Q&A #11: Andrew Simple

“Andrew shares his journey as a musician, why his Gibson J-45 is his go-to guitar, and the effectiveness of sleep.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew! Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! I noticed you have a couple of lyric videos up on your YouTube Channel. Do you like doing them?

Andrew Simple: Yeah, I have some friends that are great at it, so any good ones are made by them. I’ve slung a couple together on iMovie after getting some requests, but you really want to do them right. After Effects, Final Cut, etc.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing, writing, and arranging?

AS: I started by wanting to write, and immediately learning the major and minor bar chords on the guitar and then just writing a bunch of songs based on that. I always recommend learning the bar form first, to get a quick win. It sounds good and is a formation you can easily just slide up and down the neck without too much thought.   It made guitar seem easier than in really is, but it kick started my writing.

As time went on, I gradually discovered more and about the guitar on my own. As far as arranging, I have been fascinated by the symphony orchestra since a young age, and that always gave me a good sense of the various elements that need to work together to create a piece of music. Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ probably was the most influential to me when I was quite young.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played, written, or arranged music before, so they could have the capacity to play, write, and arrange music at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AS: Since I have had such a piecemeal musical path, its hard to suss it all out and recommend it to someone. After a few years in the wild, playing in bands, and learning on my own, I did go to college and studied music academically. That helped with a lot of “aha” moments, especially the music theory.

I believe in an individualized plan of education across the board, so whatever the interest is, I say follow it hard however that might look. Music school isn’t for everyone, practicing isn’t for everyone, writing isn’t for everyone, etc.

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are now?

AS: This follows from the last question, and its discipline that is key.

If you follow the elements of music that you are interested in, study the greats in that field and soak it in, and then apply it. For me, it was breaking down the chord structures of Stevie Wonder, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, etc. And those artists all made really interesting arranging choices too, so learning from those artists was really important for me.

Guitar was the first “composition” instrument I used, and then I added piano when I couldn’t get all the voicings I wanted, which in turn lead me back to guitar to experiment with alternate tunings.

 

LL: Do you incorporate alternate tunings when you write?

AS: I like simply dropping the low E to a D. It allows me to get some richer inversions that I can play more easily on a piano.

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to put in time to practice?

AS: I think deadlines are the only thing that really gets me to finish something when I don’t feel like it. Rehearsing, practicing, etc. If I have a gig coming up where I need to learn new songs or something, just that fact alone forces me to put in the time. Recitals were the same way in college.

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

AS: Besides the above, maybe try to build on any knowledge you already have. If you are wanting to learn guitar, and you already know some piano or theory, I think drawing some basic threads together would be good. Such as noting how the guitar is tuned in 4ths, or how the frets are chromatic, like going key to key on a piano.

I also recommend just learning 2 chords so you can dive in and at least get through a song, like Do Wah Diddy or something. Having a quick win like that can fuel more wins, getting more challenging each time, and hopefully learning the theory along the way.

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

AS: My go-to guitar is my Gibson J-45. I like the Fishman Spectrum DI for live playing. As far as picks and strings, its Dunlop Tortex mediums and Curt Mangan light strings.

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

AS: Yes, it did. For instance, I settled on the Fishman DI for live playing, only after having an LR Baggs DI with a separate compressor, and since the Fishman was both a DI and a compressor, it helped lighten the load. You just make those tweaks all along the way. Settling on the guitar was the most significant thing. Once you play a guitar that really is inspiring to play, you just have to find a way to make it yours.

 

LL: With your Gibson J-45, do you think that what attracted you (and made you think: “I must make that mine!”) was the sound and feel?

AS: J-45’s are just a really nice, loud, balanced brand of guitar. They are famous for it. So when you pick one up for the first time, you go “oh, I see the light!”. But really, their strength, to me, is in their fullness in terms of EQ curve.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

AS: Just in swapping out bridges, and stuff like that, with my guitar guy in Nashville. Nothing major. I have some nice bone bridges on my guitars and ukes.

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

AS: I’ve written so many songs, I’ve had to use the tablet as a cheat sheet, I admit. Mental notes can fail you, haha!

 

LL: Were you just “fondly” recalling some gigs when you didn’t have some notes handy?

AS: If you play enough shows, eventually you will have times where you forget lyrics and get lost, etc. So at some point, it’s just nice to have a home base to look at so that you start verse 2 correctly coming out of a chorus for example. Also, once you right enough songs, its just harder and harder to keep them straight.

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

AS: I don’t think about it too much – I just start playing what I like in the green room or wherever – jamming, etc. You’ll get warm whether you want to or not. That way its not too structured and potentially stressful.

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

AS: I’m a singer-songwriter, so I rely on fairly basic picking strumming and I used finger-style on a few tunes, flesh, not nail. I am really choosy if I play any solo stuff – I leave the tearing it up stuff to my band.

 

LL: How about your voice? Did you have to put a lot of hours to get it to where it is now?

AS: My voice really just naturally developed. The hours were put in, but not consciously. Early on I was all over the place pitch wise and dynamically, but [it has] really evened out over the last 3 years or so.

 

 

LL: What are some misconceptions about you as a musician?

AS: I think, just in general, musicians get the classic bad rap as slackers or something like that. In my experience, musicians are some of the smartest cats around. Just not getting taken seriously when I was starting up years ago, but that’s to be expected, I suppose.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

AS: Playingwise, I feel like I’m fairly happy where I am. Honestly, I am always trying to find ways to condense, even just writing songs with two strings on the guitar.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

AS: I think bass is harder on the body that guitar, and maybe a padded strap is more important there. With acoustic guitar, I’ve never felt a need to use anything besides a basic strap. Just having good posture in general will spill over to playing music. Since I started on drums, posture was a huge factor in being able to play properly, so I’ve always been mindful of that.

 

LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

AS: I’m bad when it comes to putting my guitars away…they tend to lay about the room so I can grab them quickly. I get bummed out when I have to open a guitar case if I am wanting to play the guitar, haha. That sounds bad, but it’s true.  

All over my house are guitar stands and guitars in several rooms of the house so there is always something to grab. I’m not one of those that cares about keeping the guitars ding-free. Though there are cases, where that is in order. Otherwise, some lemon oil with a cloth up and down the fretboard is a good thing to do regularly for cleaning/conditioning.

 

 

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

AS: If you can, bulk buying for small stuff like strings and picks is wise.

 

LL: Your music has been used a number of times in ads — is that something you are constantly excited about?

AS: It’s a surprising twist in my musical journey – that my songs seem to work well for various film and TV applications. I love the exposure, and it’s just fun.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos? (Or it depends on when you think of something to share?)

AS: The latter

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

AS: I geek out about bird watching and philosophy/logic. That’s pretty bad.

 

LL: Are you still a big listener of music?

AS: I really don’t listen to much music these days. I’m creating it so much, there’s just not time. Maybe a couple times a week I will throw on an old record, but its mainly to zone out.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things

AS: I think just being in the music business, I hear all the new stuff from various sources naturally.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AS: I think films are heavily inspiring for me. Its such a rich art form, it stimulates on nearly every level.

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

AS: I don’t guess I focus on uniqueness per se. I just hope I naturally am “me”.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AS: I’m fairly reluctant about all of it.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AS: Sleep

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

AS: I collaborate all the time with other artists. It’s a big part of my world.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AS: I use technology out of necessity. Pro Tools is my go-to recording software on my Mac Pro.

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

AS: Always open to new things

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favorite?

AS: I like some of the live acoustic ones best probably. That was a fun concert.

 

 

 

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

AS: Sure, inspiring others to create is always great. I don’t know if there is a single message, but that’s certainly one of them. If they find something they like and that they can incorporate into their jam, all the better.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AS: I think just creating music, really. Basic as that!

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

AS: I think the mailing list does a good job of it

 

 

Andrew Simple is a singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville. You can check out his videos here and learn more about him here.

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014) between Andrew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nine) that would be a companion piece to Andrew’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #10: Sarah Goodreau

simple / mountains Illustration by: Sarah Goodreau

simple / mountains
Illustration by: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah shares her journey as an artist, the process she goes through when creating her drawings, and some of the reasons she absolutely adores her circle of friends.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. I noticed you also have a Tumblr page. Was there a specific reason you wanted to keep linking to it?

 

Sarah Goodreau: Hi! No problem at all, I’m very happy to do it!

 

I actually began blogging on Tumblr way back in 2008. So it’s quite ancient. When I moved everything over to my current website it felt a little sad to just abandon the old gal. So I’ve kept posting on and linking to her.

 

LL: The site transfer process (from Tumblr), was it as easy as just doing a few clicks?

 

SG: This was pretty easy because I did it the way you probably aren’t supposed to do it. I just started completely fresh with my website. So anything that is on my Tumblr that existed before my website is not featured.

 

Sketches Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sketches
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with drawing?

 

SG: My art has gotten to where it is very smoothly, actually. I try to draw everyday and as time passes it evolves more and more. As a kid I was always the quote/unquote artistic child. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I would get in trouble in school for drawing in my books.

When it came time for college I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and studied Illustration. There I learned all of the classic techniques and eventually settled on Ink as my method of choice.

Once I felt comfortable in both my style and technique I moved over to digital, while still creating as if I was holding a paintbrush. That is where I am now. In a few years? Who knows!

 

LL: When creating a drawing, which part takes the longest?

 

SG: I think I would have to say that the actual drawing part takes the longest. There isn’t anything that really takes too long, the sketch guides the final drawing and I always figure out the color palette before hand so things don’t get messy.

 

Ski Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Ski
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

 

LL: During your early days of learning, did you have a particular book that you found yourself referring to frequently?

 

SG: My first few years of training were all in classic art forms. Life drawing, still life’s, oil paintings, etc. So all my books were basically text books which was pretty boring. When I finally started taking illustration classes, I spent a lot of time in the children’s book section of the library. I’m not certain if i ever had one book that I referred to the most, though I do recall having a pretty serious Winsor McCay period.

As time went on I relied less and less on other peoples books and more and more on my own style and imagination.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never drawn before, so they could have the capacity to draw at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

SG: My journey has been a life long one, this is what I studied in school.

But I would have to say just draw every day. Try new techniques when you can, and if you find yourself gravitating towards a certain style you should explore that and train it. Like most things in life, that harder you work at it the better you will become.

 

Never Stop learning.

 

 

Sarah's Bookshelf Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah’s Bookshelf
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an artist?

SG: I think that I am in a very lucky position where what I do for a living is a true passion of mine. I never really have to fight with myself to want to do work.

 

LL: Where there times when you didn’t want to draw?

SG: There haven’t really been times when I didn’t want to draw. There have been unfortunate periods where I have a pretty severe creative block (kind of like a writers block). I tend to get one every few years.

It’s very stressful because I want to be creating, it just isn’t coming out. I just remain calm, remind myself that this has happened before and will happen again and wait until the spark comes back.

 

LL: How would you describe your generic set-up?

SG: I always carry a small notebook and a pencil. For work I use a little laptop and a Wacom Bamboo tablet. People are always surprised when they see my work computer. It’s actually quite small! My sketchbooks are tiny too. I guess I just like to work in small spaces.

 

 

 

 

Sarah's Workspace Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah’s Workspace
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

 

 

LL: How tiny is tiny?

SG: I have the 13 inch Macbook Pro, which was the smallest one I could get at the time. Do they make them smaller now?? I’ve never had a software issue, probably because I only use one or two programs on it. I like to keep things simple.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

SG: This kind of evolved naturally. When I used to favor ink and water colors, my desk was a mess of ink bottles and water cups, scraps of paper, knives, tape and paintbrushes. Now it is quite minimal: laptop, Wacom tablet, sketchbook.

 

 

LL: Description of your drawing style?

SG: My style is a little whimsical and a little dark. I like to try to add a little humor in there too. I keep things fairly simple and I think my color pallets reflect that as well. I aim for simple with just the right amount of detail.

 

Behind The Tree Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Behind The Tree
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to decide on the kind of header image you use for your site?

SG: I usually change these yearly! I like to keep my header close to what my current style is. While my style stays similar, I can see a definitive shift year to year. Just my illustrations growing I think. This current one was from earlier this year, I was going through a Sasquatch phase! This one is a Sasquatch doing calisthenics.

Though it’s nearly the end of this year, so it will be changing soon!

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting entries?

SG: I used to try to post everyday. Which was quite the undertaking. Then I noticed that I only liked about half of my illustrations when I was doing that, so I slowed down to 3 times a week. Quality vs. Quantity. Though, the schedule is never set in stone. Depending on what’s going on work wise, I will do more or less.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

SG: This is something that I am trying to get better at. Right now I answer emails and try to respond to questions on my blog.

 

 

LL: Do you have some questions that you find yourself answering multiple times?

SG: A lot of time people ask how I make an illustration or what programs I use. That is definitely the most asked question by far. Then a lot of the ‘what inspires you’ and ‘how do you think of what to draw next’.

I don’t mind answering them at all! Though I think I have crafted very streamlined answers over the years.

 

Fish Emotions Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Fish Emotions
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Can you share a bit of how some of your drawings came about?

SG: All the illustrations featured come from my little sketchbook (I don’t usually post illustrations that I get paid to do on my blog). The first thing I do in the morning is sketch in it. Drawings just come to me, I don’t like to think about them too much. So, I doodle a little drawing in the morning, do the final illustration in the afternoon, and then post it on my blog.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your drawings?

SG: I don’t really. Sometimes when I work on a book I will get a copy of that which is really, really, fun. But yea, I think the only time I have a copy of my work is when I’m going to gift it to someone.

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

SG: Right now I am learning how to Illustrate in a way that it can be translated into an animation. My boyfriend is a motion graphic artist and we work together a lot. We used to make a lot of stop motion animations using puppets I would make, but now we are moving onto 2D/3D animation. It’s really fun!!

 

My approach for learning really is to just never stop. Right now I am at a stage where I am pretty happy with my style, but I want to keep practicing and making it better and better.

 

Bird Watching Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Bird Watching
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

SG: This is a little weird but I love, love, love, concepting. I have such a great time coming up with ideas and figuring out how to bring them into fruition. Deciding if they should be a story or a drawing; an animation or an advert…

 

We like to host nights where we gather a bunch of friends at our apartment and we all talk about ideas that we have come up with and everyone helps to get them to where they need to be. Lots of fun.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

SG: I do listen to music! I have old soul music tastes though… I love the Talking Heads, Them, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Moondog, Elvis, Lee Moses. I have a stack of records with music from the 1920’s and 30’s that I love. But! A current artist that I am in love with is Future Islands.

 

I’m kind of the same with books. I’m making my way through the classics. I finished War & Peace last year and am now making my way through a few Hemingway’s and 100 Years of Solitude for the second time.

 

LL: What is it about ‘100 Years of Solitude’ that made you want to read it the second time?

 

SG: There is just something about the way that Gabriel García Márquez writes that is so inspiring to me, so I like to read and reread his work every so often. He really makes his characters with so much depth and there is always just a hint of magic in his worlds.

It’s kind of how I want my illustrations to be. Real and magical. It’s been a few years since I first read this particular book, so I just wanted to catch up with it again.

Books and Records Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Books and Records
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

SG: This modern world we live in, it’s impossible not to find new things daily. That internet is full of them. Plus just walking around the city, by the end of the day you will have a list of things you have written down to look in to.

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

SG: I often take a walk to get inspired. It’s nice to just walk and think. Also, having a conversation with a friend usually sparks something. I am lucky to have some very funny, weird, creative friends.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SG: I’m always reluctant about it. I’m not sure why but it makes me nervous. I once went 2 years without a telephone and I loved that.

I do realize that it is necessary though. It’s the best way to connect with others and show the world your art.

I do like Instagram. Most likely because it is easy to use.

 

LL: Which two years did you go without a phone?

SG: I got rid of my cellphone when I moved to the Netherlands. I planned on getting a new one once I had settled in but kept putting it off because I enjoyed not having a phone so much.

Eventually my boyfriend just gave me his old one! I think he thought it was getting a little ridiculous. I still don’t really use it, I actually couldn’t tell you where it is right now.

 

Flood Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Flood
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

I am starting to like Pinterest. I’m enjoying that you can manipulate it to only show you things you like, plus it can become a kind of one-stop shop for inspiring images. Then you only have to go to one website.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

SG: I don’t no. I always feel nervous about things like that.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

SG: I play with my dog! And sometimes have a glass of wine…

 

Potemkin Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Potemkin
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

SG: Definitely. I have collaborated with a few friends before and it is always a lot of fun.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

SG: I feel like I should be, but a lot of that goes over my head. Hah, I’m really showing how Tech-UN-Savvy I am.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the drawings you have, which one(s) would be your favourite(s)?

 

 

SG: Oh, that’s a hard one. It is often a recent one, as time goes on I tend to dislike my older drawings. Right now I like Little Freaks, Sunbathing At The End Of The Word, and Strong Man Vs. Wizard.

 

 

Strong man vs. Wizard Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Strong man vs. Wizard
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: What feeds your soul?

SG: Drawing.

 

LL: For someone watching a looking at your creations for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

SG: Mostly I just want them to think, “Oh thats cute, and funny…..and weird”. I want them to feel like there is a story behind the illustration, and for them to wonder what that could be.

 

 

Mini Bio: Sarah Goodreau is an illustrator currently based in London. You can also find her entries and illustrations here. See things with her eyes by checking her Instagram feed here (and more Potemkin!). Sarah also welcomes music and book suggestions.

 

Self-Portrait Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Self-Portrait
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September-October 2014) between Sarah and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Sarah that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Sarah the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nine) that would be a companion piece to Sarah’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.