Small Houses (Philadelphia, PA)

sh2(photo by Jarred Gastreich)

You grew up in Michigan, right? Where have you been living recently?

Absolutely. I grew up in Flint. I don’t live anywhere in particular, too much time on the road to name one place home, but I consider Philadelphia to be a base for me.

How did you decide on the name Small Houses? Why perform under that name instead of your own?

Small Houses was an early poem of mine. Its theme has remained a constant throughout all my albums. When I start departing from that idea, I may change the name, but I don’t see an end in sight.

You recorded your new album Still Talk; Second City in Atlanta, Georgia at Cottage House and took your time working on it. What was that process like?

Usually things were very relaxed. Damon Moon, the album’s producer, and I took our time finding all the sounds for the album. That’s not always the process when time is a constraint.

The studio’s label The Cottage Recording Co. released it last month. How did that come about? Had you mostly self-released music before this?

I’ve had a few labels here and there. My last album was released by YerBird, a great label based out of Calgary, Alberta. This time around I needed a type of support that The Cottage was more than willing to offer. They risked a lot on releasing this album, and I owe them for that.

Are your songs mostly autobiographical or do you write from the point of view of fictional characters sometimes?

It’s hard to say. Things sort of weave in and out of being self-referential, but very rarely is something totally fictitious. I’ll almost always write from my perspective, but with a reverence for the stories of my friends.

You reference Houston a few times on this new album. Do you have a connection to that city?

I don’t have a long history with Houston. It’s more of a placeholder for a town I have a closer relationship with. It’s kinda like what I mentioned in the previous question. This is my story, but I might have changed details at times to consider the other stories I love.

This album features a really fully sound, especially compared to 2012’s Exactly Where You Wanted to Be. Has Small Houses ever toured as a full band? Is that something you want to do (more often)?

Small Houses has taken a lot of shapes, but the solo set is always the core. I love the idea of adding more members for future tours, but I can never tell when that will be exactly. The more I play alone, the more excited I get about that idea.

You played some shows in Iceland in 2013, right? What was that like?

Oh, Iceland was great! You really realize how small the country is when the president of the country comes to your show and speaks with a lot of the crowd on a first-name basis. I’ll definitely return for some shows in the future.

You’re interested in film photography, right? Why do you prefer film to digital photography?

I do like film photography. I love how temperamental and unpredictable it all is. At least, that’s the way it is for me. I don’t have a negative outlook towards digital, it’s just doesn’t excite me in the same way film does. The color from a 35mm photograph is a direct reflection of light on a subject as interpreted by a physical object. I know you’re thinking, “duh,” but isn’t that exciting?

I kind of hate you for writing the line “I don’t like songs that much” before I could think of it. As a songwriter who tours constantly and sees so many acts is it hard to sift through it all? Has being exposed to so much music narrowed down what you love?

I still get excited about music, not every day, but pretty often. My thought has always been that the best songs are yet to be written. For me, a line like, “I don’t like songs that much” refers more to the hopelessness around touring and the hope that performing might bring closure. “They won’t tell us about the road because I had a lot to say.”

Fancy coffee or gas station coffee?

Whatever is nearer.

Thai food or pizza?


Dawn or dusk?

I definitely witness more of the latter, so my pick is dawn, only for sake of its rarity in my life.


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