Saturday, January 6, 2024

Songs of the Shieldmaiden - Chapter 12: The Mountain Pass


Chapter 12: The Mountain Pass

The journey of Einar, Astrid, and Lysa led them to the daunting heights of a mountain pass, where the wind howled like ancient spirits and the snow lay thick upon the ground. The path, once clear, was now a treacherous trail, winding up through the craggy peaks shrouded in a perpetual cloak of white.

As they trudged through the deep snow, each step was a battle against the biting cold and the blustering wind. Einar's lute was safely tucked away, protected from the harsh elements, while Astrid led the way, her sword serving more as a walking stick against the slippery terrain.

Lysa, her breath forming clouds of mist in the frosty air, glanced around. "This mountain is testing us, in more ways than one. But it's also strengthening us."

Astrid, her face reddened by the cold, nodded in agreement. "Hardship molds character. We'll emerge from this pass stronger than we entered."

Their progress was slow and arduous, but their spirits remained unbroken, fortified by their shared resolve. It was during one particularly difficult stretch that they heard a faint cry, almost lost in the wind.

Following the sound, they found a traveler, half-buried in the snow, his energy sapped by the cold. Without hesitation, they worked together to free him, wrapping him in cloaks and sharing their warmth.

As they huddled together, the traveler, a young man named Halvar, told them he had been attempting to cross the pass to reach his family in a village on the other side. He had underestimated the mountain's fury.

Einar, ever the compassionate soul, assured him, "You're with us now, Halvar. We'll see you safely to your family."

That night, they made camp in a sheltered nook, the fire a small beacon of warmth in the cold darkness. As they sat around the flames, Lysa brought up the topic of their future endeavors. "Once we're through this pass, there will be new challenges. We need to think about how we approach each situation, not just as fighters or bards, but as diplomats, as peacemakers."

Einar, his fingers itching for his lute, replied, "True, but let's not forget the power of a good song. Music can bridge gaps that words alone cannot."

Astrid, tending to the fire, added, "And when diplomacy fails, remember, I'm always ready with my sword."

The mood lightened, and Einar, sensing the need for a lift in spirits, carefully brought out his lute. "I think this is a perfect time for a song. A new one I've been working on, inspired by our journey."

The melody he played was soft and haunting, echoing the solitude of the mountains but also the warmth of their companionship. The song, "The Ballad of the Mountain Pass," spoke of their struggles against nature's might and the unyielding courage they found within themselves.

Halvar, listening to the song, felt a surge of gratitude and hope. He had been lost and alone, but now he was part of a story, a tale of resilience and friendship.

As Einar's song filled the mountain pass, weaving through the snow-laden trees, the group felt a renewed sense of purpose. They were more than just travelers; they were a band of souls connected by a shared journey, each bringing their strengths to bear against the challenges of the world.

The night passed with stories and laughter, the warmth of the fire fending off the chill of the mountains. They slept soundly, knowing that together, they could face any obstacle the journey threw their way. The Ballad of Blade and Song was not just a tale of adventure; it was a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Friday, January 5, 2024

Harmonizing Passions: The Evolution of Calvin Ramsey and the Two Roads Music Podcast


"Two Roads Music Podcast" by Calvin Ramsey is a heartening story of passion and perseverance in the world of music. Calvin Ramsey, a 32-year-old married man, traces his love for music back to his childhood, surrounded by the eclectic tastes of his family. His mother's fondness for Paul McCartney and Wings, and his father's diverse playlist ranging from Led Zeppelin to James Taylor, laid the foundation for his musical inclinations. The turning point came during his middle school years when his cousin Kirk introduced him to indie music, a genre that opened a new horizon of musical exploration for him.

Living in a small rural town in southern Missouri, Calvin didn't find many who shared his newfound interest. This isolation, coupled with his enthusiasm for discussing music and bands, led him to create a blog. The blog, started as a platform for sharing his musical discoveries and fostering discussions, accompanied him into his college years. However, the demands of working two jobs and full-time studies eventually led to the blog's demise.

A decade later, Calvin's passion for music hadn't waned, but the avenues for sharing and discussing it had. Craving a project to pour his heart into, he contemplated various ideas before settling on a podcast. The concept was to create a radio-like show featuring a diverse range of music. Despite initial reservations about music rights and licensing, he drew inspiration from Nardwuar the Human Serviette, a figure known for his bold and unconventional interviews. Nardwuar's approach of simply asking for what he wanted encouraged Calvin to do the same. He reached out to bands and labels for permission to use their music and was heartened by the positive responses he received, with many agreeing under the condition that the podcast remains non-commercial.

Calvin's passion for music was ignited by his parents' love for Classic Rock and expanded through his cousin's introduction to indie music. His small Missouri town's pop-dominated scene changed when he shared indie music with friends. Calvin's music blog, though short-lived due to college and work pressures, evolved into the "Two Roads Music Podcast." Influenced by Nardwuar, he focuses on authentic representation and securing music rights with respect for artists. The podcast, prioritizing personal enjoyment in music selection, has broadened his musical exposure and reignited his passion for discussing music. Calvin advises aspiring music project starters to dive in, welcome feedback, and respect musicians.

Calvin's journey with the "Two Roads Music Podcast" is not just about sharing music but also about discovering new tunes. His podcast has become a conduit for his continued exploration of the music world. Unmotivated by profit, Calvin's venture is a testament to his love for music and his desire to create a space for music enthusiasts to discover and enjoy diverse sounds. The "Two Roads Music Podcast" stands as a vibrant, community-driven platform, embodying Calvin Ramsey's lifelong journey with music and his dedication to sharing it with the world.

The Interview

Calvin, can you share more about your earliest musical memories and how they influenced your passion for music?

-Both of my parents were avid listeners of Classic Rock: ZZ Top, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Santana... both of them have a wide variety of interests in music and 

always had music playing. Led Zeppelin is still, to this day, my favorite band, which may seem strange from someone who is so into "indie" music. But they were a staple of my childhood.

I also was big into Green Day, Simple Plan, and at one point in Elementary School I was a huge fan of NSYNC. 

What was it about indie music that captivated you so deeply when you were first introduced to it in middle school?

-It's funny you ask this because I was recently reflecting on this very question.

I want to say "Pictures in an Exhibition" by Deathcab for Cutie was my first exposure to "indie" music. My cousin Kirk told me to check them out (as well as Postal Service).

It was a much more light version of Rock and the production was more lo-fi (?). I just remember how less "produced" the track sounded and it was odd to me. But I liked it. And I wanted to hear more. 

Before then everything I would listen to was music you would hear on the radio, television, etc, you know, high production, super polished mixes. 

Can you describe the music scene in your small rural town in southern Missouri and how it shaped your musical journey?

-The music scene where I grew up was pretty much all radio/pop hits. Not many individuals exploring music outside of what was on the radio. 

Kirk (my cousin) kind of sent off a ripple effect when he showed me indie music. I went on to tell my friends and then we all started diving in and exploring more indie bands.

We would come to school and share new bands, mix cds with each other with new bands that we found. But I honestly don't think we would have been discussing any of that music, had it not been for Kirk. I was just the messenger after the fact. 

What led you to start a music blog, and what were your initial goals for this platform?

-I just wanted to share music and talk about it. One of the best feelings is when you tell someone about music and they come back to you saying "That was incredible I love it"! Or vice versa. 

When people show me new music and I like it I have the urge to just gush out gratitude to them for showing me. 

How did you manage to balance your blog with the demanding schedule of working two jobs and attending college full-time?

-Well, I really wasn't able to do it. The blog didn't last once I went full time at college. My posts started getting shorter and less effort was put into them. So, I finally just had to end it. 

I enjoyed it while it lasted though. It wasn't wildly successful by any means, but it was still a fun creative outlet. 

Reflecting on the transition from your blog to the "Two Roads Music Podcast", what were some of the key lessons or insights you gained?

-It's been so long since that blog that it's a little hard to tell at this point. I guess now since my voice is on this thing, I feel a little more vulnerable and have higher expectations to really make sure what I'm saying about the music/bands/creators is correct. The last thing I want to do is misrepresent a band/artist's music.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting the podcast, especially regarding music rights and licensing?

-This was the most terrifying part about starting the pod. I thought of trying different formats but none of them seemed like they would work without actually having the music to play. I guess the biggest challenge is 

finding the right people to reach out to for permission. I've had to do some extensive digging on some of the songs I've used to request permission.

How did Nardwuar the Human Serviette's approach inspire you in your quest to secure music for your podcast?

-This was huge for me. I mean, that dude has interviewed everyone from King Gizzard to Seth Rogan to Snoop Dog. He said it plainly in his Ted did he get the interview?? "I asked"! He just asked them. And it worked!

So I figured I would do the same thing. Find a band and just...ask them if I can use their music. Big shout out to Nardwuar. 

Could you elaborate on the process of reaching out to bands and labels for permission to use their music?

-Usually I try to start with the label that songs were put out on (if they came out on a label) and ask them, through email, to use specific songs. The first one I was granted was from Deep Elm Records (shout out to Deep Elm) who let me use an AppleSeed Cast song. I also reached out to Chris Crisci (main person behind Appleseed Cast) and he was cool with it. I've had some labels say that it would cost to use their music and I've had other labels tell me I could use anything I wanted from their catalogue! I completely understand labels requiring a fee to use the music. I really do. And I have no hard feelings towards that. These are bands/individuals who have spent hours pouring time and money into their music. So it's a lot to ask to use music for free. I absolutely think they deserve the money.

How do you select the music featured in your podcast, and what criteria do you use to ensure variety and quality?

-My first rule about this is that I have to like the song/music. I want to be passionate and excited about the music I play. There are no boundaries to the music/genres that I will use. Hell, I'll even play country music if it sounds good.

That's another thing I seek to explore with this podcast; expanding musical interests, challenging people (and myself!) to drop their guardrails and give new styles a try. I used to be one of those people who would say "I'll listen to anything but country". Which I think is a little ignorant. Later on I found myself enjoying country music (some). So I want to try and help people do the same thing with their own musical interests. 

In what ways has the podcast allowed you to discover new music, and how has this influenced your personal musical taste?

-I've had many great bands reach out to me. A lot of killer solo projects and bands trying to get their sound out. One of my favorites so far has been this psychedelic, post-punk band called Gonies, from Cincinnati. 

It has been refreshing because ever since I stopped that blog, it has been a little hard to find good new music. So now I'm having to really dig and seek out new stuff. And I've found a lot of cool new stuff.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running the "Two Roads Music Podcast"?

-Overall just talking about music again. I've missed it. And I've learned a bunch of cool stuff about bands I've listened to for years that I didn't know. I've had some good feedback too from some listeners, always nice to hear that.

How do you envision the future of your podcast, and are there any new directions or ideas you're excited to explore?

-Hmmmm, I'm not sure I've thought that far ahead. I guess it would be cool to maybe start doing some interviews somehow with some of the artists and incorporating that into the show.

Could you share a memorable moment or interaction that occurred as a result of your podcast?

-Talking directly (even though it was only through email) with Chris Crisci (Appleseed Cast) was cool. I've been a huge fan of him and his music since the inception of my "indie" music interests (this was another Kirk recommendation). 

Honestly, hearing responses from the bands that I've reached out to has been kind of a trip. They took time to reply back to me and that means a lot.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to start their own music-based project or podcast?

-Take Nardwuar's advice and just do it! Jump right in and give it a shot. And stick with it, allow yourself to hear feedback (good and bad), and be able to adapt. 

Also, if it's music-based, I would suggest having a deep sense of respect for the musicians and their time.

Two Roads Music Podcast Socials


The Bandcamp-Songtradr Acquisition: A Turning Point for Independent Music



The acquisition of Bandcamp by Songtradr, announced in September 2023, has sent ripples throughout the independent music community. This move has brought to the forefront several critical issues, including the future of independent music platforms, the business realities of the music industry, and the implications for artists and employees alike.

Bandcamp's Unique Position in the Music Industry

Bandcamp has long been revered as a bastion for independent artists. With its artist-friendly policies, it stood out as a platform where fans could directly support and discover new music. This community-oriented approach fostered a thriving ecosystem for musicians off the mainstream path, making the platform a beloved fixture in the indie music landscape.

The Acquisition and Its Immediate Aftermath

The acquisition by Songtradr, a business-to-business music licensing company, marked a significant shift in Bandcamp's trajectory. The immediate consequence was the layoff of approximately 50% of Bandcamp's workforce, a move that sparked outrage and disappointment among the affected employees and the broader music community. Many viewed this as a betrayal of the assurances given about the continuity of Bandcamp's operations post-acquisition.

Impact on Artists and the Music Community

The response from the artist community has been mixed, with both concerns and hopes being voiced. On the one hand, there is apprehension about the potential mandatory distribution through Songtradr's network and a shift away from Bandcamp's artist-first approach. On the other hand, there is optimism about new opportunities for licensing income and broader exposure for artists' work, given Songtradr's extensive licensing network.

Songtradr's Vision and Promises

Despite the layoffs, Songtradr has expressed its intention to retain key Bandcamp initiatives like Bandcamp Fridays and to introduce new licensing opportunities for artists. The company's vision is to integrate Bandcamp's artist-centric model with its own licensing expertise, potentially opening lucrative avenues for artists in terms of licensing their music for ads, TV shows, and more.

The Road Ahead: Uncertainty and Opportunity

The future of Bandcamp under Songtradr's ownership remains uncertain. While the acquisition has the potential to expand Bandcamp artists' reach and revenue, it also raises questions about the platform's commitment to its foundational ethos. As the music community closely watches these developments, it is clear that the outcome of this acquisition will significantly influence the landscape of independent music.


The Bandcamp-Songtradr acquisition represents a pivotal moment in the world of independent music. It highlights the delicate balance between maintaining an artist-first ethos and navigating the realities of the business world. As the situation unfolds, the music industry, particularly the independent sector, will likely experience a period of significant change and adaptation.

Why did the original owner of Bandcamp sell to Epic Games?

The sale of Bandcamp to Epic Games, before its eventual acquisition by Songtradr, was influenced by several factors:

Epic's Offer: Epic Games likely made an offer that was substantial enough to attract the attention of Bandcamp's leadership. Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp's CEO, had previously turned down significant offers, indicating that the offer from Epic was particularly compelling, both financially and possibly in other respects.

Pandemic Impact and Infrastructure Needs: Bandcamp experienced a surge in usage during the pandemic, as artists increasingly relied on the platform for income due to lost tour revenue. This surge highlighted the need for robust backend infrastructure to handle increased traffic and transactions. The sale to Epic may have been motivated by the need for greater resources and technical expertise to manage this growth and the associated technical challenges.

Epic's Experience and Vision: Epic Games is known for its expertise in building massive online communities, as evidenced by the success of Fortnite. This expertise, along with Epic's forays into integrating music and artists into its games, suggested potential synergies and opportunities for Bandcamp under Epic's stewardship. Epic's experience in online community building and e-commerce could have been seen as beneficial for Bandcamp's growth and evolution.

Consideration for Artists: An important aspect of the sale was how it would affect artist revenue and the platform's commitment to its artists. With a track record of ensuring a high percentage of revenue went directly to artists, the sale to Epic may have been viewed as a way to maintain or enhance this commitment while expanding opportunities for artists on the platform.

In summary, the decision to sell Bandcamp to Epic Games was likely driven by a combination of a compelling offer from Epic, the need for enhanced technical infrastructure to support Bandcamp's growth, potential synergies with Epic's expertise in online communities and music integration, and a commitment to maintaining or improving the platform's support for artists.

Changes in 2024 to Songtradr

In 2024, Songtradr has significantly evolved and expanded its operations. Key changes and developments include:

Platform Expansion: Songtradr has focused on building an ever-expanding platform and portfolio of solutions to address various music-related challenges faced by businesses and digital platforms. This expansion aims to simplify the process of accessing and licensing music for a wide range of industries worldwide​​.

Acquisitions and Integrations: Over the past few years, Songtradr has acquired and integrated eight different companies, each contributing to a unique aspect of its growing platform. These acquisitions have enabled Songtradr to offer a more comprehensive range of services, including music licensing, AI metadata and music search, original music development, and creative agency capabilities​​.

Acquisition of 7digital: In March 2023, Songtradr acquired 7digital, a B2B music tech company. This acquisition is particularly significant as 7digital specializes in music delivery and content management. Integrating 7digital's capabilities allows Songtradr to offer complete end-to-end solutions for digital platforms and brands, enhancing their ability to create and execute music experiences​​.

In 2024, Songtradr significantly expanded its operations. Key developments include the expansion of its platform to simplify music access and licensing for various industries, the strategic acquisition and integration of eight companies to enhance its service offerings in areas such as music licensing, AI metadata, and creative agency capabilities, and notably, the acquisition of 7digital, a B2B music tech company specializing in music delivery and content management. This acquisition has enabled Songtradr to provide end-to-end solutions for digital platforms and brands, enhancing their ability to create comprehensive music experiences.

Songs if the Shieldmaiden - Chapter 11: The Journey Continues


Chapter 11: The Journey Continues

As the newly formed trio of Einar, Astrid, and Lysa ventured once again onto the open road, the world seemed to stretch out before them with endless possibilities. The path, lined with trees that whispered tales of ancient times, felt like an old friend welcoming them back to the journey.

Einar, strumming his lute as they walked, was already composing a new ballad. This one celebrated not only their recent victory but also the path ahead, a song of adventures yet to come. The melody was uplifting, filled with the promise of hope and new beginnings.

Astrid, her eyes on the horizon, felt a sense of peace she hadn't known before. "We've changed the course of a town's destiny," she said, her voice reflecting a mix of pride and contemplation. "It makes me wonder how many other places need someone to stand up for them."

Lysa, walking beside her, nodded. "There are many. And with each place we visit, we'll leave a mark, a change for the better. Our actions have ripples, like stones thrown into a still pond."

Einar looked up from his lute, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Each town, each person we help, becomes a part of our story, a verse in our ever-growing ballad. But it's not just about the fights we win. It's about the hope we instill, the courage we inspire."

The conversation turned to their future plans. "We should map out our route, consider where our help might be needed most," suggested Lysa. "There are rumors of a village to the north, suffering under the rule of a corrupt official."

Astrid nodded. "Then north we shall go. But let's also keep our ears open to the whispers of the road. Sometimes the most urgent pleas for help are the ones spoken in silence."

Einar's fingers danced on the strings of his lute, weaving their words into his music. "The Ballad of Blade and Song, a tale of courage, wisdom, and change. We're not just wanderers; we're storytellers, change-makers."

As they continued their journey, the landscape changing around them, their bond grew stronger. They shared stories of their pasts, dreams of their futures, and laughed together at the absurdities of life. Lysa, new to the life of a wanderer, found herself adapting to the rhythm of the road, her strategic mind balancing Einar's whimsical nature and Astrid's pragmatic approach.

The sun began to set, casting a golden glow over the land. Einar suggested they make camp for the night. As they sat around the campfire, Einar performed the new ballad he had been composing. The song, "The Road Ahead," spoke of their triumphs, their hopes, and the unbreakable bond they shared.

Astrid, listening to the song, felt a sense of belonging. This journey, she realized, was about more than righting wrongs. It was about finding a family in the most unlikely of places.

Lysa, gazing into the flames, smiled to herself. Joining Einar and Astrid was the best decision she had ever made. She was no longer just a former advisor; she was part of something greater, a force for good in a world that so desperately needed it.

As the fire crackled and the stars twinkled above, they fell asleep to the sound of Einar's lute, each dreaming of the adventures that awaited them on the road ahead. The Ballad of Blade and Song was more than a tale; it was a legacy they were building together, one journey at a time.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Songs of the Shieldmaiden - Chapter 10: Victory's Aftermath


Chapter 10: Victory's Aftermath

In the heart of Hrafnfell, now a town liberated from the clutches of tyranny, the air was filled with the sounds of celebration. Banners fluttered in the breeze, music filled the streets, and the townsfolk, their faces alight with joy and relief, gathered in the square where the oppressive rule of Jarl Hrogar had come to an end.

At the center of it all were Einar, Astrid, and the newest member of their fellowship, Lysa. They were hailed as heroes, the liberators of Hrafnfell, and the embodiment of the change the town had longed for.

Einar, with his lute in hand, played lively tunes, each note a testament to the triumph of the people. His songs told the tale of their struggle, the courage of Astrid, and the wisdom of Lysa, weaving the events into melodies that would be remembered for generations.

Astrid, who had always been more comfortable on the battlefield than in celebrations, found herself smiling and laughing with the townsfolk, her earlier stoicism replaced by a warmth kindled by their gratitude and admiration.

Lysa, standing beside them, her eyes shining with pride and happiness, felt a sense of belonging she hadn't known she was missing. "I never imagined being part of something so... incredible," she said to Astrid and Einar. "You've not only changed Hrafnfell but me as well."

Einar chuckled, "Well, Lysa, every great ballad needs a twist, and you are ours. Your knowledge and insight will be invaluable on our journeys. Songs of the Shieldmaiden is lucky to have you."

Astrid nodded in agreement. "And we'll need your help more than ever. We've made enemies today, powerful ones. Your strategies will help keep us one step ahead."

Lysa's expression turned thoughtful. "I can help gather information, plan our routes, and perhaps even teach you some of the finer points of politics and diplomacy."

"Diplomacy," Einar mused with a grin. "That's a battlefield I'm less familiar with. I'll stick to my lute and leave the talking to you two."

Astrid laughed. "Don't sell yourself short, Einar. Your songs have more power than most speeches."

As the celebration continued around them, the trio discussed their future plans. The overthrow of Jarl Hrogar was just the beginning of their quest to uphold justice. There were more towns and more people in need of their unique brand of heroism.

"You know," Einar said, his eyes twinkling with excitement, "our next destination might be even more challenging. But with Lysa's help, I think we're ready for anything."

Lysa smiled, her confidence bolstered by their faith in her. "Wherever we go, whatever we face, we'll do it together. And I'll make sure our strategies are as sharp as Astrid's sword and your wit, Einar."

The townsfolk gathered around them, sharing stories and expressing their gratitude. Einar's music continued to fill the air, a soundtrack to their joy and newfound hope. Astrid, who had always found her purpose in battle, discovered a new sense of fulfillment in the smiles and laughter of the people they had saved.

As night fell on the liberated town of Hrafnfell, the stars shining brightly above, the Songs of the Shieldmaiden, now a trio, looked towards the future. Their journey was far from over, but they were ready for whatever lay ahead, united by their shared commitment to justice and the bonds of friendship they had forged. The tale of their adventures was just beginning, and it promised to be an epic one.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Exploring the Melodic Journey of Salme Dahlstrom: From Bedroom Studio to Music Licensing Royalty



Salme Dahlstrom, a dynamic figure in the contemporary music scene, has earned the title of 'music licensing queen' from The Wall Street Journal. Her journey from a passionate musician to a prominent figure in music licensing is a story of resilience, innovation, and artistic evolution. This article delves into Dahlstrom's career, her musical influences, her creative process, and the impact of her work in the music industry.

Career Journey and Influences

Dahlstrom's musical journey echoes the experiences of many artists, beginning with songwriting, band formation, and live performances. The collapse of the major label system in the early 2000s became a turning point in her career. It led her to explore music licensing, culminating in the creation of “The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade.” This album's eclectic mix of sounds and styles caught the attention of music licensing agents and catapulted her into success, with her tracks being featured in advertisements for major brands. Dahlstrom’s style, influenced by Swedish pop, 80s metal, and icons like Cher, combines diverse genres into a unique electronic pop sound.

Creative Process

Dahlstrom’s creative mantra revolves around the power of hooks. Her process involves creating multi-layered hooks with a blend of funkiness and unpredictability. As a self-sufficient artist, she handles most production aspects, from programming to mixing, which, while time-consuming, allows her full creative control over her work. This approach has led to the creation of catchy, commercially appealing tracks.

Success Stories

The success of Dahlstrom's track 'C’mon Y’All' is a testament to her ability to connect with a wide audience. Her music's inclusion in major ad campaigns and on the Billboard Dance Chart highlights the commercial and artistic appeal of her work. Dahlstrom’s experience in custom music production for clients presents unique challenges but also opportunities for creative interpretation and innovation.

Collaborations and Projects

Dahlstrom values collaboration, especially with vocalists, as it brings new dimensions to her music. Her project 'The Hit House Featuring Salme Dahlstrom' showcases this, featuring a diverse range of vocal talents. She acknowledges the unique challenges and rewards of working with children and animals, indicating a versatile approach to music production.

Personal Insights and Inspirations

Outside of music, Dahlstrom draws inspiration from her love for Cher and the New York Rangers hockey team. These passions influence her music and public persona, contributing to a fun, outgoing, and resilient image. Her belief in the fun-loving nature of blondes is reflected in her music's energetic and uplifting spirit.

Future Plans

With new music slated for 2024, Dahlstrom plans to continue evolving her style, integrating new sounds like the sitar into dance tracks. Her commitment to staying ahead of the curve in the constantly evolving music industry involves exploring new genres and technologies.

Latest Album "Fabulous"

Dahlstrom's latest album, 'Fabulous', has been well-received, marking her foray into electro swing with a dance floor vibe. This album reflects her artistic vision, blending swing-era sounds with modern electronic music. The album's standout track, 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be', resonates with listeners due to its catchy swing loop and fun melody, influenced by 80s pop icons.

Impact and Reception

The positive reception of 'Fabulous' and 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be' has influenced Dahlstrom's perspective on her music and career. She intends to delve deeper into electro-swing, capitalizing on its growing popularity. While no immediate plans for music videos exist, she is open to the idea and exploring touring options to promote her album.

Reflections and Future Directions

Reflecting on her journey, Dahlstrom emphasizes her commitment to trying new things and not being confined to a specific genre. Her future in music is open-ended, with plans to explore diverse styles and themes, driven by curiosity and a passion for innovation.


Salme Dahlstrom's journey in the music industry highlights the importance of adaptability, creativity, and resilience. From navigating the challenges of a changing industry to embracing the world of music licensing, her story is an inspiring example of artistic evolution and success.

Career Journey and Influences:

You've been dubbed the 'music licensing queen' by The Wall Street Journal. Could you share more about your journey in the music industry and how you developed your unique approach to music licensing?

I started out like lots of musicians do; I wrote songs, put together bands and played live, signed management and publishing deals, got shopped around to the record labels, signed a few record deals, recorded and toured. Then when the entire major label system collapsed in the early 2000s, I was left a little lost; I had put together a small studio in my apartment in The East Village in New York City and Indecided at that time to record some music just for me, letting go of trying to fit into a certain genre or format but instead doing whatever sounded good. I borrowed and stole ideas and sounds from all over the musical spectrum. The result was “The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade”. I posted some songs on the internet; I think the sites that were popular at the time were and Garageband and one day I got a call from a music licensing agent. He said my sound was a perfect fit for tv ads and movies etc. and there was money to be made here. At that time the only thing I knew about music licensing was big artists like Madonna doing Pepsi ads but I thought “What do I have to lose?” and so we started working together and shortly thereafter he had placed one of my songs in a tv show. And that was just the beginning. Soon enough ad agencies discovered my album and my songs landed in tv commercials for brands such as Suave, CoverGirl and Suzuki. Every song off of “The Acid Cowgirl…” got licensed and The Wall Street Journal took notice and crowned me Licensing Queen.

It was not how I thought my music career would develop but here I am 15+ years later still an artist making albums and licensing music and producing custom music for ad agencies and music libraries and making a good living at it. It’s a good life.

Who were your major musical influences growing up, and how have they shaped your style as the 'electronic pop goddess' you're known for today?

I grew up on Swedish pop, 80s metal, and Cher. Sweden is known for their strong pop sense and growing up there I was surrounded by great pop songs and songwriters.

Combine that with the stadium-sized sound and bombastic nature of 80s metal and you pretty much have my sound. The electronic aspect came later when I got into programming, playing with samples and beats. The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim were big electronic music influences for me. And then there’s Cher – I saw her on TV and thought she was coolness and star power personified. When I started developing my artist persona she was a strong influence along with Paul Stanley of KISS and Prince.


Creative Process:

Your music is known for being funky, hooky, and fun. Can you walk us through your creative process for composing a track that's both catchy and commercially appealing?"

You can never have too many hooks in a song, that’s my motto. It comes naturally to me going back to growing up in Sweden where you’d find hooky melodies in every song regardless of genre. When I produce a song I am thinking hooks all the way, all the instruments working together with the vocals to create multiple hooks throughout the song. In addition, I like music that is funky, a little unpredictable and fun to listen to. So that’s what I aim for with every song that I make. Sometimes I make a track first and then write the melody and lyrics, other times I’ll have written the hook or some piece of the song and I build a track around that. It all depends. I always set out to write not just a song but a hit. It takes the same amount of time so why not aim for the big one every time.

You mentioned loving the control that comes from being self-contained in your music production. How does playing multiple roles (producer, instrumentalist, singer, etc.) impact your creative process?

It makes it a very slow process   – Doing most everything myself - I program, play most of the instruments, sing, write, produce and mix my tracks – it is time-consuming but I love when it all comes together and I am sitting with the final mix. It’s very fulfilling to know “I made that!”.

Success Stories:

Your track 'C’mon Y’All' not only climbed the Billboard Dance Chart but also featured in major ad campaigns. What was it like seeing your music gain such widespread recognition?

It was a wild ride, it’s a high you want to achieve over and over again. It gave me confirmation that the music I was dreaming up in my bedroom studio in NYC was good and that people could relate and connect to it. It’s an absolutely awesome feeling to know that a kid in Ohio or Tokyo or London is listening to my song and feeling it. And the “C’mon Y’All” ride is far from over, just the other day I got another request to license it for an ad campaign.

Can you share a memorable story from working on a particularly successful or challenging music licensing deal?

The most challenging jobs are doing custom work. My job then is to create something very specific that the client (usually ad agencies) wants and not necessarily what I think works best or what I like. They hired me because they like my sound and style but there’s plenty of room for different likes and opinions and that can at times get challenging. How do you interpret “We’d like it more lemony”  .


A fun project I worked on was the remake of the famous (or for some people infamous) “Wanta Fanta” song. A few years ago Fanta was launching a mango-flavored Fanta and wanted me to re-imagine the original track with modified lyrics to feature the new product. I worked with my friend and pop singer extraordinaire Amber Skyes on the project. Emersing ourselves completely in “The Fantanas” wild girls image we killed it. The ad ran for a few years and “The Fantanas” were once again alive and kicking ass.

Collaborations and Projects:

Your release, 'The Hit House Featuring Salme Dahlstrom,' involves collaborations with several vocalists. How do you choose collaborators, and what do you look for in a collaborative partner?

I love it whenever I get the chance to collaborate with other musicians especially vocalists. The vocals are such an important part of any production and every voice is unique. So having the opportunity to work with vocalists who sound vastly different from me adds a dimension to my music I couldn’t otherwise create. Anyone who can bring something to the table that I can’t do myself I love collaborating with. They have to be great at it of course, that goes without saying. In regards to The Hit House release that was something me and the label discussed and agreed upon early in the process, we both wanted a lot of different voices on the album. That album features gospel, r’n b, pop and rap vocals as well as kids.

You've worked with children and animals for your recent project. What unique challenges and rewards came from these experiences?

Let's just say I am not gunning to do it again anytime soon

Personal Insights and Inspirations:

You've mentioned your love for #cher and #nyrangers hockey. How do these passions outside of music influence your work?

I use Cher as a reminder that I can do whatever I want at whatever age. Hockey and specifically watching The Rangers play brings me enormous joy. It’s a magic pill to keep me centered and happy. The fighting and sight if blood is just a bonus.

As someone who believes 'blondes have more fun,' how do you incorporate your personal ethos into your music and public persona?

Part of me is very fun and outgoing and loves socializing so it comes naturally to me to incorporate that into my music and by extension my public persona. The bands that I grew up listening to (i.e. KISS) had that positive vibe to their songs. Their music was an escape from the day to day, a fantasy world where you had fun, you were a winner and your persona was larger than life.



Future Plans:

With new music coming in 2024, what can your fans expect in terms of evolution in your music style or any new ventures you're exploring?

I say “always stay curious”; listen to new music, explore new audio plugins, new genres or really just music you haven’t listened to before. The other day I came a cross an artist on the internet who played sitar to dance tracks and I loved the combo. Now I’m exploring incorporating that sound into a few tracks on the new album. The new album is a little heavier at times than my previous ones, musically heavier. Lyric wise it’s more personal. So far I am very happy with what I’ve written.

About the Latest Album "Fabulous":

Your latest album 'Fabulous' has been making waves. What inspired the title, and how does this album reflect your current artistic vision?

I have always loved electro-swing, the mix of the swing era sounds with modern electronic just has it all in my book – it’s sexy, tongue in cheek, and uplifting with a great pop feel on top of a driving dance beat. “Fabulous” is the title of one of the songs on the album. Honestly, the title was the record label’s idea. I wanted to call it  ”Saints and Swingers”, maybe next time…

In creating 'Fabulous,' were there any new musical styles or techniques you experimented with that differed from your previous work?

Producing “Fabulous” was the first time I did electro-swing with that straight forward dance floor vibe. My earlier electro-swing productions had more of a funky break beat feel to them. So this was something new for me. I played a lot with the FX plugin in Logic X to get that DJ filter efx as well as the chopped up/repeater vocal efx to compliment the dance club production.

The success of 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be':

Your song 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be' has become the most listened-to track from your repertoire. What do you think resonates most with listeners in this song?

Could you discuss the creative process and inspiration behind 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be'? 

Given the success of 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be,' how do you feel it represents you as an artist and your evolution in the music industry?

I’m gonna bundle these questions into one answer as “Guilty As A Girl Can Be” is my favorite song off of “Fabulous”. First off I think the track came out really solid – it’s got that catchy swing loop and when you add the fun melody on top of it it just pops. I had been listening to Bananarama and 80s Madonna right before I started working on “Guilty…” and you can hear some of those influences throughout the track and the writing. The ”wow” scream is me emulating the “wow” in “Venus” and the lyrics and delivery has the carefree, fun swagger of 80’s pop. I got the idea for the piano solo from Madonna’s live shows from the 80’, her live version of “Get Into The Groove” has an added funky piano solo and I always thought that was spectacular.

I am thrilled that “Guilty…” has gotten the amount of airplay and streams it has, it has made radio playlists all over the world and I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard it in some tv ads in the near future. I am super proud of that song and I think it represents my image very well with its positive, catchy fun attitude while showing diversity sound wise.

Impact and Reception:

Are there any surprising reactions or feedback from fans regarding the album or the song that stood out to you?

The feedback to the “Fabulous” album has been overwhelmingly positive from both critics and fans. I think fans can appreciate that it’s something new but still sounds like me, just with a twist. I found that electro swing has a huge following and those fans are truly passionate about the genre. I definitely want to produce more electro swing. I have a concept already lined up.


Future Performances and Promotions:

Do you have any plans for touring or live performances to promote 'Fabulous'?

I’d definitely love to and I am looking into it. Maybe do a tour of those old-time theaters or burlesque theaters to take that Swing era vibe all the way. Hopefully we can make it happen, I’ll keep you posted.

With the acclaim of 'Guilty As A Girl Can Be,' can fans expect any music videos or special performances of this track?

No video plans as of right now but you never know. It’s a great idea…


Reflections and Future Directions:

Looking back at your journey up to 'Fabulous,' how do you feel your music has evolved over the years?

I have always tried to try new things with each album and to avoid getting stuck in my genre, whatever that is. Some hits and some misses but it’s a way to keep it interesting for me as well as my audience to not expect the same album over and over again. I am working on a new album right now and I have dug into some really diverse stuff, from 90’s drum and bass to sitar music and more.

What direction do you see your music taking in the future, and are there any new themes or styles you're eager to explore?

I am going to stay curious and open-minded and let the music take me wherever it decides to go. Thanks to everybody who’s been listening and buying my music all these years. Let’s keep the party going!  

Salme Dahlstrom Social






Songs of the Shieldmaiden - Chapter 9: The Warrior's Stand


Chapter 9: The Warrior's Stand

The morning sun cast long shadows across the town square of Hrafnfell, where a crowd had gathered, their voices merging into a restless murmur. At the heart of the square stood Astrid, her armor glinting in the sunlight, her stance resolute. Beside her, Einar and Lysa waited, their expressions a mix of determination and anticipation.

The town square, usually a place of market bustle and jovial chatter, had transformed into an arena of impending confrontation. The townsfolk, emboldened by the revelations of the previous night, had come to witness what they hoped would be the end of Jarl Hrogar's tyranny.

Einar, feeling the weight of the moment, whispered to Astrid, "Are you ready for this? Words have done their part; now it's time for the warrior's stand."

Astrid nodded, her eyes fixed on the entrance to the Jarl's hall. "This is what I've trained for, Einar. Tyrants like Hrogar understand only the language of strength."

As if on cue, Jarl Hrogar emerged from his hall, flanked by his guards. His face was a mask of arrogance and disdain as he surveyed the gathered crowd. "What is the meaning of this insolence?" he bellowed.

Astrid stepped forward, her voice ringing clear and strong. "Your reign of corruption ends today, Hrogar. The people of Hrafnfell will no longer live in fear under your shadow."

The Jarl laughed, a cold, humorless sound. "You think you can challenge my rule? You, a mere warrior, and your bard?"

Einar, unable to resist, called out, "She's not just any warrior, and I'm not just any bard. And don't forget about Lysa, your once-trusted advisor. Seems like you're the one who's outnumbered."

The crowd murmured in agreement, their fear replaced by a growing sense of empowerment.

Hrogar's eyes narrowed, and he signaled his guards to advance. But as they moved, the townsfolk, once cowed and silent, stood their ground, blocking the guards' path.

Amidst the tension, Lysa stepped up. "I will testify against Hrogar. I have proof of his crimes. The people of Hrafnfell deserve better."

The Jarl's composure cracked, his face contorting in rage. He drew his sword, aiming to silence Lysa, but Astrid was quicker. With a swift, fluid motion, she parried his strike, her own sword drawn in a flash of steel.

The square erupted into chaos, but Astrid's focus remained laser-sharp as she engaged Hrogar in combat. Einar and Lysa worked together, helping to organize the townspeople to defend themselves and aid Astrid.

The clash of Astrid's sword against Hrogar's echoed through the square, a physical manifestation of the struggle between tyranny and freedom. Astrid, fueled by her commitment to justice and the support of the people, fought with a ferocity and skill that overwhelmed the Jarl.

Finally, with a powerful sweep of her sword, Astrid disarmed Hrogar, sending his weapon clattering to the stone paving. The Jarl stood defeated, his guards either subdued by the townspeople or fleeing.

As Hrogar was taken into custody, the crowd erupted in victorious cheers. Astrid, breathing heavily from the battle, sheathed her sword and turned to Einar and Lysa.

Einar, grinning broadly, said, "I think this will make for quite the epic ballad, don't you think?"

Astrid laughed, the adrenaline of victory still coursing through her. "Only if you include my masterful swordplay in every verse."

Lysa approached them, a look of admiration and gratitude in her eyes. "You've changed Hrafnfell for the better. I... I would like to join you on your journeys. There's much I can learn, and perhaps offer, in your quest for justice."

Einar and Astrid exchanged a glance, a silent conversation passing between them. Then, turning to Lysa, Astrid nodded. "We'd be honored to have you with us. The Songs of the Shieldmaiden just gained another verse."

As the townspeople began to celebrate their newfound freedom, Einar, Astrid, and Lysa stood together, united in their purpose and ready for whatever adventures lay ahead. The Warrior's Stand in Hrafnfell would be long remembered, a testament to the power of courage and unity in the face of oppression.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Heavy North: A Symphony of Blues, Rock, and Soulful Evolution


Band Overview

The Heavy North, emerging from Liverpool, UK, has made significant strides in the music scene since its establishment in 2018. Comprised of Kenny Stuart (Lead Singer), Jose Ibanez (Guitarist/Producer), Andrew Horrocks (Bass Player), Ste Penn (Keyboard player), Jack Birch (Guitarist) and Mark Rice (Drummer), the band has carved a niche in the genres of blues and garage rock. Their music, a heady mix of blues, rock, and soul, has earned them accolades from BBC Radio 6 Music's Chris Hawkins and Classic Rock Magazine. The Heavy North's approach blends different musical styles into a coherent and engaging sound, setting them apart in the industry.

2023: A Year of Milestones

The year 2023 marked a significant phase in The Heavy North's journey. They began with a sold-out headline show in London and participated in the Independent Venue Week Shows. The release of their singles 'Where Are You Now?' and ‘Round Again’ were notable highlights. The band also completed recording their second album 'Delta Shakedown' at 3rd Planet Recording Studios, Liverpool. Their UK tour included stops in Glasgow, Sheffield, Chester, and London, displaying their growing popularity. Furthermore, they performed at various festivals and venues, showcasing their ability to captivate audiences across different settings.

The Band Members' Perspectives

Kenny Stuart (Vocals):

As the lead vocalist, Kenny Stuart is a pivotal figure in the band's sound. He discussed the intricacies of performing with a 12-piece band, emphasizing the need for tight synchronization. Covering 'White Christmas' for BBC Introducing in Merseyside, Kenny blended his unique vocal style with the band's sound. Reflecting on his journey, he expressed gratitude for the fans' support and shared his vocal inspirations ranging from Otis Redding to Jim Morrison.

Jose Ibanez (Guitarist and Producer):

Jose detailed the production process of 'Delta Shakedown,' highlighting the evolution from their previous work. His dual role as guitarist and producer has enhanced the band's live performances, emphasizing the importance of collaboration in songwriting. Jose shared his guitar influences and the creative satisfaction he finds in producing specific tracks.

Ste Penn (Keys):

Ste's role involves selecting keyboard tones for live performances and studio work. He cited influences from classic artists and shared his favorite moments in 'Delta Shakedown.' Collaborating with additional musicians like the Northern String Quartet has significantly impacted the band's sound.

Mark (Drums & Percussion):

Mark's approach to drumming focuses on instinct and interaction with the rhythm section. He shared his philosophy and preparation routine, highlighting specific songs in 'Delta Shakedown' where his drumming was crucial.

Jack Birch (Guitarist):

Jack discussed his seamless integration into the band and his role in arranging guitar parts for 'Delta Shakedown.' Collaborating with Jose, he contributed significantly to the storytelling aspect of the music, especially in specific tracks.

Andrew Horrocks (Bass):

Andrew spoke about adapting his bass playing to the band's expansion. He emphasized the importance of bass in blues rock and discussed specific tracks where his style is pivotal.

Collective Creativity and Future Aspirations

The band members collectively reflected on their evolved songwriting and performance approach after a successful year of touring. They shared insights into the creative process behind 'Delta Shakedown' and their aspirations for new musical directions. The recording process brought memorable experiences, and the band expressed ambitions for their future evolution.

Key Themes

Emphasis on Collaboration and Synchronicity: 

The band's performance is marked by a strong sense of collaboration, ensuring tight synchronicity, especially important with a larger ensemble.

Individual Artistic Influences: 

Each member brings a unique set of influences, shaping the band's distinctive sound and adding depth to their music.

Dynamic Integration of New Members:

The addition of new members and musicians like the Northern String Quartet has enriched the band's sound, showcasing their adaptability and creativity.

Reflecting on the Creative Process: 

The band's reflections on their creative journey highlight their commitment to evolving and exploring new musical horizons.


The Heavy North stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, individual artistry, and musical evolution. Their journey through 2023, with the release of "Delta Shakedown" and their dynamic live performances, underlines their ability to create a unique sound that resonates with a wide audience. With a blend of influences and a strong collective vision, they continue to chart a promising path in the world of music.

The Interview

Group Questions:


After a year filled with successful tours, overseas shows, and festival appearances, how has The Heavy North's approach to songwriting and performance evolved?

We've probably streamlined the way we work and become more efficient with the songwriting process. The writing is easy, but having to time and money to record and release consistently is another matter. We’re very fortunate and grateful to have Jose as our producer as well as guitarist, so we’re quite a privileged band when it comes to studio work.

Usually, Kenny or Jose will have an idea for a track and hare the idea with the rest of the band in our WhatsApp group – whether it’s voice notes or lyrics. This normally allows us to make the best use of our time together in the studio as well as giving us the opportunity to think about how we can each contribute to the track. 

With the release of 'Delta Shakedown' and its positive reception, can you share insights into the collective creative process for this album and how it differed from your previous works?

Collectively the creative process for ‘Delta Shakedown’ was really enjoyable for each of us. The process was similar to our debut album ‘Electric Soul Machine’ but fortunately we didn’t have to contend with COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns which did delay our previous recordings.

Looking ahead, what are the band's aspirations for the upcoming year, and are there any new musical directions or collaborations you are particularly excited about exploring?

We’ll be starting off 2024 with a handful of headline shows in February which include a return to London which we’re really looking forward to. We are always working on new songs and new ideas, and we have some exciting plans about another release in 2024 which we’ll be sharing very soon!

Recording an album like "Delta Shakedown" is often accompanied by memorable experiences and unique challenges. Could you recount a particularly memorable moment or significant challenge faced during the recording process?

We were very fortunate to not experience any significant challenges or problems with the recording process for ‘Delta Shakedown’ and we only have good memories of chipping away at the album throughout Spring and Summer 2023. Some of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences were being in the studio watching the additional musicians add strings, brass and backing vocals to our tracks. It’s one thing to be proud of what we have recorded as a six-piece, but hearing the additional orchestral layers being added was a great experience for all of us. 

Looking to the future, what ambitions and aspirations does The Heavy North collectively hold? How do you envision the band's evolution in the coming years, both musically and in terms of your reach within the music industry?

When the band started out back in late 2018, we just wanted to make music together and have some fun whilst doing it. We had no idea what direction it would take us in, but we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had as a band over recent years.  

As an independent band without a record label or official management company, it can be challenging to navigate the music industry, but the six of us just want to do ourselves justice and make the most of the opportunities we’ve been given. 

Considering that 2023 was the first year that The Heavy North hit the Official UK Charts as an independent band, we feel this demonstrates that there is a demand for our music – and as long as there are fans and followers who support us, we’ll do our best to keep making music!

In-Depth Interview Questions

The Heavy North Band Members


Kenny Stuart (Vocals)

Following your recent 12-piece band show at the Camp and Furnace, Liverpool, can you share how the experience of performing with a larger ensemble influenced your vocal performance and the band's dynamic?

It doesn't really affect the performance but obviously it's great playing with as part of a larger band. It doesn't interfere too much with the dynamic I don't think. Obviously, we have to be super tight in order to perform with the session players, but we're all seasoned enough to be able to do it with ease!

Your cover of 'White Christmas' for BBC Introducing in Merseyside was a unique choice. What inspired this selection, and how do you approach covering such iconic songs while maintaining The Heavy North's distinctive style?

I was trying to think of something we're I can showcase my vocal whilst also doing a classic that everybody knows.  Hopefully it did have our distinct sound but suppose my vocal is a large part of the sound being the lead singer - but I hope everybody liked it!?

Reflecting on your journey with The Heavy North, how have your experiences as the lead vocalist influenced your personal and musical perspectives? Could you share some pivotal moments?

I'm just really grateful to all the support! We’re really privileged to be able to entertain so many lovely people and it's been a real highlight getting to meet so many new faces and friends at our shows across the country and beyond. 

Your vocal style is uniquely expressive and resonant. Could you delve into the inspirations behind this style and perhaps share some insights into your vocal preparation routine before performances?

I have many different influences and it's a strange mix - but hopefully a good mix! Otis Redding, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke, Peter Green, Paul Weller, Dan Auerbach, Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison to name a few! I never really have to prepare too much and just make sure I'm hydrated enough before a performance. 

In emotionally charged songs like "I See You, Do You See Me?", your voice seems to convey a profound depth of feeling. Can you discuss the personal experiences or artistic influences that you draw upon to infuse such deep emotion into your performances?

It's really about trying to put yourself in that position. Being influenced by soul, I don't think a song is worth singing if you don't feel and believe in what your singing! 

Jose Ibanez (Guitarist and Producer)

Reflecting on the production of 'Delta Shakedown', how did the process and experience compare to working on your previous album 'Electric Soul Machine'?

The process was similar to the previous album ‘Electric Soul Machine’. Kenny would write a piece and will send it to me where I would make a structure and some arrangements, or vice versa - I would write some music and Kenny would add Lyrics and melodies in most of the tracks. Then the lads would put their own parts while recording the song using the demos as a reference. 

Some exceptions were ‘Don’t Need Money’ where it was more a jam in the studio when Jack and Kenny were away. We recorded the music and Kenny did add the vocals after with Jack added some more guitar. 

Also, with ‘Delta Shakedown’ we wanted to bring the string quartet, brass and the backing singers that we used in 'Electric Soul Machine'. It was great to have them back again!

With the band's expansion to a six-piece, how has this affected your approach to guitar playing and production, particularly in live performances like the one at the Camp and Furnace?

It has been an improvement, for sure! Having Jack is a joy as there are guitar parts, he wrote for the songs that made them special. 

I was more focused on the overall sound of the album and writing good structures while Jack added the icing on the cake. Also live I definitely think we sound bigger! 

Balancing the roles of guitarist and producer for "Delta Shakedown" must have been a multifaceted challenge. How did you navigate these dual responsibilities during the album's creation, and what was your approach to integrating these roles seamlessly?

Producing this album was a challenge as I wanted to make it better than the first one. I always thought “can I make this better?” and after a few months and reading the good feedback we’ve had I think we did!

For me this is not only my passion, it’s my showcase as every time an album I’ve produced comes out it’s “This is my work” and something I am very proud of. 

Playing guitar was the easy part as I would ask for feedback and the lads would always throw ideas at me, especially in some of the lead guitar parts.

Your guitar playing is a defining feature of The Heavy North's sound. What are the key influences that have shaped your approach to the guitar, and how do you adapt your playing style when stepping into the producer's role?

My key influences would go from Jimi Hendrix to Peter Green, Dave Gilmore, or Jimmy Page , BB King , etc. Finding the right ‘tone’ for each song was the most fun part. From an acoustic approach on ‘Play It Safe’ to the fuzzy darker sounds on 'Forever Without You' there is a big difference.

Can you take us through a specific track from "Delta Shakedown" that posed particular challenges or brought special satisfaction during its production, detailing the creative process and any obstacles encountered?

Probably ‘I See You, Do You See Me?’ it’s one of my favourite tracks. I love Pink Floyd and you can tell listening to it. I wasn’t sure at first when I wrote the riff if the song would make the cut but after Kenny brought the vocal melody and lyrics and Jack threw the guitar touches on the verses, I realized it was going to be a great track. Also, I wanted to have a special solo that wasn’t the usual thing for some reason it ended up being my favourite solo of the album. Not necessarily because of the number of notes, but because of the feel of the solo and how it suits the track. Needless to say, that having Rosalie and Molly on the backing vocals for this track made it just right too.


Ste Penn (Keys) 

The keyboard elements in The Heavy North’s music add a unique and vital layer to the band’s sound. How do you go about selecting the right keyboard tones and textures to complement each song's mood and narrative?

It can sometimes be challenging when it comes to choosing the right keyboard sounds, especially when we’re performing live. When we’re in the studio have the time and the creative freedom to add different layers of sounds to our tracks, but then the challenge is how we replicate those different layers when we’re live on stage. 

I tend to alternative between a few different core sounds such as the traditional Hammond sound, Fender Rhodes, Vox Continental, synths and phasers, and it’s all about playing what works for each track. Like you suggest, it’s about finding the most suitable sound for the song’s moods and narratives - and sometimes less is more!

Considering the varied musical styles across 'Delta Shakedown', can you talk about a specific song where you felt your drumming was particularly instrumental in shaping its sound?

I think the opening title track of the second album ‘Delta Shakedown’ is a good example of where the keys sounds are quite prominent throughout. I think it’s the first track where I play the Vox Continental sounds throughout the song except for a short keys solo towards the end.  

Although it’s a bit more subtle than the opening track, I think my keys on the album track ‘Don’t Need Money’ helped to shape the sound – as this is a track that started off as a bit of an impromptu jam in the studio where I played repetitive arpeggios throughout – in fact, I don’t think there’s a single moment in the 4 minutes of ‘Don’t Need Money’ where I stop playing!

Can you explain the influence of classic artists like Ray Manzarek on your playing style?

I didn’t start playing the keyboard until my early twenties, and by that time I was already a massive fan of The Doors, as well as some other 60s/70s bands who use a lot of keys and organ sounds like the Small Faces, The Animals & The Zombies. I actually own a 1967 Vox Continental keyboard which I love, but it’s just not very practical to try and tour or travel overseas with such a vintage bit of gear.

What is your favourite keyboard solo or moment on "Delta Shakedown," and what makes it special to you?

It would be easy for me to say the title track ‘Delta Shakedown’, but I think my favourite keys moment on the second album is the closing notes of the last track ‘Forever Without You’ which is just the fender Rhodes sounds ringing out with a rotary speaker effect. I think it was Jose who suggested we end the track like that, and it’s become one of my favourite keys moment on the album. 

Performing with the Northern String Quartet and other musicians at the Camp and Furnace, how did this collaboration impact your approach to the keys and the overall sound of the band?

It’s such an incredible experience to perform with the guest musicians, as I feel it really brings our recordings to life when we’re all crammed on a stage. The Northern String Quartet, brass section and backing singers add a whole new dynamic to The Heavy North, and although it’s not something we have the opportunity to do all the time, it’s boss when it all comes together like it did at our huge hometown show at the Camp and Furnace. 

Most of the guest musicians who joined us on stage also performed on the ‘Delta Shakedown’ recordings as well as our debut album ‘Electric Soul Machine’, so it’s only right that we pull them in for the live shows when we get the chance.  


Mark (Drums & Percussion)

Your drumming provides a vital backbone to The Heavy North's sound. How do you approach the creation of drum parts that not only align with but also enhance the band’s diverse array of musical influences?

I try not to premeditate drum parts too much before we record. I’ve tried in the past to write them ahead of time and gone as far as programming them out beforehand, but I've learnt that 90% of the time, especially with our style of music, the first instinct is usually right.  

At most I’ll go in with a loose theme I want to work into the drum part, which could be a feel, leaning on a specific pattern or piece of the kit or limiting myself on what I can use. This along with locking in with Andy’s bass parts usually gives me enough of a direction to jam the rest out.

Could you share the process behind developing a specific drum part for a song on "Delta Shakedown"?

When we first jammed ‘Where Are You Now?’ the groove in the chorus was the first thing that came to mind and it’s just a typical rock beat. I needed a way to vary the dynamics without straying too far from this groove, so I took the rhythm and split it around the toms in a linear pattern. It’s a very short song so it was a nice way of keeping the momentum while still having discernible sections.

What considerations do you consider ensuring it complements the overall composition?

Not much besides considering whether it’s locking in with the rest of the rhythm section and is it stepping on what the lead instruments like the guitar or the vocals are doing.

In a band with a rich and layered sound like The Heavy North, what is your philosophy regarding the role and impact of percussion, and how do you strive to embody this in your performances?

Drums are a support instrument and I think this is truer the more members a band has. We have a lot happening at the front of the stage so overall I just want to drive the songs without overplaying or stepping on anyone’s toes. 

Considering your performances in Spain, Gibraltar, and Kendal Calling Festival, how do you prepare for shows of varying scales and audiences, and how does this impact your drumming style?

I don't do much different for any show. I try and find somewhere to stretch and warm up, just to be as loose as possible and avoid my hands or legs cramping. I used to be able to go full pelt into a show with no problems when I was younger but if I don’t at least stretch before a gig nowadays I'm having a bad time when we get to the faster songs. 

The best gigs are the ones where I’m loose enough that all the parts feel natural and I’m not thinking too much about them.

Considering the varied musical styles across 'Delta Shakedown', can you talk about a specific song where you felt your drumming was particularly instrumental in shaping its sound?

Not really, but as I mentioned before I feel the drum parts of ‘Where Are You Now?’ certainly helped shape the track.


Jack Birch (Guitarist)

Joining the band in January 2022 and working on 'Delta Shakedown', how have you found integrating into The Heavy North, and how has this influenced the guitar arrangements?

It was a very smooth transition. They’re a good team, and they made me feel very welcome from the get-go. The ‘Delta Shakedown’ sessions were the first time I’d been a part of the creative process; ‘Electric Soul Machine’ pre-dated me, so my job there was to fill out the soundscape in a live context and to help better replicate some of the layered guitars on the record etc.  

I would definitely say that the experience of being a member of the band during that period helped when it came to arranging the guitar parts on ‘Delta Shakedown’. At that point we all knew how we worked together. 

During the recent Camp and Furnace show, what challenges and opportunities did you encounter while playing as part of a larger ensemble?

Playing as ‘the big band’ is the best thing ever. It’s a great opportunity in itself. The only challenge comes in knowing when to drop back at times. For example, I play some lead parts on the ‘Electric Soul Machine’ live versions which compensate for the absence of stings and brass etc. so I have to make sure to remember we’re doing it for real!

The interplay between your guitar and Jose's creates a dynamic layer in The Heavy North's music. Can you discuss how you collaborate to craft these guitar layers and the creative process behind it?

I’ve known Jose and his playing for a long time, and he’s very easy to work with. The process varies: sometimes we just see what comes of the jam and capture as much as we can, other times we’ll pass snippets of recordings around and work on them in isolation. 

I’m much more comfortable with the latter, but some of our best bits have come out of the jam. I’m often just trying to come up with subtleties that accentuate what Ken and Jose are doing.

Crafting guitar solos can be a deeply personal and expressive endeavour. What was your approach to creating the guitar solos for "Delta Shakedown," and is there a particular solo on the album that you feel especially proud of or connected to?

I don’t play any guitar solos on ‘Delta Shakedown’, though there are few songs that I squeeze some licks into. I really enjoy hearing and playing ‘Rosanna’. I love the shock when the harmonized lead lines kick in out of nowhere early in the song, and the ‘call and respond’ lick-off we do. I think we’re always looking to pull from the relationship between Peter Green and Danny Kirwan, or Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, as I’m sure most multi-guitar blues/rock bands do.

As a guitarist, your contributions greatly influenced the narrative and emotional tone of the band's songs. Can you discuss how you view your role in the storytelling aspect of the music and any specific examples where this is particularly evident?

I imagine we’re all part of the subject matter at some point or another. We’re close friends and spend time together outside of the music. I suppose songs like ‘Don’t Need Money’ and ‘Play It Safe’ deviate a lot from the riffs, licks and solos format. I do love the ‘melancholy’ in ‘Don’t Need Money’. I’ve commended Ken on many occasions for the broad range of emotions in his writing on this album. 


Andrew Horrocks (Bass)

How has the expansion to a six-piece band and playing alongside additional musicians, like at the Camp and Furnace show, influenced your approach to bass playing?

Having another member join the band was great. The songs were able to have a little more depth. It also enabled other players to drill down into their parts and open up the songs. This in a way made me go back to studying some bass players I am influenced by. Brushing up on my theory and also enhancing my rhythm/feels to connect with the drums to form a solid backline section.  

In a live situation it has been superb. Someone to keep me company on stage-left! Ha. The Camp and Furnace gig shows this more so. Each time we play as a band it makes us tighter and more comfortable with each other. A core foundation as a band then makes it seamless when other musicians join us from the album sessions. 

Reflecting on the band’s tours and festival performances this year, can you share how these experiences have impacted on you’re playing style and your contributions to the band's evolving sound?

Playing live and especially in bigger band situations have forced my hand to play in lower registers where I am playing slightly higher up on the albums versions of songs. This has been good to adapt to as it has also led me to focus more on the drum rhythms and to syncopate and synchronize with some of Mark’s rhythms.

The bass often serves as the foundational element in a band's sound. How do you approach the creation of bass lines that not only provide support but also enhance and complement The Heavy North's distinct style?

It varies per song, I guess. As mentioned above, a solid backline gives a good foundation to the songs. The syncopation of Marko’s drums is a great inspiration at times for rhythmic patterns on the bass. That mixed with song melodies and chord structures brought in by whoever had the initial song idea has helped bring a style to the bass for The Heavy North. 

In the context of blues rock music, and particularly within The Heavy North, how do you perceive the importance and role of the bass? Could you discuss a track from "Delta Shakedown" where your bass playing is especially pivotal or representative of your style?

My perception of the bass in The Heavy North is different to that of blues rock music. In The Heavy North there are a mixture of funk, punk rock and jazz influences. But aside from that, the bass is very important for all styles of music. Sometimes there is a blinkered view on the bass in that it is an afterthought to fill out a group, but when you begin to split up chords between the instruments in the band to create complex harmonies or arpeggiate chord progressions like we have done in ‘Don’t Need Money’, that’s when the fun begins!

The Heavy North Socials