Jon Barker recently spoke to East Coast singer-songwriter Anthony Walker, a singer who maintains a regular YouTube channel, alongside several fantastic albums and many live shows. His most recent record, This City Won’t Sleep, was released in April of this year.
Would you like to introduce yourself to us, your style of music and your influences?
We’ve been called folk-rock. We’ve been called alt-country. Cosmic American music. Roots-rock. If someone wants to know what we’re about, my last two records stream for free on my website in their entirety, so the best way is to go and have a listen. I’m influenced by any music that feels like it’s coming from an honest place.
You’ve been compared to many musicians in your time, which is the funniest you’ve heard, and who, if any, do you hear so often that it gets a bit tiring?
I think that for most people, when they hear a band for the first time, something clicks in the brain where they immediately draw some comparisons to artists they’re already familiar with. Kind of like, “Where does this new band fit on the musical map that exists in my head.” And people are pretty quick to tell you who they think you sound like sometimes. Probably the weirdest comparison was at an acoustic show someone told me I reminded them of Alice in Chains. That was pretty out there, but in their defense, they had been drinking a lot.
Listeners or journalists have compared me to everything from Thom Yorke of Radiohead to Buddy Holly. The big ones though are Neil Young, Wilco, The Band, and some others. I get compared most to Bob Dylan, especially when it’s just me and the guitar. I don’t really get tired of it or annoyed by it. I just got kind of used to it. I can’t really remember, but I’m sure the first time someone told me that I was a very excited 17 year old kid.
Earlier in the year, you released The City Won’t Sleep, an 11 track album funded by Kickstarter. What difference did having fans fund the music you were going to release have on the creative process?
I don’t think it necessarily affected the creative process directly. I’ve heard bands talk about investors, and when someone invests in your record, there can be this sense of, “Now someone else has a horse in this race and we need to make them happy because they’re involved now. So let’s try and give them what we think they want to hear.” I didn’t really buy into that. The people that got involved with Kickstarter did so because we spent time building a certain kind of track record and these people wanted to help us continue doing so. Letting the circumstance affect the writing or production of the record more than likely would have ended badly.
That being said, having the extra money in the bank did help us move faster which does kind of effect the recording process when you’re talking about being in the studio. We were able to go in and bang it out. If you’re painting a picture, finish it, then stare at it for three months with a paint brush in your hand, you’re going to end up with a different picture. That’s a lesson I’ve learned through playing music. Another lesson I’ve learned is that if the guitar isn’t working, you probably forgot to turn the amp on.
Were the songs ready before the Kickstarter began?
For the most part. I finished writing In The Night, This City Won’t Sleep, and I’m Taking You With Me in the months leading up to the studio when we were Kickstartering (that’s a new verb I invented). I wrote the third verse of Forget the Railroad in the control room of the studio right before I sang it. So, it was mostly done from a writing standpoint, but we were in pre-production during Kickstarter and fleshing a lot of the songs out and arranging them.
Would you consider doing another pledge-site to raise money for future releases?
Time will tell. Right now, I don’t think that will be the case. The next one I’m planning won’t require that much of a budget. I’ll never say never, but I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped finance the last record and I’m not looking to call on them to do so again for a long while, if ever.
You’ve been running WalkerVision on Youtube for quite a while now, posting original and cover music acoustically to a modest audience. How do you feel YouTube has helped your career?
As a listener, I check out a ton of music on YouTube. So I do like posting things on there. I’ve posted one video every week for the last 60 weeks or so, which can be more challenging than you’d think. It’s usually me with an acoustic guitar on a couch somewhere, but sometimes i’ll play a new original song. Sometimes my band joins in. Sometimes I dress up like Abraham Lincoln in his underwear and get silly. It’s a nice outlet to try new things that I wouldn’t necessarily do at a show. I’m definitely looking to branch out and start doing some new things in the second year of WalkerVision, musically and non-musically.
How does recording videos and albums differ from performing live, and which do you prefer?
Recording videos and albums can be a lot of fun. It’s a totally different environment because you are playing to an audience that is potentially miles and months away. So the energy really only goes one way. Getting up on stage and doing what I do is by far my preference. No “controlled” experience has ever come close to the feeling of being on the stage in front of a good audience. I enjoy breaking a sweat under the stage lights and just spazzing out over how much fun playing live music is. Nowadays, anyone can make a record, so I’m a believer that bands make their statements with a live show. Some things don’t translate onto an iPod.
Do you have any upcoming plans for tours or releases?
Absolutely. Last year I put out a three-song acoustic-based EP that I worked on with Joanna Burns and Amanda Duncan. I think I’d like to do something along those lines next for sure. No plans yet for the next full length because we just put the last one out and it’s nice to recharge the batteries between those.
As far as touring. I would like to go out and do a series of short acoustic tours up through New England, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Mid-Atlantic, etc. I’m going to be working on setting those up soon. I’m also planning a 465-date tour of the universe with NASA, but apparently Martians aren’t that responsive to the folk-rock and our space travel is not up-to-par with what was promised in the Jetsons.
What is it like getting to work with people you are friends with on a regular basis?
It’s the best! Music-friends are awesome, especially when they’re as awesome as my friends. Like I mentioned, working with Amanda Duncan and Joanna Burns on the EP, Eric Novod (who produced my last record), all the guys in my band, Alex Brumel and his band, Tommy Strazza, a whole slew of people who come in and sing and play on the records and at shows. Tons of great people with a whole lot of love and talent. Music has always been such a great vessel for getting together with old friends and making new friends.
Who are you currently listening to and who should we be hearing?
I’ve been listening to a lot of “local” releases because so much has been coming out this summer and I’ve been going to more shows lately. In the folk-rock realm, there’s this band called Lightning Jar that’s getting ready to put their first record out, and I think it’s going to blow people away. I’ve been listening to their EP pretty often. Emily Grove just put out an EP that has barely found its way out of my CD player since I got it. Sliver and Gold by Neil Young has been in rotation. Anais Mitchell is on the list of music I can’t live without on a semi-daily basis. Unreal how good it is. A little Terry Reid. Otis. The new Brandon Flowers record. I also popped in a record the other day from this band called Dugen, who are this proggy psychedelic rock band from Sweden. No idea what the lyrics mean but it’s an amazing record.