Seattle-based folk-pop duo March to May overlays harp and guitar with rich vocal harmonies, haunting lyrics and riveting melodies, in the vein of the Swell Season, Damien Rice & the Civil Wars. The band formed in the Spring of 2013 as a collaboration between singer/songwriters Darren Guyaz and Beth Wesche.
The Water’s Edge is the debut release from March To May. They have a lot going for them; fantastic voices that emanate pure emotion, sublime acoustic instruments and intense storytelling. Recently the duo shared their thoughts with Jamsphere in an exclusive interview.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Darren Guyaz: I’ve played in a few bands over the years, as well as playing solo – but nothing with this much potential. We met randomly through a Craiglist housemate search, then discovered we harmonized well together around a beach campfire on the Washington coast.
Beth Wesche: I’ve been in music for two years, since we started March to May. It hadn’t been on my radar at all until Darren and I started playing music together. When we did, though, things really took off.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Darren Guyaz: U2, the Beatles, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Philip Glass, and a lot of classical music from Rachmaninoff, Greig, Chopin and more.
Beth Wesche: Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Eric Whitacre (a contemporary choral composer), and Loreena McKennitt definitely were important influences for me.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Darren Guyaz: Civil Wars and the Swell Season, but unfortunately we can’t collaborate with either, as both duos broke up!
Beth Wesche: Hmm. Vance Joy, Damien Rice, and Marketa Irglova are definitely high on the list, as is New Zealand’s Broods. I’d love to collaborate with any of them!
- After having travelled the Western Hemisphere extensively, why the choice to settle in Seattle, Washington?
Darren Guyaz: It’s hands down one of the best cities in the world: an amazing combination of culture, music, food and opportunity, alongside some of the most beautiful wild areas in North America…
Beth Wesche: I’ve loved the area for a long time, even before I moved to Seattle. My sister went to school in Washington so I’ve been visiting for a while, and I fell in love with the landscape. It’s so beautiful, and one of the wilder places you’ll find these days.
- What are your thoughts on visual media and YouTube in general? Do think that video is an appropriate marketing tool for your music, and what is your latest available video for fans to see?
Darren Guyaz: We love visual media and are working on creating more content. And yes, video is a hugely important marketing tool. Embers is our latest…
Beth Wesche: Absolutely. I think people really like seeing the songs paired with visual storytelling. It’s a powerful combination, and really feeds the imagination! Our video for Embers is available now, and we’re gearing up to release two new videos in the next year. It’s pretty exciting!
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio environment?
Darren Guyaz: I love a live audience. Recording is fun, but more stressful for me, as you have to strive towards perfection. Playing live allows for more spontaneity.
Beth Wesche: Tough question. They have very different kinds of magic. I love the energy you get from connecting with a crowd when you’re playing live. On the flip side, I love the recording process for its ability to look at the architecture of a song and how the different parts come together to create something beautiful.
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music on your releases. Which one of you does what usually?
Darren Guyaz: We usually start with a chord progression on either instrument, move towards a melody/harmony line, and then add lyrics. But we both usually work on a song pretty equally.
Beth Wesche: We both do both. It’s a pretty collaborative process.
- If you had to choose only one of your songs to represent March To May, which one would that be and why?
Darren Guyaz: I’d agree with Beth.
Beth Wesche: Probably Embers. It’s one of the first songs we wrote together, and has really become a signature song for us. I think it still captures the essence of our songwriting style and tone.
- On which one of your songs do you feel you personally delivered your best performance so far, both technically and emotionally?
Darren Guyaz: I’d say The Monk and the Lover…it’s a very rich and complex song…
Beth Wesche: Embers, or possibly Georgia, in terms of the album. I’ve come close with A Thousand Mornings, too, which we haven’t yet released.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to be a part of this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
Darren Guyaz: Passion or joy. It’s something indescribable that keeps me going.
Beth Wesche: Joy. It’s definitely a huge part of what keeps me going.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Darren Guyaz: I love creating and building something from nothing. Comparing yourself (too much) to other artists can be discouraging – so we try not to do it and just forge our own path.
Beth Wesche: I love the responsibility and ownership of managing my own career. We have a lot of liberty to make our own decisions about who we want to be and where we want to go. However, it’s definitely a lot of work, and when you’re an independent artist it’s really up to you to seek out and cultivate relationships with people who can guide and advise you on your career. So I guess the responsibility aspect is both a blessing and a curse!
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team to assist you or do you control everything by yourself?
Darren Guyaz: Beth and I are doing it all!
Beth Wesche: We currently manage ourselves. I think we’ll start looking for help soon, though, since we’re getting to the point of needing to build our team if we’re going to grow.
- How do you achieve your sound? Do you work from a private recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio?
Darren Guyaz: We worked with one of the best studios in the Pacific Northwest, Bear Creek.
Beth Wesche: We recorded our last EP at Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville. It’s a fantastic place that’s attracted the likes of Brandy Carlile, the Lumineers, and Elephant Revival, so they definitely know how to bring out the best in a recording.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Darren Guyaz: Best: Not caring what others think about you and your music. You have to love it and believe in it yourself if you’re going to make it. Ditto on the other question. I only wish we had more time.
Beth Wesche: My best piece of advice was probably one of my first pieces of advice: play with the same love and enthusiasm to a crowd of one that you would to a crowd of a thousand. I’m not sure I can think of a specific piece of advice that I didn’t follow and regret not following. I do wish I had time to go to more shows by other musicians in the Seattle area (I do try to get out but there are always ones I miss). There’s a fundamentally solitary element to being an independent artist, but you’re also not the only one building your career that way. Building a community is important.
- What are your thoughts on talent shows like American Idol, The Voice and the X-Factor etc.?
Darren Guyaz: Not very appealing for me, as they wouldn’t highlight our style and creativity in the right way. Fine for other folks though.
Beth Wesche: I like that they give people an opportunity to get themselves out in front of a huge audience and compete for what they love. On the other hand, there’s a lot of drama built in that make these shows their own beasts, and somewhat divorced from the reality of a typical music career.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Darren Guyaz: I think the web & social media are instrumental and fundamental to our career. You HAVE to engage fans this way, and the proliferation of internet across the world gives you the chance to reach so many more fans and followers. It also allows you to stand out amongst the masses, just as much as it could make it difficult to stand out.
Beth Wesche: I really think it is important. Social media and the internet give people a really unprecedented opportunity to be heard without being dependent on a label or anyone else to amplify their voices. It makes the path to success a little less straightforward, perhaps, but it means that there are so many ways to reach and inspire people. You have to get creative about how you do that, but again – the responsibility is in YOUR hands – you’re not waiting for a label to give you permission.
- To someone has never heard March To May, which 3 keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Darren Guyaz: Sophisticated, symphonic, refined
Beth Wesche: Modern, elegant, poignant
- In a time when music is persistently occupied with beat-induced electronic music, how would you explain the success of roots-styled music and artists like Civil Wars, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver and The Lumineers etc?
Darren Guyaz: Because their music is still raw and emotional and unprocessed. So much music on the Top 40 charts has lost its character. It’s over-processed and flat.
Beth Wesche: I think there’s a simplicity to their music that will never die. All of their music has a quality that you could not only hear on the radio, but play on a guitar in your bedroom with the same honesty and passion. It’s pared down. I think simplicity never really goes out of style.
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or any other tangible milestone?
Darren Guyaz: World touring, because I love traveling. Music and travel sounds ideal. Otherwise, a Grammy would be great. But I don’t think Beth & I measure success in the way that many bands do.
Beth Wesche: Haha, sold out tours and a Grammy would be pretty nice. And hearing our songs in a movie soundtrack. (Can I pick three?)
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve or consolidate a successful musical career?
Darren Guyaz: Negatively impact other people in any way. I see music as a gift, as a collaborative experience, or as something that inspires people. I would never want to do something musically and in our careers that really hurt or impacted someone in this way, such as through our lyrics, or at a show, or such.
Beth Wesche: Get to a point where I feel like I can’t connect with people through my music anymore. The personal connection is so important to me – it feels like music is this gift I can give to people, and they may see something in it that’s totally different than what I see, but if it means something to them, it’s worth it. And I want there to be honesty in that exchange.