The most successful musical duos out of Nashville seem to happen organically. The latest is Escondido , the band formed by Tyler James (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Ten out of Tenn) and Jessica Maros. The group released their debut album, The Ghost of Escondido, in 2013 and followed it up with this year’s Walking with A Stranger.
They’re heading to SlossFest on Sunday, July 17. Ahead of that performance, Maros discussed camping out in Death Valley, the new album, her Canadian origins and Nashville’s evolution.
Weld: You’re based in Nashville now, but how did growing up in Vancouver affect you as a musician?
Jessica Maros: It doesn’t have much, music-wise. I haven’t lived there for 12 years, but as far as music goes, it’s a very small scene. It’s tough to launch anything. It’s a big city, and I find that a lot of people don’t support the arts as much. They support more out-of-town artists, but as far as a local community, it was really tough for me to make any movement there. There’s talent everywhere, so there were still talented people that I found myself with when I was there. I’m still friends with those people, and they’re still doing music. Clearly, it’s working out.
I found that I had to leave to make some sort of impact over there, but I think times are changing now and you really can make music anywhere. You just set up online and people will find you. I don’t think being around an entire community of people matters that much anymore.
Weld: You guys camped out in Death Valley during the recording of this last album. How did that affect the finished product?
Maros: We’re always on the road, and I’m always writing in the backseat of the van. We do a lot of night drives, too. Nature is a big part of our music and surroundings. Camping in Death Valley was definitely an interesting experience. I’ve never really done anything like that before because I’ve always camped out in the Pacific Northwest. In Death Valley it’s completely different because you can barely breathe and there’s no vegetation. It’s eerie and kind of weird. Death Valley really brought Tyler and I together for this new record. I don’t we would have had a record if we hadn’t that “band camp.”
Weld: What is the songwriting process like; is it collaborative or do each of you bring a finished product to the table?
Maros: I tend to start the song, and Tyler usually finishes it. We’re very different in the way we write. I write every single day and have little ideas. I’m constantly sending him things. He’s more of an editor and will bring a new chorus to a song or some other change. He’s really good at taking a song to a new level. I’m not a great organizer, but I like coming up with ideas. I like starting the vibe and energy of the song. If Tyler starts a song, it has this blues element to it. I’m a lot more “indie.”
Weld: People describe you guys having a “western” sound, but your backgrounds in Vancouver and Iowa are not necessarily cowboy movie material.
Maros: It’s interesting because the environment you live in affects you. We’ve always had this perception of the desert and this vibe of western films. We’ve also lived near the ocean and now live in Nashville. Living there for 12 years has affected me because of the country music quality, but we’re not country. I think we’ve brought elements of the places we’ve been and delivering a little taste of everything.
Weld: There’s been a lot of focus on Nashville with the music scene becoming more diverse than the usual pop country. How have you seen the city change in your time there?
Maros: It’s crazy. When I moved there, the indie scene didn’t even exist. There was just a small community of us. It has grown so much. It’s really cool to see because I find the community of Nashville is something you can’t replace. Everyone’s really supportive. There’s not really that much money in music anymore, and the people who do it are doing it for the right reasons. I think we’re going to see a lot more great artists and great music come out of the struggle of being a musician because of that.
Escondido will perform at SlossFest’s Steam Stage on Sunday, July 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.