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Daniel Tashian



Going into the family business might not sound exciting to everyone. But, if that business involves hanging out with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, it gets a bit more intriguing. Daniel Tashian has been pursuing his familial passion for music ever since he could strum a guitar and put pen to paper. Most recently, Tashian has been touring with his band, The Bees (U.S.), whose name was inspired by the movie, Rushmore. Read more about Tashian's musical journey, keeping very busy, and his next big idea.



Way Cool: 

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in music.


Both of my parents are musicians, and my dad was in a band when I was kid called The Remains.  They’re from Boston.  When I was really little, I was obsessed with the radio and I wanted to be a DJ.  I had a little record player that I would get in the closet with and pretend that I was a DJ.  Then, I’d pretend I was musician because I looked up to my dad a lot.  I really wanted to be a musician when I grew up.  Then, I got my first guitar when I was 10 and we moved to Nashville and started hanging out in studios.  I got to hang out with great musicians like Larry London, the great session drummer and other session musicians.  I really enjoyed the studio atmosphere because I’m kinda geeky and techie so I liked all the knobs.  When I was 13, I got a 4-track for my birthday and I took it to camp with me and I never did any outdoor activities.  I’d just sit in the cabin and do stuff on my 4-track.  I was recording myself singing and overdubbing harmonies and it was so fun and I got addicted to it immediately.  After that, I just wanted to make music and write songs.  Even in high school, I’d skip school and go to my station wagon and smoke cigarettes and make up songs during class.  I’d skip school, but I wouldn’t go anywhere; I’d just sit in my car! 


What kind of influence did your dad’s career have on yours?



A huge one because he played in Emmylou Harris’ band for 10 years.  I thought when I was kid that she wrote all her own songs.  But really she recorded songs by the greatest songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and The Beatles and Neil Young.  She’s a great song finder.  So I got exposed to a great cross section of a lot of genres of pop music and songwriting.  That was probably the biggest influence, getting exposed to all of those great writers.  She was just a goddess to me when I was a kid.  Can you imagine?   She’s so beautiful, but so larger than life.  She’d come over and give me a candy and say, “Hello, Daniel.”  I’d just stare at her.  I felt that I had a very special secret when I was a kid that I knew all these stars. 




Did you grasp what your dad did?
Totally.  I remember going to a big stadium.  I think it was like Willy Nelson’s 4th of July picnic or something like that.  I remember being backstage thinking, “I think I like being backstage better than being in the audience.  I also think I like it better on the bus.”  I remember that the first time I saw a VCR was on a bus.  It was really cool.
WC: Was there anything else you were going to do or was this always going to be your career?
This was pretty much it.  I did go to art school.  In 1999, I didn’t really have much to do.  I had a record deal, but got dropped by the label and I thought I should go back to school. My grandmother offered to pay for me to go to art school.  I’ve always been an artist as a hobby.  So, I went to art school for 2 years and studied photography.  Then, I started working on someone’s record that paid pretty well and I dropped out.  I started making money doing music and that was that.  That was my only diversion from music.
WC: What’s been your family’s reaction to your career?



At first my dad was thinking how hard it was for him over the years.  He worked as a carpet salesman and drove a taxi and always had to do these shitty jobs to supplement his income.  He didn’t want that for me.  He wanted me to do something legitimate so I wouldn’t have to do the same things he did.  But then after he realized that I was really good, and I got better over the years, his respect grew.  Now we talk shop about music and it’s totally cool. 

No one in my family has ever had a “real” job.  Even my brother who went to engineering school.  He doesn’t have a job now.  I don’t know what he lives on.  But no one in my extended family has ever worked a 9-to-5 job.  I don’t have any exposure to that.  It’s like a mythical concept.  I’ve never experienced having to get up and go to a “real” job every morning.  I’m fascinated by people who do that. 

Now, I’m totally spoiled.  I’m so used to setting my own schedule.  I’m really hard on myself and motivate myself to get things done.  I can turn running errands into a full-on sport.  I can really get into it because it’s my responsibility.  But I’m spoiled.  I don’t think I could ever adapt to someone telling me when to do things and where to be, unless they paid me a lot.




Well, you get some of that on the road.




Yeah, I do like that aspect of being on the road, but it’s almost self-imposed in a way.




So, it’s been over 10 years since you released your first solo CD.  How is your career the same and how is it different?


I didn’t really like my music back then.  I had only been writing for about 4 years when I got picked up.  They really go for youth in the music industry, but youth can’t really write with the kind of depth that makes for good music.  I like what I’m writing now so much more.  I feel that I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m getting good at it.  I think the difference would be that I feel more confident about what I do and believing in myself.  And I make a lot less money.  In the 1990’s, there was money being thrown around in the industry, but they don’t do that anymore. 

I still really enjoy the exciting process of taking bits of lyrics and notes and hearing them in their finished form.  That’s still very exciting for me, that transformation.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over the excitement of that.



Tell us about your relationship with Josh Rouse.



He lived in Nashville and came out to see this cover band I was playing in called Guilty Pleasures so he knew I was a musician.  Then, maybe he heard the first Bees record and asked me to come and sing background vocals on 1972.  He liked what I did and we started hanging out as friends.  I think he was kind of bored and looking for someone interesting to hang out with and he hadn’t heard all of my jokes yet.  So we became friends.  When I heard the whole 1972 record, I was blown away.  I was like, “This guy is incredible.”  People had been saying for years that he was great and I had liked what he did previously, but none of it could compare to that record.  The scope of it, the magnitude of the emotions … I thought, “This guy is brilliant.  I’m going to call him up and tell him I want to play with him.”  So I called and just said, “If you ever want me to, I want to play with you.”  And he just said, “Yeah, OK, I’ll keep that in mind.”  When I hung up the phone I realized how stupid that was.


Then, about 2 weeks later he called me back and said, “I was thinking about what you said and I have this tour coming up for 1972 and want you to come out and play guitar.”  So once we were on the road together and spending more time together, we started writing together.  We’d be sitting in the dressing room and I’d play a riff and he’s ask what it was and I’d say, “It’s a riff I wrote for you to write a song around!” 


What was the first song to come out of that collaboration?


“It’s the Nighttime” was the first.  We wrote that sitting down together and I’d write a line then he would and it was just going back and forth between us.  It was a fun song to write because we knew it was a good song. 

I’ve been writing songs for so long that it’s nice when the respect between two people who are writing together is strong.  It makes it a more equal process.  It happens quicker because there’s more talent there and one person isn’t carrying the load.  He has a great sense of the big picture of the song.  Sometimes I get caught up in the minutia of the song and he makes me step back to see what the song is really about.  I think he’s brilliant.

I had a guitar part that we sort of wrote “Life” around.  He took the riff and wrote the melody to it.  “Winter in the Hamptons” he pretty much had done, but I wrote a few parts for that.  On “Quiet Town,” he and I were driving to my house and a Paul Simon song came on.  We both thought it would be great to write a song with that same kind of vibe. 

He’s really a great guy, kind of quiet.  I think that people who think he’s stuck up or unfriendly just really don’t know him personally.  He’s very quiet and reserved and just sweet.  He’s not an ass kisser and I kinda like that about him.



How did The Bees (U.S.) come about?


It was tail end of my art school career and I had just broken up with my first love.  I had written a handful of songs and invited Jason (Lehning) over to my house.  He just immediately had great ideas and I had never had a great producer or editor before whom I felt I could rely on.  He went to Berklee so he could read and write music and I sort of respected that.  I had seen David Gerky (drums) play with Josh and loved his approach and knew I wanted to play with him. 

I was really influenced by the movie Rushmore.  When Jason Schwartzman puts the tube under the hotel door and the bees come out and there’s the emblem that says, “Rushmore beekeepers”… The music in the movie, the folk tunes played over this really hip movie made me realize that folk music is cool.  I decided that’s what we were going to do.



You are a very busy guy … playing with Josh, playing with The Bees (U.S.), doing your solo stuff, doing session work … How do you find enough time in the day to do it all?

That’s a very sweet question because it implies that what I do is hard.  I love to do a variety of things because it keeps me fresh.  I love to work with lots of different musicians so I can understand how different people do things.  Variety keeps it interesting.


What is your goal for The Bees (U.S.)?



What I would like would be to partner up with a really cool company that really gets what we do.  I’d like to explore a movie like The Graduate and get a rough cut so we get to know the movie and the characters and write songs for that movie.  Then when you buy the DVD, you get a copy of The Bees (U.S.) CD as well.  It’s not exactly like what Spoon did for Stranger Than Fiction, but along those lines.  I think we’re the kind of band who could pull that off and that would put us on the map.  I have the ability, as a songwriter, to get in the mind of a character to figure out what they’re thinking and why they do certain things.  Writing songs around that would be great.  That’s what I would really like.



We like to end interviews with a game we call "7 Questions."





7 Questions




What's the worst job you've ever had? 


I worked for a really grumpy old man in a bookshop who was really awful.



What's your favorite movie quote or song lyric? 


Right now my favorite movie quote is (British accent), “Perhaps you’d like me to wash your dick now sir” from Arthur.



Who would you want to star in the movie of your life? 


Dudley Moore



What's your favorite TV theme song? 


Laverne and Shirley, MASH … there are so many great ones.



If you were a superhero, what would your name be? 


I think it would be funny to have something like Jazz Man. He flies around the world and subjects everyone to unnecessary jazz.  He’s a bad guy.



What do you want to be when you grow up? 


I am grown up and I am being what I want to be.



Finally, why are there so many songs about rainbows? 


I don’t know.  I really don’t know.



To find out more information about Daniel Tashian, visit his website at beesmusic.com/site.