Click here to visit official website of Crystal Authentic Recordings.
October 2014 (skype)
Seth Majka is a songwriter, singer & multi-instrumentalist based in Bangor, Maine who has released 5 albums on bandcamp that span hard rock to acoustic pop & is part of the under-30 generation of musicians that give 100% of their passion to creating music & challenging the status quo that says the industry is dying & so is its musical creativity. Seth previously had a solo outing under the name The Casting. This interview was done on the eve of the release of his first acoustic album, Dedication, through Crystal Authentic Recordings.
After stumbling upon Seth's music on bandcamp we talked in August 2014 about his first 4 albums & background. During that interview he shared publicly for the first time that he had a new album in the works. A bit before it's November release we reconnected for a follow-up interview on the new music. I've never done 2 interviews with the same musicians so close in time about 2 different projects. It was quite exciting seeing how the new album had developed from our first talk. This is also a much more casual interview touching on shared interests in the process.
* * * *
AJ: The last time we talked we discussed the fact that you were putting together songs that were written long ago & you're now finishing up. You actually told me you felt they were some of your best stuff & this was also going to be an acoustic album, which you've never done. So, let's start with that idea. I'll even get your quote. You said: “If I wanted to have one piece of recording for people to remember me by it's going to be this EP that's coming out, because some of my best material hasn't been heard yet.” I asked, why if it was so good, why haven't you shared it? You said you felt it's time wasn't ready yet. Do you still feel this way?
SETH: In terms of the timing, the timing couldn't be any better at this point. I feel this is the most opportune moment to put out these 6 songs. I feel the timing is right now, because better things are going to be coming after this. This is just a little step of what's to come.
AJ: What do you mean? You're foreshadowing something.
SETH: Yeah, I'm definitely foreshadowing something. You know me, I'm always working on stuff. Some of these songs are gonna be ... just giving a little bit of an insight of what's to come next, because I'm obviously working on something ... I'm working on the fifth record, which I feel is going to be more like a melodic return of what I used to do, but with an edge. Actually, I'll say that it's going to be kinda like a reinvention of what I've done before. But, some of these songs are either going to be reworked or changed on the new album from their acoustic state to like a full band state. But, the songs that you hear on the new EP Dedication will have some sort of form on the next one & it's just a little preview of what's to come.
AJ: So, this is like the calm before the storm.
SETH: You could say that.
AJ: It's a musical storm, not a disastrous one. So, you're really digging into these songs then? You're really going to give them a full life?
SETH: I feel like, in terms of lyrics & the music standpoint, it's kinda the strongest of all the things I've done. I'm very proud of this album. It's definitely one of those ones where you've got something.
AJ: I'll let you keep some of the future album in mystery, but are you bringing back any old songs from the past or are we looking at something more like a companion piece to this album?
SETH: I can definetely tell you this ... I'll keep most of the fifth album in mystery, like you said ... but, I will say that songs not on this EP will probably not make an appearance on the next one. New material will probably be like the big standpoint of the next one.
AJ: Will you be doing all the instruments or will you be roping in some other folks?
SETH: I'm pretty sure I'll have some people involved with the next project. But, like the other 4 records it'll be mostly me doing guitars, keyboards, vocals. But, I'll probably have someone for drumming, since I can't play drums for the life of me. It'll be like the other 4 albums where it's mostly my own work.
AJ: In terms of others, we had briefly talked about last time the potential of you performing live again & you said you wanted more acoustic songs to do that with. Any more thoughts about doing that? Now you have an album of acoustic songs. I don't know how long the total time is, but now you have a little set list.
SETH: Yeah, definitely. Actually, a few days ago I was going to play at the local pub in downtown Bangor, Maine, but over the weekend a surprise attack cold came into my friggin' ... I was so excited for it. I had 3 songs set to play for open mic night & then the cold came & like crap, man.
AJ: I can hear in your voice. But, you know, you could have just said the songs were dedicated to Bob Dylan.
SETH: Yeah, I'm still recovering.
AJ: Staying with things we talked about before for a moment, the other thing some of your albums share, especially your self titled biographical one, is an overall theme. You said to me that this new album would not have a theme. They are just bits & pieces from different years. But, when I listened to it there seems to be a lot of love, heartbreak & friendship that runs through Dedication. So, it ends up kinda having a theme by default.
SETH: Actually, it's funny that you mention that, because we did talk about that in our interview where these 6 songs had no theme whatsoever, but when I was writing the EP they all somehow weaved into each other as each song is dedicated to somebody or someone or something. Then when I saw that I thought I'd call this Dedication. It's funny that we talked about that, where I said there was no theme & then there just somehow became one.
AJ: It wasn't apparent, such as when I was listening to the first one "Forget Me Never", which is obviously for somebody, but I didn't think about it. Then I hear "Union Of The Universe" & I thought that song is probably about somebody else. They're just songs about people. Then I got to "Colored Princess" & I thought the album sounded like love songs or something, you know. If I remember correctly, you said there was some songs that just had some choruses & this is an album of lyrical bits & pieces, but there's also a lot of new stuff. The music is new. Lyrically, how much of this is old Seth & how much is new Seth?
SETH: A lot of the lyrics all fell into place when I said I was making an acoustic EP a few months ago when I solidified my ideas. But, some of the choruses, like for "The Other Me" or "Union Of The Universe", were written a year ago. But, everything else just fell into place afterwards.
AJ: Your previous albums are so full band, while Dedication is so sparse, for the most part. One guitar & maybe an overdub of a guitar, but that's pretty much it. You've just got vocals & acoustic guitars, for the most part. What was the biggest challenge in composing & creating the music for this new album?
SETH: In actuality it wasn't really that difficult to do, because with the other 4 albums when I was writing those it always started out with writing on acoustic guitar first. When I write music it's always based on acoustic guitar & vocals, because I think ... there's a quote from Dave Grohl of FOO FIGHTERS, he said if songs you write sound great on acoustic guitar, they're going to sound great as a full band. I've taken that to heart. So, in actuality, writing for Dedication was not that difficult, because it's just acoustic guitar & vocals & that's basically what I've done.
AJ: So might we say this album might have a more raw feeling? Because, the composition remains closer to what it originally was verses being changed by the inclusion of other instruments.
SETH: Definitely, for sure. It's probably the most profound passionate piece of music I've done, with the most heart.
AJ: We talked previously about your singing voice & the discovery of the comfort of singing. Did doing just an acoustic album effect your singing any. Suddenly there's no instruments you can hide under. You know what I mean.
SETH: Yeah, for sure. I was just like listening to a lot of acoustic music to get inspiration. I was listening to DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL. The guy is really talented. He has a lot of these falsetto like sounds to his voice. I just figured for an acoustic EP I wanted this to be more like a quieter ballady kinda of thing where I don't overdue the vocals. I just do very subtle, very light. I don't sing too hard. Apparently some people that know me very well they like it when I do that, because it's more peaceful in terms of how I sing with the falsetto. I feel like it's lighter and less overdone, if that makes sense. You know what I mean, right?
AJ: I know what you mean. You just mentioned people responding to your voice & other things. Is there anything of note that comes to mind in terms of feedback from people who have heard this album?
SETH: I've given the EP away to people who are avid fans of mine. Basically, perception is that people are saying this is the best thing in terms of voice & songwriting. Very strong in terms of those elements. If people are really proud of this EP then that makes me even more proud of this EP. I'm very very excited about it, but that makes me even more excited.
AJ: So you're willing to stand by your comment that if this was the last thing anyone heard from you you're okay with that?
AJ: Do you feel like you've changed any songwriting or composing-wise from this?
SETH: Maybe a little bit. When I was writing for this I just felt not to overdue anything. Just write exactly how it comes to you & how it comes naturally. If a word doesn't go with another one, don't rhyme or whatever. Even music-wise, if something sounds right then don't overdue it or change it. Don't like make it better. Just make it exactly how you feel what is right for that particular song, if that makes sense.
AJ: Yup. There's 6 songs on Dedication. Is there anything out there that didn't make the cut? Or, did you start with 6 songs?
SETH: When I was putting together the pre-production of this EP there was one song that I finished, but it sounded like something else on the EP, so I trimmed the fat. I had the idea of a doing a few acoustic variations of older songs, but I wanted this EP to stand on its own without older songs taking the spotlight.
AJ: Let's look at the songs themselves ... unless there's something else you want to hit on before we go there?
SETH: Nothing is coming to mind.
AJ: Okay, we'll see where we go then. "Forget Me Never" with the chorus: "Forget me never/I want to remember/what we had together." My first thought, & this is really the very first question that came into my head when I first heard the song ... who is this for?
SETH: The ultimate answer to that question of the century is: all my friends out there. My friends from up north where I'm from, my family, my co-workers, my friends who I graduated with this year, every single person I've known in my life. "Forget Me Never" is basically a tribute to all those people, being a huge part of my life, a huge support.
AJ: I think it is also a very strong lead-in song. I think it's one of the stronger songs. Maybe it's a lyric thing I'm connecting with, but I think it's one of the strongest songs on the album.
SETH: Thank you. My dad, being a huge fan of my music, he says this is the pinnacle of where I am right now. This is it - the big break. I'm very proud of this track. It's a very simple song, yet its very deep in terms of the melody & all that.
AJ: I think the other thing I like about it is ... again, I'm like who is this for? I couldn't figure it out. Is this a love relationship? Is it a friendship? It's very open & in that sense a listener can really put a lot into it. It's one of those songs you put on a mixed tape to your partner. You know what I mean? This is how I feel, even though the song was written for you & your dog. People like these open songs.
AJ: Let's go to "Union Of The Universe", which has a very prog-rock type title. I imply your first album when I say that, which was very proggy, compared to your later stuff. This one & actually "Colored Princess" both sound like love songs. To maybe a particular person or to a couple people. Very different than "Forget Me Never". Tell me about "Union Of The Universe."
SETH: Since you are a Doctor Who fan you're going to really love this one. "Union Of The Universe" has a lot of Doctor Who related stuff in it.
AJ: I'll have to go back & listen in that context. I don't normally listen for Doctor Who references in music.
SETH: I sugar coated it really well. People wouldn't know that until I tell them that & I only tell that to Doctor Who fans.
AJ: Alright. I will go back. This is funny. I see the posters on your wall & I'm wearing my Doctor Who shirt today. It doesn't have John Hurt the War Doctor or Peter Capaldi so only a year old & already out of date. This is funny. I've been doing interviews for years & I've never been able to throw Doctor Who into any of them, having been watching the show for 26 years, & now you're the second person this week who has referenced the show knowing I'm a fan. The other one was with Scott Kelly of WIZARDS OF WINTER who telling about the story format of their live concerts said it was kinda like the Doctor in the Tardis as it changes every year. Welcome to the era of Facebook where everyone knows your interests. But, seriously, I don't think "Union Of The Universe" is dedicated to the Doctor.
SETH: It's not. This song was written & dedicated - we're going back to that word again - to the 11th Doctor's companion Amy Pond. I'm a huge huge fan.
AJ: Okay. Now I have to think about that. Now I have to go listen again.
SETH: You'll hear a lot of references to that character, for sure.
AJ: The third track "Colored Princess." Now I'm worried. What other TV references are on this album?
SETH: Interesting you'd say that, because "Colored Princess" is actually a reference to a movie. It's in reference to Disney's cartoon Frozen. I wanted a song that was basically kinda like delving into the personalities of the Snow Queen. I wanted a song that said don't hide what makes you great. Don't keep that inside you. Be who you are. That kind of thing.
AJ: I remember you telling me in our first interview that your first album had a lot of references to pop culture stuff. It looks like you're doing that again a little bit. After the autobiographical album & songs that are a little more personal, here we are going back in some way to your earlier days. Right? Or, is this just coincidence.
SETH: In a sense. Maybe it's coincidental, but it is kind of a nod to the first album with references to things & all that. On this EP those 2 songs are the only references to pop culture or anything.
AJ: Darn it! They sound like love songs to me & I couldn't figure out who they were for.
SETH: In a sense, definitely. I think "Colored Princess" is more of a hopeful song to inspire.
AJ: To uplift & inspire. It's not a love song, but it offers itself to that place as an emotional revealing.
SETH: But, I just want to say, I didn't dedicate it to the Snow Queen. Here we go again. "Colored Princess" is dedicated to my big sister, who is an artist. I just wanted to say, express your art, be who you want to be.
AJ: So, the Snow Queen & Frozen are just motifs for something personal.
SETH: Just something to make this figuratively more interesting. It's a song to inspire my big sister.
AJ: So, I have to now ask, is there a bigger picture to "Union Of The Universe" beyond just Amy Pond from Doctor Who?
SETH: No, it's just a love song dedicated to Amy Pond or actress Karen Gillan because she's gorgeous & all that.
AJ: That's fair enough. I don't know if you've watched any of the classic series, but I used to like Nyssa who was the fifth Doctor's companion.
SETH: Is that Tom Baker?
AJ: No, after him, Peter Davison with the cricket outfit & blond hair.
SETH: I haven't watched much of the old series yet.
AJ: "I'm Sorry."
SETH: I'm sorry, too.
AJ: Good for you! That's what you get for writing Doctor Who songs. But, I meant it as in the name of the next song. Tell me about "I'm Sorry."
SETH: This song actually triggered in me the idea of making an acoustic EP. It's the first song that was meant for this EP as a new one & then I just pulled out my older songs that I hadn't finished yet. It's about, we're being a tad personal here ...
AJ: You say whatever you feel comfortable.
SETH: Excellent. "I'm Sorry" is basically a song dedicated - here we go again - to my ex-girlfriend. Basically, we ended on a kind of rough note. I have a hard time apologizing in person. Writing a song is my strongest point. How I felt in that situation is the song, basically. It's an apology.
AJ: Works for me. I express my feelings on paper sometimes better, too. Let me ask, taking this sad song with a sad connotation & pulling it up again & working on it, how did that feel?
SETH: After we ended kinda badly I kept thinking about her & maybe we ended on the wrong foot. I just wanted to say sorry but didn't want it to be really awkward. It's not really like an old song. It was written in 3 hours. I had the idea that night. Didn't sleep. Just wrote it all the way through. I sent it to her, but unfortunately I haven't heard from her since, which is ...
AJ: The end of that.
SETH: Yup. It just felt like for me personally I had some sort of closure or some sense of that it was done & I can move on. I did my part to apologize. I don't need to worry about.
AJ: So, in that sense the song almost, because it moves beyond its moment of writing, it becomes something better. It's now a song of closure & not a song of upset or anger. Or, it can become like that.
AJ: I hinted earlier that most of the album is acoustic with vocals & you knew that I was implying that there's one song that's a little bit more elaborate, that's "The Other Me." This is orchestrated. I say orchestrated, but you layered some keyboards on it, plus you have some backing vocals.
SETH: Yeah, but the thing is that backing vocalist is me.
AJ: This song breaks the mold of the album musically. Let's start from there. What's special about "The Other Me"? Why does this one get something different musical about it?
SETH: I'll just start from the beginning. You want to talk about the music or the lyrics?
AJ: Let's start with the music.
SETH: Okay. I wanted this song to have like the coolest chord progression. The verses obviously are different from the chorus & they gradually build upon each other in terms of dynamics. Especially in the beginning you get a few notes, then the second chorus it starts to pick up & then the third chorus it explodes. & I wanted this to gradually build up in terms of intensity with the vocals. Even though it's an acoustic album having a little bit of strings come in I thought would bring out the emotion a bit more of that song.
AJ: But, can't you bring out the emotion just with the acoustic guitars by maybe layering an additional guitar or something?
SETH: I did add some light picking of the acoustic guitars like here & there, just to like fill in the spaces. But, I feel like ... yeah, I could have done that with acoustic guitar like exclusively, but the idea I had in my head was a lot of like orchestrated build-up.
AJ: I know, you just gave up. 'No more acoustic guitars. I need a full band. I can't wait anymore.'
SETH: Yeah, this song definitely needs a full band effect to get the full thing done, but I like the final result came out great. I'm happy with it.
AJ: Tell me about the lyrics.
SETH: We're going back to that word dedication again. The key word of the day. "The Other Me" is dedicated to myself. It's a song written for me. I'll tell you the inspiration when I began writing this song. The first verse that I sing about it's a dream. This dream is actually based on a good friend that works with me at my job. He was telling me about this dream of how he saw his younger self & his younger self wanted to be friends with him. It was very emotional & that just triggered the idea of writing this song. The first verse was inspired by my friend's dream. Each verse is a different time period. The first verse is a dream where I see my younger self. The second verse is reality where I see a mirror of who I am right now. The third verse is maybe a vision where I see my older self.. Each one has the singular message 'I am you. You are me. Love yourself.'
AJ: It's kind of wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Did you share the song with your friend who had the dream?
SETH: Yes, I did. Right after I finished it I sent him the rough mix. He loved it. He felt it enhanced the idea of what his dream was trying to tell him.
AJ: We've got one more song on this collection, "Dear Family." This song screams dedication. So we open with "Forget Me Never" to everyone out there & then we end with "Dear Family". It's bookends.
SETH: For sure. I wanted "Dear Family" to be a pretty simple song. What you hear is one guitar, one vocal. It's not as elaborate as the others.
AJ: That's it. It's 6 songs. We're done. We've covered the background, some things, the songs. Now I have to go back & listen to one of them. Is there anything else that we haven't hit on that you've had on your mind & want to share about this album that you created over the summer?
SETH: The album is out on bandcamp first & then I'm considering a physical CD release. I'm going to a few gigs ... after I get rid of this cold.
AJ: I did want to ask along that line, I'm glad you mentioned that, in our last interview you had said that for your first album you recorded & then put all the packaging together. I was wondering in Bull Moose record store recently in the local music section thinking about you. Are your 4 albums only available on bandcamp or is there anything physical out there?
SETH: Just a limited quantity release. If you wanted a copy of an album they were $10 bucks a piece & I would make a copy myself. If 20 people wanted 20 copies I'd make that & that would be it. I really want to make a bunch of copies, like through Discmakers or something, that I can bring to Bull Moose & out to shows when I start playing again. I think digital releases are easy, because you can get it to everyone without having to do so much work, because it's kind of a big job to get all that together.
AJ: It's also costly.
SETH: I was trying to get 100 pieces. I wanted simple packaging because it was an EP. It was going to be like $300. I was thinking if I didn't make it myself I would save some.
AJ: Then if you want more copies, it gets very expensive very quickly. One option that I have actually seen people do ... a guy I knew he took a bunch of songs that he had recorded on cassette tape & then made a CD of the best of. Sort of the best of his early stuff. So then he didn't reissue each album, but just took a couple tracks from each. So, in your case you wouldn't have to reprint all 4 previous albums, as that's 4 times 100 times 300. Then if you like it, you can get online & download more.
SETH: It's funny that you mention that, because I was thinking about doing not a greatest hits, but the best tracks of the last 4 years, to encompass where I've been, then have these new tracks. Probably a double album, though.
AJ: Yeah, so there is some options to do a cheap route beyond bandcamp, but bandcamp is definitely good for just getting the music out there, saving money & just moving forward.
AJ: So, let's tie things up here. So, you're working on a new album. Do you feel like you've closed a chapter?
SETH: Dedication is the prologue of this new chapter.
AJ: Even better.
SETH: The next album will be the next reinvention of what I do. That was basically the first era, now we're going to be in this one.
AJ: One more question. Will we see any more tv & movie stars?
SETH: In references?
AJ: You betcha.
SETH: For you, man, I'll throw in a few.