Interview: The Watters

Could you share the story behind your latest song and what inspired its creation?

The song “Duality” was conceived in 2009, the same year that Jenna and Daniel Watters began to write and perform professionally as a duo. Then, they were equally interested in folk and electronic music and in an effort to merge the two genres, Daniel created an electronic beat that was ultimately tucked away in his laptop as the duo decided to pivot to a more rootsy, folk-rock sound. But, that beat remained fresh to their ears for years, and the two kept trying to find a use for it through all their musical and personal evolutions, including three full-length albums, living in four different cities, and getting married and having a son. While writing for their 2021 album Intuition, Jenna had a stream of consciousness experience while driving home and recorded her singing some words and melody on her phone over the beat. Flash forward to early 2023, when The Watters were preparing to record once again and gave producer Daniel Creamer a grouping of the music they’d been working on. Despite having no vocals on it, Creamer loved the “Duality” beat and wanted to pursue it, so the Watters finished the lyrics Jenna had envisioned with help from producer Daniel Creamer on the arrangement.  

How do you approach the process of songwriting, and are there any specific themes or emotions you tend to explore in your music?

Writing a song is usually just having your antenna ready to pick up the signals that the universe sends.  I usually write the best while driving or traveling.  This year, I’ve been a part of a writing group where we write one song a week and that has been a lot of fun and motivating. 

As an indie musician, how do you navigate the balance between creative freedom and commercial appeal?

There is no sense, to me,  in trying to be commercial. I listen almost exclusively to the radio (which is fantastic in Austin) so I have sense of the current pulse of the industry, but I’ve never had luck trying to write something specifically tailored for commercial use.  I have the best luck just going with what comes naturally. 

What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist in today’s music industry?

The fact that streaming services have essentially killed the recorded music industry.  People now think music is free.

Can you talk about your experiences collaborating with other artists or musicians? How does it influence your creative process?

Most the collaboration that I do is when I’m producing other artists.   My goal in these circumstances is mainly to make the artist happy and fulfill their vision.   Naturally, through listening to their songs hundreds and hundreds of times in the process, their artistic vision slowly seeps into mine through osmosis. 

What role does technology and social media play in promoting your music and connecting with your audience?

We hate social media.   It is the devil.  Instagram is probably the most beneficial to our music career, but we wish it didn’t have to be that way. 

Are there any particular artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your musical style?

The music from New Orleans has had a huge impact on us for over a decade now.  Nola Jazz and Funk specifically are highly influential to us.  It’s very likely one of the reasons we always play with a horn section. 

Indie musicians often have a close relationship with their fanbase. How do you engage with your fans and build a dedicated community around your music?

We have a seven piece band, so our band in itself is a community.  We try to make every show we do a event where everyone feels connected and one with each other. 

Could you describe a memorable live performance experience or tour that has had a lasting impact on you and your music?

We just returned to our Jenna and I’s hometown  of Sedona, AZ and played the celebration for the 30th anniversary of the Sedona International Film Festival. We played to 750 people at the performing arts center at our old High School almost twenty years since we graduated, so it was a very full circle moment for us.

In an era of streaming platforms, how do you feel about the changing landscape of music consumption and its impact on independent musicians?

 I think it’s garbage.   It has ruined an already hard industry to succeed in.  It’s the main reason artists are struggling to maintain their careers, more so than ever.