Renewing Interview: Aaron English

CIYH Artist Renewing Interviews

We like to interview our artists when they renew their memberships with CIYH. It's fun to bring them back in the limelight, and to see if house concerts and listening rooms are having an impact on their careers. Plus, we ask some crazy stuff too. Enjoy!


Aaron English      July 29, 2013

Describe your most memorable house concert experience. 
Apparently I attract birds while playing house concerts out-of-doors: I was playing on a floating stage in a lake in the Montana mountains and found out afterwards that a bald eagle was circling and swooping over the stage the whole time I played. Here at a house concert in Seattle I was playing "Doves" and I'm told that a murder full of hundreds of crows flew overhead, heading home to roost. So long as they're not vultures circling I think I'm fine with this trend.

What's your best opening line? (from one of your songs, or one of your favorites)
Any lyric with a strong visual image that sets the stage for the story to come. People often quote the first line of my 'Very Very Heavy' to me: "In the bow of the boat he awakened / and his heart was barren as the still sea surround"

What song is most likely to make you cry? (if you were the crying kind)
A tie. The two songs that always make me cry are Joy Harjo's "Letter from the End of the 20th Century" and Dar Williams' "Mortal City".

How many miles did you drive last year?
Only about 1600 miles - since I live in Seattle, I'm usually flying into a city and touring from it as a hub.

What is your favorite thing about house concerts?
The audience's committed, careful listening - it really honors the song itself in a way that I've never encountered in any other venue.

If you could no longer sell your music on CD, what would you do differently?
Sell it on vinyl! And maybe cassette - those are making a comeback, I hear...

When is the last time someone critiqued your song, suggested a way to make it better, and you agreed?
I was in a listening session with an ASCAP rep in Nashville last summer. I put on a recording of mine, and while the second chorus was playing I thought "there's one too many repetitions of the hook". Sure enough, when the song was over, she told me the second chorus was too long. It's interesting: it wasn't 'til I heard the song while listening to it with an industry professional, years after I wrote it, that I realized hey, that part could be stand to be tightened up.

Have you ever watched yourself do a full concert on video? If so, what did you learn?
Yes. Keep your eyes off the frets/keys your instrument and never stop interacting with the audience.

Is there anyone you like to go to for songwriting help or advice? If so, who?
When I'm stuck on a song, I open up my dad's high school thesaurus. It's old enough that the language feels formal - not archaic, but definitely from an earlier time. I start looking up words that are thematically related to what I'm writing about, and I start playing a word-association game: I might look up "ocean", then follow that to the entry for "tide", which would lead me to "ebb and flow" or "castaway"...and all of a sudden I have an emotional narrative to write a lyric around.

What is the best stage name of all time?
Englebert Humperdinck, of course.

Car you drive vs the car you'd most like to drive.
I don't own one at the moment - when I tour, I rent. An electric car would be ideal for touring.

What percentage of your songs are about love relationships?
Hmm. Probably 35% of my songs. But that percentage is shrinking fast as I write new songs.

You can bring back any dead artist, and be their apprentice for a month, who do you choose?
Homer. But I'd need time to get fluent in ancient Greek first.

You can recruit anyone in the world to manage your artistic career, who is it?
Somebody in high school who just discovered music, never takes their earbuds out, and never pulls their eyes or thumbs away from the tangled web of next-generation interactive media, hipper-than me blogs, and online networks that constitute their "social life".

You can work with any living record producer. Who do you choose for your next project?
Rather than choose anyone established, I'd find someone young and hungry with a unique, bizarre aesthetic, hand over my songs, and let them have final say in all important decisions in the studio. The record could be a disaster...or it could be a masterpiece.

You must personally destroy every instrument you own, except one. Which do you keep? Which do you destroy first/last, and why?
To keep: I'd keep my little ankle shaker. Without any instruments I could still sing, but I'd need something to keep time with. To destroy first: I've got a concert harpsichord that's gorgeous and priceless, but an absolute pain the butt to maintain; I'd destroy that one first, and happily.

Top item on your bucket list.
No bucket list. Just taking each fascinating day as it comes.

Cat, dog, or goldfish?
Cat, riding a dog, with a goldfish bowl on top.

Plan B, or no Plan B?
The secret of success with Plan A is not to have a Plan B.