Interview: Chase Tremaine
Nashville-based artist Chase Tremaine just released his third studio album, 'Accidental Days', and Louder Than The Music chatted with this exciting multi-instrumentalist to find out more about his background in music, creating his new album, and how his view of 'success' has changed over the years.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
Hi, I'm Chase! If you've never heard of me before, yet you're reading this interview, I just want to earnestly thank you for showing an interest and for continuing to seek out new music. Like you, I'm coming to the table as a music fan, first and foremost. I have adored music since my childhood, and songwriting flowed from me as a natural extension of loving the music that my parents played on the radio or that we sang in church each week. My earliest songwriting memories date back to elementary school, when I attempted to write my own versions of worship songs. My first original compositions came in fourth grade (some of which I shockingly still remember). During my teenage years, I became a good enough guitarist to join my older brother's band. Supporting my brother's projects became my focus for an entire decade; I am now capable of being a one-man-band (writing and recording all the instruments for my music) because I spent years switching between being his guitarist, bassist, and drummer.
All told, I had about twenty years of songwriting, fifteen years of playing for different bands, and nearly ten years of leading worship that all funneled into me finally pursuing a solo career in 2019. As a Nashville-based artist, I initially moved here in order to write songs with other artists and help others make music from a supporting role, but along the way, I kept writing very oddball, personal music that would be strange for anyone to make except for me. Thus far, all of my solo output has extended from those songs that are too "Chase-y" for other artists to record.
Tell us about your new album 'Accidental Days' and what the inspiration behind it was.
Accidental Days has its earliest roots in the summer of 2012, when I spent a summer as a missionary at the Grand Canyon. I wrote a dozen songs while living there, which really felt like the season of life where I discovered my voice as a songwriter, despite having been writing music for the past decade. In my mind, that set of songs was supposed to be my first album. I tried to record the songs in 2012, again in 2013, and yet again in 2014, but it never panned out, and eventually, they got left behind in favor of newer material. Toss in a bunch of unexpected life changes, a short stint in seminary, and periods of time where my musical energies were being directed toward the bands I was a member of, and I didn't end up releasing an official solo album until 2020. By that time, the album (titled Unfall) featured zero of those Grand Canyon songs (nor anything remotely as old as 2012). But the "ethos" behind the lost Grand Canyon album never disappeared: a collection of dusty, folksy acoustic songs that were deeply relational, communal, and spiritual. Accidental Days is very much the culmination and successor of what that Grand Canyon album was meant to be, and not only does it feature two and a half songs that were originally written during that summer of 2012, but it was also recorded exactly a decade later, during the summer of 2022.
Which is your favorite track on the album and why?
As a passionate listener and lover of full albums, opening and closing tracks are very important to me. In our modern streaming era, listeners tend to fall off over the course of an album, meaning that the closing tracks are often the least-streamed songs on any given album, which is a shame for anyone who picks those songs carefully or who crafts songs specifically to be the closer. All that to say, track 1 ("One Day") and track 10 ("New Creation Gray") are probably my favorites. "New Creation Gray" in particular is a special song, featuring some of my favorite lyrics and guitar riffs I've ever written, plus an extended instrumental outro that's elevated by the great trumpet work from my friend and frequent collaborator Brendan Dorman. The song is about aging, about coping with the difficulties of growing older and breaking down, but it explores the topic in light of Christ's resurrection and the eventual bodily resurrection of all believers. The lyrics feel like a gift that the Lord gave me, and they are very dear to me.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
There are a few overarching themes across my first three albums. I’ll try to share a few of them succinctly: It is worth being scarily honest and daringly open in order to avoid isolation and to find real relationships. Everyone is worth being loved, but we have to be real about our flaws and shortcomings in order to be loved fully and deeply. But instead of living within this honest reality, we all have a tendency to create fantasies for ourselves; we abuse our imaginations by creating could’ve-beens and should’ve-beens to live inside and by forming masks to wear that keep a thick wall up between ourselves and others. These fantasies feel safe, and they’ll often feel temporarily fulfilling or pleasurable, but the inward isolation will spread like a disease, poisoning whatever real relationships we had. Honesty is a powerful weapon, but the goal isn’t self-actualization or self-realization; the "self" is not the answer to our problems - sometimes, it actually is our problem, and that’s one of the things we need to be honest about. The goal is not fixing our eyes on ourselves but on others - loving and serving others without demanding anything in return. This is where the healthy parts of the "self" can thrive and where the unhealthy parts of the "self" can die.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
A fan once described my music as "math-pop," which has since become my favorite genre signifier. That term is a combination of emo-pop and math-rock, which are two styles that played significantly into my first two albums: they contained loads of key changes, time signature shifts, and noodling lead guitar riffs (i.e., math rock) and were inspired heavily by emo-adjacent bands such as Jimmy Eat World, Thrice, The Academy Is..., and Mae. The new album streamlines the more outlandish elements of these descriptors, honing my sound with a softer edge that still has the appeal of alternative rock (Weezer, Switchfoot) yet can also appeal to the folky and poppy sides of CCM (Sara Groves, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Afters).
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
The dream-come-true scenario would be to work with my all-time favorite Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, whom I truly believe to be one of the greatest guitarists, singers, and songwriters that Christian music has ever seen. His late-career albums (The Glorious Unfolding, Beauty Will Rise, re:creation) have been huge for me, proving his longevity and the ways in which he continues to learn and strive and push himself, and it would be wild to put my stamp on one of his songs or vice versa.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
The definition of "success" has absolutely changed as I've grown. As a teenager, it was all about getting signed to a record label. As a young adult, I was primarily concerned with acclaim and accolades. As adulthood grew increasingly expensive, the definition shifted into monetary success and financial returns. Nowadays, everything has settled into a much more peaceful place of simply connecting with people. My wife is my biggest fan, and making music would be totally worth it if she were my only fan. And while I was very happy and encouraged to see critical acclaim roll in from multiple outlets when the new album released, I found way more satisfaction and affirmation through my friends responding to the album and sharing it with their friends. Art is inherently a relational, communicative product, and there's nothing better than seeing it bless my friends and foster new relationships.
What is your favorite album of all time?
This is an odd choice - it's even obscure for fans of this artist - but for many years, my favorite album of all time has been Here at the Mayflower by Barry Manilow. For me, it's the concept album to end all concept albums, with an incredible array of genres and characters, all held together by this overarching structure of lyrics about people who live at the Mayflower (the historic New York apartments where Manilow grew up). I was raised on Manilow's radio hits, but I think he blows all of his classics out of the water with the genre-jumping breadth of compositions here. I mentioned above that modern rock and emo bands are my main influences, but Manilow and other "Golden Oldies"-era artists (Stevie Wonder, Frankie Valli, Earth Wind & Fire, etc.) are the secret foundational influence behind everything I do.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
"Don't You Want to Thank Someone" by Andrew Peterson. (Is it cheating to pick a song that's ten minutes long?)
What does the next year hold for you?
2023 will see me slowing down slightly from my "new solo album every year" pattern in order to focus on collaborations, side projects, and live performances. I still plan on releasing new music every year, but I don't think I'll release anything on Accidental Day's scale again until 2025, especially with my eyes currently set on more guest features, more co-writing, and doing my part to help build up newer, younger artists. But anyone in the Nashville area should have opportunities to see me perform this year, and I also plan on releasing other versions of Accidental Days throughout the year (definitely an instrumental version and potentially a deluxe edition). For anyone who wants to keep in touch or stay in-the-know about my concerts, new releases, etc., the best way would be to sign up for my monthly newsletter.