Photo by Alexis Marshall / MTSU Sidelines
Nashville-based husband-and-wife duo *repeat repeat has had a busy summer. From playing Bonnaroo back in June to buying a farmhouse outside the city for themselves and their 11 animals, the surf-rock group has had a lot on its plate. Most recently that included a set at Birmingham’s fourth annual Sloss Music and Arts Festival. MTSU Sidelines caught up with them there to talk about their journey to Nashville and their development as a couple and a band.
Sidelines: Jared, I know that you’re originally from California, but where are you from, Kristyn?
Kristyn Corder: Houston and Austin. I spent time in both, so that’s where I grew up.
Sidelines: How did you both end up making your way to Nashville?
Jared Corder: I grew up in Phoenix most of life. My parents moved from California when I was a kid, and we would kind of just go back and forth. … I went to Arizona State for music, and when I graduated I knew I wanted to move to a music city. New York was too expensive, and I spent enough time in LA to know that I didn’t want to live that close to home. So I met a friend who used to live in Nashville, and I knew some cool bands that were coming out of Nashville. I was like, “I’ll give it a try.” I graduated in May of ‘09, and I was out by September. I didn’t know a single person out there, but I was ready for an adventure and to be somewhere where I could try to make a living doing something I was passionate about.
KC: Truthfully I ended up in Nashville because I didn’t love LA. I was out in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles for college, and my family’s all from there. So I had grown up there. … I just kind of thought that I would love living there as an adult, and I didn’t love living there as an adult. I wanted something a little bit more like Austin or Houston where I had come from, but I didn’t want to go home. So, I picked Memphis, kind of randomly, and a friend kind of derailed me from the Memphis plan and pushed me toward Nashville, which I thank her for regularly.
Sidelines: You met when Jared was working with another band. So what was it like starting to work together on *repeat repeat as significant others?
KC: Accidental is how I’ll start.
JC: Well, (to Kristyn) accidental that you were in the band, right? She had a good eye and a good ear for branding. So when I decided to start *repeat repeat, I asked her to sit in on some of the rehearsals and some of the songwriting processes so that she could help me get what I wanted it to look like and sound like and kind of the feel of the whole brand. When you’re a band, it’s not just the music, it’s the whole persona. It’s a whole look and feel to it, and it really encompasses your whole life. I wanted to be mindful of that, so I asked her to be part of that. When we couldn’t find a girl singer — we had auditioned some, and it just didn’t work out what we were looking for — I had her sing on a couple demos because she knew the songs because she had sat in on —
KC: — because I lived in the house. (laughter)
JC: (laughter) Right. So I had her sing on it. I knew that she had a good voice, but she didn’t move to Nashville to be in a band.
KC: I wasn’t pursuing that.
JC: So I sent the demos to our producer, Gregory, at the time, and he said, “I think you found your girl singer.” We were never opposed to it. We were just kind of thrown off by it because we were like, “Well, do you want to be in a band?” (both laugh) … It’s not always fun. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s really gratifying too.
KC: You cannot want a comfort zone in any way shape or form. So if you plan on keeping a comfort zone, say no to being in a band.
JC: Yeah, also, we were about to get married at the time too. We were engaged. So it was like, “Well, is this something that’s a smart decision for our family?” But to be honest with you, at least for Kristyn and I, it would be way harder on our marriage if we weren’t in the same band.
KC: We live the same life, and it works out well because we’ve spent one night apart in seven years together … It’s funny to think that we thought we were going to do it any other way.
JC: The process was great. I mean really it was pretty natural. We knew that she was going to have a hand in the band because she was helping figure out the look of it. And now here we are. And every day that goes by it feels more and more like it was meant to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sidelines: You’ve got a lot going on with 11 pets at home, a collaboration with Pontoon Brewing Company to make Surf Rock Candy Shandy and a podcast. Do you have any other collaborations or side projects in the works?
JC: Not really right now. We’re kind of focusing on our next record, but —
KC: We’re going to do another beer with Pontoon.
JC: We — at some point — we’re both vegan, but we also live a very rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. At some point, we did a pilot for a show about being in a rock ‘n’ roll band and being vegan and about how you can do it even if you’re eating at gas stations and late night at 3 a.m. after being drunk at the bar. Down the road, we might revisit that. It’s something we’re passionate about. But we’re kind of just letting it happen as it happens. We’re passionate about a lot of different things, and I feel like we can see ourselves in a lot of different roles.
KC: With the music being at the center of it. Everything else we do is based around the music. I don’t think that we’re looking to all of a sudden become something else, but there are a lot of different verticals that being in music can provide … like doing the podcast, which started out a few years ago just as a way to get closer to fans and friends than you would in a Facebook post. Things like that that started out as kind of insignificant. … We just don’t tend to do insignificant things well. We turn everything into the best we can possibly make it, and the next thing we know, we’ve got this other thing happening. Like the beer — we made it it. I designed the label. We chose the fruit. It wasn’t just like, “Let me put your name on it.” We worked on it and created it. So … that’s what happens.
Sidelines: Your music seems very influenced by place and by a West Coast sound. Where do you find Nashville influencing your music?
JC: To be completely honest with you, musically, I don’t think we draw a lot of inspiration from Nashville, genre-wise. … In Nashville, everybody is doing music at a level that makes you have to step up what you’re doing. You can draw a lot from what’s the right way and wrong way to build your band and build your brand. … And there’s so many opportunities there with management companies and labels and booking agencies. It’s a really great hub to live to, make connections and build your team. But then, if you want success as a musician, it’s really important to get out of Nashville to play. … There’s not a Nashville sound that I think we draw upon, but we definitely learned a lot of our business model and a lot of our ability to make smart decisions.
KC: The business side of it has been born from Nashville. But the funny thing is, we make West Coast sounding music, but we consider ourselves an East Coast band because although our roots are in the West Coast as people, the band started in Nashville, which meant we were touring the East Coast and the Southeast and the Northeast for years. I mean we just got out to the West Coast as a band for the first time like a month ago. So we’ve considered ourselves an East Coast band, and I think that’s part of what makes our sound a little bit different. … That’s not something we set out to be different in but … it ended up inadvertently standing out.
Sidelines: A lot of our readers want to be in the recording industry. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to get out there and make it as an artist?
JC: I’ve been lately giving these three pieces of advice: Try to work harder than anybody else. You never will, because there’s always going to be somebody working harder than you. But try to find the person you think is working hardest in this industry, and try to work harder than them. The second one is try to find the person you think is the most patient in this industry and try to be more patient than them. This takes so much time. It’s like cooking a meal. You cut the ingredients, prep everything and then let all the flavors kind of simmer, so patience is key. The third thing is do stuff that people can’t ignore.
KC: Have a strategy. I mean it sounds so contrived because it’s music, right? But if you’re wanting to be a musician by profession and this (is) your career, you have to have a strategy for it. So if you’re just sort of hoping that if you do a little bit of this and a little bit of this that you’re going to get — that old word that doesn’t even exist anymore — “discovered,” that’s not a thing. You have to treat it like a business. It’s a small business — until it’s a big business.
JC: And going along with strategy, you have to stay one step ahead of your listeners. Our career doesn’t end today, after this show. We know what we’re doing next. And once we’ve done it and presented it to our audience, we’ll know what we’re doing next. And that’s not always the right or wrong thing. We’re flying by the seat of our pants. But stay one step ahead because nobody else is going to. And once (listeners) do catch on, they’re going to be wanting to know what’s next.
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