What’s better than a song writing, instrument playing, vocalist musician? How about two song writing, instrument playing, vocalist musicians! Such is the double treat we receive from brothers Jack and Max Wagner, the duo of Minor Soul. With lush harmonies and heartfelt lyrical melodies, I was taken back to a time of Simon and Garfunkel,but with a fresh new vibe.
I ran across Jack (21) and Max (19) through the usual Social Media connections. I was taken with their music right away and scurried to find out more. Discovering an amazing back story for these talented guys, I was eager to share their musical journey, and they were happy to chat. From their start in London, time spent in Hong Kong, their amazing encounter with Dave Stewart, and connection to Milla Jovovich, Minor Soul is making their way!
Hey Jack and Max! Thanks for agreeing to share with us! I thought we could begin with some background on how you got started. Can you share a little about your musical background? When did you realize you were musically inclined and did either of you bear any influence over the other or did you both just know it was something you would each pursue?
Our dad is a real music lover, and he was the first person to really introduce us to music. The Beatles, Bee Gees, Simon & Garfunkel; he showed us a lot of the classics. We got inspired. Eventually we started learning instruments and getting addicted to the whole concept of making music. It was totally something we wanted to pursue; we both felt the same way about it.
How did the two of you performing together come about, and was that always an assumed concept?
We started out with the school concerts and such…smaller shows, playing at family events and things like that. It was a lot of fun, we were just doing it for fun really. We enjoyed it. We both sing and play guitar so the idea of us harmonizing together kind of came about naturally.
What type of musical training have you been able to undertake, and how important has it been for you to experience this type of structure in your learning process?
We both took guitar lessons, but nothing really too intense. A lot of the learning was done just on our own, figuring stuff out. It’s a really effective way of doing it. Just you and your instrument, taking the time to experiment, seeing what works.
From what I’ve read, you are both multi-instrumentalists…what instruments do you each play? Are there other instruments you might be interested in learning?
We both play guitar and bass and some piano, ukulele, and Jack is a decent drummer. Would love to learn the didgeridoo!
If you had to describe your sound, what would you say? Can you share how the sound has evolved since you first began?
We’re a fusion of acoustic folk and pop, with both some old school and some contemporary vibes. We used to be strictly acoustic when we started out, but we’ve since branched into a few different styles. Some songs are more folky, some are more poppy…it varies. We try and keep it fresh and we have a more diverse sound now. But vocally we focus a lot of our creativity on having interesting melodies and harmonies on all our songs.
As far as the songwriting process… how collaborative is it, who writes music/lyrics? Where do you gather songwriting inspiration from most? Are you very different in style?
We listen to different kinds of music. Jack is more on the Radiohead, Bon Iver, kind of artsy-indie side of things, while I (Max) gather more inspiration from old school and contemporary pop like the Bee Gees. So, our songwriting instinct is the clash of the music we listen to. We write almost all of the material together, just us two. We’ll occasionally collaborate with others, but it’s rare. Jack writes most of the lyrics, he’s the deep one. I’m more the melodically sensitive writer.
Your family background indicates you have seen some of the world, being raised in Hong Kong and now living in New York…as you’ve also done some touring, do you think your exposure to different cultures has influenced you more than others your age who are out there trying to make a name for themselves?
We have been super lucky to grow up in Asia and from a very young age have had so much exposure to different cultures and languages. The international upbringing definitely opened our eyes to different music from around the world, and it has helped us just as human beings interacting in society. But as musicians I don’t know if growing up abroad determines any kind of extra creativity. Some of our favorite songwriters are people who have lived in America their whole lives. I feel that it’s all about just being in touch with your own existence, wherever and whenever that is.
Any specific influences musically that have impacted your sound or in the way you’d like to pursue performing?
For us, nobody in music is more important than The Beatles. They lay the foundation for everything, and so they would be the biggest influence on our sound. And as for performance, we are inspired by Simon and Garfunkel or Neil Young who can stand on a stage with guitars and nothing else, and still give an absolutely captivating performance.
Anyone in particular you would really like to perform and/or collaborate with? Collaborating with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver would be the ultimate dream for me (Jack). One of the greatest songwriters alive right now. Max would love to collaborate with someone like James Blunt or Ed Sheeran.
Can you share any insight into your band name, Minor Soul?
Minor Soul is about being humble, being young at heart, and having the philosophy that no matter how old you are or where you are from, we are all constantly learning.
Your debut album, Home Is Where You Are, was released last March and was produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame. Dave stated that he ran across your website and was really impressed by the demo tracks you had posted, so he invited you to L.A. to record. What was that like, to be discovered online?
That was a crazy experience. Out of nowhere we got an email from Dave saying that he loved our music and wanted to help us develop, so we went to LA and worked with him for a while. Actually, Dave produced one song on Home Is Where You Are — our single, Beneath My Skin, which is our most popular song. The rest of the album was actually produced by Max in our bedroom, except for Streets of New York, which was produced by Toby Gad.
How was the recording process? Anything significant you learned along the way? Things you might do differently in the future?
The recording process was mostly us with a microphone in our bedroom just learning as we went along. Other than Beneath My Skin and Streets of New York, that’s the way it was. We just did our best with the equipment we had and we are super proud of the way it turned out! We are better at producing and recording now, and we still enjoy occasionally doing things totally ourselves. Right now we are working with amazing producers, Peter Zizzo and Michael Mangini, who are producing our new songs.
You have also filmed two music videos, stepping out into another area of performing. Is this something you are open to pursuing more extensively in the future? May we see even more played out scenarios, as I understand that Max has some acting experience under his belt?!
When we become massive stars, Max has already been telling everyone that he wants to go into movies if he can! But yes for now we are really happy making our own music videos, because we can control exactly the way we want to present whatever song we are focusing on. There will definitely be more videos coming out soon!
What is your favorite thing about being involved in the whole music experience? What gives you the most satisfaction and what frustrates you the most?
The best thing about being in music is that we wake up every day and we focus on doing what we love! It is an incredibly competitive industry and we have had our fair share of frustrations, but also we are very proud of how far we have come already. Getting attention from fans around the world and from lots of industry people for our songs is a great feeling.
Where do you see yourself further down the road? Would you like to continue to pursue music? And what would you see yourself doing otherwise?
We definitely see ourselves becoming more well known and developing our songwriting even more in the coming years. Ideally getting signed to a label that believes in what we do and then doing some more touring to meet new fans around the world would be fantastic. But in the end we just want to be able to do what we love, which is making music that people feel connected to.
Any advice for someone starting out in music and looking to progress into recording?
The only advice we can give is to just be true to your own musical identity, and just keep writing as many songs as you can. The more you write, the better you will write. And also don’t give up when you hit a speed bump. Keep going. I’d also suggest learning how to record professionally yourself – how to use Pro Tools or Logic or Ableton, how to work a mic, how recording works. It’s really good to know, so that you don’t have to rely on others to record your material.
Future gigs or tours in the works we can look forward to?
Right now we are working on a new live approach to our shows, but we will definitely be announcing new shows very soon!
What do you enjoy during your downtime?
We are big football (soccer) fans so kicking a ball around in the park is a common pastime, or playing FIFA 14, as well as watching The Walking Dead, The Following, Breaking Bad, Bates Motel, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Homeland, The Americans, 24, and Vikings. And eating pizza at 3 a.m.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you!
Wow, such great info here guys! Thanks again so much for sharing! Look forward to doing an update with you down the road! Till then, everyone can catch up with you on your Webpage, Twitter, Facebook, and find your music at iTunes!
*** Extra Treat!! Download Home is Where You Are for FREE at Bandcamp!! ***
And now, as always…
Fast Five – Questions for Fun!
Favorite food indulgence? Chicken Pad Thai
Last song/band you listened to (excluding your own music)? The 1975
Which Superhero would you choose to be? Wonder Woman
Charlie Chaplin – New Music from Minor Soul Discover their new single with a free download!