Introducing: phoneswithchords – somebody had to & interview

The newest album from phoneswithchords is finally out on Totally Real Records / Z Tapes and I cannot be happier. I have been so lucky to have an early listen to this album and I knew it would be my favorite album. After listening to it more, hearing the podcast with Curtis (available for people who purchased the album), and just giving this album some time, I can honestly say it is in my top 5 albums of this year. If not the best, because after every re-listen I am loving it more and more. It is becoming my personal favorite.

Arthur Alligood aka phoneswithchords makes beautiful music with a strong story in every song. It feels like you are hearing a personal confession from a person you are really enjoying being with and you are valuing their honesty.

The album is well crafted with little nuances which make the album so unique and special. All the various melodies, instruments, and little touches are making it colorful and so powerful.

The album was mixed by Conor Ryan and mastered by Max Gowan and they both did an outstanding job. I highly recommend using their services if you need some mixing or mastering.

You can read more about the album on the Bandcamp page and here is just a little quote:

“Somebody Had To” is an album that descends into the bleak darkness of the human experience in search of some kind of spark of meaning. That spark, if anything, turns out to be the journey itself, the processing of one’s own pain and turmoil.

If this did not persuade you to listen to this album and buy it on cassette, you can read the interview below and I bet you will soon become phoneswithchords’ fan as we are.

Arthur Alligood aka phoneswithchords

I have done an interview with Arthur about the new album, his music, the creative process, and much more.

Filip: What inspired you to start making music?

Arthur: I got a guitar when I was 16 just because I was curious. I still remember the feeling I got when I went upstairs to my room and closed the door. With that instrument in my hands, I felt like I could do anything. The possibilities were endless. I’ve never really been able to shake that original feeling.  

A quote from the Bandcamp page about the previous release: “Cut the Kid was essentially a concept record about kids growing up in the rural South…” How it was for you? Do you have any memories of music from your childhood?

It’s interesting cause I didn’t grow up in a traditional musical family at all. My brother and I started playing music in high school and our parents didn’t know what to think. My Mom is a huge fan of older country like Loretta Lynn and Porter Waggoner. My Dad was a journalist and I remember him listening to music…mostly just whatever was on public radio. To this day he still loves the composer Aaron Copland. Appalachian Spring Suite is a very important piece of music to me. It sounds like my childhood.

Do you have any special memories with cassettes? 

I think for Christmas one year I got a cassette of oldies. It had songs like “Yakety Yak” and “La Bamba” on it. I’m pretty sure I wore it out. I also remember my cousin got the cassette single of Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” I remember him playing it in his car and I immediately felt like I was going to burst into tears. I was in middle school at the time. Crazy how powerful that song is.

It has been almost a week since the release of your recent album somebody had to, how does it feel now? 

It feels really great. I put my heart and soul into the record and I feel really good about it. Definitely the most streams I’ve ever had and it hasn’t even been out a week.

It is probably too early to see the reach of the album, but so far how do you see the reception of the album? 

I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reviews of the album. I feel like people are really connecting with the songs. This is a success for me.  

The album release has been planned and communicated about for a couple of months. How feels this longer release process for you?

It was tough at times to be patient. We did a 3 single lead up which was new for me. In hindsight, I think it all was the right move. I feel like it really helped build anticipation for the full release of the album.

Another quote from Bandcamp: “Somebody Had To” is an album that descends into the bleak darkness of the human experience in search of some kind of spark of meaning. That spark, if anything, turns out to be the journey itself, the processing of one’s own pain and turmoil.” Do you search for the meaning through the music? Does the creative process help you to process your thoughts or find answers to your questions? 

I do search for meaning through music. There’s a certain ache I’m going for. It’s hard to describe more than just a feeling I get when I make music. Writing songs is a form of self-therapy for me. I just write not knowing many times what I’m saying. It’s usually later when I discover what I was trying to get at. The themes are always discovered on the back end. I have to write so that I can process my own life and what’s going on in the world. At this point, I don’t think I could ever stop. It’s not that I’m looking for answers it’s that I’m looking to be at peace with all the questions.

How does usually look your creative process? 

Currently, I write by sitting in front of my computer. Sometimes it’s with a beat or a guitar part or maybe a melody line. Writing and recording are tied up together now. As soon as I have an idea I start to record it in Logic. It’s very different than writing with a guitar by yourself. I think I like it better. Sometimes ideas come very quickly and I love recording them as soon as they show up.

I saw on Twitter that you used just a very limited amount of instruments to record your music. Was it international or it was a result of your natural writing process?  

I do try to limit myself to certain tools really just the instruments I have at home. I get overwhelmed by a lot of gear. I don’t think I’ve even begun to exhaust the resources available in Logic. That really excites me. I love discovering new sounds and using them in unique ways. 

Instruments used to somebody had to

Where do you seek inspiration for your lyrics? How do you choose what to include in the lyrics and what not? 

I have lots of notes on my phone with lines I thought of at work or whatever. I try to always be open and to write lyric ideas whenever they come. I just write and see what comes out. Sometimes one line becomes a whole song. I do my best not to judge my lyrics, but to look for what grabs my interest. I usually gravitate to stories and themes that I can relate to personally. Lyrics have to hit home for me or I will write something else. I have to feel connected to what I’m singing about.

Is the process of songwriting more spontaneous or intentional?

It is intentional because I set aside time to write every day mostly in the morning. However, within this time it is very spontaneous. I think both are very important.

In a podcast with Curtis (available for people who purchased the album), you mentioned “morning pages”? Where did you learn this concept? How it is helping you in your creative process? 

My friend Nick started doing morning pages at the recommendation of his therapist. I like the idea because it’s wide open. I can just write whatever comes to mind. I think people who are creative need this kind of freedom. I think this is how the artist finds their way.

What is your daily job and how do you manage to make music while working? How hard is it to find time? 

I don’t talk about it really at all, but I am a teacher at a middle school. During the school season, I look for pockets of time where I can be creative. Being off for summer really helps cause I get a lot of free time to create. I love how my schedule works.  

Do you have any other hobbies besides music? 

I am big into fly fishing, camping…basically anything outdoors.

What keeps you motivated to continue making music? 

I ask myself this question all the time. I do feel like the music is a gift. It’s not just for me.  I want people to feel moved by it.  I think songs can heal.  It’s a mystery, but it’s true. I’m not sure where it comes from, but there’s a fire in me…to make records and put them into the world. I feel at peace when I’m working towards this end.  

Are you working on new music, do you have an idea, of where you want to take it next time? Sound-wise, lyric-wise? 

I’m always working on music. I have some ideas about where I want to go, but I’m still in the discovery phase. Honestly, it’s just so fun for me. I get high off of writing and recording songs. I love getting better at a craft. Makes me really happy.  

What was the most challenging thing in your music (artistic) path?

I think learning to trust myself. phones is me trusting who I am as an Artist. For years I depended on people around me, but you know it was in me the whole time. So excited about where it all will go.  

Do you have any set goals with your music? Some milestones you would like to achieve? 

My plan has been to put out an album a year. That’s really it right now. Maybe touring will come later down the line. I’m open to it, but right now I just wanna make records. Mainly cause it’s so dang fun.

What would you dream to do if anything was possible?

I’d eventually like to record with a band one day. I’m in no rush though. Enjoying figuring out how to play everything myself right now.  

In the end, I have one challenge for you. Describe every song from somebody had to in a single sentence. One sentence for each song. 

  1. Dealing with the past is hard, but necessary.
  2. Sometimes fools make the most impact.
  3. Wanting to be seen is not wrong.
  4. The void will not take you.
  5. You are not your mistakes.
  6. No one is really alone.
  7. The dawn always comes.
  8. You’re not crazy…they are.
  9. Life is more than grief.
  10. It takes time to know how you feel.
  11. Dance yourself into knowing who you really are.
  12. Life is beyond the page.

Do not forget to get a cassette.