Today’s Feature, September 30th & October 1st: Evan Hillhouse

September 30, 2007 at 9:40 pm (Today's Feature)

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Looking for that fresh artist out on the scene to really sink your teeth into? A independent act that’s making music worth sitting down and taking in? Would you be interested in a musician who is producing melodies that relax your mind and please your eardrums? If you considered saying “yes!” to any of these, then look no further. Go out and buy an Evan Hillhouse CD.

Evan Hillhouse, whose self-titled debut album has received sparkling reviews, is an album just about any generation can appreciate, fusing together “warm 60’s inspired pop songs that are melodic and catchy.” But it isn’t just the music that you can appreciate about Hillhouse – this artist knows and appreciates the craft of making real music in an industry where image seems to be more important than actual talent. He puts it best – “There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but the artist has less and less of a role in the music-making… If you look good, we can auto-tune your voice and you can just mouth the lyrics when you perform live. In perspective, that’s crazy!” Evan wishes to have what most of us want out of the record business, “a means to bring good music to the public.”

Keep an eye out for Evan Hillhouse, for he is far from finished doing what he loves. Even at his young age, he is starting to help produce other artists and bands, as well as playing with them in live settings. But he’ll be starting his next solo project soon, and after all of the experience he’s gathered so quickly, it’ll be an album not to be missed. Read on for his answers to the XXQs.

XXQs: Evan Hillhouse

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Evan Hillhouse (EH): I got my start in music on my first birthday with a little Muppets drum set. I was influenced by my dad to be a drummer and musician from this young age. I had music lessons and heard inconspicuous playing of lullaby Beatle tapes while drifting off to sleep. Music was never not around, and I think if I had no musical talent I wouldn’t be the youngest child!

PEV: Growing up, who were you listening to and who helped shape your sound?

EH: Hmmm. When I was a kid (In no particular order) – The Beatles, The Doors, David Bowie, Tom Petty, CCR, John Lennon. More recently though- Sly, Jellyfish, early MJ, Radiohead, Jason Falkner, Stevie Wonder, Jon Brion.

PEV:  Tell us about the first live Evan Hillhouse performance.

EH: My first show is actually not a horror story (that comes later). I was probably 16 or 17 playing at a little place called Harmony Sweet in my home town. My band was a trio called The Shrines and we practiced up for months to do it. We brought all of our friends from high school and it went without a (serious) hitch. Now, I don’t know how good it actually was, but it was definitely fun to be in a band at that age playing your own songs to people who seemed to really like it.

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

EH: I like the unique bonds that sometimes form between people you’re in a band with. It’s like everyone is on the same side, on the same page, trying to do the exact same thing. Nothing else really matters but the moment. And when people actually like what you’re playing, it’s even better!

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

EH: Fun. It was still a pretty modest endeavor, and school never got in the way of the recording and vice versa. I was just taking it one step at a time. Sometimes it was like a double life though, I can remember one time I was up in the wee small hours doing backing vocal tracks to Reason to Live, and then getting up a few hours later to go to American Government. I was like, “What am I doing exactly?”

PEV: You recently graduated high school but had great success while you were still a student. What was it like being on such a large stage, traveling and getting your work out there, while attending high school?

EH: Let’s just say that my mom still goes to all my local shows. They’re all proud of what I’ve done so far.

PEV: How have all your family and friends reacted to your success?

EH: Haha. Thanks. If I considered it work in any way, I never would have been able to do it. It was just so much fun. I knew exactly what I wanted, and everyone involved helped me accomplish it and more. Looking back now with a little bit more experience, everything fell into place so easily, and I think it’s because we were doing it just because we wanted to. Not worried about who’s going to like it or if it was radio friendly. It was a personal challenge, and I’ll always have it as a milestone to look back on.

PEV: Your self titled, debut album, “Evan Hillhouse”, has been getting rave reviews. You not only wrote the entire album but play a majority of the instruments as well as produced it yourself. That seems to be a lot to take on at such a young age.

PEV: Today’s music tends to lack the talent and artistry that musicians like you take on, in creating their own work. What is your take on today’s music scene?

EH: Oooh…Dangerous waters. I think there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but the artist has less and less of a role in the music-making. Image is more important now. “If you look good, we can auto-tune your voice and you can just mouth the lyrics when you perform live.”  In perspective, that’s crazy! I guess it’s just a natural evolution, but the music business could be less of a manufacturing business, and be more of what it’s supposed to be- a means to bring good music to the public.

PEV: What can people expect from this album?

EH: You can expect warm, 60’s inspired pop songs that are melodic and catchy, and hopefully some ideas that you’ve never heard before.

PEV: In all your travels, which city, US or international do you think offers the best music scene?

EH: Well I was in Paris and there were these bad-ass French musicians playing in the train station I was in. I saw them a second time in the same day and approached them. One of them spoke pretty good English and I learned that they live by playing in public places and cafes and such. It blew my mind that they could support themselves through that kind of work, but I guess in France, you can.

PEV: What is the best and worst part about traveling on the road?

EH: The best part is, of course, seeing cool new places and people, the bad part is seeing not so cool new places and people.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Evan Hillhouse?

EH: Let’s see… I used to put on roofs during summer break for extra money. We’d work from like 7am-12pm replacing shingles, and then take off before it got too much over 100 degrees.

PEV: What kind of element do you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

EH: It has to be quiet, and usually something has to have just happened to me to write anything really good. I write really well with my older brother Erich- that’s where all the songs on the record came from. Those sessions were very prolific. It would be me sitting at the piano and him holding a guitar and we’d come up with titles or funny ideas and then go from there. Sometimes we would make the actual song title before any lyrics were written. The music was always the easy part, and that was square one for us. In fact, I think there’s a song that we forgot to put lyrics to.

PEV: Did you ever think that success would happen at such an early age for you? Is that hard to wrap your brain around?

EH: I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people about this album, and I’m proud of that. I appreciate that they seem to like what I’m doing right now, and hopefully I can continue with what I love to do.

PEV: Is there an artist today that you would like to collaborate with?

EH: Well, I’m a huge fan of The Grays, and of both Jason Falkner’s and Jon Brion’s solo works. They inspired me tremendously, and it would be unreal if I ever get to collaborate with either of them.

PEV: Which up and coming artist today do you think we should all be listening to?

EH: Well, there’s this one artist that I play with, Jessica Callahan. She’s a singer-songwriter-pianist from Orange County who just made an amazing album with Rendezvous Records, and is just starting to tour and push her live shows. She’s asked me to play drums for her and she seriously gets better every show.

PEV: Who is on your iPod or in your CD player now?

EH: Well I don’t own an ipod, but in my CD player is Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”. I’m just playing “Rock with You” over and over.

PEV: When you get a chance to relax and have some down time, what can we find you doing?

EH: Seeing a movie, reading a book, playing D & D with fellow half-geeks, listening to a friends’ bands or other live music, spending time with a friend or two.

PEV: In one word, describe Evan Hillhouse

EH: G-major

PEV: So, what is next for Evan Hillhouse?

EH: Well, big picture- trying to continue doing what I love. I’m getting into producing other artists and bands or playing with them in live settings, continue my formal training at CalArts next year, pursue my own solo project and start my next record. Right now though, I’ve got an English paper due Monday.

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