The State Of Music: Part 3: West Virginia - Unsung
Ahh West Virginia, they don't call it The Mountain State for nothing you know. Located in the Appalachian Mountain range it clearly has loads of them. I've never been, but Wikipedia is often my friend during this process. I of course know very little about West Virginia other than John Denver was clearly a fan - but thanks to Twitter I have since learnt that it was the only state formed by leaving a Confederate state during the American Civil War due to its protest against slavery. I was also told that someone called Ben's Mum was born there.
The one beauty of this project is that I have no idea what I am going to find in each state. Well I have a pretty good idea in some , having already spent a considerable amount of time dodging 'Christian Rock' from Utah. So when something unusual pops up it is always something of a joy.
I am not sure if West Virginia is well known for its Rap and Hip Hop scene. I am guess perhaps not, so this make the discovery even more enjoyable.
His album is available on a 'name your price' basis. So if you like it - buy it and continue to support a great independent artist
What appealed to me about Unsung is the minimalism. This is not to be taken as an insult, it certainly makes a change from the big overblown production values found in the more commercial releases.
When you listen to the album you will not be surprised that Unsung has a background in fine arts. Indeed it sometimes feels the music is more of a sound scape than a bed for lyrical prowess.
Why not check out the album in full and while reading the following interview with Unsung, a.k.a Steven Miller
CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music. Could you give me a quick run down of who makes up Unsung and where in the world are you?
UNSUNG: Unsung is one man, Steven Miller. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but now reside in Morgantown, West Virginia.
CMM: What made you decide to start recording as Unsung and when did it all start?
UNSUNG: I started rapping slightly before the turn of the century. My friend Brandt and I would buy hip hop singles on vinyl mostly for the beats on the b-side. We freestyled constantly, hoping that one day we could find someone who produced music. We went to college in Philadelphia and met a kid who told us that his friends were in a hip hop group and we should see them perform. At the show they asked if anyone wanted to come up on stage and freestyle. I decided to give it a shot, but needed a name first. Honestly, I had about 20 names that I had been toying with but Unsung was the first one that came to mind when they asked me who I was. We became friends with the guys in the group and started making music with them. After a while, I got some decent production programs and started making my own beats. I took everything from my 4-track and made about 4 cdr's worth of music. Then I met other people that took me on tours with them. I've since graduated to recording digitally.
CMM: How best would you describe your music?
UNSUNG: Visual. I come from a Fine Arts Painting discipline. I think I've taken almost every aspect of writing from this. Musically, I'm a big fan of simplicity and minimalism. Although, I do enjoy epic build-ups as well. My writing doesn't involve mentioning hip hop, it doesn't really try to be super witty with rhyme schemes or punchlines. There are some stories being told, but they intersect with other segments of stories frequently. It's not about the paths meeting or coming to a proper ending as much as it is about theme and similarity. I could have twelve intersecting stories in a song, but the characters don't appear to change. A narrative is very important to me, but it doesn't have to be wrapped up or have a moral.
CMM: You are based out in West Virginia. What is the music scene like where you are?
UNSUNG: I'm not too sure about the rest of the state, but Morgantown has a really nice scene. There are a lot of bluegrass artists, and folk music in general really thrives.
CMM: One thing I am hoping to find in this series is some kind of link between where a band is based and their location. Do you feel as an artist you are influenced by your surroundings and the scene around you?
UNSUNG: It's the mountains. They are massive and incomparable. It's a very humbling view everywhere you look. I think the scenery effects my music. I thrive on small moments. So it's important to be reminded how small everything is. I've lived in cities and i loved that too. I haven't surrounded myself with as many musicians or painters as I'm used to. So the only downside is that I don't have as many people to help edit, or give advice, when I make something. That can also be a fun experiment though.
CMM: What other influences do you feel you have, musical or otherwise?
UNSUNG: If this interview took place 6 years ago I would have filled this section up with countless painters names, authors and non hip hop artists. Even though they may not have really influenced me. The 2011 Steve will now say; I like when I can relax and listen to a beat play on repeat, hear something in my mind and add it. I love how that feels. I like listening to prog rock albums from the 70's on vinyl. I'm fascinated by science and astrophysics and the possibilities of the unknown and how impossible we all seem to be.
CMM: Your album 'The Paint' was a self released effort - are you currently looking for a deal or are you happy doing your own thing?
UNSUNG: I'm certainly not looking for any kind of record deal, publicity sure. I just like the idea of people liking what I do, for all the selfish reasons that go into it. It makes me feel really good when someone compliments something I've made.
CMM: Do you often get out to play live much?
UNSUNG: I used to play constantly. I toured a few times and it was a blast. I haven't played a show in over a year, but I think that's about to change.
CMM: What's in the pipline for Unsung?
UNSUNG: Hmm. About a week or two from now (now being August 19th) I'll be releasing a digital album of songs that didn't fit with other projects I've been a part of. I'm reluctant to call it a b-sides album, but there are a few sketches on it that aren't fully flushed out tracks. Then I'll be releasing a couple ep's and hopefully playing saxophone on Prince's new album. Oh and a new solo LP... Aaaand a remix album of The Paint by some of my most talented acquaintances. And I'll be uploading two of my past albums on my bandcamp page.
CMM: And finally, where can people reach out to you online and where can they get hold of your stuff?
UNSUNG: BOOM. This is where the new album lives. Name your price. Just remember to share. http://unsung1.bandcamp.com/
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