Every Lovely Thing began as a simple question over coffee that would eventually evolve into an ambient pop dream duo. In 2015, long-time friends and songwriters Marianne Kesler and Kate Stanton were discussing music over coffee when Stanton suggested they try writing a song together.
Letting things unfold, their first meeting resulted in co-writing “Walk Upon The Water”. This would lead to writing a number of songs by the end of that year as their monthly writing sessions turned into weekly. It was during Kesler and Stanton’s writing sessions they discussed their potential of forming a duo and set about finding a name that was fitting. In 2016, they would release their first single, “Running” which was recorded with producer Ben Kesler.
Both Kesler and Stanton started their musical journey from a young age. From the age of 10 and into her teens, Kesler played the viola. She taught herself to play guitar at age 12 and wrote her first song when she was 18. Voice and guitar for her are mostly self-taught, learning through watching others and also by doing.
Stanton is mostly self-taught on the guitar and piano and always loved to sing. She was also a mezzo-soprano in solo and ensemble in the choir as a teen. During that time, she worked at a record store and saved up enough to pay for some guitar and piano lessons so she could learn enough chords to write her own songs.
Every Lovely Thing released their latest single, “Not The Only One” in April 2018 and are currently working on new music. There are no plans for touring or gigs in the near future. Their focus will continue to be co-songwriting, studio recording, and posting acoustic covers or videos of new demo work on their YouTube channel.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Marianne and Kate of Every Lovely Thing via email on their latest single, music video creation, the meaning of their tagline, production processes, their musical journies and much more.
Congratulations on your second single release, “Not the Only One”! Can you tell us what the concept or theme of the song is?
(Kate) I’m a very visual person, so when I was writing the melody on the piano and intuitively humming out words to what I was feeling, I imagined mountain peaks … I imagined a lone person, alone but not lonely which is a very important distinction, walking towards the goal of reaching the mountain peaks. Along this journey, I “saw” the person struggling up steep hills and down ravines, an alchemy of sorts to become the person they’re meant to be.
The lyric, “you’re a flower made to bloom and then to blossom desert rose” represents that. We may come into the world alone, but along life’s journey, we see many people with the same struggles. Marianne came up with the line “not the only one” for the chorus and the theme evolved from there. In some of our older notes for this song that I referenced for this interview, we debated different perspectives and whether to use the first person or second person voice. We opted for being an observer to the “other person” in this song.
(Marianne) This song reflects our quirky personality types (both INFJs Myers-Briggs) and the feeling of isolation that can result, then the joy of finding another person who can relate! We guess everyone can probably identify in some way to feeling like they are “the only one”. So despite whatever it is that makes you feel alone, the song is an encouragement that there are others out there that understand! Perhaps a finding-your-tribe kind of song
Explain the concept behind your music video for Not the Only One.
The idea is a visual portrayal of the aloneness and isolation that can “bubble wrap” us and make us blind to the truth right behind or beside us. Caleb is oblivious for most of the video to the fact that Kate is very close by … waiting, wanting to interact and to share her gifts. It is really a love story of a different kind – that of finding another human being who can walk alongside us in life, lessening our isolation. We enjoy this aspect of our relationship as co-songwriters.
Regarding the video, you are credited with shooting the video. Explain your decision to do so and also how you handled the directing and casting of it.
We both enjoy the creative process and control of making our own videos. We brainstormed ideas for shots, both video and stills, ahead of the shoot. We used our iPhones to shoot photos, slo-mo videos, time-lapse videos, and what seemed like millions of 10-second video clips to piece together to tell a story. We take lots of extra footage as you never know which clip will “pop” or what segment will best illuminate the storyline.
While we don’t have any fancy equipment, we feel with the right vision you can get your point across.
Art should provoke a feeling. Even if you don’t always understand what is going on, it is important to tune in to how something makes you feel.
Last but not least, shooting our own video is very economical, as it is a time investment with very little monetary output! We have a great time on our video shoot adventures!
The couple chosen to enact the storyline are friends Caleb & Kate Peyton that we feel “light up” on camera. Fun fact: We had originally shot this footage about a year previous for a completely different song! So we had this amazing footage filed. When we had not yet recorded that song after a year’s time, we wondered whether the clips could be rearranged for “Not the Only One.” Marianne found a clip of Kate Peyton closing her eyes slowly and aligned it with the lyric, “deep in your eyes I find a holiness within” and we both knew this was it! It was a high five moment! *We’d also like to give a shout out to thank Caleb and Kate for their willingness to endure a very windy photo shoot and for being open-minded to our vision! Our favorite compliment from a viewer so far is the comment that the video is “endearing”.
Your first single release, “Running” was in 2016 along with a music video for it. Why has there been a two-year gap between releases? Was it intentional?
The two-year gap is not intentional. Juggling time and other commitments is a balancing act. It was simply a question of saving up the funds to record professionally. We’d love to be able to record in the studio more frequently! We are continually creating new material.
What are your plans for an EP or album release in the future?
We do not have concrete plans for such, although we do hope to record more singles, and as we do may put 3-5 on an EP. We may do digital releases only rather than physical CDs however, given the current trends in the music market.
Explain your production process.
(Marianne) We write from a very open-minded posture … we write what we feel, what we like, what comes out on the page or the keys, and then work to make “a good song great’ as we like to say. Sometimes we may decide the song is simply what it is, and go no further with it. As a song emerges we talk about what we “hear” as far as production goes, and then once we are headed toward a studio recording we may send the producer reference songs with elements we like, want, hear. Ben is also quite involved in the production process in the studio.
(Kate) In my experience so far, time spent dreaming and brainstorming during the production process has been my favorite.
The studio is thrilling, and the feeling you have going in versus leaving with a completed song is unreal.
We told the producer, Ben, that we wanted the bridge in “Not the Only One” to be “so beautiful it makes your heart hurt”. He used effects that made the piano sound like it was being played underwater. We love the dreamy-pop production that can only come from a good studio experience.
What is the meaning of your tagline, “creating beauty from brokenness”? How did you come up with it?
(Kate) We came up with the tagline while thinking of the Japanese art form of kintsugi. Kintsugi recognizes the lines in broken pottery by repairing the cracks with precious metals such as gold, silver, or platinum. Symbolically, by emphasizing scars with gold, we are accepting ourselves. No one leaves childhood unscathed. Everyone feels lonely at times. We all have our struggles, but some of us hide it better. What I am trying to say is we are all broken in some way. As Leonard Cohen says, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
(Marianne) We both tend to feel things deeply, both the pain and sorrows of the world as well as our own. It can weigh heavily at times and I think we can both relate to feeling broken. Yet we share a faith that there is a beauty that can come even in our brokenness and we look for surprise joys in unexpected places. We love the juxtaposition of things others may call ugly (old buildings, ruins, weeds) set against the beauty of God’s creation (trees, skies, oceans) and attempt to bring that vision to our songwriting,
Our internal tagline while writing songs has been “make a good song great”, and by mixing our unique set of curiosities and talents, we can attempt to create just that.
I believe when people are authentic, it shows. We try to keep our songs as introspective and authentic as when they first come out, no matter how uncomfortable of a process it may be to “exorcise the demon” within while writing it. I have learned a LOT about myself and others throughout this process.
You recorded your single, “Running” with producer Ben Kesler in St. Louis. How did you meet him? How was your recording experience with him? What did you learn?
(Kate) I met Ben through Marianne. He is a thoughtful and creative soul. I found him refreshingly honest and easy to work with… there is mutual respect and trust all around. I had a blast in the studio both times!
(Marianne) Ben is my son! He is a voting member of the Grammys and has taught studio engineering at the Ex’treme Institute by Nelly in St. Louis. He now continues in administration for the program (now referred to as EI) at Vatterott College. In addition to being one of the most creative, innovative people we know, his gentle demeanor is a perfect fit for our introverted personalities. He leads in a quiet way, listens to our vision, and we have learned to always give his suggestions a try ~ they are usually stunningly amazing!
Explain how you came to the decision to write a song together. Were you writing individually at that time? How long have you been writing together?
(Kate) I’ve been a fan of Marianne’s solo singer-songwriting career since I booked her trip to LA for a songwriting expo over a decade ago! She called me up at the travel agency I was working for at the time, and we have been friends ever since. In 2015 we had set up a coffee date to discuss music, and I threw it out there, “let’s try writing a song together!”
(Marianne) It will be 3 years in January since we first tried co-writing, having absolutely no idea what would come of it! I was writing as a solo artist at the time and had some co-writing experience. We just let things unfold and have been surprised and thrilled with the journey!
(Kate) I’ve been writing songs since childhood, but never really shared much. I did a handful of coffeehouse gigs throughout my early 20s and self-produced a demo with an indie band friend from Columbus. I did some VGM songwriting contests online and posted covers here and there. I’ve often joked with Marianne that I have had a decade of life experience pent up to write about, which is why I send her so many “song seeds” now. Good writing requires you to live, learn, and experience life.
When and why did you decide to take your songwriting team a step further and form Every Lovely Thing?
On the first date we set aside to try writing together we met with an acoustic guitar and keyboard and in an hour had finished the skeleton of a song called “Walk Upon The Water.” We continued to meet (at least twice monthly if possible) and within a year we had written quite a number of songs.
We are kindred creative spirits with good chemistry and respect for each other’s space and quirks.
Believe us, we are both picky and quirky at times, but we go with the flow and let the creative process take the lead. We try to break free of any routines or habits. We call them “ruts in the brain” because once we memorize a song it can be hard to switch gears back to the creative flow of a song-in-the-works. During the first few months of co-writing, we talked of our vision as a potential duo and began the process of choosing a fitting name.
What are your musical backgrounds and training?
(Marianne) I played viola from age 10 through high school and taught myself to play on a borrowed guitar at age 12. It was love at first sight because I could sing along with the guitar! Both voice and guitar remain mostly self-taught and learning from watching others and from the experience of doing! I wrote my first song (setting a Psalm to music) at age 18.
(Kate) I’ve always loved to sing. As a teen, I was in solo and ensemble in the choir as a mezzo-soprano and saved up money from working at the record store to pay for a little guitar and piano lessons. I am mostly self-taught but wanted to learn enough chords to write my own songs. Music is my passion. I may not be the best at any one thing, but the passion is there.
Marianne, you have a solo singer-songwriting career with a lot of studio experience. Can you tell us about that?
I am still writing songs for myself to sing and performing regularly as a solo singer-songwriter. I have had a few songs licensed for other uses as well. I’ve released 6 albums of mostly original music and several singles. I have had songs covered or demoed by other artists. When writing for myself I lean toward a folk/pop style (think coffeehouse.) Every Lovely Thing has allowed me the joy and experience of writing and performing with a fellow artist and in a different genre.
Where have you played (venue, location) since forming Every Lovely Thing?
From the beginning we have felt our emphasis as a duo would be songwriting and recording, hopefully pitching our songs for licensing. Neither of us minds if we do not perform live very often. We did have a debut as a duo at Un Mundo Café in Springfield, Ohio. Lovely friends and family in a supportive coffeehouse environment surrounded us. We have also played at 2nd Street Market in downtown Dayton.
Regardless of whether or not you have played for a live audience, what would you like to impart to them at one of your shows/performances? What kind of experience do you want them to have?
(Marianne) I feel like we really have a niche audience with other introverts and empaths … so an ideal concert would be one where people are listening to the lyrics and drawn into the storyline. Since isolation can often beset introverted people,
we want listeners to feel connected, heard, and known, as they identify with our experiences as expressed in song.
(Kate) I don’t have as much experience as Marianne performing songs. Quite honestly, it scares me because of the vulnerability. Our songs are very meaningful and emotional for me to sing. I’m working on becoming more comfortable with sharing our songs. It’s been a journey, not a destination I’ve always said to Marianne that
I would rather one song mean the world to one person than to have more listeners with less interest.
Your music is described as ambient dream pop. Define what that is and why you chose that style.
Pigeonholing our musical style was hard. “Ambient” because we are fans of an ethereal sound, beautiful layering, music pads on piano or synth, and often finger-style guitar picking. “Dream pop” because in a broader sense it falls into the pop realm but with a dreamy, surreal sound. Our music is chill and dreamlike. We want people to relax and listen to the ethereal sounds and authentic lyrics as they go about their day.
We are also fans of quirky unexpected beats and ambient sounds, and interesting use of background vocals introduced into the mix – one of the reasons we favor studio recording over live performance. We love the process of creating in the studio!
How do you think women artists can be supported in indie music?
(Kate) Firstly, we would like to thank Indie Music outlets like you for giving us a platform to speak about what we do and ultimately what we love. We have a wonderful follower on Twitter (shout out to Bobby!) who makes our day by retweeting and spreading the word about our songs. Close friends and family realize that we have to write; it is not so much a choice as part of what makes us whole. Finally, purchasing our songs, plus tips at gigs or online, are extremely helpful because that is how we fund future studio recordings!
(Marianne) We do appreciate the support we get from organizations that highlight women in music such as this one. We also value involvement in the broader community of artists. At one point in the past, I toured widely and often performed festivals where I was one of few, if not the only, acoustic, solo, and female performer. I think that those experiences have made me stronger and helped my career continue to thrive.
What advice would you give to women who are thinking about a career or already pursuing a career in the indie music industry?
(Marianne) Be brave, get out there! Share your unique gifts … there are others who need to hear from you! It is especially encouraging to young girls/women who want to pursue the arts to see other women out there doing what they dream of!
I would like to encourage anyone out there, no matter your age or experience, to listen to your heart and just do it.
You will be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, coworker, etc. because you are following your dream. Women have so much on their plates. Take baby steps even if you don’t have large chunks of time to devote to music at first. Remember it will fill your soul, and like exercise, making time for it will only help you. I think of the quote by Picasso, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
What are your show or tour plans for this year and 2019?
Future plans regarding gigs are part of our ongoing conversation. Our thoughts lean toward continued songwriting, plus more studio recording, and further experimentation with home GarageBand recording.
What projects do you have planned or working on this year?
Next up seems to be reworking an earlier tune “Hope”. We had never quite landed with what felt like a finished song we were satisfied with, so ‘hopefully’ we are getting closer! We have nicknamed it “Hope” v 2.1. (haha) This may be the next studio project. Since we often write slow to mid-tempo songs with a tinge of melancholy, we are trying our hands at a “happy song” with beats, a bit more upbeat tempo, and will probably at least start this as a GarageBand project. From time to time we also try to capture on video a demo of our new work, or an acoustic cover, to post up on our YouTube channel we are trying to grow!
We both compile files and scraps of paper with chord progressions, “fire starter” lyrical ideas, and various other “song seeds” for future songs. One of our absolute favorite parts of this songwriting journey is being able to come alongside a fellow dreamer and to keep our eyes and ears open for Every Lovely Thing!
Thank you, Kate and Marianne, for the opportunity to interview you!
Follow Every Lovely Thing on Social Media:
YouTube: Every Lovely Thing
Download and purchase “Not The Only One” and “Running” in their CD Baby store.