Tim Young, Bringing New York Rock'n'Roll Back To Its Roots
Rocker Tim Young is a veteran to the New York music scene. Influenced over the years by artists of all styles from Marvin Gaye to Jefferson Airplane to Elvis Presley, Young has been writing music for nearly two decades now. He started releasing albums in 2002 with No Stranger, a collection of nine original instrumentals that were self-produced and recorded at his home studio. His 2005 album, Red, was his debut as a singer/songwriter, and now in 2008 he has released his newest album, The Cost, that is a straight up rock 'n roll record. MusicDish had the chance to speak with Tim in this exclusive interview about his new album, his influences, his future and other related topics.
[MusicDish] When did you begin creating music, and when did you begin to seriously pursue a music career?
[Tim Young] I was a junior at Mansfield State University in Mansfield, PA. Actually, I had accordion lessons when I was a kid from eleven years to fifteen. But at Mansfield I began to write my own songs. Then I was nineteen. Peter, Paul and Mary were the easy ones to pick up then and everybody loved them.
Once I put my first band together, which was the early 80's, I became serious about my music. My first band, just for the record, was named Signals. Unfortunately there are no recordings of this music. Or maybe that's a good thing. I did always think I've got a bunch of hits in me.
[MusicDish] What were your earliest musical influences?
[Tim Young] Probably Elvis and Elvis clones like Fabian and Bobby Rydell. There was also this guy Buddy Knox who had this record, 'Party Doll', which I loved. The Beatles hit when I was fourteen and that was the heyday of great AM radio which was always on the instant I stepped foot into the family car. After I earned my driver's license and could drive on my own, I would drive as fast as the music would take me and turn it way up. I remember Tommy James's 'Hanky Panky' and Arthur Connolly's 'Sweet Soul Music' being particularly great to drive fast to.
[MusicDish] Do you find that songwriting or lyric writing comes most naturally to you?
[Tim Young] I think they both come naturally to me but both are difficult to get right. I began writing some poetry in high school but I didn't play guitar then. However, I was encouraged by a few fellow students to go on with my writing. I guess melodies did come kind of easy for me once I had mastered a few chords. It was and still is so fascinating to see and hear the words take on a new life in the context of the music. Plus I had memorized every lyric and melody nuance to every Beatles song that was released. I poured that stuff into my head. I know that helped me in many ways.
The late 60's and early 70's brought the counterculture to a head. I mean there was a lot in the air then that one could take to support the habit of writing music and putting words to it. It seemed there was always something that needed to be said. And for me the longer I kept writing the better I became.
[MusicDish] What music do you currently listen to?
[Tim Young] Mostly my own stuff. When I've completed a new project I get so much satisfaction in hearing it. It's like food. I need it to sustain myself. I also listen to artists I find on MySpace and other places I stumble onto on the web. I should probably branch out more with my listening but mostly I'm just disappointed. However, right now I am also pretty hot on Patti Smith after just seeing the brand new doc on her life, which was an excellent film.
[MusicDish] As I listen to 'The Cost,' I am clearly reminded of the twangy blues of Elvis, combined with the overwhelming vibe of heartbreak, mastered by Johnny Cash. Would you consider your music to be modeled after them?
[Tim Young] Not consciously. But Johnny Cash is someone I look up to because he was more of a writer than Elvis, and in the past few years before his death, Cash was really reborn again. It's no secret. Just listen to those last few albums. Stellar performances, in my opinion. And even though he did cover a lot of songs, if you didn't know you would probably think that Johnny wrote them. That's the kind of artist I can aspire to. It seems to me that his music was not a part of his life but was his life and in that respect I guess you could say I have modeled myself after Johnny Cash. I also dig the wearing of the black.
[MusicDish] What do you feel is the overall message of your album? Do the themes of pain and loss correspond with personal experiences, and do you feel that the album can serve as therapy for those who also experience similar situations?
[Tim Young] I don't know if there is a message, but it seems to me as the good stuff and bad stuff comes along it's better to deal with it somehow rather than sweeping it under the rug. If you lose someone dear to you then howl about it. When things get ugly, move away from them. The individual is responsible for him(her)self. It's too easy to blame somebody else. When things are great, celebrate. It's so much more wise, I think, to roll with the punches. Have fun. Not having fun? Get drunk.
I'd have to say that almost all my songs are pretty personal. They all trigger a personal response in me that no one else would know about. I think that happens to everyone - an individual response that lives in the mind. On the other hand, there can be a more shared response between people and that's what makes a song resonate and become popular. The sharing of the emotions the music allows to come through. There is real power in those kinds of emotional reactions.
I'm certainly no therapist, but I know from experience that the right song at the right moment is capable of lifting spirits and/or putting you in a mood that may somehow alleviate or bring into focus whatever situation one might be going through. I can say without any hesitation or trepidation that this record, 'The Cost', makes me feel great, and a big part of that reason is I think it touches on a lot of shared inner emotions.
[MusicDish] Which track is the most meaningful to you? And which do you think will be your biggest hit?
[Tim Young] I go back and forth on this but today I'd have to say the title track, 'The Cost', is the most meaningful. I could not have written this song without the amazing relationship I share with my girlfriend. 'The Cost' is the worst case scenario. What if things all fell apart? Disaster. I would never want to face that, but what if? Nobody knows.
If 'The Cost' was to be the biggest hit... Wow. I could see that. (I think the sleeper hit could be 'Wishing.')
[MusicDish] On 'Drifting Cowboy,' can you offer some insight as to whether the cowboy is a fictional character, or if he is autobiographical at all?
[Tim Young] I suppose a combination. That word 'cowboy' pops up in my songs sometimes. I dig that word because it represents freedom to me. Someone with no ties; whose only possessions are a horse and whatever is in the saddle bags - the ability to just split without notice. Maybe because I'm a city dweller part of me yearns for the openness of what the West used to be - what it meant to head West.
I took the title from the name of Hank Williams' band, The Drifting Cowboys. By the way, the details listed in the song are facts about Hank: born in Alabama, quit school in Montgomery, played in bars and on the radio, made it big in Nashville.
[MusicDish] How do you feel about the current state of the music industry? Do today's artists compare with the legends of the past, like Elvis or Johnny? Do you have hope for the future generations of American music?
[Tim Young] I think generally the industry is healthy because there are more artists than ever working and creating new music. I believe the consensus is that the internet has leveled the playing field some. The major labels no longer have the stranglehold on the business they used to.
I still think it's very difficult to have people pay attention to new artists and part of this is because there are more artists than ever and it's very difficult to get through most of the muck to find something of value. This has probably always been true, but with the internet it has become so much more obvious.
Great artists are rare. I know there are some out there but I don't want to be told who they are. Supposedly greatness rises to the surface and if that's true then I'll see them when they appear. Today it's too much of what I call the 'toothpaste effect': one brand today, a different brand tomorrow. The music doesn't stick; it just washes down the drain. Spit out.
Hope doesn't cost a dime.
[MusicDish] What is the next step in your music career going to be? What can fans expect?
[Tim Young] More music! I've never done any kind of major touring and I would like to do that. I want to put out one album a year. Right now I'm in the middle of writing songs for the next record. I want 'The Cost' to make a difference in my career so that I can accomplish some of these goals more easily.
My fans can always expect the kind of emotional no holds barred shows that I always deliver, and new songs and ideas are always a part of that. Performing is a high priority.
[MusicDish] Can you speak a bit about your current performance schedule? Where can fans see you live?
[Tim Young] This is an area I need to improve. I don't have a satisfactory performance line up. Right now I have a solo gig at the Vintage Bar, which is located on the corner of 51st Street and 9th Avenue. I perform there once a month, in about the middle of the month. The dates always change but I always post them on my site and on MySpace. Vintage is a great intimate setting and I love playing there.
My band, which is a duo, with Sand Edwards on drums, is on the lookout for gigs. I wear a lot of hats running this project and sometimes the booking agent hat has a tendency to fall off, but like all the others I pick it right up again.