Truly an indie artist, Ansett was able to raise $25,000 on Kickstarter, an almost impossible task to accomplish for a new artist. In 2013 Ansett became a finalist at the International Songwriting Competition.
His songs are filled with messages, some very sad, however all relevant. Joel Ansett was an amazing interviewee, both candid and sincere…
Louder Than War: I hear many different genres on The Nature Of Us…folk, jazz, rock, pop…what musical influences did you have while growing up, and now?
Ansett: Growing up, my musical influences were somewhat limited, but my Mom had a few of her old cassette tapes that we would play through pretty regularly. The ones I remember most are The Temptations, The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, and a little Fleetwood Mac. I discovered Death Cab for Cutie in high school when they released “Plans” and that’s when I really fell in love with songwriting. Today I feel most influenced by Coldplay, Damien Rice, and Stevie Wonder.
Many artists write songs from life experiences, is that also true for your songs, and if so what was Kingdom Come inspired by?
Ansett: I definitely write songs from my own life experience, but Kingdom Come was sort of an exception to that habit. Truth be told, I had the whole record written but didn’t feel like any of the songs would be very strong as an album opener, so I started to try and write something upbeat and groovy to kick off the album. From there, since it was the first song on the record, the lyrics just naturally started to lean towards asking the question “why are you writing music anyway?” It made sense to me to try and introduce part of my mission as an artist with this first song and not just assume that it’s a good thing to make records. I wanted to try and answer why that’s a good thing. It’s a basic question, but it’s definitely worth asking “why write an album in the first place?” Kingdom Come was my attempt to answer that question. The song was inspired by my curiosity of what’s wrong with the world, and the role singing might play to help fix it. Since the rest of the album was already written, the song was also an attempt to introduce several themes that would come up later in the record; themes of identity, vision, and royalty.
Do you have a song that is very special to you on the album?
Ansett: Definitely. Several songs are very, very special to me; but I think the one that really gets to me consistently is Turn to Gold. That song moves me in new ways every time I play it, just because there’s so many things I’m holding on to that need to be let go. If you hear the song you’ll hopefully understand what I’m saying, but that song just attacks my will in a really painful but inspiring way. I’m holding on to so many things that I think will prop me up, but the truth is, those things are keeping me down, keeping me from being who I was made to be. This song reminds me of that every time I play it.
Which do you write first, the music or the lyrics?
Ansett: It all depends really. I have an ever growing list of riffs and melodies and a separate list of lyrics and song titles. When I sit down to write I just start mixing and matching things from each list and experimenting with what concepts and melodies might go well together. After enough tinkering and patience, songs start to emerge.
You raised a lot of money for the recording of this album, how long did that take?
Ansett: The fundraiser itself lasted 30 days, but if I’m really trying to answer the question honestly, I’d say it took about 2 years of writing, performing, and releasing new music to get that money raised. That two year period ended with a 30 day fundraising effort that was successful, but the real grind was in those 2 lead up years of building a fan base and releasing new music so that there was momentum and excitement for me to take on a bigger project.
What do you enjoy most about performing for a live audience?
Ansett: Performing is truly an honor and there are several things I love about it. The thing that’s been most exciting to me lately is the unity that can happen at concerts; unity among complete strangers too. When a room full of people are fully focused on the same thing, some truly miraculous things can happen. I’m not even talking about being focused on the performer. You know the moments I’m talking about where you’ve been to a show and out of nowhere, you get goose bumps, start crying, or get some sort of revelation. That’s what I love about performing right now, the mere potential of that happening; the potential of bringing hope and inspiration and the potential of humanity being unified; completely individual but completely together in focus. Whoa…haha, that answer got more intense than I thought it would.
Tell me about your victory in 2013, as a finalist in the international songwriting competition?
Ansett: Sure thing, it was really just one of those contests you submit to and then forget you submitted until 8 months later when you get an email saying “CONGRATULATIONS!” That said it really was an honor to be selected as a finalist. The song that got selected, “Loved At All,” was one of the first songs I wrote by myself and to have it get internationally recognized was incredibly timely encouragement for me as a writer and performer. I was at a sort of crossroads then, unsure if I should start looking for a day job with more consistent pay or if I should just keep grinding it out as an artist; and to have that sort of validation and encouragement really did help motivate me to soldier on as an artist, kind of like reaching one of those water stations during a marathon.
Do you plan a tour to support the album?
Ansett: I do plan to tour, but the logistics are a mystery at present. My wife and I are having a baby in February 2016 and we’re waiting and see how we handle that as a family unit before making any firm plans. Through the winter I’ll be looking to get established here in Denver and see if we can build a solid fan base of support throughout Colorado. Then, ideally, we’ll get ourselves a little trailer and take this record on the road in the spring! I’d also love to take this record and jump on as support for a nationally touring act, so I’ll be pursuing opportunities to that end as well.
Are you thinking about a new project for 2016?
Ansett: Definitely. I’m always thinking about new projects. With a little one on the way, I’m dreaming up a lullabies EP which should be fun. I’m also starting to work with one of my best friends from college on a band project we’ve dreamt about for a while now. He’s in Boston and I’m in Denver but we’ll be in the studio together this December to record our first single. We’ll go by the name Garden City.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.