When you come across a group as promising as Soul Track Mind, you jump at the chance to ask them questions about their process. Based in Austin, TX Soul Track Mind is supergroup made up of some of the most talented musicians to ever form a band. They blend their inspirations and influences to create an inspiring experience for their fans. SPM had the unique opportunity to talk with them about their new recordings and the process they use to create music you might hear on the radio very soon.
Let’s get some background: When and why did you guys start playing together as a group?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): I moved to Austin in 2008 and started a band when I met Jonathon, our guitarist. I come from an acting and comedy background but I’ve always had a strong pull toward music and I slowly built enough confidence to write some songs and make it happen. If I can visualize something in my head then I can make it happen. Despite having never been in a band before or sang in one, I knew exactly what I wanted create and so I worked on making it happen.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I joined the band in August of 2014. I had previously been touring with a Texas country band and was approached by Donovan the singer. He told me they were going to be in the market for a drummer and i wanted a change of scenery, it worked out pretty nicely.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): I came on to support the release of Unbreakable back in September 2014. I’d been playing the Austin circuit for a spell and my name came up when they needed keys. It felt like a good fit for me and we all got along fast so I drank the Kool-Aid and here we are.
SPM: Why is making this album important to you at this time?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): It’s a broad step from where the band was a few years ago to what it has become now. We had different band members, different musical inspirations, and goals. As time goes on those things change and you want to keep challenging yourself and fight complacency. Who wants to keep recording and playing the same kind of music for 5 or 10 years? Change is inevitable. This new music with Boo Mitchell, especially this latest track is very different and will set the tone for rest of the singles and album to follow. It’s a new direction that we’re all excited about.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): The current band lineup is helping to lend itself to the newer sound direction we would like to go. With the correct members in place and a buildup of creativity the timing is perfect to uncap the stored up material we have all written since the last record was released.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): Since this is my first time recording with this group, I’m very excited to bring my skill set to the table, also being an engineer and a producer. Donovan and Jon both wanted to stray from being considered a throwback soul band and really start to stand out from other artists. I think this new direction will accomplish that goal.
SPM: Before the collection of songs came together for the album, what songs did you play together mostly?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): We play a mix of our original material from previous albums as well covers done in our own style. It’s interesting how that process of manipulating an old song into something different ends up helping the way you approach and write new songs.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): We play the older material as well as a few covers here and there.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): We’re always reinventing the material; stretching it and testing to see where we can open it up, because we’re really a live band. So we’ve jammed on some of these new songs a dozen different ways before we arrived at the arrangement that we all loved.
SPM: What made you select these songs for the album?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): We discarded everything that was considered too ‘throwback’. In the past we’ve been lumped into the “Throwback Soul” genre of bands simply because we had a horn section. Maybe our first recorded effort was, but ever since then we’ve been a lot more progressive. Our last album “Unbreakable” will attest to that. For this next series of singles we wanted to push the envelope as far as we could go without abandoning our inspirational roots.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): What I’ve enjoyed so far is that every song idea that’s been brought to the table usually gets a chance to shine. We see what we can really turn it into something great. Obviously not everything will make the cut but it’s a fun part of the process.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): Voting. It’s a democracy and we all want to play our best. So we just bring whatever pieces we’ve got and our favorites will naturally take priority and get developed.
SPM: Describe the most challenging song, and why it was challenging.
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): Generation Song was difficult because it had to break routine. Every recording process is different, but if you’re with the same musicians long enough you learn their tendencies. If you want something unique you have to fight that voice inside you that wants to do it the same way you’ve always done it. It’s tough to learn about your weaknesses. If you don’t break those habits or push the envelope then you don’t grow and in hindsight you tend to be disappointed with the results.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): This new single Generation Song was definitely a challenge for us. This is our statement as a band to show our fans and fans to come what we’re going to be doing from now on.
SPM: Who most influenced you on this album?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): Too many artists to name.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I think all the guys in the band really influenced me to push harder and really bring the song to life.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): I think all the guys are drawing from a few different people right now. As far as the keyboards though, I’ve been really digging on Mark Ronson’s use of synth on his last album. It inspired me to try the Moog that ended up being used for the hook line on the chorus.
SPM: Do you think artists nowadays have too many influences from other artists due to the Internet?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): I think artists tend to have a variety of influences. I don’t think the internet has really changed that. In some cases artists don’t use the internet enough to find those new influences or to do their homework and research older music. I think especially with music in the U.S. and younger generations don’t take enough to time to learn music from multiple genres and explore. Some do. But many don’t and the music keeps getting homogenized. Compare music today to music from any decade before the 80’s and you’ll notice the variety of bands, styles, voices, etc. Too many singers sound alike today, musicians are wanting use the same sounds, etc. Too many artists get stuck imitating and don’t take the time to nurture their own voice or their own sound, because it takes a long time to develop.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): I believe the internet has to some degree leveled alot of the playing field of songwriting. As there is so much literature, and educational items on the web anyone can learn just about any style of playing on any instrument at the touch of a button. With that said I don’t believe in too many influences. A vast literacy of quality and dynamic music should be a goal for any artist so as to assist in deterring the need to imitate other artists.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I don’t think so. I really am a fan of nearly all genres of music and I tend to think it’s all an influence on me musically in some way.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): Generation Song. It was something that we found several different directions to go with and we liked all of them! So narrowing the field and honing our vision took time.
SPM: How did the internet and listening to the vast sea of music influence your part in this album?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): We are bi-products of the art we consume. If you listen to nothing but The Rolling Stones, then everything you create is going to have that stamp on it because that’s what’s in your head. For this album I knew I had to break the mold of what I listened to, even if I didn’t necessarily care for it. As an artist you need new ideas in your head. I teach voice lessons to kids at small school in Austin and we use Youtube and Spotify to find new music for them to sing. It exposed me to a lot of different music that I never would’ve heard otherwise.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): For this single, we referenced a lot of newer pop music that’s out there right now. We wanted to incorporate some of that polished and sleekness into our sound while still being ourselves and conveying a strong message.
SPM: Many artists like to teach their music after it’s published. Would you hope other musicians would learn your music?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): That would be strange but I guess it happens. There’s a fan of ours who emailed us a while back who has his own band in California. He told us that his band covers one of our songs from our first album. It just happens to be literally one of the worst songs I’ve ever written. I can’t stand that song. We don’t even play it anymore and haven’t for years now. But he really likes it and plays so, more power to him. Hopefully they do it better than we did.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): I would hope they learn to play it better.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): While I generally don’t have the patience of teaching, if any other musician or artist finds this to be inspiring or influential in anyway, then yeah sure!
SPM: What are your fondest musical memories of the recording process?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): Being at Royal Studios. Boo Mitchell cracks us up. He’s a ton of fun to be around. It’s inspiring to be in that studio with how well the atmosphere has been preserved. I get chills in the booth where I sing my vocals because I know for a fact that so many of my heroes have been in there, sitting on the same stool, on the same mic, etc.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I had the most fun mixing this track. The guys gave me a chance to show them what I could do and I’m so glad it paid off.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): I love Memphis. Something about the funky vibe at Royal feels magic to me. Downtime in that studio, getting to develop my ideas on all those vintage keyboards. Getting to meet one of my keyboard heroes, Spooner Oldham…those were great times. That Wurlitzer 200A at Royal Studios is one of my favorite boards I’ve ever played in my life.
SPM: What do you think makes the group so solid, not just in the studio, but also in performances?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): Chemistry is everything and so hard to find. More often than not a band just has to accept a bad apple or two in order to survive. Sometimes a musician just has the negative personality, bad work ethic, or they’re not on the same level musically. This is the first time in the band’s existence where everyone gets each other and we communicate well on and off the stage. That connection is a blessing.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): Constant practice, and inner devotion and drive for achievement.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): We have a deep respect for each other musically as well as feeding off the energy of our singer Donovan.
SPM: What do you think is next for the group?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): We’ll continue releasing this new music and test the waters. We’ll tour and travel a bit behind the new music this year. There’s still so much the band hasn’t accomplished yet so anything can happen. I’ve stopped trying to predict what’s going to happen next year or the year after because things can happen so quickly and there’s no telling where we’ll be.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): We’re gonna keep writing and recording as we explore this new sound.
SPM: What do you want audiences to get most out of each performance?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): I want them to feel. My connection to music has always been emotional. Some people just come to dance and that’s fine, but these days they can go dance to an EDM show with a crazy light show that has no organic personal connection whatsoever. So it’s not necessarily the dancing. It’s that truly spiritual effervescent connection that inspired me to make music. My ultimate goal at any show is to make audiences think and feel with me and share that emotion. I’d rather touch ten souls than making a thousand people dance.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): I want them to dance. I don’t want it to be voluntary, I want them to have no choice but to leave their baggage at the door and let themselves go.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): A fondness for the live music experience.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I want our audiences to just forget about the world for just a moment and have some fun with us.
SPM: Will you be shooting any videos?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): If so, what are some concepts you have? We plan to release a video with every single that gets released this year. The concepts will be based around the song concepts, which are all different. If you’ve seen our “Ode To Youth” video from our last album we can be a little light hearted in our videos. You definitely won’t see any long melodramatic stares into the camera like Adele or Carrie Underwood.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): We are planning some videos but not sure what they will be conceptually yet.
SPM: If you could give some advice to a teenage group starting out as a group, what would that advice be?
Donovan Keith (Vocalist): Stay grounded. No matter how much talent you’re born with, talent alone is not enough. No matter how many adoring teen fans you might have, you still suck and need to keep practicing. Being young you have to labor under the illusion that you’re better than you are. That’s fine to be confident. If you realized how much you suck you wouldn’t keep doing it. Surround yourself with positive people that are better and more knowledgeable than you are and listen to what they have to say. You don’t always have to take their word for gospel because their guidance isn’t always correct and your experience will differ, but they can help you avoid some career pitfalls and keep your ego in check.
Jonathon Zemek (Guitarist): Learn every instrument possible, and understand the music industry is in need of new ideals in order to not become totally demonitized.
Michael Ingber (Drummer): I would say I’m sure you’re under the impression that industry isn’t doing so well right now, and maybe there is just too material out there, but all in all, don’t let that discourage you. Music is always evolving just like everything else. Who knows, there could always be another band or artist that once again changes the face of music as we know it.
Andrew Nolte (Keyboardist): Get everyone on the same page, put in the time to get good and listen to each other. If you listen to each other and just try to play whats best for each song, you’ll get what you’re after.