As evidenced by his new NoiseTrade sampler, Jared Putnam of The March Divide has been a non-stop songwriting machine over the last few years. For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we had him pause the creative process just long enough to talk about his most recent EP Don’t Let Me Die in Arizona, his songwriting work ethic, working with producer Mike Major (At the Drive-In, Coheed and Cambria), and more!
NoiseTrade: Your NoiseTrade sampler showcases your prolific songwriting career, as it captures singles from your three albums and five EPs over the last five years. What do you think fuels this abundance of songs in such a short time?
Jared Putnam: I wish I knew! I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block. These last few years it’s really been non-stop. I think a lot of it has to do with my approach to songwriting at this stage in my life. When I was younger, I would always put too much pressure on myself to deliver. I don’t even know what. But now, I realize I’m not going to bring about world peace with a pop song. So if it sounds cool to me, I roll with it.
NT: Are there any other specific songwriters that you look to for inspiration or who you model your creative work ethic after?
Putnam: There are, but usually in a boutique sort of way. I’ll take this or that as inspiration from a lot of songwriters I look up to. Blair Shehan of Knapsack/The Jealous Sound has always been my hero. I’m pretty sure that dude hung the moon. I’ve always really looked up to Damien Jurado and the approach he takes to his albums. Pete Yorn is maybe one of the best songwriters of our time. This is just a short list of who I’ve looked to for years. There are a lot of new bands out there I look up to, as well.
NT: Your most recent EP, Don’t Let Me Die in Arizona, has some really unique percussive elements to it. What drove the instrumental direction of the songs and how did you go about achieve the sounds you wanted?
Putnam: I’ve been chasing this percussion idea for years that all stems from my irrational fascination with pop. It’s the simplicity of pop music that makes it so special. It’s almost primal. Simple everyday sounds like hand claps and foot stomps can have that same effect on people. Like in “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Even “Taps” would be catchy, with hand claps. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel. I’m convinced that if all the fundamentals are brought together in the right way, a new level of pop utopia can be reached. I know I sound like I’m on drugs when I try to explain it, but my producer friend Mike Major really seemed to get it. The whole idea of this release was to go all in on this idea. To get started, I sent Mike demos of the songs, & he built programed percussion around them so we could get an initial outline for the direction of each song. Once we were comfortable, Mike somehow accumulated an arsenal of off the wall percussive instruments, went into the studio, and tracked it all. I’m not sure that we’ve necessarily fully accomplished the idea, but we definitely moved the ball forward.
NT: You’ve worked with Mike Major (At the Drive-In, Coheed and Cambria) in some capacity on previous releases, but Don’t Let Me Die in Arizona is the first time you’ve brought him on as a producer. What sparked that move and what did Major bring to the table during the recording process?
Putnam: Mike has been a good friend for a long time and has produced some of my previous projects. We had been talking off and on about doing something new together for a while, but the distance was our primary hurdle. Late last year I started putting effort into getting my home studio up to par so that I could record more at home. Mike helped me a lot with that, as far as what I did and didn’t need to do. He even drew up a blueprint of what I needed for sound proofing. Through all of that we had a lot of conversations about what I wanted to do with the EP and the rest is history. Because of his help, I was able to record most of the EP at home in Texas and he was able to produce at home in Florida. I’ve always enjoyed working with Mike, because I feel like a lot of his strengths are my weaknesses. While I have a lot of big ideas for percussion, I’m not the best percussionist. Mike used to be a drummer, he’s got a real knack for vocal harmonies, and we both like to keep things as organic as possible.
NT: Finally, I love your collection of singles where you take on some of the best songs of the ‘80s and process them through your own filter. If you were to record another batch of decade-specific cover, which decade would it focus on and what would be some of the songs that definitely had to be on there?
Putnam: Thank you, I really enjoyed doing that whole project and even hope to keep it going. I honestly chose that batch of ‘80s pop songs because of the impact they had on me growing up. The novelty of it all was just a cool plus. The next era to have that sort of impact would have to be ’90s emo. But if I were to record a bunch of Mineral & Get Up Kids songs, they probably wouldn’t sound all that different than the originals. I do plan to slowly but surely redo all of The Cure’s Disintegration album. Three down, nine to go!