Whitherward -
                                    A Blissful Stunning Dream

Some music grows on you.  I was just talking about this on the IMP pipeline the other day and it applies to this duo in particular.  Both of their Kayak hit songs I liked when I first heard them, but the excitement grew in subsequent listens.  i had no idea their song The Dragon was such a tour de force until I'd heard it 10 or so times, then it knocked me out as an indie masterpiece.  I truly envy this band, they do shows almost every day, all over the place, they get to travel with a close friend (each other) and they do music that seems limitless,  that both reminds of wide open spaces and contains many powerful moments.  I follow them online, they have a big presence on social media and they come across as so likeable I suspect if I ever crossed paths with their tour, they'd take me aboard to hang out (Don't worry you guys, not my thing, but it's very cool that you both seem so congenial).  Anyway they've had 2 songs on the site at this point and both made the Kayak top 10.  Absolutely nothing would surprise me in regards to the future success of this band.  They just seem to know what they're doing, and have great songs to bring to the table.  I also admire the way they tackled my interview questions, I just read this myself a few hours ago and enjoyed every minute.  They are finding new fans at IMP, one guy in particular I know I've seen linking to them pretty regularly on facebook.  We hope all their upcoming releases come our way, because they are a major talent, ain't no doubt about it.


Scott:       Okay you 2 are a duo.  How is that different than if you were a band, or solo artists, what unique challenges does it bring?

Ed:   I can mention the challenges from being in bigger bands, having been in them before – one of my former bands had upwards of 10 people at one point! It was a nightmare to coordinate everyone – like herding cats, truly. There is also a somewhat inverse relationship between the amount of money to earn and the number of band members – as the latter goes up, the former goes down, inevitably.

Alternatively, being a solo artist or musician brings challenges of its own – you are solely responsible for every part of what goes on, whether you’re good at it or not. In some ways, that can be good, and you keep all of the proceeds in the end, but you are alone in your success or failure.

As a duo, it helps offset a lot of the burden of taking on a career such as music on your own – we each have our obvious strengths and weaknesses, but we also each take up burdens that we need to when the time comes to help each other out – this offsets a lot of the challenges a solo band or a larger band might face in the end, and it’s still financially sound. The only challenge I would say is that if there’s something to decide, there’s no “tiebreaking vote” as it were – so duos need to be really good at communication, compromise, and cooperation - which Ash and I are uniquely good at, if I may say so.

Ash:  Absolutely zero chalenges. I've been a solo artist and in bands in the past. I'm convinced that when you find the right partner, duo is the way to go! Especially in a traveling indie duo. You can share responsibilities on the road, yet still fit in a car (no need for a van or a bus) and find places to stay. Sometimes we bring one or two other band members with us on the road. It does provide some additional challenges. For example, we need to strap our luggage on the roof in order to fit all instruments and people in the car. Our band members didn't like being strapped on the roof. We'll try anything once. But jokes aside, they were really easy. As long as everyone is cool, it's a breeze. But when we downsize to just the two of us again, bills get paid easier, we have more options of places to sleep, and our roles are very defined. Also, Ed and I are really lucky that we get along so beautifully. That's half the battle.


Scott:    Do each of you remember the first song you ever wrote, and while we're at it, the first music you remember hearing in your life that excited you?

Ed:   The first song I remember writing was actually a revised version of “Horse With No Name” by America (my mom might remember an earlier one, but my memory is terrible, lol). I was on the Ranger Program in the Boy Scouts one summer, and I was having a miserable time – so I figured I’d chronicle the thing in my head and stave off the unpleasantness of the whole thing by writing my own verses for the song. It was called Trail With No Name, as we were backpacking through the Missouri wilderness. I never wrote it down, nor can I remember any of the words, lol.

Truth betold, I don’t get excited about much – Ash can attest to that, lol. So, music may not excite me in the purest form of the word. But I do remember the first music that impressed me – it was jazz. Particularly the drummers. I marveled at how they could solo and do all kinds of crazy rhythms and break beats, but somehow always land on the 1 right when everyone else would come back in! It was amazing.

Ash:  I remember it well! Well, the very first song I wrote when I was 5. That one I don't remember. The first song I remember writing was at 14. I had just bought my first guitar, a Seagull, and my song was called "Midnight Love Song." I was so embarrased to play it for anyone because I had absolutely zero experience in love, but the song was about love. I felt like such a hack! I wanted to be in love so badly back then. Now it's everything I can do to avoid it. There's a recording out there somewhere.


Scott:   I personally have found both the songs you have on IMP to be pretty powerful.  The Dragon (inside of me) grew on me over time.  Your sound would be tough to categorize but it's clear that the lyrics are an important element.  When you sing that's who you really are, is that in any way an allusion towards how difficult it is living life in society where you can't always let the beast out, so to speak?

Ash: I love that everyone has their own interpretation of what that song means. I find it a beautiful reflection inside the soul of the listener.  As the songwriters, we provide the outlet. But the listener plugs in the light. And yes, that is one way to look at it. For me personally, I wrote that song out of anger. It was born out of a fight I had with someone close to me. I was so angry that I saw red and I couldn't control it. Half of me hated how that feeling took over me. But the other half secretly enjoyed it. And when I embraced it, I felt empowered. It made me question who the real me really was. But then that relationship ended and I realized...nope, it was just him =P. It also didn't hurt that I was binge watching Game Of Thrones at the time.


Scott:    I have seen that you do a lot of shows.  Can you tell us which ones you remember the most, and which is bigger for you, recording or live shows?

Ed: Recording is bigger for me, but that’s possibly because I have a background as a studio engineer; I enjoy working on sounds and recording music, and trying to expand my production mind to create more interesting things within our genre and soundscape. Certain live shows do stick out in my mind, and there’s not much of a rhyme or reason as to why, but a few things do tend to stick with me – if the staff is enjoying themselves, I consider it a win. If someone is singing along to a lot of the tunes – especially if they start singing along with ours – it’s a win. If the venue is clearly supporting their music program, that makes a big difference. For me, there are a few little things that make a show more memorable.  

Ash:   We have so many great ones! One time we were playing this tiny little coffee shop/bar in Vegas. Hardly anyone was in the room and we were having a so-so show. All of the sudden, about 30 people walked into the room and completely took over the place. They were West Coast Swing dancers! They got the whole bar involved, and everyone was switching partners and requesting our originals. They were amazing! We're still good friends with some of them to to this day. Another favorite was in a tiny little beach town called Bolinas. They do it the old fashioned way! As in pay the band, give us a nice place to stay, a sound guy, a hot meal and a bar tab. One of our favorite travel weeks was our first tour through the East Coast. We had Stephanie (our violinist) with us on this one. We did 7 gigs in 7 days, including a boat ride to Nantucket. The tour started in NYC. Ed, Stephanie and I all took trains into the city from different locations to kick off the tour. We met up at Penn Station within 5 minutes of each other in the rain. It was a really magical moment. Other honorable mentions are Morro Bay Wine Seller in Morro Bay, The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Harney Street Tavern in Omaha, Lewis & Clark in Montana, The 5 Spot in Nashville, just about every house concert we've ever played and so much more. We played over 250 shows last year, so there's too many to count! We more often than not have a great show these days. 

As for recording vs. performing, I get a completely different high out of both experiences. The studio allows me to be completely creative and push myself in ways that have no musical boundaries. However, you can't wipe the smile off my face after a good live show. There's no better feeling than that.  


Scott:   I read somewhere that you're womens' rights activists.  Did you march on the big march day not long ago?   When do you think we'll have a woman president in the US?   Being in Arizona, how does the immigration situation affect you 2 personally?

Ed: I’m not sure who mentioned that, but it’s true that we discuss a lot of issues regarding equality amongst ourselves. Both Ash and myself are really focused on equal treatment and fairness, so by default, women’s rights falls under that category. My mom always said we’d have a black man as a president before we’d have a white woman, and wouldn’t you know, she was right. But we’re making progress; vigilance is the key.

The immigration situation doesn’t affect us directly – though we have many friends who are either immigrants, decendants of modern immigrants, or natural-born citizens who look like immigrants. Years ago, I was mistaken for a Muslim by someone. It was an innocent mistake, but I can only imagine what that would’ve gone like today, and it wouldn’t have been pretty. All of these people deserve a shot at an America that treats them with respect, and Arizona was the antithesis of that for awhile – the anti-immigrant bill was a particularly black eye on the state. But I think the tide is turning, truly, in spite of everything that’s happening.

Ash:   Ha! I'm not sure where you read that, but I suppose it's true! Ed and I are both pretty vocal about womens rights. I didn't march. I was busy that day marching through the floors of NAMM, sweeping up 3 endorsements, a podcast and 2 live performances in a male dominated industry. So, I say I did my part =). We're actually not in Arizona. We pay our taxes there. But we've been on permanent tour for 2 years now and claim no home. We actually met in Nashville. Ed is from St. Louis and I did spend most of my adult life in Arizona. I try to keep politics separate from my music career. It doesn't bother me when people don't, this is a personal choice. But it's no secret that I'm a bleeding liberal and I'm not ashamed or afraid to admit it. Yes, it's hard for me to be on the other side of the fence from so many people in my home town. But I don't let it change my love for anyone. The immigration situation affects us all. We try to stay informed and have open discussions while we're on the road. We're Arizona residents. And we'll continue to vote in Arizona.


Scott:   Where did the name Whitherward come from and can you use the word Whitherward in a sentence?  :)

Ed: It’s an adverb in its original form, so something like “Whitherward goest thy quarry? Left or right?” We sort of copped it as a noun, so as long as we don’t run afoul of any linguists, we’ll be okay ;-)

Ash: "Whitherward lieth the way home?" Since we don't know, we figured this was a perfect band name for a touring duo. Ed and I were searching for a title in 2013. This came up as the word of the day in the doctionary.com app. When we learned the domain was available, we were sold. We get a lot of misspellings, mispronunciations and requests to change it. But we are proud of our name. There is backward, there is forward, and then...there is Whitherward.


Scott:    Maybe this is an obvious question, maybe a stupid one, but I"m curious.  Are you 2 a couple? and if so, how do the tensions of music affect everything else?  I know I have a lot of difficulty even with collaborators that I'm not involved with in that way.  :)

Ed:   We found that we are pretty unique in this regard – we’ve known many duos, both popular and not, who were romantically involved, so the fact that we aren’t is surprising to some. Our friendship is built on mutual respect and trust, and it has sustained us for a really long time.

Ash:  We get asked this all the time! It's not stupid at all. And nope, we are not a couple. We are proud to be unique in this way. We find most duos are a couple. And we love to be unique =). Ed and I are best friends. We never fight. We love each other like family, through all of our successes and flaws. We let each other be who we are. We don't nitpick or try to change anyone. And most importantly, we're each other's biggest fans. We're going on three years now, so I think it's safe to say we're in it for the long haul. 


Scott:    I read that you were into the song thing in Nashville.  What was that like, any interesting anecdotes?

Ed: I wasn’t much of a songwriter before I lived in Nashville. St. Louis doesn’t have much original music to speak of, so songwriters were few and far between. But in Nashville, you could point in any direction on Broadway and find a songwriter or three. Hanging out with Ashley at her songwriter nights really flipped the songwriting switch in my head – being able to observe other songwriters and hear how they constructed songs gave me a blueprint to use in my own works, and it made it easier to collaborate with other songwriters like Ashley.

I moved to Nashville to be an audio engineer, originally. I attended SAE Institute right on Music Row and learned how to work in studios, use audio software, record bands, and a bunch of other skills that have served us well in Whitherward. The stories I remember most from my time as a studio guy were interning at Blackbird Studios, one of the most prestigious studios in the world. I would see all kinds of famous folks there – Brad Paisley, Jewel, Jack White, Panic At The Disco, etc. One time I was working an industry party for Martina McBride (whose husband/producer John McBride owns Blackbird). I got to meet Martina afterward and a couple other industry folks briefly, then went about my duties cleaning up the party. The client services rep pulled me aside afterwards and handed me a $100 bill! (FYI, nearly all audio internships are unpaid in every way – you’re lucky if you get gas reimbursement.) I had never even seen one before, lol! She whispered to me, “This is from John”. I couldn’t believe it. Buyoed by this tip, I went about cleaning up the next studio when she pulled me aside again. I thought, “oh boy, he must want it back – maybe he gave me too much”. She gave me ANOTHER $100 bill! I was flabbergasted! She said “he didn’t give you enough before!” Amazing times.

Ash:  I was in Nashville for 4 years and Ed was there for 8. I used to run a pretty popular songwriters night at Hotel Indigo. I was always booked at least 3 months out. I had artists signed to major labels out of my nights and hosted some pretty famous writers and side men. It was a blast! My favorite anecdote is the day I learned Ed could sing. We met because he played bass for the girl who ran my sound board, so he was coming to hangout a lot, and also performing with her. Ed and I became close friends when we realized we lived around the corner from each other. And he started playing bass for some of my solo shows. One day he asked me "Hey, how can I get into one of your songwriter round thingies?" I was like "You write songs??? You sing???" And of course when he got up on stage, he blew everyone away! Shortly after, we started writing songs together. But it took a few years for our other projects to fall apart and hit the road together. I digress. Yes, I was way into the song thingy. I wrote with as many people as I possibly could in the what I call the "Real Life University" years I was there. It strengthened my songwriting by about 75%...I think. The funny thing is, with as many songs as I wrote with other people, the ones I end up recording are mostly always only the ones I write by myself or with Ed. The new album has two other guest writers. But none of this is on purpose. I think I prefer to record the songs that come from the souls of the people performing them. As in, Whitherward.


Scott:   Your current Kayak hit is Hand of Fate.  How much do you believe in fate?   Have you ever had premonitions about yourselves that came true?  Is the hand of fate controlled by some religious deity or something else if you had to guess?

Ed: I have sort of a transactional relationship with fatalism. It seemed to only come up in my head when things weren’t going my way, lol! It was an interesting topic to write about in a song, because I was a religious person, but I am very much not one anymore – the hand of fate does seem to suggest a supreme being moving around the chess pieces. It can apply to a lot of things though – your undying affection of someone who you would never, ever be able to meet. Your love of a topic or an ideal that may never come to pass.

I’m not one for premonitions, as I don’t have an arc of my life laid out before me – if I had, I probably wouldn’t have met Ashley and none of this would be happening right now. So are we fated to do the things we’re doing? It’s an interesting question – one that I try to address in the song.

Ash:  Ed wrote "Hand Of Fate," so he'll have a much better answer than I!  But to me, this has nothing to do with religion. I do believe there are an unavoidable series of events laid out before us. But I also believe the path can change...if you choose. I love the lyrics of this song for that reason. It challenges you to defy the path. Regardless that the outcome may be permanent.


Scott:   Which brings me to the next question, we ask all artists we interview for Spotlight if they ever had any experiences of high strangeness like UFOs or the Supernatural (ghosts, etc)?

Ed:  I think there was one time that I had a semi out-of-body experience while I was falling asleep. It was ages ago; I felt like I was floating through a room, totally aware of the fact that I was doing so. It was really strange. But other than that, nothing otherworldly.

Ash:  Ha! No UFO's that I know of. I did mistake a satellite for one once. Lol. Ghosts, yes. But that's a story for a glass of wine and a camp fire. Our song, "Haunted By Me," challenges the idea of ghosts. The song claims that sometimes, that "you're not alone" feeling at 3am really is, just you. But I believe, sometimes it's not. 


Scott:   Have you felt any frustration so far in your musical lives that you 2 are so good yet so many inferior acts have made their way to the mainstream ahead of you?   and what is the status of your current indie dream?

Ed: It can be frustrating sometimes to see news from other folks that they got some new industry thing – a shiny endorsement deal, a new record contract, a management deal, etc. But eventually, I remember why we formed this duo in the first place. We had two core tenets when we formed Whitherward: 1) to tour wherever and whenever we wanted and 2) to have fun. If we aren’t doing either of those things, then we adjust our plan until we’re doing those things. So, by our own standards, we are living our indie dream. And I think we’ve found our collective selfconfidence as musicians and performers years before we started the duo, so we don’t really suffer from any sort of hubris or cockiness – it’s more self-confidence in what we do, and adopting a healthy self-worth, whcih did take some time. Naturally, we want to be making more money so we can support our art further, and there are a number of ways to do that nowadays. However, once I remember why we started Whitherward, it’s easier to celebrate other people’s successes. We’re all in this together, after all.

Ash: Less so over time. I used to think about this a lot. Mostly when it involved people who came from money. When living in Nashville, it was frustrating to watch new artists stroll into town and buy their way into label deals while I was working three jobs to stay afloat. Then, I left Nashville. I found it unhealthy to worry about what other musicians were doing. After all, it's not a competition. Ed and I stay focused on playing music we love for people who love music. We've worked our asses of to become full-time artists while traveling the country and meeting amazing people. I may never see more success than that. And that feels pretty amazing. My indie dream is to see more people at our shows. To play less bars and restaurants and more house concerts and small venues.  It's a slow climb, but a steady one. I think we'll get there. Thanks to our amazing fans and support like the Indie Music People!


Scott:   We have a lot of songwriters at IMP so I'll ask this for them.  Tell us your songwriting process.  Do you work together?  What kind of mood are you usually in before writing one of your better songs?  How prolific are you?  What's coming for Whitherward?

Ed:  It completely depends on the song and the timing. I feel like we wrote together more when we were stationary – the road life makes writing difficult in general, but writing together even more so when there’s so many business things to take care of. But we still get in time for writing every now and again.

I’m far more critical of my own works when writing stuff – there have only been one or two instances where songs just “happen” for me. Working with Ashley is refreshing because she tends to think outside of the box, particularly lyrically, which is where I want to go with lyrics.

I tend to have more darker, self-reflective songs at the moment – a number of them reflect on childhood issues that have persisted into adulthood. This is another thing that is great about working with another songwriter, especially Ash – we can provide outside perspective on each other’s creations and come up with something truly unique and wonderful.

Ash:   Ed and I have very different writing styles, which is really great for collaboration!  I'm almost always lyrics first. Even if it's just a line, a hook or a chorus. I'm not quite sure what happens after that, honestly. I'm a fast writer. It starts pouring out of me after that. I obsess over the song and sing it over and over in my head, making tweaks until I'm happy with the lyrics. If you ever write with me, you'll know I'm onto something good when I get really excited. I usually write my best material when I'm just coming out of something emotional. I can't be too happy or too depressed. It's a funny dance. However, I can always turn on that songwriter mode I developed when writing with people in Nashville. But if it's not my story, I probably won't be singing it. Ed and I have a few ways of going about writing together. Sometimes, we'll sit down and write something from scratch based on a hook or a line one of us came up with. Other times, I'll write a page of lyrics and Ed will turn it into music. And lastly, one of us will start something and the other will help finish it. I love writing with Ed because he's such a brilliant musician. He'll always pull me out of the quicksand when I'm stuck. Our new album, "The Anchor," is coming out this May. It's already finished, but in the mastering process. We recorded it with our band mates Stephanie Groot and Patrick Hershey at Gold Cap Studios in Arizona, with drummer Tony King. We just finished filming three music videos with director Howard Ignatius, which we'll be releasing about a month apart. This is our 5th project for Whitherward, and in my opinion, the best! We self-produced, self-engineered, self-mixed, self-mastered and self-ied everything...it's the indie way. So we ask you...Whitherward leith the way home?