Hello Again blends pop flourishes with soft harmonies to deliver a delightful 4-song rendezvous in the form of Learning to Crawl, the duo’s debut EP. Comprised of Sean Williams (aka Sean Solo) and Paige Horton (who also owns and operates Blush, a mobile hair & makeup service), Hello Again has created an atmosphere of warm melody driven by airy vocals and multiple layers of style that evoke easy sunshine and close evenings. Learning to Crawl will be available on CD and from all your favorite digital platforms on January 15th.
AI- How did you two come together? Because you’re a couple as well as being collaborators. Which came first– or is that in fact where the name, Hello Again, comes from?
PH- Sean and I met through a mutual friend, Louise Warren. She was in the [100.9 The Creek] studio when [I’d been] invited to come sing one of my songs. She told me that I should contact her producer, Sean Williams. So I contacted him. This was what? Like three and a half years ago?
SW- Yeah, about three and a half years.
PH- I contacted him to get him to produce some of my music– and then we just ended up dating instead (laughs)!
So no music got produced at that point in time, huh?
SW- No (laughs)!
PH- We were distracted!
SW- Yeah, it took us three and a half years to actually finish this. Afterwards, I was like, “You were doin’ that just to hang out with me weren’t you?”
I was curious about the pedigree of some of these songs as in, when they were written, and how long they’ve been floatin’ around. Paige, were these songs that you had written?
PH- Yeah. I had a bunch of songs that I had written for Sean to produce and we just pulled a couple of our favorite ones that I’d written in my mid-20s, “Daydreamin'” and Tennessee”, and then we worked on combining our own unique styles together when we got into the studio. After that, Sean and I wrote two songs together that are on the EP. One is called “Honey and the Bee” and then the other one is called “Learning to Crawl”, which is the title track for the EP.
Tell me about the collaborative effort when you’re sittin’ down to write a song together. You’ve both done that individually. How different is it and how do you feel about it when you sit down to actually put it all together as a unit?
SW- Actually, on the two songs that we wrote together, it still was kind of individual because even with Paige, who I trust, I still enjoy brainstorming by myself. But when I send her the stuff, she’ll give me feedback and let me know what she likes and what she doesn’t like and then we work from there. On the second track, “Honey and the Bee”, she wrote the bulk of the song, and then it was kinda short. I thought we needed a bridge, so I wrote the bridge. And then on “Learning to Crawl, I have a looper, so I’ll just record some music and record tracks over it. That was just an instrumental that I had looped and had some instrumentation on. She liked it and then she added the vocals and lyrics and the melody to that one.
Is there a sense of challenge? A creative challenge to both of you or a sense of tryin’ to impress one another when you’re writing individually like that?
PH- We both have strong opinions about certain things, but I think that it stretches us in a positive way. We’re learning to work through (laughs), learning to crawl, yes! We’re both strong-willed people and that’s our biggest challenge, just trying to come to an agreement that pleases both of us, ’cause we’re both hard critics and we have strong opinions about things. It does challenge us, but I think it’s a really positive thing in the end.
Let’s talk about the production of the EP. Sean, you have your own studio [Williams Music Production] and I’m guessin’ that you handled the bulk of the engineering on this one. Did you guys enlist anyone else along for the ride to record these songs?
SW- Not on this one. I thought it’d be good just for this first one to have just the two of us on it and really just focus on getting her ideas fleshed out on the two songs that she wrote. Of course, we produced it together, but yeah, I handled the mixing and she would give me feedback on the mixing. I would add parts, just in my free time, and she would tell me if she liked it or didn’t like it. On “Daydreamin'”, there was a couple of things initially that were in there that we ended up takin’ out, which at first I was like, “No, I like that. I think it needs it in there.” Eventually, the more or listened to it, I was like, “Nah, you’re right. It shouldn’t be in there.”
I’ve seen you both perform online streaming shows, particularly back in the springtime with the Quarantine Concert Series, which at the time I think was an extremely positive thing that was going on at a terrible moment. The past year has been absolutely awful, just abysmal, and I can’t even imagine bein’ a working musician or on a road crew right now. But it would appear that in a very unique way, the local independent musician has had an opportunity to engage new fans and greater audiences, I think maybe than any other time. Maybe even since the 1950s and ’60s when regional acts could really move. And I’m not saying it’s been wildly profitable, mind you, but with social media and streaming being a cheap and accessible means of performing, do you think that has leveled the playing field to a degree in regards to local, regional, and national acts? Put them on a more even footing with each other throughout this pandemic?
SW- Yeah. I think doin’ the live streams has been a good outlet for us to perform music when we didn’t have the opportunity to do that. Even 10 years ago, something like that wouldn’t be accessible. Livestreams on Facebook– everybody does ’em now but just a few years ago, no one did ’em. So yeah, it definitely allows more opportunities for other smaller acts to get seen and get noticed. There’s a group called Social Distant Fest and we’ve gone live in there a couple times. It’s got people from all around the world. There’s actually a woman in Macon who’s in charge of that. Melessa Mims. I think it’s been good. In the beginning, it was nice ’cause people were really tunin’ in– and we did make a couple dollars in the beginning! But now if we do it, it’s really just to perform.
PH- I think it’s a good outlet to get your music out there. I don’t know that it’s as profitable as actually playing out. Don’t you think, Sean, that it’s more profitable playing out? But it’s difficult to do that right now because of safety.
That brings me to another point I wanted to ask you about. Sean, with your studio, you’ve had the ability to engage with a variety of artists here in Central Georgia. What’s been that general sense among musicians in the area when it comes to performing live and doing it safely?
SW- There’s kind of a collective disappointment. So many musicians I know have lost gigs and had lost jobs because of the pandemic. Especially in the beginning, there were three or four months where I didn’t play at all. Being that this is, at this point, my full-time job, it was a disappointing time to really go head first. But at the same time, I think it allows us, as musicians, to work on other aspects such as writing and producing, recording. I know a lot of musicians, they’ve spent more time doing that and they’ve been able to be creative in that outlet as opposed to performing.
What I’ve noticed, speaking to local and regional artists, as well as national touring acts, most of them are simply sittin’ at home, waitin’ on the world to open back up so they can go to work. But the trend has been, whether it’s Nashville or Austin or Macon, places have reopened and they are going back to doing live music, but it’s all very much at the local level. It’s the people that these are their home rooms. This is where they either work or perform at regularly anyway, but they don’t have the opportunity to really go anywhere else. I see that in Macon too, where we have our own local rooms and we have our own local bands who are back at it. I don’t know how many people are actually traveling or goin’ anywhere. I have safety concerns just comin’ in to work in a radio station, so I imagine that you must as a performing musician. One guy I just talked to recently said, “I’m not worried about the audience. I can stay away from the audience. It’s everybody backstage who thinks they’re backstage and they’re safe. That’s what concerns me.”
SW- Well, in my case, both of us and everybody around me has been super careful at this time. It’s kinda like bein’ caught between a rock and a hard place because you wanna perform and you wann have work, but at the same time, there’s definitely this hesitancy to perform. Actually, this month is very busy. But at this time, where COVID is probably worse than ever, it’s kind of strange to be doing that. But anytime I tell people I’m playin’, I always ask them to wear a mask and then to be socially distant. That’s all I can do on my end. And then just hope that people take the precautions that they can.
On a bigger scale, for bands that are touring, I know a lot of them haven’t worked at all because that requires way more people would be there. Certain bands have been able to find different ways to do that. Like the Avett Brothers, who are a band that we really like. They have done a couple live concerts and they had a New Year’s one where they performed in an empty stadium, but it had professional recording and cameras. We watched that on New Year’s Eve. That was an interesting way to perform without actually having people gathered together.
It’s an interesting concept, the large production, empty room shows. I’ve watched several of them and they’re successful to different degrees. I’ve seen a lot of them done within a studio setting. Is that something you’ve considered doing for yourself? For Hello Again or for any of the other artists here in town? Kinda raising the bar, if you will, on the production level?
SW- As far as livestreams, when it first started out, we were just kind of recordin’ it on the phone. Since then, I haven’t done as many lately, but later on, I started adding higher audio production and camera quality and things like that. Yeah, I would love to do somethin’ a little more high budget, at least as far as the quality goes. I’m sure we’re gonna do a stream at some point to acknowledge the release of this EP and hopefully will be able to reach an audience that way. Because I know a lot of people are stayin’ home. I still think that’s the best way to reach people at this point.
PH- I agree.