June West is a singer/songwriter based out of Missoula, Montana. Fusing influences from across the musical spectrum both traditional and non, She’s earned herself a seat at the table with contemporaries such as Faye Webster and Kevin Morby. Apart from her own music, West went on tour with Boston psychedelic outfit, Quilt last year; playing keys as a temporary fifth member. After releasing a string of singles and EP’s on Soundcloud, June is currently working her first full-length funded by a Kickstarter campaign and I wanted to do an interview in an effort to promote the forthcoming record.
Hell Of A Thing: First off, how are you doing today?
June West: Today has been a great day, thanks for asking.
HOAT: Where are you physically and where are you mentally at the moment? Are they two different places or are you more grounded?
JW: Physically and mentally I’m in Tucson, AZ. I’m feeling much more grounded now than I have felt in a long time. Time feels much slower here in the desert, relative to other cities. The pace of life here is more in sync with my body’s natural time, so I’m finding balance.
HOAT: Have you started recording your album yet? How is it coming along? I saw that you were able to raise enough money for the recording process. What specific things is the money going towards (certain producers/engineers, studio space)?
JW: We just wrapped up recording this week with Matt Rendon at Midtown Island Studios in Tucson, but we won’t mix everything until mid-May. I will have some time to work on the album’s cohesiveness and flow. The money I raised to do this album is going towards studio time for recording, paying my band, having the album mixed by Jarvis Taveniere and mastering. I’m hoping to find some help from a label to press it to vinyl.
HOAT: Are there any cliches or particular elements you stay away from when recording your music?
JW: I used to feel a lot more self-righteous about “good” song writing and content. Now I more strongly believe people should make and listen to music that makes them feel good, so that’s the direction I try to go in for myself. These recent songs aren’t touching upon anything new–love, lust and navigating relationships, feeling confused amidst the wicked problems that haunt our society, self-empowerment through writing our own personal legends. What might at first seem cliché or cheesy can sometimes offer wisdom about of the experience of being human and living a “good” life.
HOAT: Correct me if I’m wrong but there seems to be a hint of older, country music in your work. What role does traditional music play in your songs? Are you trying to progress the genre or merely take influence from it?
JW: Traditions are the foundations of music, how can one become without the other, how can there not be some new way to grow? Growing up in Montana, country music was typically drifting from trucks and bars, and my love for country evolved when I moved to Tucson and got to know the music community here. Country holds a place close in my heart, but is only one of a wide range of genres that I like to listen to. There is pedal steel on this new album and it screams country, even though I wouldn’t call this a country album.
HOAT: For all the gear heads out there, what is your favorite pice of equipment you use?
JW: My favorite piece of equipment is my 1965 Gibson Scout amp with built in tremolo and reverb. It sounds like me, a significant authority on my guitar tone.
HOAT: You recently wrapped up a tour with the Boston psychedelic band, Quilt. How does collaborating with their body of work differ from your own material?
JW: Touring with Quilt was really fun. We share a lot of musical tastes and influences ranging all across the board, perhaps with a special appreciation for psychedelic, pop, and folk music. Their songs were well established before I joined, so I wasn’t really a collaborator. My own project reveals my voice as a songwriter and musician and is my personal labor of love. You may hear the influences we both share, but I’d like to think I have a unique vision.
HOAT: What is one book recommendation, movie recommendation, and one album recommendation you have right now?
JW: Book: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers
Movie: The Piano by Jane Campion
Album: Telefone by Noname
HOAT: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
JW: My plans don’t really extend beyond the next few months, but I can safely say I’m going to release my first full length album, play some shows, eat some burritos, and go swimming in the mountains.
HOAT: Anything else you’d like to plug?
JW: I’m about to do a short Arizona tour in the next couple weeks with the Casey Golden band and will also have some dates in California and Texas with Julian Neel. Check my websites for upcoming shows and details!
Follow June West’s ventures at june-west.com
– By Mike Metcalf