Tag Archives: songwriter

The Folk Monsters of Yellow Red Sparks

21 Jul

Yellow Red Sparks

Speaking about the self-titled debut album of his folk band Yellow Red Sparks, Joshua Hanson said, “I don’t believe that it’s possible to share everything a writer is feeling or trying to convey within 3 ½ minutes of a track.” Wise words from a singer/songwriter who comes close to doing the impossible with each of the emotion-packed pieces on the album. Hanson, and fellow band-mates Sara Lynn Nishikawa (upright bass/vocals) and Goldy (drums/vocals), pack in so much Indie/Folk goodness in each song that hitting play is much like popping the cork of an expensive bottle of champagne.

Yellow Red Sparks originally started as the moniker of Hanson, a solo musician from California. After adding two members – which accentuated the Indie sound – the band released its debut album in January of this year. In the Spring, Hanson was notified that his song “Monsters with Misdemeanors” won the Grand Prize in the International Songwriting Competition (ISC). The song was selected from more than 20,000 entries. High praise for a rising folk songwriter – and a totally deserved reward for a folk song saturated with raw emotion.

A soft acoustic riff sits over light percussion and Hanson’s mature vocal. Hanson’s style hits with a similar force as singer/songwriters like Greg Laswell, Ben Gibbard, and Joshua James. The strings help add to the song’s powerful melancholy. The song’s melody, which has a DeVotchKa feel, climaxes during the bridge in a similar manner – with rising strings and crying vocals. It would be a crime to not discuss the award-winning lyrics of the piece. The lyrics tell a story of relationship turbulence, but do so in an original manner – almost minimalistic in the short verses that feature such gems as “there’s a parked car that won’t let me over
And there’s one thing I’ll regret, but you’d be the last.” The song is true tour-de-force.

Make sure to check out the rest of Yellow Red Sparks’ excellent debut release here. You can track the band on its Facebook, Twitter, and Website.

Through It All with Kye Alfred Hillig

24 Jun

Kye Alfred Hillig

Kye Alfred Hillig has recorded 18 full length albums of original material and has written more than 1,000 songs. He has been the primary songwriter for four bands, been on multiple regional and national tours, and performed many shows in the Pacific Northwest before going solo in 2012. He is the quintessential troubadour; his granular croon and unique brand of folk combine to create original pieces that fill each album with full-blown hits.

So, why do we not know more about Hillig? Perhaps it is because he first went solo last year. Well, if his first two solo efforts are indicators of success, Hillig will soon be a household name for folk lovers. Put simply, this man can sing, write, and play. His twangy croon has elements of Josh Ritter and Conor Oberst, and his lyric balances metaphors, axioms, and personal anecdotes.

While different in voice and lyrical content, Hillig, in his sheer productivity, reminds me of John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. Similarly, each song of his is original and listenable – a tremendous quality and feat for a musician.


Together Through it All was written during Hillig’s first months of employment at a funeral home in the Puyallup Valley of Washington State. He gathered several songs for the new album, and, even though it had only been four months since the release of his debut album solo album Aurora (Darnielle-esque!), Hillig is a songwriter and felt the itch to get in the studio and lay down the new tracks for his second release. The album was released in February of 2013.

This song plays right into my weakness. Introductory staccato piano chords and accordion (seriously, I cannot help from being lured by Parisian folk!) So, immediately “An Unedited Presentation of Souls” sent me back to Jardin du Luxembourg. Hillig’s apt vocal, well-placed harmonies, and rapid-plucked acoustic guitar do not hurt. With the fused style of Joe Purdy and the Counting Crows, Hillig allows the song to flourish with rich instrumentals and soothing vocals.

“You & Me & Time” emits a different feel; a folk ballad that moves like calm waves undulating in the ocean. Hillig’s versatility is striking. This song also has some of Hillig’s most inspired lyrics on the album – simple and beautiful:

“And I don’t care if they think we’re wrong
And I don’t care if they hate this song
Let them paint the world so black and white
I’ll take the colors that make up our lives, and baby we’ll paint the night”

When asked about his inspiration, Hillig said:

“The thing that inspires me most in music is the continual investigation of difficult subject matter, the areas and ideas that make most of us uncomfortable. I’ve found that these places are gold mines for creating work that feels meaningful to me. It wasn’t until going solo that I really found my voice in music. Since then it feels like I’ve really discovered who I am as a songwriter. I believe strongly in going to work for my music. Making myself available for songs to happen is a vital part of the process now. I don’t sit around waiting for songs to fall in my lap. I start fiddling with instruments daily like an archeologist trying to unearth something, waiting for something to show itself. Some days I find something worth keeping. Some days I don’t.”

Doesn’t this excellently describe the writing process (songwriting/prose/poetry)? It is like an archeologist trying to unearth something. Luckily for Hillig, he rarely digs without finding precious metals.

Check out the rest of Together Through It AllFollow Hillig on his Facebook and Website


%d bloggers like this: