Sounding Arrow is the first solo project from Scott Kinnebrew, singer and lead guitarist of roots rockers Truth & Salvage Co., and former ringleader of Smoky Mountain indie faves Scrappy Hamilton. Sounding Arrow’s new album Loving Is Breathing was released on September 22, 2017, on California Country Records.
After ceaseless touring with Truth & Salvage Co. between 2009 to 2014, the band opening for the likes of The Black Crowes (Chris Robinson produced their debut LP), The Avett Brothers, and Levon Helm; the band decided to take a much-needed break in 2015. Now that he was on his own, Scott began to create his solo endeavor of Sounding Arrow and Loving Is Breathing with its big bold well rounded Americana harmonies. Kinnebrew combines an effortless storytelling approach akin to Jeff Tweedy, along with a playful and catchy nack for DIY indie reminiscent of Dr. Dog, My Morning Jacket and Delta Spirit. Loving is Breathing is certainly one of 2017’s best under the radar albums, a list that for many holds more credibility than the stronger financed “best of.”
Glide recently had a chance to speak with Kinnebrew who was more than forthcoming about all things Sounding Arrow….
First all of all – can you tell us why “King Size Heart” isn’t a hit single right now? It’s got everything most bands on the alt-indie charts are offering. Can you talk about that song and how you wrote such a strong single?
Man, what a compliment I want this one heard by everyone too! I’m gonna assume that we all know that it takes A LOT to break a song these days, lots of coordination and plus clout never hurts. Timing is also a big factor and this song; this record does have that going for it. The beauty of the music phenomenon is that no one really knows what is going to become popular. You can foresee a trend and hedge your bets on a genre as labels do, but you can’t predict what’s ultimately gonna flip a ton of heads. I feel that there is a lot of honesty and art going on with a lot of popular music these days.
And I happen to be in a very honest and artistic place with writing songs. I don’t have much clout because I’m doing this on my own and Sounding Arrow is fresh out of the gates, but I do have timing going for me. So, let’s see, yeah?
As for “King Size Heart” that song and particular recording is the culmination of a lot of years and experience. I started it with a whistle on the beach in Mexico; I finished writing it rambling around with my wife in a VW camper years later. The song is pretty much about how amazing my wife is and how mighty her capacity to love is. We’ve been through a lot, twenty years of a lot. The song always kind of reminded me of a reggae song, and I was inspired to call out the elements in the chorus from a song in the best reggae album ever – “Give I Grace,” from Unconquered People by Israel Vibration. Check it out!
As for the rest of the album, how did these songs come together and what was the creative process behind them – were these songs you’ve had for a while and wanted to do outside Truth & Salvage?
I had to take a break with most things musical after my group Truth & Salvage went on hiatus. We had been touring for a solid five years and though we had some success the money made touring just kept the machine running. We were exhausted and had to break, and once we broke, we had to find jobs. I lived in LA and got back on a crew dressing sets on TV shows; I really took the opportunity to check out from just about everything. I had to wake up super early, so I stopped going out. Indeed I was shell-shocked from bars anyway so I just kind of dropped out. I really stopped listening to music too. Instead, I opted lots of talk radio; then I started getting into classical music, a vintage Latino station in LA that played Ranchera and 60s Latino Pop, and ultimately eased into 60’s 70’s soul. Anything contemporary kind of rubbed me the wrong way, which was all on me, I was jaded.
I guess I’ve had a little while to develop these songs. A couple of tracks were written while on the road with T&S. A couple of tracks were started while on tour then and finished years later. A couple came while driving to work at 5:30 in the morning. “Summertime” was a song I sang with T&S and was quite popular at our live shows. We recorded twice, once with Chris Robinson for the first record and again with Rob Schnapf on the second record but both times the song was rejected by the label. And the song “Loving Is Breathing” was written crossing the country en route to Asheville, NC last year.
My wife and I live in a tiny bungalow right in the belly of Hollywood. I have a little recording rig, and when I got off the road, I started recording songs over here. Mostly demos. “Beautiful Life” on the record was recorded here at the house, guitar amp in the bathtub, in 2015. But to get into a consistent recording rhythm was difficult with work and living quarters, so I shelved it. In my music circle, there is a wizard named Joel Jerome, and he is a bad ass at engineering and mixing. He produces a lot of young LA bands and has a real easy recording set up, just show up and start playing; everything is already mic’d up. Last Fall 2016 I reached out to him about recording a song. We got together, and after two-afternoon sessions, we had “King Size Heart.” It sounded great; it had everything I envisioned plus this joyful sound to the mix. We recorded four of the eight songs together. The rest of the songs except “Beautiful Life” were recorded in Asheville, NC at a house I’ve had for years now. I borrowed gear and set up wherever, and once it was ready for mixing, I would send the session to Joel to mix. It was pretty brilliant.
Sounding Arrow provides me a platform to write and record exactly what I want in my own time. The whole process has been cathartic and has allowed me to have fun with music. The project is so fresh sounding!. I spent a lot of time recording that record to make it sound like a band; now I’m in the process of finding players that have the time to invest in a passion project. That was one of the nice things about having T&S in action. There was always a super tight band ready to back you up! I definitely miss that; I’m a lone wolf these days.
Truth & Salvage is very much a collaborative effort. We have four singer/songwriters. We help each other with writing songs while keeping the original voice of the writer. But everything goes through the “T&S filter,” which for the band I think is totally cool. There are songs that I write that I think would be perfect for Truth & Salvage. I have songs that I write that I feel fit in a different genre altogether and it feels good to honor those songs with Sounding Arrow.
Now that the album has been out for about a month what have some of the descriptions or comparisons that you’ve received that have felt spot on?
Well, you guys gave the project a very nice write up with the “King Size Heart” premiere, thank you by the way. I agree I think the record would fit nicely next to both Dr. Dog and Blitzen Trapper. Catchy and heartfelt for sure!
I got compared to a friend to “Hiss Golden Messenger with a dollop of love,” It was the first time I heard about the artist and shit if he didn’t release a record on the same day as me! There are some crazy parallels in this world. Musically we express ourselves differently, but I can see that we have drawn from the same well.
“It’s a dreamy, whimsical love story, one minute in the woods and then I’m on the beach”- Granpappy- Asheville Staple
Here is another: “Wanna cruise East LA with the top down blasting this. It’s got some Art Laboe vibes and then some classic southern CA FM radio. Pure soul and sunshine.”-Trevor Beld Jimenez- Parting Lines- co-writer in Gospelbeach.
Why go under the title Sounding Arrow vs. a solo career as Scott Kinnebrew?
I wanted to serve the songs with their own identity. That and I love the last name Kinnebrew, but it’s a name you have to yell in a loud bar and certainly have to follow up with how to spell it. I wanted something easy. I found Sounding Arrow years ago in an old Webster’s Dictionary. Truth & Salvage batted around the name for a hot second before settling on T&S. I’m glad you like my name, but Sounding Arrow is a decision I made that I’m pleased with… and it comes with a hell of a cool logo!
There seems to be a lot of Americana indie themed music abound these days- obviously, you take a whole different approach to it- what are your thoughts on the bands that are doing that type of music right vs. those who aren’t?
Shit man I’m not sure what would be considered “right.” And I’m also really out of the loop when it comes to all the Indie Americana acts these days, I just started braving KCRW and KCSN again! I think it is great that there is a lot of vibey artsy organic music going on. I’m pretty sure there is another very rich inspired by hippies music scene going on in LA right now, I know that a lot of that influence makes its way onto records, as a lot of records are recorded here.
My experience with right and wrong with music is when personality overpowers the essence of the song. Meaning when I write I have learned to keep in mind that I am serving the song. What I say, what I play should serve the song more than serving my self. I’ve made a mistake, so I know, and I hear it when others do it. A song is bigger than the individual, always.
You chose to reimagine Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” – how did you choose that song and what other tracks have you most wanted to attempt to reimagine on an album?
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is such a beautiful song. For me, it is one of the best. As for the original, I think you either love it or not so much. I love it because the band is on fire and really listens to the emotion of the singer. The verse is so fragile and vulnerable then when the chorus comes in – wow – it’s this confident, swaggering proclamation of love. I think with modern times the bravado of the chorus might be seen as cheesy when the song itself is so deep. I wanted to establish a groove, have more a rock beat then a swing, keep the chorus fun but fun in the way a rock band would do it, without a singer with the pipes like Frankie Valli. I love how the Sounding Arrow version sounds. Can you believe that song was dropped in ’67? I would have thought earlier judging by the “squareness” of it, but there it is; in the famous Summer of Love music charts.
Other songs that would make rad covers- The Pretenders, “Back On The Train Gang,” Barbara Mason – “Are You Ready.”
Truth & Salvage Co. has opened for the likes of The Black Crowes, Avett Brothers, and Levon Helm. What have been some of your live performance highlights so far?
Well those that you mentioned were definitely some highlights. Playing five nights at the Fillmore with the Black Crowes in San Francisco was probably my biggest highlight. I’m a sucker for the hippie lore. Playing at Red Rocks with Avett Brothers and Govt Mule was also super rad. It was really cool to go up to Levon’s place in Woodstock and check out his barn there and talk with him about fish in his pond. Had the opportunity to play a show for Bobby Weir at the Sweetwater, which was an amazing full circle event in my life. Gotta say that for experience factor, probably the craziest tour ever was the three weeks we toured Army bases in Iraq in 2009. We stood atop ziggurats; we flew over where the Tigris meets the Euphrates in Black Hawk helicopters. For three weeks we were with the troops, and they were the most grateful for the music.
What else have you been listening to recently and have been your favorite albums or shows of 2017 so far?
My wife and I listen have been listening to a lot of William Onyeabor recently. If you haven’t heard it, you should.
I’ll put in a band search on YouTube and just listen to what the mix generates. Like the Pasteles Verdes, or Barbara Mason, Brenton Wood. If you search Art Laboe (he is a west coast soul DJ), you get all sorts of fun grooves.
I think the best record of 2017 probably is Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. The radio certainly won’t stop playing it. I have some friends that have put out some great records or were involved with them: Nikki Lane, Parting Lines, Dead Rock West, Gospelbeach, Joel Jerome, Calico. There is definitely a lot of good music going on.
Top Photo by Anastasia Stanecki