Tim Qualls got almost nothing but love from Rocks Off when we took on the task of tabulating the terrific tunes from his debut EP This is Our Land last year. Our one complaint was that it was really more of a single than an EP, with the backend being filled out with acoustic demos. We can't say the same for the four strong new tracks that make up the Melancholy Sessions.
Previously, we walked you through the recording process of the EP as Qualls eschewed his former recording studio and moved into the exciting world of recording in your buddy's bedrooms studio.
That sentence may be dripping sarcasm all over your home row, but we halfway mean it sincerely. After all, the power of a private individual to put out their own work with basic affordable tools has never been greater. We can certainly attest that Qualls has used the medium to full effect.
Joined by J. J. Cole, a guitarist of jumper-unbuttoning ability, Qualls continues the themes he explored in his YouTube chronicles. The music is definitely downbeat. The tracks lack the sly ego that made us once include Qualls in a list of famous musical boasters.
Instead, what we have here is a sort of hipster perseverance. That Qualls has and continued to struggle in both his career and that weird myth-world they call Real Life is quite clear as he tackles the enduring depression of a recession world.
Still, the tunes never falter in their catchy guitar lines or Qualls' soft Mraz-esque vocals. Also, his faith in love remains pure. If there is any message to be learned from the Melancholy Sessions it is that love will take you through all manners of mayhem and mishaps.
That message, framed in Qualls' ironic style and flourished with Cole's guitar lines, should make the EP standard bedroom fare. Spin it before bedtime like little ones say their prayers and maybe, just maybe, the God of Making Songs Come True will shine down upon thee.
We sat down with Qualls to pump him a bit about the EP.
Rocks Off: First question is why didn't you tackle this at Red Tree like you did This is Our Land?
Tim Qualls: I just didn't have a budget for a bigger studio this time. Without saying to much, I'm just not working with those guys anymore. Time for something different I guess.
RO: How was recording this EP different than This is Your Land?
TQ: With this EP, I wasn't worried about a first impression to the community. I just wanted to make more music, and honestly was just happy to make another record. With this one we got to focus more on subject content and song writing. We got to focus on different arrangements for each song as opposed to throwing away ideas for the big focus of creating big hits.
It's not that we didn't get to be creative or do any of those things before. I just think this time it was more of it, more in depth, not to mention I got to be creative with a friend, producer and engineer Jay Snider, who I was already friends with. This record brought me out of a big slump.
RO: You seem to have taken an earthier feel to this. It's more grounded than your previous album. Not really folkier, but definitely not as hiply ironic. Why the change in tone?
TQ: Well with this record, it started out as just a few acoustic songs to trade for some emails. But towards the beginning of the process I decided to make it an actual project. The songs I had finished and in particular "Down," all had a melancholy subject matter.
After my high expectations for my first record, and some ending of some friendships I kind of ended up in a weird place. When I wrote "Down" I was struggling to decide if I should quit music for a while and go home to take care of my family or stay here and stick it out.
At that same time, my mother was going through a year long treatment for Hepatitis C she got from a blood transfusion when I was born, and my Dad was having neck and heart surgery. Rough time for me. I ultimately decided to stay here with the blessing and encouragement from my parents.
RO: Do you really think love can stand against a cruel world?
TQ: I feel like this one is sarcastic! But yeah. So far with my girlfriend of 6 years, it has. It can all be cruel sometimes, but ultimately I think love is what holds us up. Whether it's love from my girlfriend, friends, or my family.
RO: This girl of yours you sing so much about... she's something else, huh?
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TQ: Katie is the love of my life. She has been a rock, man. Behind every guy there's a girl, you know. The music isn't all about her, but there definitely are bits and pieces of here in every song. I think "Beautiful" and "Don't Have To" both came from me working at a clothing store five days a week and constantly dealing with women who at the end of the day are way to hard on themselves. Sometimes they just need to shut up, and be them selves.
Melancholy Sessions is available for free at NoiseTrade.