Interview with Andrew Joslyn

Andrew Joslyn is a composer out of the Seattle area. Recently, he has worked with Ryan Lewis and Macklemore on their new album, the Heist. He took some time to talk to us here at Honest Reviews Corner about working with Macklemore and some more up-coming plans for the new year. Follow him on Twitter @JoslynMusic!

Tell us a little about your individual style?
Right now, I guess I’ll just give a quick background, I’m calling from San Francisco on tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. A lot of what I do with groups is that I create orchestral arrangements with string instruments for pop groups and hip-hop to rock to folk to more experimental transitional genres. So, I think that’s the main gist of what I do, specifically with groups in Seattle and beyond.

How did you get involved with Ryan Lewis and Macklemore?
With Macklemore, I’ve known them for about four years now, even before Ryan Lewis was involved. We had a mutual friend that I made hip-hop mixed tapes with and one of the tapes I made just for fun had orchestral arrangements on top of hip-hop beats and he sent it to them [Macklemore]. They thought it was really cool and wanted to get strings involved. This was pretty much right after he got out of rehab. So around that time, I started playing with him live, back then Owour, the trumpet player, and I would play and he had different DJ’s with him spin beats. Around this time he’d met Ryan through MySpace and Ryan was doing photography for them, then eventually Ryan started to do beats. So long story short, that’s the origin of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and my involvement with them.

Do you favor making new sounds or playing more classical styled music?
“You know, the thing is that I started off classical. I started off playing the violin at the age of five. I did classical composition in college then I got a little disillusioned with the classical world, only because I felt like it was difficult to have an individual voice in regards to creating your piece. So what I did was I literally actually started dropping in some stuff afterwards and it kind of went off the deep end when it came to that, but strangely enough, now it’s kind of all come full circle because I can write as well as I can improvise. I’m now finding myself writing string quartet kinds of arrangements and woodwind kinds of arrangements for orchestral stuff for bands now because I have the ability to talk with them on a basic relational level. But then I also have the chops when it comes to classical training that I need to use to bring in classical players and get them to play my arrangements for bands. So, what do I prefer? I love playing live but there’s a certain enjoyment when I have an arrangement of mine being played classically or with a band. So yeah, I don’t know, when it comes to classical music, I still sit down and play my Bach so I think deep down, my roots are still classical.”

What was your favorite part about being a part of the Heist?
“Ya know, I think there’s a lot that I really enjoy. One thing I think that’s really fascinating is the fact that there’s real subjects being talked about; Macklemore has real topics to bring to people’s attention. Like, Same Love, he wants to talk about gay rights and civil rights. As well as like Starting Over, he’s talking about his relapse after three years of sobriety. I think one thing I enjoyed a lot was the fact that we’re writing music, but we’re writing influential music. Another thing that’s interesting with working them and Ryan is that we’ll be writing in the studio and it wont be typical conversation like, ‘oh, I want an A-minor’ or whatever like let’s do this and this, it’ll be like ‘I want a dark sounding chord.’ They talk more in terms of like dramatic types of stories, like ‘I need this to be eerie.’ It’s interesting because the music reflects the message and the impact of what we’re talking about.”

Do you have any big plans for the end of the year/new year?
“Personally, I’m just doing the West Coast tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. One thing that’s nice is that all of my major projects are wrapping up right now; so at the end of this i go on tour with another artist that I recently put an album out with. It’s kind of a West Coast, Northeast tour. And then for the rest of the year, really I’m just going to be planning and figuring out new material and new directions for 2013. One of those is that I’m planning on releasing a whole series of EPs throughout 2013 where I’m going to be partnering with a lot of different singer-songwriters, mostly centered in the Northwest. Like Mary Lambert, who sings with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There’s a whole group of people I’m working with. What I would do is that each EP would be 4-5 songs acoustic but with my string quartet that would back each of the artists. I would write original compositions for each individual songwriter. That’s the big, like major project, I’d like to push out for 2013. But then on top of that I’d love to potentially put out my own album in whatever manifestation that would be.”

We’ve heard that you “can go from commissioning an entire orchestra to playing and recording each individual instrument” yourself, how many instruments do you play?
“Um, lets see. I do a little bit of cello, I play viola, violin, and octave down violin which is nice to me because you get the cello range as well as viola range. I play mandolin, a little piano. When it comes to woodwinds and brass, I do have to hire out other player. But with strings and stuff, before I really got into arranging, I actually had a pedal board set up with loops, so I’d have a cello the violin and everything just tied into one. So I got into instruments through that.I also have a five string violin that which is just like the viola range. I have an assortment of  strings laying around my house that I just kind of pick up and juggle around and do different stuff with.” 

What’s your favorite part about making/performing music?
“I think, for me when I’m writing music, the stuff that really gets me is when you get goosebumps or your skin crawls. Or you get a very emotional reaction. And I love when people get that same reaction and it’s replicated in audiences that I play for.  When people come up and they’re like ‘you’re music really moved me,’ ‘it made me cry’ or ‘this was very impact-full,’ for me that goes deep down, like music for me is communication. Communicating life and my own emotions. That’s the biggest pay off for me, by far.”


Since we’re from Honest Reviews Corner, what’s your “honest review” on the accordion?
“On the accordion? You know, fascinatingly enough, I’ve always wanted to learn the accordion just ‘cause it seemed like it was close to a piano. But every time I look at it, you know, you have the right and the left hand and it seems everything is driven on the left hand. I’m a huge fan of DeVotchka and a lot of their songs have that stand up bass, tuba, accordion. And like, Tom Hagerman in DeVatchka plays the accordion as well as violin so I’m always like ‘well if he can learn to play it then I should.’ So in my honest opinion I think the accordion’s pretty cool. It’s got its place and it’s worth learning. If I had the actual time to sit down and learn it.”

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