The Doobie's PR Director, Jess Ensley, sat down with Korbee at Thirty One West to discuss inspiration, touring as a couple, and Columbus' Harmony Project.
Jess: You’re described on your website as “Coldplay meets Fleetwood Mac.” Is that where you pull inspiration from and where else do you get inspiration?
Tom: That’s just like the starting point I would say for our inspiration. We both grew up kind of listening to similar and also vastly different music. I listened to Motown and I’m also a huge fan of Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Bon Jovi. I should have been born in New Jersey.
Jenn: I grew up listening to Patty Griffin and the Indigo Girls and that sort of folk sound. My dad was a camp director, so my life was spent around a campfire with an acoustic guitar. We mesh all of that together with all of the electronic vibe that’s going on everywhere and our singer-songwriter based music. It’s been really cool.
Jess: I saw you guys have been working on your debut album, which is exciting. You’ve released the single “Hey Child” from it. Is that sort of “feel good” sound what you’re going for with the whole album?
Tom: Yes. It’s a very happy record... so far.
Jenn: It wasn’t even on purpose. That’s just the way we’ve written over the last six months.
Tom: A lot of what we’re doing on this tour is a lot of what the new record is going to be. We’re testing out a lot of this new material, along with “Hey Child.” “Hey Child” is kind of the anchor of this record.
Jenn: “Hey Child” was really that moment. When we finished it, we were really taken aback. Number one, we were like “this is either awful or amazing.” I mean, as a writer, you feel that way a lot. “Hey Child” really catapulted us on this journey of that kind of sound.
Jess: Do you guys have an idea of when the new album will be coming out?
Jenn: It should be 2017.
Tom: We’re hoping for mid to late spring.
Jess: Nice. I’m excited! So, where are you guys from and how did you meet?
Jenn: I’m originally from Wisconsin.
Tom: I’m from Cincinnati, so just down the street. We met in college.
Jenn: Yeah we went to the Cincinnati Conservatory for Music. We did a show together at school, so that’s really how we started working together.
Jess: That’s cool. Is it challenging for you to go on tour with your significant other? Have you run into any problems with that?
Tom: No! That’s the reason we did this whole thing. One of the big reasons that we became this duo is because we were both doing our things separately. Jenn had some music going on her front and I did the same thing. She was going to have to go off on her tour and I was going to have to go off on mine. We would just be ships passing in the night and that’s not what we wanted in our lives. We were always singing and writing together anyway. We just looked at each other and were like, “duh this is obvious.”
Jenn: Also, no one was doing the duo thing in this space. There are a lot of singer-songwriter country and folk duos, but doing it on this big of a scale is something no one was doing and it was really unique. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it before. Like Tom said, we always collaborated on everything whether it was for me or for him and once we said “okay let’s do this in a duo way,” it just started flying out of us. It started to really work.
Jess: How long have you been touring together? This is pretty new, right?
Tom: Yeah this tour just started. This is week three or four of this tour. The first thing we released was 2012 or 2013.
Jenn: But this is our first headlining tour that we’ve been on. It’s been really exciting.
Jess: You’ve talked about this a little bit, but do you think that your relationship has impacted your music at all or that music has impacted your relationship?
Jenn: That’s a really good question. No one ever asks the second half. Totally. Tom and I really connected in the beginning because of music and we collaborated really well and really inspired one another and really brought out the best in one another. I think that’s only continued. I think we’re doing our best writing and our best everything now. It just keeps getting better and better. A lot of people ask how we work together. What’s funny is, I think any relationship, you create a dynamic of respect and of openness.
Tom: You know, because our relationship started as a working relationship, and then it moved past that, it’s good when we’re writing together and then it’s good when we’re not. At this point, I don’t know how we separate the two. Which is great because it would be one thing if we wrote a cool song and then went home to other people and we’d have to tell somebody else, “I wrote this great song today!” We just get to be like “we wrote this great song today!” and celebrate it. And then if we’re struggling with something in a song or in our careers, we’re both doing it..
Jenn: Well, I also think that we spend so much time working together that we’ve ironed out a lot of personality differences and the ways that we deal with challenges together and all of those things. I think some couples don’t ever have the opportunity to get that far. Those experiences have helped our relationship and our relationship has helped our music.
Jess: Could you guys tell me a little bit about the Harmony Project in Columbus and what you guys are doing with that?
Tom: The Harmony Project is a really cool foundation. We got involved with them last winter. We did a show with them, which was their big benefit of the year. The whole thing was themed around our song “Loud,” which we’re performing tonight.
Jenn: We actually have a couple of the choir singers singing that song with us.
Tom: It was so funny, because they found us through YouTube, out of the blue, from something we had done with the Special Olympics. They messaged us and told us what they were about, and we were like “oh my gosh yeah we would love to do be a part of it.” And especially because it’s Ohio, I was all in. They put this huge show together. It was unbelievable. We came in and got to meet all 400 of the singers and it was nuts. We did a couple of songs with them. It was a heck of a night and they raised a good amount of money. The outreach that they have in the community and the world is just really cool.
Jenn: It’s unbelievable. Introducing people to music who would never have the opportunity is amazing.
Tom: And it’s helping communities in various ways through music. It’s not just teaching kids how to sing or getting choirs together. It’s using that to also serve the community in different outreach projects. Which is really awesome.
Jess: Cool! My last question for you guys is kind of random. If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you’d be doing?
Tom: I don’t know.
Jenn: That’s a hard question, because I think when you’re an artist of any sort, people are always like, “what’s your back up plan?” To be honest, we just never had one. I think that I could guess for days that I’d maybe be a teacher. Tom would probably be a photographer.
Tom: I think I’d be running something like the Harmony Project. I think one of our biggest missions with our music is to give it to the world and get it out there so that it can help people’s lives somehow, whether it’s small, great, whatever it is. We don’t write music for ourselves and for us to listen to in the car. We write it to impact people and help them on their journey, whatever that may be. So, I think we would both be doing something along those lines if we weren’t in music.
Jenn: Yeah. One of our main themes throughout this record and throughout everything we’ve been doing lately is empowerment. Everything is really about going, “here’s my hand and how can I help you?” The answer is you can. That’s really where our heads have gone to. It’s funny, I was saying when we write a song that’s about something or difficult or something that isn’t right in the world, or not right in our lives at the moment, for some reason, we always end up with some message that says, “you will survive. You will be able to conquer whatever you’re dealing with because that’s human nature.” That’s sort of how we’ve come to look at the world. That’s why I said that it wasn’t on purpose that this record is an uplifting and empowering record. It just kind of organically happened that way.
Tom: We need that in the world.