T.H.E Interview – Stewart Eastham

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stewart eastham interview

Nashville composer and songwriter Stewart Eastham releases his album ‘Human No More (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)’, featuring music he composed for the feature horror film of the same title. The lead single ‘The Calamus’ is out now on all streaming platforms.

We caught up with Stewart Eastham to speak to him about “Human No More” album, it’s lead single, and more.

Aditya – Hey Stewart, welcome to this edition of T.H.E Interviews and we’re excited to talk to you! How are things?

Stewart Eastham – Things are going well, thank you! I just got back from a week-long trip to Colorado. I got to see family (and some old friends) I had not seen in a while. Rocky Mountain National Park was pretty spectacular. After being home so much the last year and half, it was nice to finally be able to get away for a bit.

Aditya – You’ve been surrounded by music growing up, which is the first instrument you picked up, and at what age?

Stewart Eastham – I took piano lessons as a small child, but I didn’t really take to it very well. Looking back now, I really wish it would have stuck better. I guess I just wasn’t ready. Later, maybe around 6th grade, I took guitar lessons at the local music store in our small town. I enjoyed that better, but, at the time I was more interested in learning how to play my favorite pop songs rather than studying the fundamentals. But, I did have a great teacher, Dave Houser, who managed to teach me some basics that stuck with me.

What I really wanted growing up was a drum set. It wasn’t until early high school that I finally got one. My gramma bought me this carpet-lined, puke-green drum set she spotted at a garage sale. It was in terrible shape, but it was good enough for me to learn the basics of rock drumming.

Aditya – Well, 2021! How has this year been for you? Especially after the disastrous 2020.

Stewart Eastham – It hasn’t been too bad. It was pretty exciting to go to a concert this summer for the first time in about a year and a half. (We saw The Black Crowes at Ascend Amphitheater in downtown Nashville which is a fantastic outdoor venue.)

The beginning of the year I was recovering from a surgery I had at the end of 2020. After that I was mostly focused on the album version of the music I wrote for a horror film in 2020. The film was released in the fall of 2020, but getting the music prepped for album release turned out to be a big project in and of itself. The album is called Human No More (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and is available on all streaming outlets right now! (The vinyl release is lagging due to industry-wide delays, but should be available before too long.) A friend of mine, Amanda Danner, did the artwork which turned out really cool. Rather than using art directly from the film, I wanted to commission an artist to do something original inspired by the film.

Aditya – ‘The Calamus’ sounds outstanding and perfectly matches the theme of the movie. Could run us through the creative process of the track?

Stewart Eastham – Thank you very much! It’s actually one of my personal favorites on the album.

That track plays over a sequence narrated by the world-weary main character that is both mysterious and melancholy. I wanted to create a piece of music that captured that emotion without being overly-sentimental. To help ground the song emotionally, I decided to use acoustic guitar for texture in the middle section that is the centerpiece of the track. I felt like that created a more “earthy” human feel to distinguish it from some of the other more industrial sounding pieces in the score. There is electric guitar on some other tracks, but that’s the only one where I used acoustic guitar.

Aditya – The Piano Melody really sticks out in the track, was it a conscious decision to have it structured as such?

Stewart Eastham – I figured out early on I wanted the track to have a circular structure. So the piano melodies at the start and end of the track harken back to themes and motifs used throughout the score. I’m not sure where that driving piano melody in the middle section came from. I just stumbled upon it and fell in love with it. I found it very moving the way it cut through the ambient/soundscape elements of that section. (Maybe in some ways it represented how the emotional nature of the character’s narration cut through the overall darkness of the film.)

Aditya – How do you manage to glue your elements in the song so well?

Stewart Eastham – Again, thank you! In general, for this project, one of my mantras became “simplify”. With this track, like many others on the soundtrack, I started with a more complex, dense piece and then I chiselled it down. I’d record a bunch of stuff and then start peeling back layers to find the heart of the track.

As far as the mix itself, the credit there goes to Rich Mouser. He did the mixing and mastering for the album. I’ve worked with him now on five albums (1 Day Of the Outlaw, 3 solo, 1 soundtrack) and I think he’s one of the best in the business. He does incredible work.

Aditya – For beginners, what are certain things to keep in mind while producing a score for a film?

Stewart Eastham – You really need to get inside the head of the director. For this project, we decided to work on the track “Unique Insight” first. The director, Christopher Broadstone, thought that would be most representative of the film and if I could get that one right, the rest would fall into place. And he was absolutely right! It took a long time and a lot of back and forth to get that track right. But, through that process we had a “mind-meld” and most of the other tracks only required minor tweaks after the first pass.

Aditya – I see that you have a decent Vinyl collection, could you share your favorite record and the story behind it?

Stewart Eastham – Ha…some might call it “decent”…others might call it “ridiculous”. Picking a favorite record is very difficult. My tastes and interests are constantly changing and evolving so my favorite right now will be different from my favorite in a month or two.

Okay, I just thought of one… When I first moved to Nashville my vinyl collection was of a manageable size and during that time one of my favorite records was Justin Townes Earle’s album “Harlem River Blues.” I listened to that album a bunch in Los Angeles as I was packing up and then listened to it a TON when I first moved out here. It was one of the few albums that got a little damaged in the move. Nothing major, but the corners of the cover got bent and creased a bit. Normally that would drive me nuts, but somehow those bent corners became symbolic of that ragged time in my life. I can always put on that record and be transported back to 2010/2011. I’ll never get rid of it.

Aditya – If you’d like to perform ‘Human No More’ as an orchestral ensemble, where would you like to perform it?

Stewart Eastham – I think the Schermerhorn Symphony Center right here in Nashville would be the perfect venue for something like that. It’s a beautiful building with extraordinary sound. (I saw Gregory Porter perform there which was one of the most amazing sounding concerts I’ve ever heard. I later saw Ronnie Milsap perform with the Symphony there which was also pretty cool.)

They are doing more symphony concerts at the aforementioned Ascend Amphitheater downtown so that would be a pretty cool spot to do it, as well. (Soon I am going to see Nas perform there with the Nashville Symphony which I am VERY excited about.)

Aditya – Could you share your journey from being the drummer in the band Minibike to becoming the frontman for the band ‘Day Of The Outlaw’?

Stewart Eastham – I played drums in bands all through college, but when I moved to LA for film school I got busy with other things. A buddy of mine from high school lived in Long Beach and I casually started jamming with his roommate in their garage. He played bass in the South Bay band Minibike. One day he called asking if I could fill in on drums for a gig in Hermosa. I say, “Yes!” and that started me on my journey of becoming a more serious musician. After that gig, they asked me to join the band.

We were just a three piece and I started bringing in my own songs. The frontman of that band, AJ Dia, was the first person who really encouraged me to write and sing. So, at some point, we started switching instruments for a few songs every gig. Once I got a taste of playing guitar and singing on stage, that was pretty much the end of my drumming days.

We had a line-up change and expanded to a four piece band with two lead singers. Eventually that band morphed into Day Of The Outlaw where I was the sole lead singer. We put out our debut record (Black Mountain Majesty) in 2009 and a year and a half later I moved to Nashville! Once in Nashville we had another line-up change and put out one more record (The Retribution Waltz).

I’m still friends with the various Day Of The Outlaw members and have continued making music with some of them. Burke Ericson, who played bass in the LA incarnation of the band, produced or co-produced all my solo albums. Allen Jones, the drummer in the Nashville version of the band, played drums on my last two solo albums and still plays live with me when possible.

Aditya – Lastly, How’s 2022 looking for you?

Stewart Eastham – I’m very excited for 2022! I have several music projects in the works. The two main projects I have on the table are kind of opposite ends of the spectrum. One is a straight-forward 70s/90s influenced country album I’m going to work on with a good buddy of mine, Dillon Keith, out here. He’s a fantastic guitar player and is becoming a killer producer as well. I’ve been wanting to do something like that for a while. On the other end of the spectrum is a project expanding on some of the weirder stuff I did on my 2020 album The Great Silence…mixing soundtrack type vibes with pop sounds.

Thus, the latter part of this year I’ll be doing a lot of writing. Then, next year I’ll start recording again. I’m hoping to do another film score project in 2022, as well!

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