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Catching up with Seabird

Perhaps you have heard of the four-piece piano-based band Seabird, hailing from Cincinnati.  Then again, the recognizable sounds of Seabird have received support from major networks ABC, CBS and MTV U where the band's music has been used in promotion for "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), "Pushing Daisies" (ABC), "Numb3rs" (CBS) and more.  We recently sat down with brothers Aaron (vocals/keys) and Ryan (guitar) Morgan at the Purple Door Arts and Music Festival for an interview.  We chatted with them about the exposure on television, and more.

inReview: How do you think exposure on television helped get the music of Seabird out?

Ryan: I think it has been a really great thing for us.  It has probably been one of our best assets, for lack of a better term.  It is certainly not something that we expected when we started writing and recording music.  But as it started to happen, it definitely helped legitimize the brand as a band and helped the industry take us more seriously seeing that it is a good investment.

I think another thing that is really cool about it is those TV shows, as silly as TV can be these days, I think they really want to use music, especially in the cases that we have had, that connect with people.  You know that have meaning to it, even musically and sound-wise that connects with people.  And they put these songs it seems that are meaningful themes.   Not every single one.  Like we recently had a song on a TV show called "Losing it With Jillian" and that is certainly a show that is trying to change people's lives in a good way.  They put our song "Believe Me" on there.  That was incredible that they thought we had a message that was going to connect with people as well.  Obviously that show is on a bigger level than our band is at this point.  They heard our songs, they liked the sound of it, and they liked the message.  So that is pretty encouraging.  It also helps pay the bills!  And pay off the records.  And financially helps us to continue doing this.  So that's really a big part of it as well.

inReview: Do you think opportunities on TV shows is getting more music out there in general since it seems a lot of people aren't  listening to radio?

Ryan: Yeah it certainly helps.  I don't think that our record sales have spiked significantly because of the TV placements.  Some of them have been better than others.  "Losing it With Jillian" was the first one that put our band name up there.  I think that really helped people connect.  And then we have one on MTV now on a show called "If You Really Knew Me" and that one actually promotes our band as well.  It has our band name and says who we are.  Our music video plays at the end of the episode.  So that one is certainly something people can connect with us directly.  But some of the other ones, as great as they have been, have just been our song in the background.  It's the kind of thing to where people will hear that and then hopefully the next time they hear it or hear of us, they say "Oh yeah, I have heard of those guys before."  But I don't think when our songs were on the TV shows for the first couple of times, people were hearing it and saying, "I want that!" and going out and buying it.  But it is all a step in the right direction.  And it is definitely not a bad thing to be known as a band who does well with TV placements.

inReview: I was just thinking that Switchfoot kind of got their big break in part due to their songs in the movie A Walk to Remember.  Speaking of Switchfoot, you guys got to open for them for a couple of shows.  If you had the choice between opening for a band that is more well known or something else to get your band out there, would you get more exposure from being on TV or opening for a band that has a pretty large fan base, or is there another way that you think the music of Seabird gets their music out there?

Aaron:  I think that live performance is definitely the best way to gain exposure for a band.  Especially when you are touring with somebody like Switchfoot or NEEDTOBREATHE, somebody who has a consistent fan base with them.  So those opportunities are really huge for a band like ours.   At some point you have to kind of back off a little bit from supporting a bigger band like Switchfoot and kind of say, "Ok we have to become a headliner so have to start playing full sets rather than just twenty minute sets," and things like that. 

The value behind playing for 2,000 Switchfoot fans as opposed to fifty Seabird fans is really hard to compare.  So there has to be some strategy behind it, too.  Like how many times do we open for this audience before we can go back and headline in that market.  It's a really good question but I think that live shows are the best way to spread the word about your band and to gain exposure.

inReview:  How much involvement do you have in making those decisions?

Aaron:  A lot.  If a tour comes up where Switchfoot needs somebody to play some shows with them, it is up to us to say yes or no.  In most cases it is a no-brainer to say, "Yes!" in a situation like that.  But we also talk a lot with our booking agent and management and say, "Ok the Switchfoot tour was incredible.  Now we need to go back to those markets and headline on a smaller scale.  But we need to make sure we capture those fans that we played for."  So we have a lot of involvement in that.

Ryan: A lot of it has to do with relationships as well.  Like with Switchfoot for example, not that bands always take their friends out and things like that but it is certainly a relational industry.  We got an opportunity to open for a few shows for Jon Foreman's other band that he started a year or two ago with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek called Fiction Family.  So we did a few dates with them last year.  That was when we originally met Jon Foreman.  Actually we had met him years ago with the band, which is kind of funny because me and him are like almost the exact same age.

So we played these shows with Fiction Family and that was when we met Jon Foreman.  And Switchfoot's production manager was out on that tour as well so we got to meet them and I think as a result of that they were like, "Ok.  Seabird are nice guys, they work hard," and we started to become friends.  So it is because of things like that which gave us the opportunity, not directly but I am sure that played a part in them asking us to come out play more shows with them in the future.  Same with NEEDTOBREATHE.  We have gotten to know those guys over the years and they just recently asked us to go out on a larger tour with them.  And our booking agent and manager are always telling us like, "Hey if you want to go out on tour with other bands, you have to reach out to them and hang out with them and talk with them and become their friends.  So that's definitely a large part of it.  And I can see that in our own circumstances. We are certainly not at the point where we are taking other bands out with us.  But if we were, the first ones we would consider would be the ones that we know and are friends with and we know are legitimate hard workers and good people.

inReview: What is your favorite setting to play music and why?

Aaron: There is a club in northern Kentucky called the Southgate House.  And it is big vintage-looking mansion where the inventor of the "Tommy Gun" was born.  So there is a lot of history there and it has just got a lot of vibe.  It is really unique.  It is really colorful.  It is very comfortable; very laid back.  There is nothing modern about it.  It is definitely our favorite place to play in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area.  But those types of places feel really great.  It is hard to get excited about playing in a brand new church, you know what I mean?  Like so sterile and it exists for worship and for teaching.  And that makes total sense.  So we don't really play any churches unless we are opening for a bigger band that happens to be playing at a church.  So with the clubs, with the more unique clubs are certainly something we feel more comfortable playing.

inReview: If you could extinguish the separation of "Christian" versus "mainstream" music?  What would you do?  How would you do it?

Aaron:  I think the only music that would exist in Christian music would be Worship.  I think that is the only type of Christian music that should really have the name "Christian" tagged to it.  Because Christian means "little Christ" and Worship is typically music to Christ or about Christ.  I feel like any music that is not about Christ and not worshipping Christ shouldn't be tagged "Christian" in terminology or whatever.

So that being said, I think that would be the only place that the word Christian would exist.  And I don't feel like the term secular or non-Christian would even exist.  You know what I mean?  It's all music.  God created music and He didn't, as far as I can remember, title it Christian music.

So I think that is really confusing for non-Christians to hear the term Christian music, or secular.  It's like either sacred or secular.  It sounds like pagan.  You know what I am saying?  It's just like I think it's just a really bad connotation.  I think it is really confusing for non-Christians.  And Christians are the only ones who really understand, you know, when you say Christian music.  And even then, they are expecting Christian songs.

We talk about this a lot and we are certainly not trying to re-write the book on Christianity or Christian music or the ministry of a rock band.  But it is certainly something that we feel strongly about that kind of does create a dividing wall that I don't feel that God really wants.

inReview: I am with you on that which is why I often ask the question. 

Aaron: Yeah.

inReview: What albums are you looking forward to releasing in the coming months?

Ryan: As far as other bands?  That's hard to say but there has been a ton of really good one that have just recently come out.  Greg Laswell is one of our favorite artists.  [He is] from the west coast, from California maybe.  He has been a big inspiration to us.  He has done a lot of film and TV syncs as well.  [A] great solo artist that has great production.

Arcade Fire just came out with a brand new record and we just listened to that for the first time yesterday and I think I loved it as much as you can love an Arcade Fire record for the first time that you hear it.  I mean it takes a little bit to grow on you.  I certainly expect that to be one of our favorites.

One of the surprising, well surprising in a good way, was Delta Spirit [who[ just put out a new record I think in June.  And we have just worn it out.  We can't stop listening to it.  It's so great - start to finish.  Great songs.  Like those guys did what every band wants to do.  They went and in they made a record that they wanted to make - that they loved.  I heard them saying if they had a song that they were playing and it wasn't fun to them, they would stop playing it.  So they only put stuff on the record that they felt was fun for them.  And they certainly did a good job at that.  The record just makes sense.  So that is one that we have loved recently.

[I am a] big Wilco fan.  I don't think they have anything new coming out.  Aqualung produced a few our songs off our second record.   He is someone that we always looking forward to new material.  Is there anything else that you can think of that's coming out?

Aaron:  The Strokes.  I am a big Strokes fan and I really like the lead singers' songwriting.  And their guitar work is incredible.  Just really really catchy melodies in every song.  Massive hooks.  But I hear that they are going to be putting out a new record.  Their records are pretty easy to listen to from start to finish without getting bored.  I always look forward to their stuff.

inReview: Sometimes I get ideas of what music to buy when I ask this question.

Ryan: You definitely need to get that Delta Spirit record. It's called History From Below.  It's so good.

inReview: And Arcade Fire.  I keep forgetting to go out and get that one.  I keep watching all these people on Twitter going to different concerts and writing about them.

Ryan: Yeah.

inReview: Is there a song that Seabird has written, either recorded or not, that you wish more people would embrace?

Ryan: I wrote a song when I was fourteen called "Carry Me" and it just never really took off.  I was really hoping that it would.  I feel like people just don't get it.  You know what I mean?  I just don't feel like it has had the right opportunities.  No, that's a joke.


inReview:  Now I need a camera so people can see you smiling.

Aaron: I mean there are songs that you see like would have connected better somehow but for whatever reason they didn't.  There is a song on our new record called "Don't Change a Thing" which was certainly one of my favorites to write and one of the most exciting to record in the studio.  But for whatever reason it is one of those songs that kind of gets overlooked if you will on our record.  But it is one of the more emotional songs.  You know a lot of times people like the more powerful songs, the more driving, upbeat songs.  If it is not that, sometimes people will kind of overlook it.  But songs like, "Don't Change a Thing" or "Falling for You" from our first record are songs that typically wind up on a show like Grey's Anatomy.  But sometimes it takes a while before people recognize it because of an opportunity like that.

inReview: What is next for Seabird?

Ryan: We just finished recording a five-song Christmas EP.  We did two Christmas songs last year and they were fairly successful for just recording two low budget Christmas songs.  People really responded to them well live and then one of them got picked up by Grey's Anatomy so that was really awesome.  So we decided to do five more this year.  So we are going to take those five.  They are done now, they are mastered and everything is ready to go.  We will probably release those in October or November.  But we are really excited about the way they turned out.  They are certainly 100% original arrangements.  They are all public domain old Christmas songs.  But the only thing about them that is the same is the lyrics.  So it will be up to the listener to decide whether they are cool and they like them or not.  So that is what we will release them this year, and we will put those two songs that we released last year.  We will put them together on one EP.

This fall we are going to try to headline shows.  If a great tour comes along that makes a lot of sense, we will probably suddenly do it.  But our goal this fall is to just headline shows and play as many headlining clubs and venues and things that we can, mainly around the east coast.  So you can definitely see us around this area this fall and winter for sure.  We have been to the west coast a lot in the last year.  Which for us you can't really go out there too much but we just kind of decided we are not going to go out there any more this year just because we have neglected the east coast.  So headlining and east coast is going to be our focus.

inReview: Do you have bands that you are bringing out with you?

Ryan: The only one we have locked down at this point is Matthew Mayfield

inReview: He used to be with a band Moses Mayfield?

Ryan: Exactly.

inReview:  Oooooooo.  That would be nice!!

Ryan: He is going to do some shows with us in I think October.  We took The Civil Wars out last year on some headlining shows that we did and we would love to have those guys out again if would come and they are not too busy.  But I have a feeling they are probably going to be pretty busy doing their own thing.  But no one else locked down at this point.