By Tyler Fox (@TylerFox585)
Those of you who have been readers of Turnabout since the beginning may recall an interview with Tony Memmel back in July of 2014. Those of you who didn’t read it, or don’t remember it, have been missing out. Memmel is an extremely talented singer-songwriter and an incredible person who uses his music and performance to inspire and help the less fortunate. Memmel himself was born without his left forearm and has overcome the challenges involved with being a musician facing this obstacle.
Memmel has been working hard this past year: touring the United States, visiting towns inspiring people to live life to the fullest and to not let anything hold you back. He also recently finished recording a new full length, We’ll Be On The Radio, which will be coming out next month. I had the chance to touch base with Tony to discuss these things and everything else that has happened since our last chat. Be sure to check out his Facebook page and get all of his releases, including We’ll Be On The Radio, through iTunes.
Hello again, Tony! Last time we spoke you were getting ready to finish up an extremely eventful year in 2014. You had just completed a move to Nashville, performed at the famous Bluebird Cafe, and competed in the VH1 “Make a Band Famous” contest. So, how did you close out a busy 2014 and welcome in 2015?
Hello! Thank you for having me back, Turnabout.
The close of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 were some of our most exciting days to date. We (My wife, Lesleigh, and I), toured all over America. Some highlights included a weeklong tour in South Dakota where we were brought in to present as keynote speakers at events across the state, a weeklong guitar clinic in an elementary school that culminated with a final performance of full classes of students playing a concert with me on their guitars (showcasing their newly learned guitar skills); after another clinic, a high school choir accompanied me in a concert in north-central Wisconsin. I had several speaking opportunities at colleges in Iowa and Connecticut. I continue my work as an ambassador for The Lucky Fin Project, and I have become increasingly involved in adaptive music education through my work with a non-profit organization called The Adaptive Music Project.
You have now been in Nashville for a while. What is it like calling Music City home, being surrounded by incredible music and people constantly?
It’s exciting, humbling, and inspiring. There is a constant sense of competition, but also comradery in that. I hear a lot of artists and writers who have amazing songs, and it makes me want to come back to the show the next night with an even better song.
We also enjoy the warm(er) weather, the culinary scene, the people, our church, our friends… it’s been a good fit for us.
This past fall you toured the East Coast fairly extensively. What was the most memorable part of the tour?
Hmm… it’s hard to pick a most memorable moment. We did a large spectrum of work, with an emphasis on our educational programs – We visited a preschool, several elementary schools, did an extensive three day clinic in a school that was really meaningful, a house concert, and on top of all that, my friends threw me a surprise birthday party that made the trip even more memorable and fun.
Over the past few years, most of your releases have been EPs and singles. This is your first full length album in a while. What difficulties do you run into when preparing for, recording, and producing lengthier releases?
In this case, this album was four years in the making, but the majority of the work that went into the final piece was completed in two months time.
From the beginning of my professional career until 2012, I consistently released either a full-length record or an EP each year. In 2013, I started visiting Nashville with more regularity, and the active, competitive songwriting scene made me dive deeper into my craft. I have spent countless hours shaping these songs, and improving my singing and guitar playing.
I released a couple of singles along the way, but I wanted my first true, full-length album out of Nashville to be a giant leap forward in every way. I hope when people hear it, they hear something fresh and inspired. I wanted to deliver in a big way for our fans, and for myself.
You recently completed recording your upcoming full length album, We’ll Be On The Radio, at the legendary House Of Blues Recording Studio in Nashville. What was it like recording there and becoming part of its impressive history?
This story actually begins in Madison, Wisconsin. During our fall touring, I had a stretch of dates planned in the Midwest, and noticed I had two open days on the calendar where I was only going to be a few hours away from Blast House Studios (in Madison), where I had recorded “The Good Land” (track 3) in 2014. I sent a few emails, and made a few calls, and booked studio time. We planned to record two songs there in two days, and actively shared our experience via social media.
The night we finished recording those two tracks, I received a text message from Tom Freitag, a friend and engineer at House of Blues in Nashville. He had seen my social media posts, and he said he’d really like to work with me on the rest of the album in Nashville. I jumped at the chance.
We recorded five songs with Tom at the helm. In the studio, the quality of the experience begins with the people. Tom was excited, friendly, knew every cable and every wire inside and out, and was equally insightful about musicality and the emotional elements that go into making a great recording.
On top of that, the facility is historic and you’re filled with the sense that you’re doing something great, in a great place. When you’re in a place like that, you feel a drive to raise the bar, which, if you allow it, can bring out your best.
Where did you find inspiration for the songs on We’ll Be On The Radio?
Inspiration came from lots of sources, and often does for me. From the get-go, I was writing songs for two types of shows: full-band performances, and singer-songwriter acoustic shows. I wanted an album that reflected the diversity of styles that we play.
Thematically, I wrote the title-track “We’ll Be On The Radio” before all of the other tracks. It’s kind of a heart-on-my-sleeve rocker about love and hope. That was my starting point. We recorded a really cool full-band arrangement of a previously recorded acoustic track called “Rock and Roll Was New.” It’s about when I was learning to play the guitar, the doors that music opened for me in my imagination, and the drive it takes to do something meaningful in life.
I have a song called “Lucky Fin Song” that I wrote as a theme song for the non-profit organization I work with called The Lucky Fin Project. “I Know We’ll Get There” was written during our VH1 competition last year. “Reds and Blues” is a total Nashville creation (though recorded in Madison), “Jake’s Song” is about my new baby nephew who was just born in July. The whole album is best summed up as hopeful. I hope that people will feel good after they hear this music.
We’ll Be On The Radio comes out in January. Where will people be able to purchase the album, and is there an option to pre-order the record?
“We’ll Be On The Radio” will be available everywhere in 2016 (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.), but I am doing a special pre-release for my fans this December. If they’d like a CD of the album, they can get it directly through my store at TonyMemmel.com
What should people be looking for from Tony Memmel in 2016?
We are so proud of this new album and the grassroots effort that has made it a reality. We are going to be working to get it played on the radio and reviewed in blogs (By the way, thank you for being the first to do a piece on this!), we are in the middle of booking an extensive spring tour, and have a couple of big news items that are in the works, but details are forthcoming.
Overall, we are looking forward to 2016 being a significant year in #MemmelNation (what my fans and I affectionately call ourselves).
We’d like to thank Tony Memmel for his time, the great photographs, and we’d encourage you to check out We’ll Be On The Radio when it releases!