Songwriting With My Kids: Q&A with Daniel Tashian
Writer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Tashian wears a great many hats in Nashville, TN. The songwriter and producer behind Kacey Musgraves’ GRAMMY Album of the Year-winning album 'Golden Hour' and frontman of Nashville’s The Silver Seas has kept the creativity going at home by writing and producing a wonderful new kids album with his three daughters. Recorded from the Tashian family garage in just two weeks, ‘Mr. Moonlight’ is an ode to childhood wonder and whimsy, recorded with Daniel’s Makala Shark and U•BASS®!
We chatted with Daniel this week about his experience writing and recording with his family:
How did you approach songwriting with your daughters for the album?
It was just taking each day, one day at a time… keying into where their heads were and trying to see what they are fascinated by. For each track, there is an inspiration in terms of capturing their curiosity and then making a song about that. A lot of the lyrical ideas come from them and I just use my songwriting chops to tie it all together.
I like to do it that way so when they finally sing on it, it’s something that they’re genuinely interested in, feeling, and thinking about. There were some things I would try to get them to sing… I’d give them the part and they’d say “nope” and “make it simpler and I’ll sing it!” It’s great training for songwriters to work with children because you have to really get down to the essential hook and a melody that’s very easily singable. I end up really liking these compositions because of the vetting they have been through.
Why was the ukulele incorporated into the album?
To me, the ukulele is the foundation. It’s really your entry point for all music. Children take the instrument into their hands and find out it’s not as intimidating as it looks. It’s not a big burden and it doesn’t require any power. But, it’s capable of tremendous harmonic complexity, as much as a barbershop quartet or string quartet. It’s just an ideal instrument.
Any time I write a song and you can play it easily on the ukulele, I always feel this little bit of joy and pride. I feel I’ve done something that can be easily communicated and accessible to people all over the world. The ukulele to me is the instrument of the world.
How do you go about recording and mixing the ukulele?
I try not to use any EQ -- I really just sit there in the room and listen to it and see what it’s sounding like. A condenser microphone sounds good with the ukulele. A little compression is fine, but it has a wonderful harp-like sound; the natural sound of it is very good, so you don’t want to alter that too much. Just support it and put the microphone in the right place. Sometimes if I’m in headphones I move around to different axes on the microphone until I find the spot where it naturally sounds best.
Which Makala Sharks do you own?
Did your U•BASS® make an appearance on the album?
Yes, and it sounds flippin’ fantastic. The U•BASS® is on “If I Built a House” and “Pirate Life” -- that’s a fretless U•BASS®. Yeah, that thing sounds so good. I just plug it into a preamp and an 1176. My intonation was perfect -- and it was one take too! I don’t know how I did that, I can’t normally do that. I’m one of those people where I just look at an instrument and it goes out of tune.
My personal favorite track was “Paris (the City of Love)” -- you have this like minute-long, funny little conversation with one of your daughters in the middle of the track. How do you decide what stuff like that will make it into a song?
You know, [my daughter] Tigerlily was in there recording some vocals and I just started asking her questions. It was hilarious to me too.
One thing I love is when people sing about a place they’ve never been. It exists only in a cartoon, almost glamorous, way because they don’t know the realities of the trouble it takes to get to the place you want to go… things don’t often add up in the way we imagine they will.
Another favorite here was “How Old Should I Be?” What was the inspiration for that song?
The girls are always thinking about things they used to do when they were 3 and just roleplaying different ages. We have a lot of that in our house.
And I get it. I feel that way too! I feel I’m largely the same now as I ever was. And yeah, I can do more things, but I’m the same spirit that I’ve always been.
Stream the full album Mr. Moonlight on your preferred platform here. The Makala Sharks used on this album can be found here and our Kala U•BASS® selection here.