An Interview with Aaron Sprinkle of Fair
So tell me a little bit about yourself, your past music involvements, what records you’ve produced, your solo material, etc. Give the readers a short little introduction.
Well, my band Poor Old Lu got a record deal when I was 18. We did that until around 1997. Towards the end of that chapter I started a band called Rose Blossom Punch. We did one full length and an EP (that was never released). Around the end of that era I got a solo deal with the now defunct Pamplin/ Organic Records. I put out 2 solo records with them and one more with Silent Planet before my transition to signing with Tooth And Nail. I was also producing records for other bands pretty much that entire time. Around 2005 I decided to start another band with the guys that were backing me up for my solo material. That’s how Fair came about. Over the years I’ve had the honor of producing records for the likes of MxPx, Pedro The Lion, Kutless, Anberlin, Hawk Nelson, TFK, The Almost, FM Static, Jeremy Camp, Acceptance and Copeland to name a few.
I’ve been a follower of your music ever since I picked up Poor Old Lu Mindsize back in the early 90’s when I was in high school at some local Christian Bookstore. I followed each subsequent release including your work in Rose Blossom Punch, your solo material, and now your recordings with Fair. I know it’s tough looking back on the past but can you tell me a little bit about your experiences in Poor Old Lu and what it was like back during the 90’s Christian rock explosion? What made you want to depart your work with that band and record under the moniker of Rose Blossom Punch? How was the experience working with that band and under 5 Minute Walk back then?
Poor Old Lu was a really amazing and formative period in my life. Ignorant bliss was all around. The whole scene was so different then. It seemed like just within the pacific northwest alone there was just an explosion of new bands. We were putting our own shows together and kids were showing up. Then we got signed and got to feel some decent national exposure as well. The decision to end Poor Old Lu was really about moving on and seeing what else was out there. It just felt like the right time. Keep in mind that we’d been a band for almost 10 years! Rose Blossom Punch was also very formative for me as it was my first go as a frontman. A ton of hard lessons were learned and a ton of great memories were made. That was when I really started to learn the craft of songwriting. 5 Minute Walk was in a really exciting period and it was really fun to be a small part of it.
You’ve been through the ringer with “Christian” record labels over the years, many of which have fallen to the wayside and gone under. What are your thoughts on this strange occurrence and how has it affected your artistic output over the years?
I think it really forced me into a place where the music was just about connecting with people, regardless of who and how many. It forced me to really reexamine my definition of success, and to realize that if enough people liked what I was doing to justify continuing to make music that’s all that mattered.
You have consistently pumped out music for two decades or more now and have been in not only three bands but have also done solo work as well. How do you explain your work ethic and how do you create so much quality music over the years through your various projects?
Wow. Thanks for the kind perspective. If I have any explanation it would have to be that I really try to live in the moment and circumstance that I currently find myself in. I try to just get up in the morning and do what I feel I need to do that day, without looking too far back or trying to see to far in the future. I really really honestly feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to make the music that I’ve made in my life. I don’t feel like the world needs my music in it, I’m just glad to be able to be a small part of the big picture.
There have been things and good things in the Christian market place over the past several decades and I have personally been a witness to both, some of which has really burdened me at specific points in my life. How do you stay afloat and keep a positive outlook when people around you let you down or how do I say it, “work you over”? Is there anything you’d like to see changed in the “Christian” market or would you rather your music float past that target demographic and reach a broad spectrum of people?
I have run the gamut of all possible super intense feelings about this. I have spent too much time living in resentment. I really have come to a place where I personally believe that this is all just a gift and a blessing. For me to try and tell everyone else how I think this or that should be (which I have tried to do) is all really egocentric. I’m all about what’s fair is fair (no pun intended). But hey, I get to make music that people care about. Me. That’s just crazy if you really think about it. Who am I to say what kind of people should “get” to hear it. I just really want people who can connect with it to have a chance to hear it. The lines between the markets are so fuzzy now it doesn’t really even matter anymore!
Being a Christian, how does your faith play a role in the music you create and the skills you put to use in producing other band’s music?
I honestly feel that all this is a gift from God. I try and get my confidence from him. I try and give him all glory. I fail miserably sometimes. But ultimately I know that he can use anything, in any way he wants.
We’re all excited about this new Fair record. It’s been 4 years since we last heard from your band. Is it the same lineup from the last album? How many songs on the album? Do you feel it’s your best effort yet or your best work you’ve ever done?
It is the same lineup. We put 10 songs on this one. Of course I think it’s our best, it’s our newest! But seriously, I feel really good about it. I think it’s the most “complete” record I’ve ever done. It’s the most like something I would want to listen to.
Can you tell us the readers a little bit about the difference between the new Fair record and the old one. What similarities are there and what differences will we hear when giving it a first listen?
I think it definitely sounds like the same band but we really pulled even more from our influences on this one. I think it shows in a way that’s classic and fun without sounding like a rip off or like we were trying to make it sound old. I’d say its more diverse and more dynamic than the last. I think it is more focused lyrically too.
Do you plan to tour in 2010 for this album?
We would love to tour. It’s hard for us to do though. We’re all married and have other jobs. We’re gonna try and do at least a few weeks this summer. Not sure about any of the details at this point though.
Switching gears for the rest of the interview. I have several user submitted questions below.
When producing an album, how do you find a balance between the performance of the band, and the techniques and opinions of the person behind the desk? Is there a point where you can over-produce and actually serve to misrepresent the band?
It’s all about listening to what the song is asking for. I try to never do anything for the sake of doing it, or because its what you “always” do. I like to give each song a chance to be accessible without compromising the integrity of it’s artistic intent.
How do you get inspiration for new material after many years and many releases of your own?
I am always going through some new phase. Country, Top 40, Wish You Were Here, Wincing The Night Away, Songs In The Key Of Life, etc. There is so much out there to appreciate and to be inspired from. No matter how many hours I spend in the studio or how many songs I write I can always find something that refreshes my ears and my mind.
What is your opinion on the genre “Christian music”? Is it a distinction that needs to exist, or something that exists only because of marketing?
Great/ tough question. I used to really wrestle over this subject. Over the years I’ve come to a point where I try not to focus so much on the what and the why and just focus on making great music and being grateful that people get to hear it. No matter who they are or why or where they bought it. It’s such a blessing to be a part of a group of believers making great music and glorifying God through it.
What’s the best band you’ve worked with? Generally, do friendships develop with the bands or is it more professional?
I couldn’t pick one. I love em all! I do develop strong friendships with the artists. Some of them are honestly some of my best friends. Making a record can be a very intimate experience.
What is your favorite record that you’ve produced?
I could never pick a favorite. Some of them are:
Jonezetta, Cruel To Be Young
The Almost, Monster Monster
Copeland, You Are My Sunshine
Corey Crowder, Gold And The Sand
Thousand Foot Krutch, Welcome To The Masquerade
Emery, The Question
I’m really excited about the yet to be released Sent By Ravens and Ivoryline records as well!
Recommendations for albums released this year that you produced?
I’m really excited about the yet to be released Sent By Ravens, Ivoryline, The Museum and Poema records!
What band would you love to work with that you haven’t had the chance to?
If I had 3 wishes from a genie in a lamp I’d want to make records with Paul McCartney, Coldplay and Kanye West.
I’m curious if you and Jesse Sprinkle will be doing any musical collaborations in the future?
We talk about it all the time but we don’t have any specific plans right now.
Do you ever get tired of working in the music business?
Sometimes it can feel like “just a job” but mostly I feel really blessed that I get to pay my bills making music.
How’s the work load? Do you have to turn away a lot of bands because of being completely booked, or even because the band is not very good?
I have had to turn down many projects because there’s only so many days in a year. Sometimes it’s also touring schedules. I can have three bands needing to record at basically the same time.
Do you have any plans to release another solo record?
I would love to make another solo record. Just not sure when!
What was it like working with the new Tooth & Nail band Poema?
They are so great and so talented. I’m really excited about the way this stuff turned out.
What are some of your favorite producers in the business?
Jon Brion, Nigel Godrich, Joe Chiccarelli, Rich Costey, George Martin, etc.
What are the next bands you are producing?
The Museum and FM Static
Why is it that the bands you produce and the music you create yourself are so different in style? What kind of music do you listen to just for enjoyment?
I love all kinds of music. Working with different types of bands gives me an opportunity to express myself in different ways and keeps my job interesting and super fun. A few things I’m listening to right now are Monsters Of Folk, Jay-Z, MGMT and Starsailor.
It seems like Fair kind of took a back seat to producing. Is that true? Why did it take four years? What was everyone else in the band doing?
The 4 year gap had a lot to due with my schedule and the other guys being busy and Joey (drummer) moving to Nashville. It also had to do with the fact that we weren’t gonna put the record out until we were as close to 100% happy with it as possible.
Well that about concludes our interview with Indie Vision Music. If you have any prayer requests for us, please let our readers know, we’re happy to support you and your music. Take care and everyone make sure to buy Fair’s new album Disappearing World on February 9th!!