Interview: Capturing Live Raw Sounds with Bailen

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

David, Daniel and Julia Bailen are an NYC based folk rock trio emerging into the indie rockstar spotlight. Raised in a family of musicians and an environment that was always emanating creativity and passion through song, these songwriting prodigies are well on their way and it’s really exciting that this is just the beginning for such polished and reputable young talent. Following the release of their debut record Thrilled To Be Here last month, we recently caught up with them via email…

David, talk about how studying film/screenwriting at Tisch helped mould your creative talents as a songwriter/musician. What films have inspired you most as a writer?

I’m a very visual person and film is an all-encompassing art form. It has both storytelling and music and going to film school helped me explore the intersection of those passions. Songwriting and screenwriting feel similar to me in the way that I am always striving to capture an emotion, develop it, evolve it, and craft a form around it; a frame for it to live in. The form is very interesting to me. How moments are birthed from the last and how they progress to the next. It’s very important in both formats. As far as the films I like – I love when a film makes me laugh and cry at the same time – happy and sad. I like when songs do that to me too. Those are the best moments. A film that does that for me time and time again is ‘Life Is Beautiful’.

Julia, you told us that “googling how to be emotionally available” inspired the song ‘The Way I Could’. Can you elaborate?

I actually did in fact Google how to be emotionally available and Google told me that writing a song would help… it didn’t. I guess in order to elaborate I would have to be emotionally available.

Any favorite street corners/subway stations to busk in or secret park jam session spots? How has NYC shaped you into emerging rock stars?

NYC has been a huge influence on our music. Growing up with professional classical musicians, our house was always a port for all kinds of musicians and artists. We definitely busked in the park and played on the subway back in the day but it’s been a while. We also grew up singing at the metropolitan opera children’s chorus. That was really where we learned how to sing in harmony. In high school and college we played in a Baptist church in Brooklyn, which influenced us a lot. There is a great drum circle in Central Park near the great lawn that we used to go to. Music is everywhere in NY and it’s all different and has made us the musicians we are today. Sofar Sounds NYC has recently been an amazing way for us to get out there and play for new people. We have done over 70 pop up shows here in NYC.

Talk about collaborating/touring with Lone Bellow/Joseph. What did you learn most from each of these artists? Did they have any advice as fellow family bands?

We have done two tours with Joseph and they are such incredible hard working artists and people. Since we are both 3 part harmony sibling bands, we instantly connected to each other. As they are further along then us, we always are asking them questions about all sorts of things, and it’s so helpful. Performing with them is truly a special experience, can’t beat sibling harmonies x2! We’ve only have done 1 show with Lone Below, but it was our first time playing at Bowery Ballroom. Natalie Closner of Joseph was a special guest and we all sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” for the encore which was really special. Lone Bellow is another harmony band that was influential to us. We’ve also done two tours with Amos Lee. Amos is literally always there for us with advice and helpful input. Singing “Black River” with him on his last tour was definitely a highlight.

How important is it to Bailen to keep the initial raw acoustic folk singer/songwriter style consistent from album to album versus pressure from the industry/agents to change the style and possibly flood your true sound with overproduced studio efforts? Do you want to stay consistent or do you have a desire to shift the style?

We have a very artist friendly team behind us. We are really able to get the sound that we are searching for without having to worry about what is “in” that week. We definitely hold our raw live sounds as something that’s extremely important in capturing live but are inspired about the possibilities in the studio. There is always a balance of what you take in and when to just put on the blinders and listen to yourself.

For live dates and further info on Bailen, head to

Questions from Scott J. Herman