By: Mark Dippel
On June 9th, Joyful Noise will be releasing J Fernandez’s full-length debut album, “Many Levels of Laughter.” Make sure to grab a copy and throw it on the turntable while you sit back and chill (or, while you work on spreadsheets). J was kind enough to answer some questions about his music, his inspiration, and his techniques.
Q: “Many Levels of Laughter” was recorded alone. What is your process for piecing everything together? In what order are the instruments recorded, and do you always approach each song with the same method?
A: Most of the songs start with a melodic idea recorded on my phone. It usually happens on my way to work in the morning. Then I start recording with guitar or keys, add bass and drums later. I’m not great at playing drums so I have to record each drum on an individual track.
Q: After the inspiration for writing a new song first hits you, how long does it usually take before you have it completely written?
A: Things don’t come to me that easily. I have to force the ideas out. I can write the basic outline of a song in a day. But I usually end up rearranging and trying out different sounds for months.
Q: When writing, what usually comes to you first—the music, the lyrics, or both together?
A: The music comes first. I keep a different notebook with ideas for lyrics. Then I try different combinations until something matches up.
Q: Before settling on the 9 songs for the album, how many other songs were you working on that you decided wouldn’t make the cut?
A: There were two songs that didn’t make it on the album. I’m still working on them. They just didn’t fit for this one.
Q: On the new album, which song do you feel is your best one, and why is it the best?
A: Probably the first track, “Between the Channels.” It went through so many different versions. I’m just totally surprised by how that one turned out.
Q: Which song was the most difficult or frustrating to complete?
A: “Souvenirs.” I like it now but it still feels like it’s not complete.
Q: Thinking back to your earliest musical memories, what band/artist/song/album made the first significant impression on you… possibly the first thing that made you begin to realize that music meant more to you than just a hobby?
A: I can’t really think of one specific artist or album. I remember there was this phone service, “1-800-Music-Now.” You could call it and search for different albums and it would play a 30 second clip of a few tracks. When I was about 11 or 12 years old (before I had internet), I started calling it and searching for songs. That definitely changed things for me because I heard so much new stuff.
Q: As a writer, who would you cite as your primary musical and lyrical influences?
A: Burt Bacharach, Ennio Morricone, Robert Pollard.
Q: How would you describe your album to a person who was completely unfamiliar with your style?
A: Great music to listen to while working on Excel spreadsheets.
Check out “Many Levels of Laughter” here: