INTERVIEW: Spencer Sutherland on his first headlining run and new EP
Late last month, I headed out to the Middle East Club in Cambridge to chat with up and comer Spencer Sutherland at his first US headlining run. A run that can be finally checked off after plenty of years spent making music.
With the release of his new EP in March, “None of This Has Been About You”, his perfect falsetto and lyrics were matched by the pretty much sold out crowd singing every word back to him.
Find our chat below where Sutherland brought me into his creative process, be it his planning of this tour to his musical approach for the EP.
I know, while you’ve played Boston I think dating back to around 2014. I covered Before You Exit when you opened for them back then.
Spencer Sutherland: Wow, that’s crazy.
But lately things have been going really we for you. Signing to a major label and this new EP coming out, so maybe this being the first headlining tour, preparations you made for this tour?
SS: I mean, there was a lot for sure. I was very active in all aspects. Like the creative side, the setlist. Even like what vehicle we were using, I just got super involved in it. It seemed like everyday I was doing something. I did a lot of going to coffee shops and sitting on my laptop, figuring out like cool props I wanted to add. On stage, we have this succulent plant, a few disco balls. That was really fun, the rugs, the boxes and stuff. I was definitely super involved in the presentation.
We had five or six rehearsals, these seven hour long rehearsals, to get everything down. I love literally every part of it. It’s so fun.
Then looking at social media, I know shows have been going really well. Maybe how does that feel, considering you’ve been going at this for so long? Maybe a city that was really great for you? Or maybe a moment that was really great for you?
It’s crazy because I’ve had a few of those moments. Like we were just talking about, I’ve had such a unique journey. To where I was doing covers opening for bands at these tiny shows and then I got really real with myself. Went away for a year, then came back and started writing super real music. I’ve been in this for so many years. I’ve been able to play for seven people at a show and play those really big shows, but then at those shows, not everybody is your fan base. It’s like college dudes in basketball jerseys.
So I’ve played all these like not good vibes shows. So to have some of these shows sell out and stuff, I can really appreciate it because it’s so wild to me. To be able to have that. It’s so special. Last night in New York, I just stood on stage being like ‘fuck, man.’ I literally said into the mic, ‘this is a dream come true. This is wild.’ I could talk about it all day.
No, it’s great! Then from looking at it obviously, like I said you’re now signed to a major label. You released the EP. When did you really start writing the EP?
SS: Well, there’s a couple songs that were written before I was doing an EP. But I brought them back and kind of re-did them a little bit. But most of them sort of in November of last year. Because it came out March 15th. I went to the desert in California and just wrote for a couple days straight. Wrote like eleven songs in two days which is crazy and that’s where three of the songs came from. But it was mostly just writing a lot of these songs and whatever felt like it went together in a collection, if that makes sense. That’s sort of how I chose the ones. What message it had and how that fit with the rest. And then together it came to me as an artist and a person, the best I could tell it.
And that title, “None of This Has Been About You”, choosing the title when did that come about?
SS: It was definitely the song that felt like it embodied all the other ones together the best. But also, it was kind of about the entire story. It kind of embodies the entire message of the EP which is sort of what I went through to get to where I am as a person. It’s something else that I think people connect to a lot. Everybody else has that “you”, whether it’s a person in their life or yourself which is kind of what it was for me. Kind of trippy.
Then I can tell from looking at it, music videos are something you take pretty seriously. It’s not just you in front of a camera. Maybe the importance of that to you, to kind of have that visual?
SS: One of the main things is that I was so tired of seeing the same music video. Guy, hot girl dances, nice car, weird gray room. Literally every pop music video. So it was partially that and also that I’m a huge fan of movies and cinema. Especially Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson type films. And I wanted to make something that was not only cool to watch but gave you a certain feeling, whether that was good or bad. So my label is super cool and they let me concept everything. So I was able to concept everything, literally wrote out pages, came up with the wardrobe, locations,props. Props are my favorite part. I found these flamingos.
I love how in the ‘Wallpaper’ video, it straight up says, ‘This is a prop knife‘.
SS: Yeah! Well it’s funny because in my ‘Freakin’ Out’ video, I say this is the part where the spatula goes down, this is the spatula’. And in my fanbase, that went viral. People were legit making one and being like, ‘this is the spatula’. So I had to bring it back as a little homage. But I love doing it. Videos are my favorite part.
Then as we keep saying this is your first headlining run. How have you been approaching these sets? Obviously the new music but are you doing older songs, some covers? How did you kind of curate this set?
SS: I’m doing everything. I don’t have enough songs out where I can do a super long set. I pretty much play everything I do have out. But it was cool. So it’s not just like twelve songs, it’s more of a story, a journey. Ups and downs, and it was really fun to come up with. Because we have like a hype section, acoustic section then more hype.
Then to maybe end it off, you only have a few dates left of this headlining run. Maybe any hopes of goals for these next few months? That’s something huge considering you’ve been doing this for a few years now. You can check it off.
SS: It’s crazy. I’ve done about 20 or 30 interviews this tour and every time someone says that, I’m just like ‘Damn, we are really out here doing it.’ It’s crazy. I’m so lucky. We’re going to finish off the tour strong. And everybody will get some new music before the end of the year. Then maybe some more tour dates, maybe not. I can’t stay away from the road too long. It’s my life, I love it.
You just have to build the momentum and keep going.
SS: You have to. You can’t stay not on the road. You’ve got to always be on the road and luckily I love it.