Making Tracks

Nothing inspires the songwriting process like the adventure, thrill and spontaneity of the open road. See what happens when these different artists/bands each take a weekend road trip, writing a new song inspired by their journey.

Kyle Thornton & The Company

Music, meals and memories. Join Kyle Thornton & The Company as they find musical inspiration back where it all started: home

“Coming home” has special meaning and musical influence on Kyle Thornton & The Company. We talked with Kyle about what his family roots mean to him and the rest of the band.

Tell us a little about your music background – how you got started.

Well, growing up, I always sang in choir at church and school. But when I turned 13, I got my first guitar, started writing songs in the 8th grade and never really looked back. I can’t imagine my life without music.

How did your family impact your love for music and ability to play?

I have a lot of music enthusiasts in my family. My uncle has one of the greatest record collections I’ve ever seen. My father used to sing me to sleep with “Grandma’s Hands,” by Bill Withers. And my mother’s side of the family is full of instrumentalists and singers. None of them adopted music as a career, but they all have certainly been influential to me as a songwriter and lover of music.

What does your usual songwriting process look like?

My process varies depending on my mood and what is available to me at arm’s reach. I usually begin with a melody that I hear in my head, and then I’ll pick up my guitar to put chords around it. The songs where the melody comes first are usually my favorites, but I’ve also been producing and making beats and constructing songs from new sounds that really intrigue me.

How does travel change or influence that process?

Traveling definitely limits me to what instruments or members of the band I can grab to help complete the idea that I have, but it’s always a fun challenge to use what I have around me. More often than not, I usually have my laptop and I use a DAW (production software) to record the idea so that I can come back and finish it later. If I’m really on-the-go, I’ll sometimes just take out my iPhone and record myself singing the melody quickly to come back to later. When traveling, it’s really important just to get the idea down quickly, even if it’s not a complete one. You can always come back to it.

Talk to us a little bit about how the relationship between music and “home” for you (be it your hometown, literal house that you grew up in, the people/family – tell us what that relationship means to you).

Virginia is such an important part of my growth process musically. From playing in church every Sunday to playing with bands in middle/high school, I can go so many places in Virginia and have so many musical memories that have been so pivotal, educational, and emotional to me becoming the artist I am today. I think the vibrant side of the city is definitely heard in my music. The city has such a sound that I’ll always be connected to.

How often do you travel for gigs/performances?

I travel a lot for gigs and performances. Touring with the band is a blast. I’m so grateful that I get to go to different cities with these guys, and play in beautiful venues, to people who love our music.

Considering your schedule, how often are you able to make it home?

I make it home about three or four times a year. I really can’t get away from Virginia. I try to make it home to see my family often. They mean the world to me and always keep me grounded with their wisdom and love. It’s always great to go home, reminisce and refocus.

Talk to us about how the road-touring experience (whether it’s something you experienced or something your peers talk about) forms a unique bond with bandmates.

Touring and being on the road is so fun. I remember our first tour so vividly. Growing with these guys, sharing laughs, getting lost, and going new places has made our music even stronger. Every member has become my brother.

What is one of your favorite stories from growing up, playing music?

In middle school, my band and I held a concert at our neighborhood pool. We organized the whole thing ourselves, brought our own equipment, promoted the show and everything. It was our first live show. So many of our friends came out to hear us play. We weren’t very good but that show was really the first taste of what it would be like to play shows and eventually become an artist.

Talk to us about this project with Enterprise. What attracted you to the concept, and what did you experience on your journey?

It was so awesome! The band and I road-tripped to my parent’s place in Virginia, and we wrote a new song along the way. When I learned about the concept, that we’d be going home, and that the focus would be on family, I was so excited because family is what we promote in our music and our shows. It’s the very culture of the group. We all view ourselves as brothers and I want people who listen to our music to feel like they’re a part of our family, too. Music is a group effort.

Tell us if/why you believe coming home is important to the personal and musical growth of every artist.

Coming home is important because you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from. An artist should always go home to see the places and people that helped cultivate their artistry. It’s the only true way to know what the world needs from an artist. Whether you like it or not, your home is a reflection of your artistry.
 

Beth Bombara

See how the open road inspires singer/songwriter Beth Bombara on her way to Nashville.

The open road has influenced singer/songwriters for ages. We talked with Beth Bombara – one of the musicians featured in our Making Tracks video series – about what the connection between traveling and songwriting means to her.

Tell us about your music background – how did you get started?

Growing up, there were always instruments in the house — an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano and eventually a drum set. Music has been something I’ve always gravitated toward ever since I can remember. Living in Michigan, then moving to Missouri, exposed me to many different types of music, from Detroit rock to Ozark folk to American roots. Ever since I was old enough to drive, I’ve been loading up the car and hitting the road with bands, but in the past few years put more focus on writing and performing my own songs.What is your songwriting process?It seems like songs have always come to me in fits and starts, but these days, I'm a lot more intentional with my songwriting. I try to write whether or not I feel particularly inspired. Usually, the start of a song will come to me when I’m not focusing on it. For example, I have a lot of song ideas come to me when I’m driving or walking. From there, it’s a more focused effort to finish writing it. Ultimately, songwriting is like getting lost — getting lost in a feeling, getting lost in an idea and following it wherever it leads.

How does travel change or influence that process?

There’s something about being out of my element and experiencing new things that is essential for songwriting. If I stay in the same place for too long, I find myself in a rut. The spontaneous element of travel is a big influence on my songwriting. You’re always meeting new people and taking in new places, which is a huge source of inspiration.How does the relationship between music and travel come to life for you?For me, playing music is synonymous with travel. I believe the best way to share songs is in a live setting, and doing that means I have to travel to new audiences all the time. You can listen to my songs on the internet, but it’s a very different thing to experience songs live.

What have been your favorite places to travel for inspiration?

This past year, it’s been all about landscapes — mountains and the desert. Drives through Montana, Northern California and the Southwest (Tucson, Arizona) are at the top of my list.Are there any cities you’ve played that surprised you?The first time I ever played in Missoula, Montana — wow, what a cool place. It’s so far away from everything, but there is a lot going on there, and it’s such a gorgeous place. There’s a reason people call it Big Sky Country.

What is one of your favorite stories from performing on the road?

We were driving from Portland, Oregon, to Sacramento, California, and we decided to stop and do a hike before our show in Sacramento. We were really excited about climbing to the top of the Castle Crags. It was a pretty intense mountain hike, and when we were almost to the top, we realized we’d lost track of time and were going to be late to our gig. So we had to turn around and run all the way down the mountain. We made it to the gig just in the nick of time!Talk to us about this project with Enterprise.

What attracted you to the concept, and what did you experience on your journey?

I’d never done anything like this before. The songwriting challenge, and the prospect of travel — well, I jumped at the opportunity. We stopped in spots I’d never been to before and learned new things. We stopped in Benton, Illinois, where George Harrison came to visit. There is a plaque in town commemorating the event and naming George the first Beatle in America. He played in a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) hall in nearby Eldorado. Only about six months later, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” rose to No. 1 on the U.S. charts, sparking “Beatlemania.”

Family Mansion

Family Mansion hit the road for the weekend with one thing in mind: write a new song.

Family Mansion’s passion for music and love for travel were on full display in their Making Tracks video. We further talked with the band (musicians Matt Combs and Laura Sullivan) about music, travel and where the two roads meet.

Tell us a little about your music background – how you got started.

We started the band in West Maryland, where we were living in a cute little mountain town. But we felt we needed to be part of a bigger scene, so we moved to the Pacific Northwest. We went on a big tour across the southern states and ended up in Portland. We’re so glad this is where we ended up!

What does your usual songwriting process look like?

Looking at a thing and feeling a way about it, or having a kind of day and feeling a kind of way about it, or just being a person who needs to interact with all the intricacies of life’s experiences – most things can inspire a creative moment, as long as you have the time, attention and openness to allow it to. Also, parts of songs can sometimes come about and hang around for quite a while before they find other parts to live with.

Talk to us a little bit about how the relationship between music and travel comes to life for you.

When we tour, we get really excited about being able to just exist and witness all the life around us. Sometimes when we see something we like, or when something random happens on the road, it sparks some silliness in song form. It’s just a way to stay engaged with your little window of awareness, even when you have to keep moving to make it to the next show.

What are your favorite places to travel for musical/songwriting inspiration?

It’s always changing. The ocean is a great place to regain perspective – especially the Pacific, for its beauty. Our last tour was through the Southwest U.S., and even though we’ve toured there before, the way we felt this time driving Rt. 8 through New Mexico and Arizona was really special. The van didn’t have A.C., so we were spending a good amount of effort just to stay hydrated. The struggle was tangible: sweet tasting water, hot haze, tired people – it was all so beautiful and terrible. It inspired some new sounds and imaginings. We felt a new way, and we will always be able to reference that feeling.

How much do you travel for gigs/performances?

We go to nearby cities like Seattle, Bend, Eugene and other places for a day trip whenever we get the chance. But we’re always looking forward to our next tour. We tend to be drawn to big, over-the-top tours, reaching every corner of the U.S., and we hope to go international soon.

Talk to us about how the road-touring experience (whether it’s something you experienced or something your peers talk about) forms a unique bond with band-mates.

Touring is an intimate experience. You can’t escape affecting each other almost constantly. So as a survival mechanism, we learn to exist and to communicate in a more loving way.

There’s even a unique bond between musicians who have never met. We’ll be on our way somewhere and see a few folks wearing boots and smoking cigs near a van at a gas station and we’re like “OMG, I’m so happy for them!!”

What are some of your favorite venues to perform on the road?

We’ve come across a few great venues, but we’re most excited about playing alternative spaces. Venues like house shows tend to be the most magical and intimate experiences.

Are there any cities or destinations you’ve played that surprised you? Tell us about them.

On our first tour, we played a locals-only style dive bar in Dallas. When we walked in, it was like every cowboy movie you’ve ever seen where city folk walk into a dusty saloon and all the heads turn to look disdainfully at the spectacle of them. We hung around for a bit before the show, getting to know some of the locals. We heard their stories, had a few beers, played our set and by the end of the night we were absolutely in love with the crowd. We were all singing Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” together, karaoke style, with a big, sweet man named Smokin’ Joe. Who knew?


What attracted you to this project with Enterprise, and what did you experience on your journey?

We were attracted by the idea of collaborating with an artist like Laurel who is so intuitive and smart. We had a feeling she would be able to capture the parts of being on the road that we value. And since she’s a tasteful artist, we knew she would be able to pick up on the more subtle aspects of who we are as people.We’re always up for a challenge, and totally always down for an adventure. We wondered what kind of song would come out of being filmed in the writing process, in such a short time. Our experience was mostly defined by the places we went and the amount of time we spent there. In the waves of the lavender field, we could feel our worries drifting away. In the shade of the forest, the animals were singing with us in harmony. In the golden hour, we felt free. We felt light.

Tell us if/why you believe hitting the road is important to the personal and musical growth of every artist?

Getting out of your bubble is absolutely vital for personal and creative growth. Traveling grows your empathy, understanding, experience and love. If you’re doing it well, you’re getting closer to the truth.
 

Escondido

Join Escondido in exploring the road to Joshua Tree, in search of musical inspiration.

Jessica Maros makes up one half of Escondido, a band whose trip to Joshua Tree was recently chronicled in one of our Making Tracks videos. We caught up with Jessica to talk about her musical journey to date, and how travel inspires Escondido.

Tell us about your musical background and how you got started.

I wrote my first song on the piano when I was 15 or 16 years old − inspired by a crush I had in school. My parents emigrated from Slovakia, so we had a lot of polka music in the house. My dad made me learn the piano, and as a little girl, all I wanted to do was write my own stuff. I also was involved in musical theater, and my first boyfriend was in a rock band, so I was hooked.

What is your songwriting process?

Initially, I like to write alone. Early mornings are my favorite time to write because it’s so peaceful, and I have more energy. I usually start a song and send it to Tyler, and he will add his touch. Or we’ll come together and finish it.

How does travel change or influence that process?

Traveling allows me to let things go and come back with a clearer vision. When I stay put in one spot for a long time, I get too in my head. But when I’m traveling, I have the space to gain more clarity.

How does the relationship between music and travel come to life for you?

Traveling feels secondary to me. I see music as life experience; it’s a soundtrack to my feelings and emotions. The emotion I get from traveling is freedom and escape, which allows me to listen to songs that make me feel free. I’m inspired by nature mostly because I’m more in tune with my emotions in quiet settings.

How much do you travel for gigs/performances?

We’ve spent the last five years in a van − five months on and five months off. I really haven’t felt like I’ve slowed down for a while.

Does the road-touring experience form a unique bond with bandmates?

You instantly become family members, a team of people bonding over a shared love of music. I get sentimental after a tour is over because I feel so overwhelmed that we all went through the same highs and lows. That’s a connection you won’t ever replace. My band members are family to me; they’re my brothers.

Are there any destinations you’ve played that surprised you?

I feel like I’m constantly surprised, but Telluride was one of them. That place was magical. I never expected it to be like that − the mountains with a little town smacked down the middle. It’s a special place.

What is one of your favorite stories from performing on the road?

The one that sticks out to me the most is when we met a famous cat. After a show, the owner of an event space asked me if I wanted to see his famous cat? I was confused. It turned out to be Lil BuB the famous Instagram cat. He was really cute. I learned my lesson not to form an opinion too quickly.

What attracted you to the project with Enterprise, and what did you experience on your journey?

We had a blast getting together and doing a little road trip. At the end of the trip, Tyler lost the keys (later found by the cleaning lady) and it was a little stressful. But all in all, the desert is such a magical place, and we had a lot of fun capturing those special moments that always happen when we go on the road.

Tell us why you believe hitting the road is important to the growth of artists?

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, and you’re tested on a daily basis when you’re traveling. You have to be slightly more on top of things and ready for plans to change. You never know what will happen, so you work through it and keep a smile on your face. Sometimes, a little detour can take you on a journey you never knew existed, and that’s the beauty of freedom on the road.