INTERVIEW: Colony House
Tennessee four piece rock outfit Colony House are a shining example of hard work and preparation meeting opportunity. Seven years ago, the original lineup consisted of brothers Caleb (lead singer/guitar) and Will Chapman (drums) along with Scott Mills (lead guitar). Originally under the moniker CALEB, Colony House has spent the past seven years crafting a exquisite rock and roll sound that demands your attention. With the addition of Parke Cottrell on bass, signing a deal with RCA, and the release of their sophomore album 'Only the Lonely' in January - there's no end in sight for Colony House. I caught up with the guys before their show at KC Live Block with Dreamers and The Mowglis and spoke with them about growth, embracing the grind, and more in the exclusive interview below.
Your debut album When I Was Younger came out a little over two years ago. Since then, you’ve toured with WALK THE MOON, Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE...what’s something new you guys have learned about being a musician from everything you’ve experienced over the past few years?
Will: The biggest thing I’ve learned from touring with bands like that is I always feel like we kinda have to step our game up. But we’re friends with all those guys….I think over the three years of being Colony House, we’ve played so many shows and just doing that over and over again I think we’ve all become better players. And as much time we’ve spent together we’ve learned more about ourselves and each other...and how to push each other and NOT push each other. (laughs)
Parke: As far as growing as musicians, whenever you put yourself in a position when you’re around musicians that are better than you or just really inspiring to you, it just pushes you to do better...and to practice more and think outside of the box. For me, being on the road with bands like Switchfoot...who are just the nicest guys...it teaches us to be better people by their example. We’ve gotten the opportunity to play with really great musicians, so I feel like it pushes each of us to be better, which is really fun.
Your second album Only the Lonely comes out in January. Did you do a lot of writing for it on the road or did you wait until you finished touring?
Caleb: Um….we don’t write on the road a ton, but I think a lot of ideas started on the road. But I think we’re a project oriented band. I know when I’m writing it’s really good for me if I can drop off the map a little bit...I do better if I can have a lot going on and writing a lot of stuff at the same time. It gets the ball rolling...it’s kind of like pushing a car, it’s a difficult at first but once it starts rolling and has it’s momentum and you’re guiding it….that’s what songwriting feels like for me and I think that kind of ricochets off of how we make music together. Once things start rolling, we’re writing all the time and always in the studio messing around with ideas. It’s like all the little ideas over the past two years are in our pocket and we’ll dig it up whenever we have the time to really invest in it.
Will: We practice a lot of new stuff on the road.
Caleb: Yeah! That’s where a lot of them come to life and where the all become Colony House songs.
Caleb, Scott and Will - you guys have been playing together for a long time….I remember Danzell showed me a YouTube video of Caleb and Will playing together and I think you guys were my age or even younger, and I thought it was hilarious.
(we all share a laugh)
Caleb: That’s awesome
Have you noticed your guys’ approach to writing has changed over the years?
Caleb: I don’t know...on one hand it’s been consistent, like we’ve had the same equation. I think if anything, I’m still learning how to loosen my grip on ideas in general. I’ve always been writing songs and the cool thing about a band is it’s not just me. So obviously a lot ideas come from my bedroom, but loosening my grip on the songs and letting everyone kind of have their way with it more or less is what makes it a Colony House song. I’d say that’s a way we’ve grown...and that’s when songs start to make more sense live even...when you start letting everyone have their input. People always comment on the energy of our shows, so it's like let’s figure out how to write songs that dives into that you know? It’s never like, “Well we’ve arrived and mastered it.” It’s a continuous thing and we're always chipping away at different things.
Caleb, you’re a dad now which is pretty wild. I don’t have any kids, but I have three nephews and a niece so it’s kind of the same thing. Watching them grow up and seeing the world through their eyes is crazy. How has your son influenced the way you write and your life overall?
Caleb: Oh man….you try to make it count a little bit more. It feels like there’s another life on the line. That when I leave home, I’m not just leaving my wife, but I’m leaving my son at home as well. So it’s like let’s make the most of us this and even staring at a one and a half year old you want him to be proud of you. It makes you ask the question, “Why am I doing this?” and it makes you hunt for an answer. And it keeps you in check. It obviously changes everything having a kid…..
Will: There’s a song on the new record.
Caleb: Yeah, there’s a new song on the record called “Where Your Father’s Been”....yeah, I don’t know. I just think it’s another level of inspiration that we all have.
The year is almost over but there’s been some amazing albums that have come out this year. I wanted to ask you guys what are some of your favorites?
Caleb: LEAGUES….our buddies from Nashville just released an album called Alone Together
What kind of music is it?
Scott: It’s like pop alternative
Caleb: Yeah, you’d like it. I definitely recommend checking them out.
Will: Local Natives just put out a new record
Yeah, I’m seeing them tomorrow. I’m psyched for that. It’s my first time seeing them.
Caleb: New Switchfoot record is great.
Parke: There’s this band in Nashville I’m friends with called Myzica . One of my buddies isn’t technically in the band but plays with them live. It’s kind of like throwback 80s pop….kinda Heart like. They have some really fun, cool songs. I really like their new record.
Scott: Hm...I listen to the new NEEDTOBREATHE record a lot.
Caleb: The Boxer Rebellion just put out a new record this year too. It was earlier in the year….I already know we’re going to love the new Kings of Leon record. The songs that are out right now are ridiculous.
Yeah, I’m really psyched for that. “WALLS” really surprised me when it came out. I thought it was going to be this huge dynamic drop in the song but it’s really mellow.
Will: Have you seen the music video?
Yeah! I was kind of waiting for something to happen but I think that was the whole point. I’m still waiting for you guys to go on tour with them
Caleb: Hey, we’re on the same label now….we felt like our chances have gone up a LITTLE bit.
They toured with Young the Giant a while back and I’m so mad I couldn’t see that.
Scott: Oh yeah, the new Young the Giant record is out. We saw them in Nashville and they were amazing.
Last question: There’s always highs and lows in any career and I wanted to ask if you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Scott: Don’t quit your side job and don’t be ashamed of your side job. Do it until you literally can’t do it anymore….and then ask if you can do it a bit longer.
Caleb: Yeah, we were talking about that with someone today. We didn’t start paying ourselves on a steady basis until like two years ago and we’ve been a band for almost seven….so….you do the math. (laughing) And people asked, “Well what did you do?” We worked jobs! And even now, we’ll still go home and work. Sometimes to stay busy at home or to help out.
Scott: Realistic expectations….being in band for seven years. It takes a while for music to travel to people in real time. Many things that happen over night really don’t. It just takes a long time for things to get known. But yeah, just adjusting your expectations on success in the near future from when you started.
Caleb: This is something my dad told me….it’s kind of worked in several aspects of my life. It worked when I was deciding if I was going to marry the girl I ended up marrying and I asked my dad, “How do you know when you know?” and he said, “Look ten years in the future, twenty years in the future, thirty years in the future, fifty years in the future...can you see your life without that woman?” And you have to be real with yourself because a lot of people get caught up and automatically say “Of course!”. And that’s the same thing he challenged me and my brother with when it came to music….can you look into the future and be okay not playing music. And of course things happen and can change….marriage is a different story but with what we’re doing, we all feel so passionate about this and feel like this is exactly what we’re supposed to be doing and when we look at the big picture, we’re supposed to be making music. That’s our role in the universe right now and that’s how we bring our good and our hope…..I think there’s too many people that want it so bad and will do whatever they can and they’ll try but if it gets too hard, I’ll stop. I’m not sure if that’s encouraging advice but my encouraging advice would be having ten people at your show doesn’t mean you’re failing...having zero people at your show doesn’t mean you're failing. Because we still have shows where it’s like, “Did they know that we’re coming?” and a lot of those shows kind of define you as a band. There are people here who want to see us...rather it’s two, two hundred or two thousands. Carrying on in those low moments really define you as a band and separate you from a lot of people.
You guys want to add anything?
Will: Uh….practice...a lot. (laughing)
Parke: That’s what I was going to say! Whatever instrument you’re playing or if you’re a singer….to me, it makes a lot of sense if you love it enough, you have to prove it to yourself that you love it and want it enough. It’ll work itself out but not being afraid of writing a bad idea…..not even a bad idea, but not being afraid of improving. I know for the longest time I’d be afraid of asking questions in school but even asking myself hard questions...like with a song I’d ask myself, “Is this really what I’m trying to say?” But if it’s not, it’s okay. It may take time, but I know it’ll be better. So yeah, just basically working hard at it and like Scott said: having realistic expectations of time. Sometimes you can write a song in five minutes and sometimes it takes five years….like literally you’ll have the start of an idea and it takes years for you to finish it. And everything within those two time frames is okay. I feel like a lot of people think you have to look a certain way or sound a certain way, but everyone has their own story and it’s important to stay true to yours.
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