Name: Sicard Hollow
Members: Matt Rennick (violin), Will Herrin (mandolin/vocals), Alex King (vocals/guitar), Parrish Gabriel (bass)
Interviewee: Alex King
Recent Release: Sicard Hollow's sophomore album Brightest Of Days is out November 11th 2022.
Recommendations: I'd recommend checking out live recordings of the Grateful Dead in the 70’s, and any album written by Tony Rice.
If you enjoyed this interview with Sicard Hollow and would like to find out more about the band, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I didn’t really start writing music until I was about 20 years old. I started playing guitar when I was 15, but gave it up after a while. I never got past surface level playing and could only play about 5 chords and strum basic rhythm). I wasn’t really equipped with the tools needed to start writing, nor did I feel inspired to write anything yet.
Fast forward about 6 years and I found myself in a substance rehabilitation program in Baton Rouge, LA where I re-taught myself guitar and started writing my first songs. I was inspired by some friends in the program to learn how to play again. This time it made more sense to me, and I found a home in the music.
My early influences really leaned towards the pop punk stuff … Green Day, Blink-182, Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, etc ... I truly identified with this stuff. I was completely obsessed with these bands. I would wear a different Green Day shirt every single day of the week, with my studded belt, skin tight pants, Jack Skelington socks, and checkerboard slip on Vans. I was that kid … or at least trying to be.
The thing that drew me towards music was the feeling I would get when a song caught my attention. I would learn the lyrics so quickly, almost after one listen. They would stay in my head all day. It bought me so much joy, and just pure emotion. I didn’t know music could make you feel so many ways. The punk stuff led me to everything under the Sun … hip/hop, metal, jam bands, folk, country, bluegrass, electronic, you name it!
My ears are open to anything that sounds good to me. No discrimination. A well-written song is a well-written song.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
When I listen to music that moves me emotionally, I'll start laughing out loud sometimes just at the pure beauty of the song. Or cry. I know a song really hits me to the core if I cry listening to it. It could be joyful tears, or sorrowful tears. Some songs paint vivid pictures in my head, almost like I’m watching a movie.
I love descriptive writing that really gives life to the message or story. I think that inspires me to try to write the most genuine tunes that I can. It inspires me to focus on the lyrical aspects and try to find ways to say things in a way that’s thought-provoking. Sometimes I'll listen to a song, and get really inspired by the melody, and I'll feel the urge to grab my guitar and just start letting it flow.
But this doesn’t always happen, and writing isn’t something I typically force, so when it's coming out, you gotta seize the opportunity. I've gotten better at recognizing when I’m having these “golden hours of thought” or whatever you want to refer to them as.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
My development has been wild, honestly. I wasn’t very great at the guitar, and I’ve put so much work into it that I finally consider myself average.
I have so much work to do, but that's the part I’m most excited about. There's so much left to learn. This has helped me challenge myself to write more complex stuff, or just do things out of my normal comfort zone, like write a song in a key that I don’t usually play in, use more obscure chords / voicings, etc.
I think this, in turn, creates a personal voice for me. It’s starting to define who I am through the songs I‘m writing. I feel like I really found my personal voice early on in my songwriting through the lyrics.
And as far as breakthroughs go, I have them all the time. I’m eager, so I find that when I really put in time and intention to learn something, I’m always surprised with how quickly I can advance in whatever it is. That's where the breakthroughs come into play. Any time I can understand the neck of a guitar on a deeper level, that is a major breakthrough.
With songwriting, my first breakthrough was learning to channel my energy when it's flowing out of me. My first song just wrote itself, I didn't even know what I was writing about. It just happened and taught me to surrender to the writing process when I’m able to.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I identify as Alex King. Nothing else.
Sure I play guitar and sing, but I think listeners get a genuine representation of myself and my heart through the songs I write. I don't try to portray anyone or anything.
Just be yourself! That’s the main message in the songs I write. Individuality is so important.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My approach to music and art is to try to create something that makes people feel. It doesn't matter what emotions they feel, because that will vary from person to person, but just the ability to evoke emotions in someone through art is so powerful to me.
Also, have fun with it. I truly love playing music and writing. It is probably my biggest passion in life, so it is important to find ways to make it fun, and to keep it that way.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I think originality is so important for setting yourself apart from being labeled something or falling under a certain category. I mean, sure, our band falls into the “bluegrass” or “jam grass” genre, but I truly think we have found a way to separate our sound from other bands in those genres.
This came through doing things our own way … we taught ourselves how to play with each other. It's not traditional by any means, but we have studied the traditional stuff and that comes out in our music. You also get flavors from so many other genres because we all listen to such a variety of music, and are influenced by what we consume.
I think I’m interested in both the future of music, as well as keeping tradition alive. I think we can push the boundaries of string-band music with our originality, but I also want to go pick trad. songs by a campfire in a circle until the day I die.
There are many traditions with string band music that I hold near and dear to my heart and I will do my very best to preserve them. That comes with respecting the roots, but also exploring the possibilities of the genre.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I think the most important thing I have done to progress as a guitarist and writer is to practice with intention, and often.
I’ve taken certain online flat picking courses that have steered me in the right direction as far as material to practice on, and principles to apply to my playing. Anyone can find/buy these resources, but it's about sitting down and putting in the time. Hours and hours of practice.
Once I found a groove in this, I noticed that my playing got substantially better. The practice truly pays off. It might not be fun all the time, but it is necessary.
Also, if you can surround yourself with musicians that you consider to be more advanced than you, you will notice your skills improving quicker than if they weren’t around. I found lots of incredible pickers and writers in Nashville, and they really showed me what is possible to achieve.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I typically wake up at 8 a.m. and get moving. I trail run a lot, so I usually drive to my local park that has a ton of hiking trails and get a good sweat in.
After this, I get coffee and breakfast at the house, and then I pick up the guitar. Depending on the day, I’ll try to play as much guitar as I can. All day long. I go to the river a lot to write by the water. I'm a very outdoorsy person and I’m heavily inspired by nature, so you can find me all around Nashville, outside, hanging out playing tunes.
We’ll have band practice in the evening a couple days a week, and I try to be asleep by midnight or so. This is a typical day for me ... music, music, music.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I don’t really write songs for a particular album. They kind of just come together when it's time to find a group of songs that fit together to deliver a musical experience. I just stockpile songs and then we can pick which ones to record. This next record, which will be released on 11/11/22, is an example of that.
Some of the songs I wrote years ago, and some I wrote a week before we went into the studio. My process isn’t too intentional. I go outside, I start playing my guitar, and hope that I catch a melody / chord progression I like, and then usually words start to follow. I'll just start singing random stuff. I use the notes on my phone all the time to jot down random thoughts or rhymes and I often refer to my notes to piece together lyrics. It's like song surgery.
I take a lot of different lyrical pieces and put them together. I also record voice memos a lot. I can go back and shuffle through tons of random ideas I’ve had hidden away for awhile.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I really only write my songs by myself. I'll write the lyrics, and the basic structure, but then the band comes in and decorates the song. It's like I build the framework of a house, and they do the interior design.
I am starting to write with some buddies of mine and it’s been cool starting to collaborate while still keeping my individuality. I’ve noticed that in order to have a spark with someone that you’re writing with, you have to dissolve all notions of embarrassment or self-consciousness. This can be hard to do, because naturally I want to think that what I bring to the table is less-than.
Working with people who don’t give off that judgmental vibe is key for me in collaboration.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I hope the music I write provides the listener with hope and a message of positivity. I think the world needs more of this.
I try to write about real things that can be difficult to talk about, but add a hopeful undertone to the overall message. Music in society influences people on so many levels, so to create songs that lift people up is so important.
There's so much stuff out there these days that doesn’t do this. I hear more and more stuff with messages of hate, greed, and ignorance. We all have the ability to change the world with the things we create. Let’s make sure that's a positive change.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I write about all the topics mentioned above. We all experience these things in our daily lives, whether it's finding true love, or having your heart broken. Bringing a beautiful child into this world, or losing your loved ones. These personal experiences lead to the song, or the art, which leads to others listening and hopefully identifying with these experiences.
It's powerful to know someone else has been through the same pain as you, or has felt the same love you have felt.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
It’s cool to see science trying to quantify the effect music has on the natural world around us.
Music has had a huge impact on my own psychological development and I hope to see science help us understand why that is and how we can use it more effectively to affect positive change in our world.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I feel like it’s different.
Obviously, there is an art to making an amazing cup of joe, but I don't feel the same way about it as writing and delivering an epic piece of music. There's just a whole different process that goes into each.
I feel like I personally would have a better opportunity to give an observer a glimpse into my soul with a song.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I honestly don’t. There are musical compositions without lyrics that sound joyful, and others that sound sorrowful. Usually major stuff sounds happy, and minor stuff sounds somber.
I don't know why we make these associations, but I'd be lying if I said my brain didn’t come to these conclusions. Most of the time, the deep messages come to me from the music supporting well-written lyrics.