Songwriter Showcase: An Interview with Axons

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Axons talks with Homeroom ahead of June 12th's Songwriter Showcase at Elastic Arts. Axons (a.k.a. Chicago-based songwriter, singer and producer Adele Nicholas) playfully skews and recombines sounds drawn from a diverse palette of 90s indie rock, top 40 pop, electronica and hip hop. Axons' live shows feature Adele performing as a one-woman band, looping percussion, synths, guitars and vocals to create lush sonic landscapes in real time.

At what age did you start writing songs and what compelled you to start?

I took piano lessons as a kid, but I didn’t get really inspired to start writing my own music until I started playing guitar when I was in my late teens. I can say (without any hesitation or irony) that the reason I started playing music and writing music was because I was completely obsessed with the band Weezer. I picked up guitar to start learning Weezer covers and started writing my own music almost right away.

Who were some of your early influences?

I think that the Cat Power record What Would the Community Think? and Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville really made me want to find my voice as a songwriter and gave me the courage to try. Both of these records are very intimate (both in their lyrics and in the production style and simplicity of guitar parts) which was inspiring to me.   

How has your songwriting changed over time?

Since I’ve been producing electronic music, I would say that production choices have come to play a much larger role in what I consider my songwriting process. Songwriting has become for me more than just selecting a chord progression and singing a melody. Songwriting also encompasses creating dynamics, selecting and layering sounds, and manipulating sounds electronically.  

Do you have a process that most of your songs come from or is each song different?

It varies. I often begin writing a song by playing a guitar and singing along to get a sense of a melody or chord progression I want to use. Other times, I have a percussion snippet that I like and will end up writing around that by just playing it on repeat and layering keys and guitars over it. In either case, once I have a line or two of melody with words that I like, I usually take a break from writing the rest of the music for the song and focus on the lyrics for a while. 

Who are some of your favorite Chicago songwriters?

Danielle Sines from Impulsive Hearts, Bryan Alvarez from Post Child, Jessica Risker from Deadbeat, Jonathan Scott from Doleful Lions. 

What song or songs would you like played at your funeral?

Mary Roach said in her book Stiff that "death is for the living" and I think that’s a wise sentiment. So, I wouldn’t try to dictate what people played if they were putting together a funeral. However, if I’m controlling things from some cosmic plane, I would pick Fiona Apple’s “I Know,” the last song on her 1999 album When the Pawn. It is a really beautiful song about being at peace with leaving some things unsaid under circumstances where you want to say everything. 

Songwriter Showcase with Thomas Comerford, Axons, Rebecca Francescatti and Deadbeat, 9pm June 12th at Elastic Arts, 3429 W Diversey Ave. #208, Chicago IL.