Whether you are into guitar-driven music or not, Aaron Kusterer has released an EP that is worth listening to. A guitar album with vocals, the American artist is offering as songs that have something special to say, a fine guitar based and song-oriented mini album. Select “A Little Louder”, turn up the volume and live the experience!
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
Please introduce yourself to the readers of Myth of Rock!
Hi!! Well, I’m Aaron Kusterer, a guitarist, vocalist, and producer out of the United States. Thanks for having me on here!
Can you share the inspiration behind creating the “A Little Louder” EP? What motivated you to embark on this particular musical journey? Why an EP and not a full-length release?
Much of this EP is the culmination of a lot of self-discovery over the past 3-4 years. I tend to learn and move very quick so I wanted to capture a musical snapshot in time. As for the EP over a full-length release, I’ll point back to the snapshot in time and the desire to test the waters a bit with this sort of a sound.
“A Little Louder” is a guitar album, however, it isn’t instrumental, all four songs contain vocals. Why is that?
While it’s definitely guitar-driven, I have sung for years and particularly in the last 6-7 years, really started focusing on writing songs that I could sing and present (along with working on my voice in general). I grew up with all the guitar heavy-weights (Vai, Satriani, etc) but over time realized that while that stuff was cool, my heart was really in using the guitar to support a vocal. Almost all my favorite guitar parts are in songs that support vocals—not songs that are instrumental. The mindset in writing guitar parts for a support role is very different than an instrumental feature and furthermore, if I’m really being honest, all of my favorite songs are vocal-based.
How would you describe this EP, musical wise?
Rock-driven but heavily influenced by the pop format in a number of ways. I try to write things that are hooky but that also drive and rock.
“A Little Louder” EP is an energetic, passionate blend of beautiful melodies, dynamic riffs, loud rhythm section and a feel-good atmosphere. How did you achieve this combination in the composition?
As I mentioned, I lean towards things that drive and (hopefully) grab the listener in one way or another. With all the arrangements/compositions, I tried to come up with things that sounded exciting to me. Much of the decision-making involved relying on how everything made me feel. At the end of the day, that is the purpose of music, to feel something? So, the hope is that maybe somewhere, through this music, someone else will feel it too.
Where do the lyrics refer to?
Well, each song is different but as a whole, all 4 songs refer to some form of human experience and in some cases, things that some people may feel but not ever want or be able to verbalize.
Did you collaborate with other musicians in the creation of “A Little Louder”? If yes, how did these collaborations influence the overall sound and vibe of the EP?
I hired Zak St. John for drums and Victor Broden for bass. They appeared on all 4 tunes. The foundation (drums and bass) of a song can make or break it and these guys setup a tremendous platform to work with. In a few cases, they interpreted sections in a way that elevated them far beyond what I could have envisioned on my own. For those times, it forced me to look at my own planned parts to re-evaluate what I was doing so I could match the intensity that they brought to the table. Other musicians that appeared included, Adam Peri who provided keyboards on “Your Road” and did a phenomenal job. Anna Hamilton provided some wonderful background vocals on “Learning to Feel” and George Brahler played trumpet on “Only Be Me” adding to the horn stabs you hear. Each of these musicians elevated this whole project in a big way!
Your guitar playing combines technique with feeling. How do you balance technicality with emotional expression in your playing? What emotions did you aim to evoke in the listener?
For me, the emotion is always driven by the song and what it’s asking for. Therein lies the balance. If you’re honest with yourself as a player, you can tell when something isn’t working and sometimes this may take a day or two (or 10) but it’s important to realize it nonetheless. A bad part is like a fart, if you have to force it . . . it’s probably shit. The technicality has its place and there certainly are spots where I let that take over a bit on this EP, but more and more, the older I get . . . the technical tends to get stripped back in favor of what will work for the song. Sometimes the technical works, but more often a simpler approach tends to offer stronger, song-based support. The other part of this conversation is understanding and addressing where the drive should come from in a song. Many guitarists tend to start with the drive coming from their instrument which is fine in some scenarios but for me, a lot of the drive-in rock songs crafted in a pop format comes from the drums and very careful arrangement of the guitars to support around the vocals. This is ultimately what influences the balance in my world.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Are there specific artists and genres that heavily influenced the sound of “A Little Louder”?
Lyrical inspiration comes from a lot of the human experience and emotion for me—and frequently things that not everyone wants to address or talk about. For sound/other artists, there would be a long list but I’m a big Def Leppard fan so that was definitely a component but more specifically Mutt Lange, who produced Shania Twain, Nickelback (Darkhorse record), Bryan Adams, etc in addition to Def Leppard. Those techniques and sounds were a big influence on me. Other artistic influences include bands like Toto, Sting, and Mr. Mister.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect you?
As it was for many musicians, I wasn’t gigging and had a lot of time to practice, write, and record.
What can fans expect from Aaron Kusterer in the future? Are there any upcoming projects or musical directions you are excited to explore?
At the moment, I’m looking at some different ways to take this music to the stage. That is a really exciting thing for me. I’m also working on a follow-up single that will be released in the next couple of months.
What advice do you have for young musicians looking to carve their path in the music industry, especially in the world of guitar rock music?
Study songs and the associated styles of playing that go with them. Yes, learn the tricks and fun stuff to store in the tool bag but the song is where it’s at if you want to carve a career in my opinion. That said, these days, simply playing well isn’t enough. Don’t ignore the tech/promotional side of things as well. Gaining a healthy understanding (emphasis on “healthy” as it can really get out of hand) of how technology and music go hand in hand these days is extremely important if you wish to be able to function as a player. From sheet music apps to recording software, all of it will most likely come into play if you have a desire to work in the industry.
If your music and lyrics were a movie, what kind of movie would they be?
Probably a 90s Jerry Bruckheimer action flick.
If you collaborate with a well-known musician in a song of yours, who would it be?
I think it would be really cool to work with Bryan Adams, Richard Marx, or Richard Page.
Send your message to the readers!
First off, I want to say thanks for reading this far!! Greatly appreciate your time and attention. Please check out the tunes and if ya dig them, please share them!
Linktree (all links including streaming): https://linktr.ee/aaronkusterer
Public Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aaronkusterer1