that direction, I went for it.
AP: How do you know Brendan Harney of the band Wheat?
Dallas: The drummer of my old band is actually the little brother of Luke, who was Wheat's bassist. And Ray Jeffrey, who recorded my album. He actually recorded their last two records. So yeah, the Wheat guys they are all family and all good friends. They've told us stories. They are really great people and they really inspire me. That's totally cool that you know them. I had no idea. They're really a great band.
AP: I know your career is young and its just starting out, but if you could share a bill with any three artists or bands, who would they be?
Dallas: Oh gosh, um. Definitely Radiohead. I saw them up here in Massachusetts. It was the first time I had ever seen them. It was mind-blowing. So yeah, definitely them. And well, even though they broke up, I would have to say As Tall as Lions. My old band opened up for them and I was just really floored by that. Their self-titled is one of my all time favorites. And uhhhhhhh, I would say the other band would probably be Death Cab for Cutie.
AP: What are three CD's you're listening to right now, that you're really digging?
Dallas: Um, Radiohead's The King of Limbs is really cool. I definitely have that in my car. I usually listen to Pandora, and just random stuff that comes up and comes on. <pause>. Oh wait. I bought Frightened Rabbit's new one, and the new Elbow album Build a Rocket Boys. And Bon Iver's self-titled.
AP: So is the goal to pursue this full-time, and put aside a day job, and just give this your all?
Dallas: Yeah I mean, this is all I've wanted to do. Obviously I have to pay the bills and that's what I'm doing now. But if I ever got to a point where I could live semi-comfortably and play music that would be my all-time dream. I'm not even saying totally comfortable. I'm saying just semi-comfortably. I want to give this is a go. This is all I've ever wanted to do.
To learn more about Dallas Higgins and his music, head over to his Facebook page. Head here to see the video for "Chasing Trains."
Foredoes Me Quite were enjoyable. I'll have to check out his solo stuff.