Jake Aaron Ward: The first single we released after partnering with The Label Group/INgrooves was called “Feel Alright.” This song was definitely an exciting breakthrough moment for me as a songwriter and I see it as an important step in the progression of the band. The video for it was directed by an old friend of mine from school named Michael Jarrett, who works for NBC Bay Area and runs his own production company called Siphon Media.
The second single was a straight up love song called “Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It,” which I wrote for my now-girlfriend before we were together. It’s very much a confessional, just-know-how-I-really-feel type song, and I think as far as pop sensibilities are concerned, it might be the song which I’m most proud of in my career so far. We had a lyric video created for this song, courtesy of a company called Designs By Shifted in San Diego, CA.
The third “single” isn’t really a single, but we did do a pretty interesting video for it. The song “Here and Now” is one of two songs on the album that are at least loosely about the education system – the other is “Nothing Else.” While “Nothing Else” focuses mainly on the emotional taxation of the whole system (school, work, retire…where was the good part?), “Here and Now” is more about a proposed reframing of attitude when it comes to “finishing” school and “starting” your life. This is something one of my high school teachers told me that really stuck with me. The “start” of your life is not some event on the horizon – your life is right now.
To kind of go along with that message/idea, we shot a live outdoor performance of the song. I just played acoustic guitar and sang into a microphone while perched on a branch in a forest area near where I live, and once again my buddy Michael Jarrett shot and directed the video. We had a whole crew and setup, and it was cool to watch people go by and be totally confused by the whole operation.
RC: Who did you work with on this particular release?
Jake Aaron Ward: All our music is self-produced. I work professionally as a record producer here in California, so I handle all of the production myself in the studio.
As for the actual release process, we partnered up with The Label Group, who got us distribution through INgrooves, and TAG Publicity. They’ve all been awesome and incredibly helpful.
RC: How crucial do you feel it is to market yourselves digitally?
Jake Aaron Ward: It would be hard to overstate how crucial it is. The internet is where everybody is now. Most importantly, it’s also where the music itself is. People listen to music on the internet, they talk about and learn about music on the internet, and pretty much every form of entertainment they consume is on the internet, too. Not just musicians, but really any business, that doesn’t actively try to reach people in the digital domain, is basically setting up shop under a rock.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all! The internet is incredible. It’s hard to think of a more transformative innovation in human history; I really think it’s right up there with agriculture and the printing press. It has changed everything and I think it is a thrilling and adventurous moment to be alive.
RC: What process did you go through as an artist to create the sound you have presented on this particular album?
Jake Aaron Ward: My creative philosophy as an artist is very simple; in fact, there’s only one tenet: honesty. Prior to Watch Me Breathe, this wasn’t the case. I was doing what most musicians tend to do: anticipating what other people expect, what other people want, what other people like, etc., and then deliberately constructing my art (and myself) with those anticipations in mind. This infects everything: songwriting, performance, production, even personality. People do this out of fear. They’re afraid of failing, so they want to “be smart” about what they create in order to “make sure” their music “does well,” which of course really means “makes them money.”
I view this as a mental illness. Posing as somebody you are not in an attempt to acquire wealth is one thing – that’s what most people are forced to do at this particular historical point in human society. Of course this is also a mental illness, but it’s one generally everybody experiences together, so it’s much more sustainable and systemically supported. But doing it in the music industry? It’s just a bad choice. If you want money and fame, there are few industries less likely to accommodate you, and unless you do miraculously strike it rich, society will be much less supportive or understanding than if you did the same thing in an office building wearing a suit and tie. You may set out in search of money, power, fame and adoration, but you’ll probably just get a gnarly case of impostor syndrome.
Jim Carrey said “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” This is how I have approached every aspect of the entire Watch Me Breathe project, not just the creation of our new album. I can proudly say I haven’t sacrificed a single atom of creative integrity in the name of what I think will be popular, and I never intend to. It’s just 100% music that I truly love and believe in, and it is ultimately the result of following Rumi’s advice (which inspired the name) “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
So far, it hasn’t!
RC: Would you consider yourself a singer/songwriter or more of a storyteller?
Jake Aaron Ward: I’ve come to view storytelling as an advanced level of songwriting. Artists like Sting, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell…these are artists with such profound depth that one really could call them storytellers in the same breath as songwriters. I’m still a songwriter, but I see the goalpost and find great joy in pursuing it with each song I write.
RC: Talk to us about this lineup of your single releases. How did you choose the order in which they were released?
Jake Aaron Ward: Using the same single tenet: honesty. I like them the best. I am the proudest of Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It, followed by Feel Alright. I want most to promote the work that I most believe in. I’m really proud of Here and Now as well, but I also saw a unique opportunity to really carry the message by doing the outdoor video, so I made that a focus point as well.
RC: There must be more music videos coming from this project, can you share with us how long before we might see your next video and can you tease us with a music/lyric direction?
Jake Aaron Ward: Oh, you bet there’s more! I’ve already recorded demos for a handful of new songs and I can see album #3 taking shape already. My hope is to follow up faster than last time – early 2020 is a target time frame for us currently. All I can say about album #3 is that, yes, there will absolutely be one, and I will be sharing it with you from a point even further down the road less traveled.
RC: How confident are you in what you are creating?
Jake Aaron Ward: Being an artist is an uneasy venture. I have plenty of doubts and fears, and even moments where I wonder if it’s really worth it. The thing that has kept me firmly rooted in this journey is knowing that what I’m creating is fully representative of who I really am, and discovering that there are fans out there who are hearing and identifying with it. That’s a kind of magical connection that’s hard to put in words, and it’s what ultimately makes this all worth doing.
RC: Talk to us about the band members. How do they all fit into Watch Me Breathe? What does each band member bring to the bands performance?
Jake Aaron Ward: When we play live, my younger brother Carl plays drums and Ryan Green plays bass while I play guitar and sing. It’s a super simple lineup, and I like it that way. It feels pure, more intimate, and I feel like in some way it helps really pin the focus on the music and not the performers.
RC: Is finding a pace and structure outside what has been done already musically difficult for you Jake? You seem so very comfortable.
Jake Aaron Ward: There are definitely things that are hard about trying to work outside the musical norm. But I also think there are many, many things even harder about deliberately working inside the musical norm. Ultimately I know from past experience that it’s even harder finding pace and structure doing what’s been done already.
RC: Where can your fans find you playing in 2019 and 2020?
Jake Aaron Ward: We’ve got a little acoustic gig at the X Bar in Cupertino, CA coming up on October 5th. Then we’re part of the lineup for Santa Cruz Music Festival 2019, which runs October 19th – October 20th.
The rest of the year I hope to spend in the studio. I think we’re also getting closer and closer to talking up setting up a tour, so you may hear from us about that in 2020 as well.
RC: Who would you like to tour with?
Jake Aaron Ward: I think the ultimate tour for us would be a Dirty Hit tour, maybe with artists like No Rome, Pale Waves, Colouring, or maybe even The 1975 at some point. But that’s a pretty steep mountain. I think for the more immediate future we’d like to set something up with other local acts and just start hitting the regional circuit.