The world is packed with stress, information overload and the hustle and bustle of daily life. With all of this going on, there are times when you just need a little calm and that is exactly what Todd Giles is here to offer with his album Old Trees. Using the metaphor of ancient trees and forests, he brings a wave of calming and relaxing energy perfect for a bit of meditation or reflection. We sat down with Todd Giles to talk about the calming album, working as a solo musician, influences and much more!
OSR: Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to make music?
Giles: As soon as I got my first guitar I was pretty hooked. That was around 12 years old.
OSR: You have recently released your debut album Old Trees. What prompted you to release the album now?
Giles: It was finished. Why wait? Maybe things will actually get worse. There’s no time like the present.
OSR: Is there a theme or backstory to the tracks on the album?
Giles: Well, for me it’s a sort of temperature check with my own existence. Things I observe, want to comment on. Thematically the world we live in and how we live in it individually and as a whole. Parenting is a topic, current political situations, how people meet the challenges of the routines they find themselves in.
My aim is to also make most of the songs open enough so that people can develop their own thoughts about them. Even the ones that are very specifically about something in my mind may not be and should not be so easy to detect. That’s asking a lot I know but that’s the dream. An “open” conversation from my brain to the listener’s brain.
OSR: You have previously released music with bands, how different was it creating your solo music?
Giles: a. My band is called The Union Ares. Melodic, loudish indie rock. The songwriting is similar actually. I write pretty solitarily. I enjoy that. With the band, I also love the second step, the presenting and developing of the ideas to the bands and making them a band possession with input from others. So it’s nice to have both avenues.
You can hear the band’s sound on our YouTube.
OSR: What would you say is the biggest influence on your music?
Giles: Just being alive I guess. I love too much music and it all gets processed into the mish-mash I end up producing. If I hear something I like I feel the need to be able to participate in it. That can take me in many directions musically.
I love Irish traditional music so I needed to learn how to play the fiddle which I do rather poorly. I love bluegrass so I also play the banjo, mandolin etc. Listening is not enough for me. All these things seep into the songs I write, more so in the solo stuff which is acoustically driven. You can’t listen to Tony Rice play the guitar and not want to investigate how he gets his sound. Not the notes he plays but the sound.
OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you recommend and why?
Giles: Hmm, either the first or the last I guess. I’ll say the last song, ‘The Collector’. All my records have 10 songs or should (laughs). ‘The Collector’ is a nice wrap up for the record as a whole. Abstract. Melancholy yet its intent is to root on the underdogs among us.
OSR: You have released the album digitally, but there is also a vinyl pressing. Why did you choose this medium as well?
Giles: I guess because I’m old and I think there is a romance in permanence. Digital media is everywhere and empty all at once. I tried to make this vinyl pressing beautiful. It opens and looks cool. Erik Mugira did the technical art development because I have no skills there and he did a great job.
OSR: If your music were a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would it be and why?
Giles: Ok. The term Raw Umber sprang to mind so I googled it. I’ll go with that. A very mellow colour, it would fit in with the colour scheme of the record nicely.
OSR: There are a lot of calm feelings in the album, is this what you were looking to achieve when recording?
Giles: Yes, for sure. Thanks for hearing that! Was I going for that? Not sure but I’m glad it’s what comes out. I can be a bit high strung but when I play music that goes away most of the time and I do strive to create a mellow sort of power. Not power that is created by hitting something over the head with obviousness, but subtleness.
My music is meant to be listened to. It’s not fun per se. So there’s probably not a large group of people willing to buy into what I’m making. I’ll have to be ok with that. Pop culture makes me uneasy. It’s cliched, commercial, ego-driven emptiness. Seems to be what we’ve become as a societal whole if you look at the larger sample. That’s a shame but I will not be part of that.
OSR: What else can we expect from you this year?
Giles: Well I stay as busy as I can. The older I get the more ideas I try to get out there. This year the Union Ares will hopefully record our second full-length album. The very next thing will be me recording the Bach cello suite in G major on the mandolin and making a movie to accompany it. As I said, if I get something in my head it’s not enough to just listen to it. My daughter started the cello and my wife bought the music for the 6 cello suites BWV 1007-1012. I’ve been working on these for the last years. I want to work them all up to presenting speed (laughs). It’s another tangent that I tossed myself into. Let’s see. This project will take me quite a while.
People can stay in touch via the website for the band which I use to update all the things I do. Or follow the band on Facebook. Which I predictably hate as well but anyway. It’s better than Instagram which I just don’t get. I didn’t call my record label Old Man Giles for nothing. ?