Rex Haberman is a veteran rocker from Minneapolis who has released two solo albums, one duo album, and most recently a series of albums and EPs with the socially conscious band War Poets. Aileen Henderson is a Dumfries-born 18 year old who was brought up in Galway from the age of three. Her father always had instruments lying around the house and introduced her to The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. Singing country from a very early age, she overcame her shyness in her teens and started uploading videos online and gained confidence from the positive feedback they generated. The two make an unlikely pair, living on different continents and being from different generations. They met through Twitter in June 2014, connected by email, then starting writing together across the Atlantic. By late 2014, they had five fully composed original songs ready to be recorded. This collection of five Americana tracks holds many stories. Where Memories Live is about dementia and the toll it takes on families, Solitude, Gratitude is about dealing with a chronic illness and Mountain Song tells the tale of finding your way despite life’s injustices. Aileen and Rex’s project is called Light Over There, a reference to these two songwriters finding inspiration across the sea that separates them.
Entertwine: Could you tell us a bit about your individual backgrounds as musicians?
Rex: I’ve played in bands for many years, always playing guitar and singing. I’ve gone through phases where the band was hard rock to country to more pop sounding. In all my projects, I’ve always preferred original material and in the last 10 years or so that’s about all I play. My passion has always been songwriting. When I sit down to play it doesn’t take long for an idea to come forth and a new song is started.
Aileen: I have always been interested in music and have been singing and playing instruments for as long as I can remember. Originally I was very shy and only sang in my bedroom to myself. Then in 2010, I set up a You Tube channel and began uploading videos. This gave me a huge confidence boost and the feedback was great. Over time I began to progress and have now performed at many events where I live and also produced a charity CD in February of 2014, which did very well. I haven’t had much experience with songwriting although I plan to get into it. Writing the songs with Rex was fairly new to me but I enjoyed it a lot. Any spare second I get during the day is spent doing something music related. I love it so much!
How did you both meet and begin writing music together? What led to the formation of this particular musical collaboration?
Aileen: Rex’s band, War Poets, followed me on Twitter and like I do with everyone that follows me I sent them a message with my You Tube link, it’s a handy way to boost views! I wasn’t expecting any feedback but was delighted when he contacted me about collaborating. We worked together taking turns with who wrote lyrics and music and then we both recorded them across the Atlantic from each other. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen everyday! There were a lot of phone calls, recordings and emails. Technology is a great thing. It has been a great experience working with him and many others.
Tell us about your upcoming album “Light Over There”; who played on the recordings? Who mixed the album? Could you tell us a bit about each of the five featured tracks?
Rex & Aileen: We decided to name our project Light Over There. That’s the band name and is the self titled album name. The name refers to the special relationship we enjoy separated by the Atlantic Ocean but feeling the light that arises from afar. We wrote 5 songs together: (1) Where Memories Live (music by Aileen, lyrics by Rex), (2) She Cries to You (music by Rex, lyrics by Aileen and Rex), (3) I Ain’t That Bad (music by Rex, lyrics by Aileen), (4) Solitude Gratitude (music by Aileen, lyrics by Rex), and (5) Mountain Song (music by Rex, lyrics by Aileen).
The album was recorded simultaneously at Drum Farm Studio in Menomonie, Wisconsin and Ray Diamond Studio in Galway, Ireland. The music was recorded at Drum Farm studio and the musicians were former Gin Blossoms drummer John Richardson, Nashville guitarist Jesse Isley, Nashville bassist Adam Beard, and Rex. Aileen recorded vocals at the Ray Diamond Studio. Additional musicians were vocalist Jennifer Grimm from Minneapolis (She Cries to You, Mountain Song), Nashville vocalist Lizzy Herder (Where Memories Live, Solitude Gratitude), and Nashville keyboardist Tim Lauer. The album was mixed by 5-time Grammy winner Joe Baldridge from Nashville and mastered by another 5-time Grammy winner from Nashville, Richard Dodd.
Where Memories Live is a song about Alzheimer’s Disease and the toll it takes on family members. Rex’s wife’s stepfather has it pretty bad and she asked if he’d write a song about it. Rex wrote the lyrics then sent them to Aileen and she wrote the music. She Cries to You is about love as seen from a third person who has the advantage of perspective. I Ain’t That Bad is about life’s challenges and even when things seem difficult there are those worse off. Solitude Gratitude is about finding peace and gratitude when one is alone and reflecting on their own fallibility. Mountain Song is about overcoming life’s obstacles even when it seems impossible.
What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Rex & Aileen: Honestly, it was about finding time and working out schedules. We both have very busy schedules, but once we started to trade ideas, melodies, and lyrics, it became clear that despite the distance between us, and the generational difference, we had something special together. Our writing was done by trading emails and music files until we were happy with the basic song structure and lyrics. We then prioritized our time and set dates to record. In the USA, we’d record the basic music tracks then email an mp3 file to Aileen’s producer in Ireland, Ray Diamond. On the same day or early the next day, Aileen would record her vocals tracks, then Ray would edit them and send the large WAV files via data transfer web sites back to the USA. At Drum Farm, we’d then would upload her files into our session files.
Rex, how does this project differ in terms of sound and musicality to your band War Poets? How does the writing process differ between projects?
Rex: War Poets is much more of a rock band with a mission of playing music about social issues in America such as gun violence, income inequality, homelessness, poverty, prison life, etc. Light Over There deals with todays issues also but clearly has an Americana and even a country feel. In War Poets, I write the vast majority of the songs myself without collaboration. However, I have recently collaborated with a French writer who has allowed me to use specific passages as lyrics. This has been quite fascinating and these songs will be released in late summer. In Light Over There, the writing is a 50/50 proposition where we are equal partners. All our songs are appropriately registered with our PRO’s: Aileen with IMRO and me with ASCAP.
Aileen, what is life like in Ireland? What is the music scene of Galway like?
Aileen: Asides from our famous weather, I’m very lucky with where I live. Galway has a great music scene and the streets in town are full of bands, singers and performers. There is a really nice atmosphere. Ireland is mostly known for its Irish Traditional music and also Irish country music, which I also like. My main interest is more American Country, so it’s really cool working with people like Rex and musicians from Nashville where this type of music is originally from.
What was the inspiration behind the artwork for your debut self-titled release as Light Over There? Who did you work with to create it?
The artwork was done by Tracy Anderson of Alexandria, Minnesota. She is a well respected Minnesota portrait artist and has done several album art projects for me. The album cover shows silhouettes of Aileen and Rex with America and Ireland in the background. The idea was to show the two of us in different continents as the light over there.
What does 2015 hold in store for Light Over There? Do you have plans to tour together?
2015 has been really exciting so far. The album’s release date is St Patrick’s Day. We have been working with UK PR and USA PR to get the word out about the project and despite our far distances away from each other, we stay in close contact essentially every day. We have made a serious effort to get our music to commercial, non-commercial, college, and internet radio. We’ll see what happens. The studio musicians that played on the album are ready to play dates in Ireland if we can logistically make it work, so despite not having a tour schedule finalized, we’ll see what happens in the summer or early fall.
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