Q: I love the massive sound in “Ingenue.” Can you tell me a little about
ARLO: I’ll take that as a massive compliment! I wrote this record while living in NYC, which was incredibly inspiring for a small-town Texas kid. I wanted there to be a soaring consistency to the hooks and dismounts. Several of the songs from the upcoming EP give you that big release from the go, and then sort of ask for forgiveness later. With Ingenue being the last track on the record, it was important to me that it maneuvers its way to a powerful and dramatic conclusion. Much like the relationship of the characters in the story, the song carries tension and uncertainty throughout the transitions. It needed to find its way home after an epic journey and realize all at once that something big had happened, and it was time to let go and accept that it was over. The story itself is centered around a lonely playwright and his story of the Ingenue. Rather than pursue his own desires he pens the story of her dreams. He places her far away from home in a vibrant city with marquee dreams and an innocent spirit. Although he knows he can never have her, he falls for her as he imagines the words he has written. His final words to her, “Never let them make you doubt your story, or Me, Ingenue…” indicates that he has hope she will discover him one day.
Q: There’s a very interesting mix of influences I could hear there. Did
you have a certain vision in your mind of what the song would sound
ARLO: Absolutely. I knew that it needed dramatic lead guitars, specifically slide or pedal steel. Something that felt nostalgic but also authentic. Like the final scene in a movie that pulled your heartstrings. I typically have an idea of how I want a song to feel before, and then it’s a matter of chasing it around until I figure out how to shape it. In this case, I used a classical guitar in the breaks to give it an endearing but lonely set up to the big choruses and then balanced that with a track of birdsongs to give it hope.
Q: How has your Texas root in play in your music?
ARLO: When I started writing songs as a kid I was heavily influenced by Texas blues. It was all about licks and chops. I had grown up listening to Motown and the Beatles, so somewhere along the way, I swiped the solos for hooky songs. Being born and raised in Texas somehow carries a southern slang that I never could shake, but was always here for anyways. I feel lucky to have been raised in a country gospel musical family, and I’m proud to be from Texas.
Q: How has your journey of music been? Was it smooth? What are some
challenges you faced?
ARLO: I have been fortunate to play/tour with some great musicians and writers over the years, but I wouldn’t call it smooth. Touring was lonely early in my career, and the road put miles on me. I had to take a step back in my mid-twenties and I don’t think I played my guitar for 4-5 years. For me, it was heartbreak that brought me back to songwriting. I needed to work through those emotions to understand the direction I wanted to go musically, and I found my voice along the way. I wanted to ensure that the sound was authentic, and the songs were honest. I started sending demos to my cousin/producer Eric Jarvis and we got to work in his Houston studio on the self-titled debut “arlo” record. I think it took us over a year to finish the collection of 10 songs that we released in 2018. I think one of the biggest challenges for me was posturing as a lead vocalist. I had always been the writer but not the frontman. Everyone can sing until you step up to a hot mic. It took some time and a few bombs to learn my voice and muster the courage to let it rip. At the end of the day, I think it’s the challenges that I ultimately write about. I’m not sure that there is much of anything that’s interesting about smooth or perfect, so I expect that there will be more to learn.
Q: What do you love about making music?
ARLO: So many things. For one, it’s free therapy. When I finish a song, I physically feel better and often for many days. Some might agree that I am a pretty sensitive and emotional person, so crafting art out of it all is just an incredibly healthy form of self-expression. I don’t feel as much of a need to explain myself or push too hard. There is an intriguing mystery to making art. The community of creating music is something that I just have never found anywhere else. Communicating with other players through dynamic vibrations and rhythm feels exclusive to a moment, so for me, these are often very fulfilling memories of the community. I remember feeling relieved when I released my first record. Like I existed in the world and if I left tomorrow it would carry on.
Q: Anything you are currently working on?
ARLO: I am preparing to release my second collection of songs which is a 6 song EP titled “Lonely Soldier.” “Ingenue” will be the last track of the thematic record that emotionally navigates its way around soaring guitars, colorful keys, and big drums. I’m really proud of it. Meanwhile, I am approaching the end of the writing cycle for the third record, which I hope to have done by end of summer. If all goes well I will track in the same Atlanta-based studio with my label friends from “Songs of the Architect” music collective.
Interviewed by Katrina Yang