JT Daly

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JT Daly

JT Daly never intended you to hear Memory. Therein lies the beauty (and potential disaster) of the Paper Route front man’s solo release.

Longtime PR fans yearning for a follow-up to 2009’s Absence will love the sonic and emotional echoes found on Memory. Daly certainly served himself well creatively speaking when it came to the secret project, yet something this intimately moving deserves to be heard. To not release it, in short, would be a shame.

We recently caught up with Daly as he preps for a busy year. A new Paper Route release, The Peace of Wild Things, will come soon enough. For now, fans can soak in the resonant meaning found on Daly’s debut.

SSv: Obviously we want to talk about Paper Route business as well, but this release certainly deserves some attention all its own. Can you give us some of the details on this release coming together?

JT Daly: The main reason why this even got a green light from the guys is because this is a very therapeutic album to make. I never honestly thought anyone would ever hear it outside of the Paper Route guys. I didn’t even expect them to listen to it more than once. This was kind of right at the beginning of me realizing that I had a massively new chapter in my life. I just started making this album.

If anything, I'm only surprised that mass culture and society still hasn't really grasped the fact that major labels mean nothing. They still think when The Voice comes on and it says that the winner gets a Universal Republic record deal, they still freak out. They think that if their son wins, then he's going to buy me a house in San Diego with a whole bunch of Andy Warhol paintings. They have no idea.

If anything, I'm only surprised that mass culture and society still hasn't really grasped the fact that major labels mean nothing. They still think when The Voice comes on and it says that the winner gets a Universal Republic record deal, they still freak out. They think that if their son wins, then he's going to buy me a house in San Diego with a whole bunch of Andy Warhol paintings. They have no idea.

Paper Route was on a major and we knew that we had to give them singles. They wanted a major label album. At the time, and still now, we loved that challenge. We loved the idea of trying to take on radio. We loved the idea of trying to write smart songs. Lyrically, we’ll never change; melody-wise, we loved that challenge.

I think I felt the pressure from that and it felt like the ceiling was dropping. I kind of went into a panic wondering if I would lose my voice or something — metaphorically speaking. What comes naturally to me? I need to do that. I need to exercise that. So I made this album.

It was a broken drum set. I’m pretty sure in each song you can hear that the snare drum is a full step lower by the time the song is over. I borrowed an amp from an artist who has so many amps, I don’t even think he knew that I took it. I bought a guitar and sold it immediately after I finished it. I traded a painting for a bass. I used my dad’s old Yamaha church keyboard. I had one mic for the whole thing.

It’s crazy now to listen to this and know about the Paper Route album that’s coming up, because this is definitely chapter one, lyrically speaking. The Paper Route album is a strong chapter two.

SSv: What’s behind the instrumentation and washing your hands of it so quickly? You talk of the entire creative process in such throwaway terms, which is the exact opposite of what we’ve discussed throughout your time in Paper Route. Everything with the band is this intense curation that takes forever. It sounds like two different artistic personalities coming from you.

JT: Oh, exactly. This was almost like going back to my roots — the innocence of it, y’know? It was so freeing thinking at the time that no one was going to hear it. I don’t want to say that I didn’t care, because I always care, but I didn’t want to try too hard. It was really just how fast can I get this song down and this exact emotion across. It’s that John Lennon quote that I’ve referenced before where he says once you start a song you have to finish it or else the seed of inspiration is gone.

With Paper Route, we try and essentially document that initial moment even if it’s talking through the track. We’ll hum everything and then go back to that initial moment to keep it. With this album, I actually did it. It was, ‘There’s the take. We gotta keep it now.’ [Laughs] I think I learned more about the lyrics 18 months later when I went back to listen to it than I even did when I was writing it.

SSv: In conversations past, there’s this aspect of your personality I feel like you’ve shared where it’s almost the idea that you’re your own worst enemy, if that makes sense. You labor over something and you’re still never fully satisfied.

JT: Totally.

SSv: Then here’s this beautiful freedom that you’re talking about. Will this inform you in the future? Will this free you up within Paper Route?

JT: Well, with Paper Route, we’ve always tried to look at the past to guess the future, to try to evolve and get better. I think as a band we’ve gotten a lot better at that, especially on the album are coming out. Even on the songs that Chad and I are starting to write now, it’s that way. But yes, this is complete different. I’m almost trying to forget that I’m even doing this. The whole reason why we feel that it’s appropriate is because there’s such little planning or thought besides me just sitting and writing these songs.

If it was anything else, I would not feel comfortable with it. Paper Route is the band that I’m a part of and I’m not wanting to trade that for anything. This is a very rare case where we have a bit of time, so there will be some touring. When we revisited this album, it was actually Chad — the guy I go to with all of my Paper Route ideas — who said that I should consider releasing this. He told me that a couple of times, so I actually took him up on it.

SSv: How much of a life will this have?

JT: I don’t see this having much more of a life other than I hope this helps a few people sleep at night. With the Paper Route schedule coming up, my attention is on that. That’s the center to my circle right now. But the few people I’ve played it for… I have someone I dearly respect, an incredible artist — and she said this will actually help people. When I heard that, that’s when I felt at peace with giving it up and shedding some light on it and letting people know if it ever existed.

SSv: Who told you that?

JT: It was Sarah Masen.

SSv: Okay, I just have to ask and I don’t mean to call you a liar because that’s an overstatement, but I just want to check on this aspect of your story. You really never expected anyone to hear these songs at all?

JT: [Laughs] Totally. Honestly, the only thing I was secretly hoping was, ‘Maybe we will go back to the old Paper Route days and completely rip apart these songs and put them back together as Paper Route with the lyric and melody the same.’ What happened was that we really pieced our lives back together for a while. Then when we came back, well, I don’t really know what happened. I was writing other songs and so was Chad. It just drifted away.

One of the songs on the Paper Route album was from these sessions, a song called “Tamed.” I sing with the Now, Now girl. So there was one other song on the album and now it’s on the Paper Route album. So I guess you could say that it did serve the purpose for one song, but I didn’t think anyone would hear it. There are a couple of original versions of this album out that I just gave to people.

SSv: Obviously we’ve been talking so much about Paper Route, so let’s dive into that properly. Absence comes out in 2009 and then we’ve talked a few times about The Peace of Wild Things coming out and then not coming out. Can you tell the tale?

JT: Paper Route has somehow been able to start a label on a major label, sign to a major label, that label went under, signed to another major, and then somehow they gave us our album. It’s like an Old Testament story. I don’t understand what’s happening. I feel like we survived the belly of the whale, and now we’re just crawling up the shore. We’ll be announcing our release date soon. But the new team has been selected and is working as we speak.

SSv: What are the details of the tour?

JT: We’re all over the place doing a lot of headlining. Then we go out with Canon Blue. Also, I think it’s Half Noise, which has Zac who used to be in Paramore. I think we do a couple of weeks with them. Then we have some other shows with mewithoutYou all leading up to our album release tour.

SSv: When we spoke a while ago, you described the album in terms of taking on the challenge of conquering radio. Is the core still the same?

JT: Honestly this album has been done for a while. Nothing has changed.

SSv: What are people latching onto? Is there a common thread in the responses besides, ‘That’s great’?

JT: [Pause] I feel weird saying anything because I don’t want to sound egotistical.

SSv: I set you up. [Laughs]

JT: I think people are just surprised in a good way. Maybe people didn’t think we had it in us to make this album, and I think we actually did. I mean, I’m not saying it’s Sgt. Pepper’s or anything, but people listen to it once and they can usually repeat a couple of lines back. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of anything that’s been that way after one listen.

SSv: Would you have been surprised by this focus or challenge when Paper Route first started?

JT: No, I don’t think so. If anything, I’m only surprised that mass culture and society still hasn’t really grasped the fact that major labels mean nothing. They still think when The Voice comes on and it says that the winner gets a Universal Republic record deal, they still freak out. They think that if their son wins, then he’s going to buy me a house in San Diego with a whole bunch of Andy Warhol paintings. They have no idea.

We were a band on that label getting emails from them saying they’ve played our singles for focus groups and we’ve outscored everyone. We’re the No. 1 focus, but we can’t give you a release date. [Laughs] It’s nothing. It’s nothing. There’s just no other way to say it. Our business is hurting, bad.

But I feel more alive and on fire than I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s almost Benjamin Button-esque where I feel so much more free to do what I’ve ever wanted. It’s all so backwards. I don’t know how that’s happened, but age has served me well. [Laughs]

SSv: You describe the major label trials as an Old Testament narrative. Are you thankful for that journey?

JT: I am. Personally, I think it riled me up. It’s made me appreciate things so much more. But I am not thankful for it in the fact that there are such remarkable friends, family and fans of the band and we haven’t been able to share anything with them yet. It really pains me. There were honestly a couple of months where it really haunted me and I said, ‘Let’s just give it away, guys.’

So I’m not thankful for it in that way. But personally, it’s made me appreciate the small things. It definitely makes me thankful for our management, because they are brilliant minds who are men of integrity. How rare is that? It makes me appreciate the guys that have toured with us and played with us not because we’re paying them sweet money, because we are not. But because they actually believe in all of this. I mean these guys are leaving their families and friends and sitting in a van with Chad, Gavin, and I. I feel like if we would of exploded like some people wanted us to, I would have completely missed understanding some of these things.

SSv: Going back to the ache of not being able to get the album out there. Is that something the entire band considered? Was Chad up for that? Was Gavin and Chad at that point?

JT: I’m pretty sure. I mean, the joke is that Gavin has quit the band 20 times in the last year. [Laughs] It’s just been rough man. But we found ways to stay inspired. Gavin just got off the road with Canon Blue. Chad did the new Brooke Waggoner album, which makes me speechless. It’s incredible. I’m doing her album art. So it’s a family thing and we’ve found other ways to keep our hearts beating. Maybe that’s why Chad suggested I release Memory.


  1. Kat says:

    Great interview! Very informative.. JT’s solo album sounds different from Paper Route’s “normal” stuff (although they’re always switching it up) but it still has depth and heart.

    It kinda pains me to hear of the band’s struggles with major label politics, but now I’m even more thankful for The Peace of the Wild Things’ release.

    Paper Route expressed genuine gratitude to their fans as they chatted them up post-show (in NYC) the other day, and now I know why. For the sake of the band, I hope they experience more success (but for selfish reasons, I have to admit that I prefer their intimate shows; LOL). But they seem to be hanging in there. They’re on tour with Switchfoot for gosh sake. :) I can’t wait to see them in NYC/Jersey again soon!

  2. Kat says:

    The Peace of Wild Things* (oops)

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