Interview with The Midway State’s Nathan Ferraro

“Make art that makes you feel good. That’s what is important.”  Words to live by spoken from a 20-something musician who has a bright-lit future of music-making ahead of him. Nathan Ferraro, lead singer of the Toronto-based band, The Midway State may be baby-faced and have enough curly locks to cover heads of bald men across the city but don’t let his youthful, boyish looks fool you. With their sophomore release Paris or India, Nathan and his bandmates have created something that is as intricate as it is beautiful. The engines are just warming up for The Midway State, and are they ever going to purr.

Torontette: So you guys just put out a new album. Tell me a bit about it.

Nathan Ferraro: The record is called Paris or India. We’re really proud of it, it’s a really important record for us. It’s our second official record, but we’ve made some other records in between. I really feel like this is the best record I’ve ever been a part of. And I say a part of because it was very much a collaborative record as opposed to the first record, Holes. With this record we had grown together so much as we had toured around the world for three years on the first record. Some of the songs come out of jams, some of them were inspired by moments by myself in my apartment or one of the songs ‘Paris or India’ – the title track – our guitar player sent me the chords and the general structure and I instantly was really moved by and from there the words and the melody just came out.

I feel like we all grew as not only musicians on this record, but as people. We really pushed ourselves and when you push each other, there are a lot of times when it can get a little bit rough and muddy but everyone’s personalities really shone through and we were able to get through the hard times. And we’re all better for it. And there’s so much on the record that I see of the other guys that I’m so proud of. I’m proud to be working with them, proud to be on stage with them.

Torontette: Where was most of the work on the album done?

NF: We started writing and pre-production in Toronto and then we moved down to this little studio in this really old, deciduous forest in Fort Erie. And it was awesome. There were turkeys flying around, and deer and even though we didn’t plan it, being there really aided us in the process of not being too influenced or distracted by outside things. And it also helped with the vibe. I feel like the record as a whole feels almost like Georgian Bay, and my cottage and the outdoors. It’s funny how that stuff works itself in. And that is also really honest for us. We’re four suburban kids that grew up around camping, and the outdoors and because it is also a coming-of-age record it was important for us to highlight that part of our youth.

Torontette: I find that a lot of my musician friends actually don’t go to a lot of live music. Do you find that’s the case with you?

NF: Yeah absolutely. That’s a good question. I used to go so much and I couldn’t even say why but I hardly see any live music these days. But sometimes I like to make an effort – like last week I found myself at the Cameron House because I had heard that there was a really cool live band playing but then I ended up in the backroom with the DJ most of the night. And a lot of it too is that there isn’t really a ton of live music that is really easy. In most of the clubs it’s all DJs. And it’s really nice when you actually see a legitimate, artistic, cool DJ that is doing something unique but unfortunately a lot of the time it’s not like that. I do catch some live music when we’re playing a festival, like at Osheaga or Hillside Festival but nowadays that’s about it.

Torontette: Do you still get nervous when you’re on stage?

NF: Yeah, that’s something I’m trying really to tackle. The live shows are a whole different medium than recording. When I’m in the studio, and I’m singing in the dark with my headphones on, or I’m writing, I can really open up and bear my soul but it’s a whole different ballgame when you play live. You walk on stage, and there’s nothing between you and the audience. And you really have to open up, and bear all. Otherwise you’re not going to win. That’s not the job. And that’s been difficult in the past for me. When I was young and in high school, I didn’t even think about. I remember stage diving in the gym. But on the first legs of playing festivals with this record, I felt more childlike on stage than I ever have. So I just want to keep that and focus on that. I’m not so much nervous on big stages, it’s more so the smaller shows when you know you’ve got family and friends in the crowd. It’s hard to be a rockstar when you’re playing in front of your mom.

Torontette: In our day, with social media running rampant, do you think that it is more challenging to be a musician or that it actually aids in your endeavours?

NF: My opinion is that it’s neither here nor there – that it’s kind of both. You’re much more able to distribute your music easily and get your music out there and because of this I think that there is more music than ever available to us. But it makes it more difficult on the other hand because there are that many more people to sift through and there’s that much more competition. So my motto is to just ‘keep your head down’ and try to make the best music that you possibly can so that when people do hear it, it moves them and inspires them, however that’s going to be. Our job really is to create the music and the live show and be the artist, the best you can be. But the cool thing is that we as a band, focus on online so much and on a lot of direct communication with our fans because at the end of the day, if this all goes away (as he scans the EMI offices we’re sitting in) you want to make sure that your fans are connected to you. That’s actually what allows you to be an artist day in, and day out. If fans aren’t with you, and on your trip, then it’s not going to happen.

One of my favourite tracks from Paris or India, ‘Hartley Salters Kite’:

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Watch the official music video for their first single, ‘Atlantic’:

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Interview with Toronto’s Tiny Danza

Meet Tiny Danza, 5 twenty-somethings who draw their musical influences across eras, genres, spaces and places. Motown maestros, Mayer Hawthorne and Michael Jackson. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix. The Roots, Beastie Boys and Outkast. And of course rappers both old and new – from the depths of the underground to the ones that have gone pop.

With so many superstars colouring their music and lyrics, one might question the unity of the final product. Not the case with Tiny Danza. This hard-working and ferocious Toronto band creates synergies on sound both on stage, and on their fresh album, You Could Have It All…

Their Official CD Release show is this weekend at the Horseshoe, where you can pick yourself up a copy and treat your soles to a little hip-hop-soul-rock therapy.

Torontette: I recently read an article with Tiny Danza, where you talked about how it’s difficult to call out your favourite venue in the city since it’s more about the audience than anything else. Therefore I ask, what is your take on the Toronto audience?

Galen Hogg: They say Toronto is the screw-face capital of the world and in many ways it is. You go outside of town and you get a very reaction but I just think Toronto is a little spoiled. Toronto isn’t always screw-faced. We have some really, really good shows in Toronto. And we get some great, great feedback. I think actually all my favourite shows have been in Toronto. We did a show at the Bovine the other day – a tiny, unexpected show that came out of nowhere – and the reaction was amazing. It was one of the best we’ve ever had. You really have to earn the Toronto audience. It’s not just going to come out there jump up and down for you if you’re not doing a good job. You have to really excite them and that’s kind of a challenge I think.

T: If you had to explain your music to someone who knows nothing about music, and they’ve never heard you before – in one sentence what would you say?

Matt Russo: We’re really a combination of five distinct elements. So somehow it comes together, and there’s no real unifying style that you could categorize it as, which is a completely cliché thing to say but I think our individual musical personalities really stay individual in some sense, and that is our strength. There are elements of hip-hop and obviously R&B and some rock and some jazz. It’s all in there and that’s what makes it work to me, that you can hear all the elements. It’s a real struggle to get them to work together but when we do, it pays off.

T: Is there one individual who is mainly responsible for writing the lyrics or is it a collaborative effort?

Galen Hogg: The lyrics are up until this point, and almost entirely on the album that we just released, You Could Have It All were as follows. If Craig was writing, it would be Craig’s lyrics. If I was writing, it would be my lyrics. Only now are we starting to trust each other as lyricists and interact and go in and manipulate each other’s parts and write together. I think that’s going to be a big difference. When you come our to our show you can see a new, unified Andrew Craig and Galen Hogg on stage. It’s a big change for us, and it’s a good change.

T: What was the last show that you guys went to all together?

Nick Shao: We saw one of my favourite bands actually, it’s called Black Dub and it’s a project started by Daniel Lanois who is a guy from Quebec. He produced U2’s The Joshua Tree, a bunch of their other albums and a couple of Bob Dylan albums. It’s his project, he’s playing guitar and he’s got Brian Blade on drums, one of my favourite drummers and a vocalist named Trixie Whitley who is a country singer from Belgium. It’s hard to explain, it’s got roots and Jamaican dub music but it’s got this really interesting kind of electronic synthy element to it as well. It was an amazing show at the Opera House. They all bring their own ‘thing’ to the music making what I think is one of the most interesting sounds I’ve heard in a long time.

T: Do you have any traditions before you go on stage?

Galen Hogg: Craig and I will typically meet at the bar, give a fist pound and do a shot of vodka. Really. We will. It loosens you up a little bit and it’s not obtrusive to the vocal chords. That’s our tradition.

Andrew Santaguida: And we’re usually on stage there, wondering where the vocalists are. And then usually we have to yell into the mic to get their attention. And that’s our tradition.

T: Where do you guys see yourselves in a year from now?

Galen Hogg: To be honest with you, I see a year from now – and this is me be optimistic and very realistic in my opinion – I see ourselves finally getting a foot on the world music stage where we can actually tour to the point where people will come out to our shows no matter where we go. And that’s just starting to get there. So maybe two or three years from now, world tour. Over and out.

T: So what’s next?

Andrew Santaguida: We’ve got a CD release show on August 5th at the Horseshoe then we’re going to Quebec in September for the Envol Macadam Festival, we’re doing the Canadian finals there and then if we win that we go back at the end of September to do the actual festival. And we’re also in a festival in Halifax in mid-October, called Pop Explosion. We’ll have to see if we can swing going out there or not.

Listen to ‘Beat Fly’ by Tiny Danza:

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Website: http://www.tinydanza.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tinydanza

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/tinydanzaband

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TinyDanza

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/tinydanza

Content has been edited for clarity and length.