Interview | Escondido: “The goal was for everyone to feel the music, rather than play the music.”

Photos by Eli McFadden

Jessica Maros and Tyler James are a new force creeping out of Nashville, and they go by the name of Escondido — but that’s only part of what you need to know. Maros’ voice on “Black Roses” is an immediate example of what you’ve been missing; think the mystery of Mazzy Star mixed with the darkness of Margo Timmins.

I’m setting the bar high, sure, but they proved their worth on Conan last week with their performance of “Cold October.” Let’s have a look/listen:

Recently, we caught up with Maros and James over email.

Tell me more about the musical talent in Nashville these days. How did the environment fuel the recording of The Ghost of Escondido?

Jess: The environment was a huge influence to the recording of this record. When musicians choose to live in Nashville I believe they come here to perfect their craft. The amount of talent that lies in that city is unbelievable. The greatest thing is that we have the support. That environment helped me grow a vision for how I saw myself as an artist and helped Escondido grow as a band before we even released anything. It was an organic process, Tyler was able to choose the right musicians. We literally had one rehearsal and the next day recorded the record. I don’t think we could have found that musicianship anywhere else.

Tyler: Being in Nashville is everything.  I’m so proud of the artist community in our city.  I’ve learned everything I know from the friends and legends that we have the honor of interacting with every day. Jess is right… this town draws in the folks who take their craft seriously and want to be better. Nashville is too small of a town to roll up and try and kick ass for selfish reasons…you’ll crash and burn.

You recorded the album live in a single day. How does one accomplish such a feat? You didn’t want to kill each other when it was over?

Jess: Oh no, it was an adrenaline high. We all had a mission, we got down to business. Three takes of every song…pretty much just jammed. The goal was for everyone to feel the music, rather than play the music. On the track “Don’t Love Me Too Much” we literally had a chorus going into it the day of. Thinking it would be a snippet piece, an interlude. We started jamming and wrote the second verse and the rest of the song on the spot. We went into it wanting to be imperfect. Plus, Tyler and I did a month pre-production work and let the rest of it up to the band that day. I’m not sure if we could pull it off again…it’s one of those things that I believe is hard to recreate. That’s what made it so special.

How did the Conan performance go?

Tyler: It was one of the best days of my life, honestly.  You hope for that opportunity but never expect it.  We got to run the song five times in the morning while they figured out sound, lighting, and camera shots and that really helped. I don’t really get nervous playing shows but had some pretty serious stage fright when the curtain came up…was second guessing the chords I was playing, and my trumpet part. About and minute in I realized the band was killing it and i just enjoyed it from there. Everyone on the show was a class act from beginning to end. The sound and production folks were incredible…the crew treated us like friends…Conan and his band were incredibly nice. After we recorded they let us walk over to the mixing truck and make some tweaks…wasn’t expecting that at all. We all watched it together later that night at a bar at Sunset Blvd. and were all hi-fiving…couldn’t believe how good the audio and visuals turned out.

Jess: I’m so happy with the way it turned out. We’re such a new band that if it went south it could have been bad for us. I can say that now. I think before we did it, I went into it not thinking about the what ifs…I went in thinking we’re just going to be ourselves. They had requested us to do “Cold October” and we really wanted to include a trumpet. The song never had trumpet in the recording so we decided to do an intro…I’m so glad we did cause it gave us a chance to show the vibe of the a band. Conan liked my blue jumpsuit and wanted it for himself and I’m glad he liked the Mariachi hat we made for him.

What’s the best thing about making music as a duo?

Jess: Best thing about it is that there’s only two opinions. Tyler and I are so opinionated that if we had anyone else involved nothing would get done. We know our place, we know our strengths. We make an incredible team.

Tyler: We get a lot more done compared to being solo artists. We keep each other motivated from a music as well as business perspective. I personally love not having the pressure of being lead vocalist on every song. 

David Lynch recently tweeted his approval of “Black Roses.” Did you freak, or was it no big deal? What’s your take on social media affecting music these days?

Tyler: I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan so it meant a lot to get a nod from Lynch…he’s a living legend with an incredible body of work and I’m not sure how we made a blip on his radar. Social media is a necessary evil…Id rather focus on creating music but no one will know about it unless we change with the times and keep up with how folks discover new music.

Jess:  It was a crazy day. I woke up on Monday morning with my phone going crazy. The craziest thing about it is that David Lynch was one of the influences to our video “Black Roses.” Funny how you put that out into the world and it comes back to you in the weirdest ways.

Social media scares me. I’m terrible at it. I usually leave it up to Tyler cause he seems to have a knack for it. I don’t like talking about myself; I feel awkward about it. These days it has to be done. There is an art to it, which leads me to believe that artists that suck at social media get lost in the shuffle. There is so much information and bands out there, it’s harder to stick out in the masses. You can have the biggest features but still no fans; that leads me to believe that our attention spans are too short to take notice anymore because of the influx of music.

It’s also a good thing, you can create a buzz without a team. Which is how we started, we have a small team and still doing it ourselves. Something that couldn’t be possible 6 years ago.

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