Ted Russell Kamp‘s upcoming LP Solitaire (5/7) will be his 13th full-length release. DittyTV is honored to offer the World Premiere of the record’s latest video single, “You Can Go To Hell, I’m Going To Texas,” plus a 5 Questions interview covering what it was like working with videographer Deb Littel, how even co-writing remotely can be cathartic, where Ted finds inspiration and more.
1) You’ve got some co-writes on this album with powerful songwriters like Ed Jurdi, Matt Szlachetka, Brian Whelan, and Don Gallardo. You’re well-known as an active musical collaborator and are no stranger to co-writing, but this is your first time to do the majority of co-writing remotely. Was it hard to find your collective muse and what stands out as an “I won’t do that again” moment?
That’s a good question. Some of my friends and co-writers were not really comfortable with co-writing remotely so in general, we talked on the phone and caught up and just didn’t write. The remote co-writes that did come together for songs on this record were done with people who were all comfortable with it. It’s a little awkward because you can’t play the song together which we’d normally do when co-writing, but talking and coming up with ideas and playing drafts of the song for each other in a more going back and forth kind of way worked great.
Also, because we all were isolated at home, I found co-writing was really cathartic and helpful because we’d bond as friends and often end up talking about life more than we maybe would have as we were processing all of the confusion of the last year. We talked about politics, wondering what would happen with our music industry, what’s going on in our families and how we all are trying to survive and strategize while working at home. Seeing these friends and having something to work on definitely helped me stay inspired and moving forward. There were definitely some times we maybe were not as productive in working on or completing the song but thankfully, there were no “I won’t do that again” moments. Most of these writers were already friends or at least musicians where we had a mutual respect and had met a bunch of times over the years.
2) For “You Can Go To Hell, I’m Going To Texas,” you tapped Elizabeth Elkins and Vanessa Olivarez of the band Granville Automatic as co-writers. Was this your first time writing with the two of them and can you share about that experience; also, how did you land on a distinctive California country rock sound for a song with “Texas” in its title?
That’s a good question too. Elizabeth and Vanessa have been friends of mine for about 10 years. We have done many shows together over the years and I actually produced their first album in 2012. They’d made most of that record in Nashville and they didn’t like it because it sounded and felt “too Nashville” for them. We met while they were doing some shows on the West Coast and I was their bass player. We bonded and became friends very quickly and they asked me to produce their record shortly after that. They really liked the mystical and hippie influences in the California Country sound and wanted me to help them re-record and start over to capture a more California vibe and sound that we all felt would have more honesty and grit and that wasn’t so clean and perfect than what they had done in Nashville. I know we were all very proud of that album.
We wrote this song together a few years after that record came out and they actually released it already so please check out their version if you haven’t.
Then, as I was working on songs for Solitaire this last year, I was writing and working on a bunch of more introverted and folk oriented songs. I thought of this one and felt it would be a great addition to this record because I wanted to add some songs about escape or looking toward a new future and add some positivity to the album. I started recording this song on my own and then decided to bring in two of my good friends who were the other members of the West Coast Granville Automatic – John Schreffler on pedal steel and Jim Doyle on drums. They both played on the G.A. record in 2012 and I have made a ton of music with both of them both before and since that album.
I was really excited to have this song sound like classic Granville Automatic and have Vanessa sing harmony with me on it as well. I also loved the little inside joke about having a song about going to Texas be in the style of a classic California Country song. I mean, I am a Californian who loves that sound and have played a lot of it. I also love how styles of music from around the country influence and blend into each other. I have heard a lot of great “Texas” sounding music in L.A. and have heard a lot of “California Country” in Texas, Nashville and everywhere else. One of the reasons I play with many of the musicians I play with (including John and Jim) is that we like and play many styles and like to combine them rather than limit ourselves with categories of genre.
3) I imagine it’s easy to lose inspiration and direction as a musician whose entire life has been altered by a pandemic. Did you have to set targets and timetables to stay on track or was it more go with the flow?
Yes. I had (and I know many of us have had) bouts of depression and feeling like we are in the doldrums or in a groundhog day type of existence since we’ve been in this pandemic. Continually making music is not only how I have continued to make a living, but it has also helped me stay positive and feeling like I’m moving forward emotionally this last year. I actually just released my last album Down In The Den in July of 2020. I had it set to be released and had a tour planned for it and struggled with the idea of releasing it as the pandemic was beginning. I am really glad that I put it out then rather than waiting until “life got back to normal” which is what a lot of people were doing at the time. Even before that record came out I was already working on this set of songs and I wanted to get it out as soon as I could. I know it’s unusual to put out two records of all original music within a year but I wanted to get this out and into the world because I knew it would tell my story and I know a lot of other folks who have been going through a lot of the same feelings as me this last year. I hope it helps and heals them a little too.
4) What is it about music videos that we find so compelling, and are there any music videos that have had a big impact on you in the last year?
Videos give us a chance to get to know the artist more. I enjoy making and seeing videos to accompany songs because it’s an extra chance to be creative and tell the story of the song as well as share the story and values I have. I enjoy seeing other videos to see how my friends and peers are expressing themselves too. The decisions and instincts we have musically as well as cinematically all tie in with who we are as people.
5) For your music video, you worked with photographer/videographer, Deb Littel in L.A. What role did the City of Angels play in the production and how did Deb’s creative inspiration and photo/video skills enhance the song in your opinion?
Deb is great. She is a smart, funny, soulful and talented woman and I’m honored to work with her. There are two singles for this record. The first was called “My Girl Now” which came out last month and she did that video with me too. That one was mainly a performance video of me singing and playing the instruments on the song somewhat emulating how I did it in the studio at home when I recorded it entirely by myself.
For this video, Deb had the idea of adding a narrative and following me on a journey as I leave home and actually go to Texas. We brought in some friends to be special guests in the video so I also want to thank Manda Mosher, Pi Jacobs, Charlie Overbey and Chris Lawrence who are all either lifelong or long-time musicians and Angelenos! It was Deb’s idea to have me ‘follow the dream’ and hitchhike to Texas and meet these characters and it evolved into a little Americana Country Rock Odyssey. Their friendship and character really come through in the video.
We also shot it almost entirely in or near L.A., so our hometown is definitely a big part of the video even if we are not focusing on the urban side of L.A. but the Southern CA landscape and mood. We both also wanted some shots to feel very California while for others we deliberately chose locations where we could be in Arizona or New Mexico or Texas so it would feel like we are actually traveling to Texas.
Bonus Question: When you look around now, what inspires you most about the future of music?
People like me, who are driven to make music and share music will not stop just because of economic or political changes. Even a pandemic won’t stop us. It’s been great to see so many friends and people I respect (even if I’m seeing them mainly on social media) all trying to move forward and stay inspired and stay creative. I’m not stopping. All of the friends and collaborators on this record are not stopping. You and Robin and everyone at DittyTV are not stopping. It’s a testament to how much we care about and believe in what we do.
And now, enjoy the World Premiere of “You Can Go To Hell, I’m Going To Texas” by Ted Russell Kamp.