Name: Avery Draut aka Night Palace
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Nationality: American  
Current release: Diving Rings, Avery Draut's debut album as Night Palace, is out April 1st 2022 via Park the Van.

If you enjoyed this interview with Night Palace and would like to find out more, visit the official Night Palace homepage. She also has a personal website for all of her other creative activities. 

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?

I find that I feel most ready to create after a long period of taking in art that I love, nonstop, especially new-to-me things. Then I’m usually surprised out of nowhere one day that my brain is suddenly full of melodies and ideas, and I immediately start hoping that it lasts. It’s weirdly been a lifelong struggle for me to try to create a routine that emulates this on a daily level, or that leaves space every single day for me to create; I’ve never been able to organize my life that way. But I probably won’t stop trying, so I don’t know, pray for me!

As far as sources of inspiration go, I wish my dreams were full of songworthy material, but sadly never remember having dreams. I haven’t dreamt regularly since maybe high school; so now I feel like I’m really missing out. I did catch inspiration from a friend’s ocean nightmare/dream when I was writing our most recent single “Jessica Mystic,” and then I sort of daydreamed it into a song from there. This one went all over the place – I had recently been on tour and had driven past the Mammoth Caves which really stuck with me (I love caves, who doesn’t), and they made it into the song. And a “Spirited Away” reference for good measure.

All of my songs are based around relationships;. I love constantly noticing and seeking out the magic that surrounds each of my friends, and I keep a little ongoing journal for many individual relationships in my life; I’ll tuck away notes, dreams, conversations into them. I forget to write for a few months, return and pick something back up. Things from years ago can make it into the same song as something I’m writing today, if the feeling is right.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

I definitely have multiple ways that I dream up the first inklings of a song. Sometimes I’ll hear something incredible someone made and get super inspired, and have a big idea of the whole of something, or definitely the rough outline. And then from there I’m working towards something clear.

Other times, I will fall in love with a melody, or a single line of lyrics and it starts that small. I have my journals and my eight hundred voice memos (yikes!), and usually pieces start to fit with other pieces, and I fill in between. This method means that I wrack up a lot of partial / incomplete songs – maybe why I love interludes and songlets so much. (laughs)

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

I rarely think of starting a song at the beginning, I guess maybe because somewhere along the way I learned that that feels too difficult, and I’ve adapted; usually I’m either struck initially by a melody that I find myself humming (partially why extended alone time is crucial in the process, because only then do I really get into humming to myself), or I’m struck by a phrase that pops into my head. When I sit down to write, I refer back to my bits and pieces of music till I find something there that I feel ready to work on.

Because I keep a journal of phrases and rhymes, and a catalog of melodies and chord progressions, I usually start from wherever that first thing I hear falls and follow that new material as far as I can, before delving into what might pair up with it from my journals / voice memos. Then it becomes really fun or really dismal pretty fast, depending on how my search for complimentary materials turns out or doesn’t.

When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?

This kind of flip-flopped for me at some point. I used to be so intimidated to even start to touch lyrics (and to be clear, I still feel that way all the time!), but now sometimes I find that I have a greater backup of lyrical tidbits than I have music for. It swaps in seasons, I guess.

Of course, in the same way that listening to tons of music feels like the key to conjuring new songs from the abyss, it feels the same for reading, though I nourish that side of things less. I wish I made more time for quiet.

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

I actually usually feel like too many roads open themselves during the creative process. I frequently get caught up in the impossible and detrimental task of ruminating on every single way a song could go; I’ve always been indecisive when it comes to shutting out options.

When this happens I remind myself that there are so many songs to be made, and this one doesn’t have to be everything all at once.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

This is tough for me. I have a tendency to want to drag songs through my life with me, updating them along the way. While I think there is room for that sometimes, the long wait I’ve had between finishing Diving Rings and its release has been a real learning experience for accepting that I’ve come to a finishing point for these songs individually and as a collection. I’ve grown with them, even though they aren’t changing anymore.

As far as production goes, I tend to over-build, tracking anything I could ever want, and then remove and refine. In a way this feels like a good way to find the natural tipping point of a song, once I’ve heard it with too little and too much, though as you can imagine it isn’t the most efficient process. I’m excited next time to try to find that balance the first time around.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?

I would say that I do this to an unhealthy extreme! (laughs) Sometimes, I’ll let things sit so long that then I feel like a different writer when I return back to them, and I change the whole thing.

It’s very hard for me most of the time to consider something “done.” I’m thinking about when I recorded the vocals on “Into the Wake, Mystified” – even though we had played the song live for over two years with the same lyrics, I was sitting there in the studio at 10pm up until the very last minute re-writing the entire chorus melody and all the lyrics. But I knew immediately that it was right and we only did a few takes after I settled on the new chorus.

What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?

I really cherish my time in the studio and love to be there every moment that the music is being worked on, during engineering, mixing, and mastering. I love to hear the process, and I have a lot of input. Once I get to the recording stage, I have a pretty exact idea of how a number of aspects of the song should sound, and a lot of ideas and opinions, but I remain open to and embrace the ideas of collaborators at this stage as well. And sometimes I openly have no idea what to do with an element of a song.

Working with Drew (Vandenberg), who co-produced Diving Rings with me, made the sounds I was imagining available to me (like the intro and outro to “Jessica Mystic,” which I described using mouth sounds, god help him!, and us placing every note in the B sections of “Enjoy the Moon!” together). In addition, he is such a special co-dreamer of sounds I hadn’t yet imagined.