Interview: Bee Appleseed

Bee Appleseed is a prolific musician and poet originally from the Portland area who is now based in Los Angeles. He’s written and recorded hundreds of songs in a period of 15 years. He loves to travel and has been to over 50 countries. These travels inspired his debut album, Backpacker Blues. In February, he released a solo album, Starflower’s Cosmic Soul. My favourite tracks on the album are “Celebrate Your Body”, “All Is Forgiven”, “I Was Dreaming”, “Just Another Tourist With a Megaphone”. These songs remind me so much of my travels in Australia and California. The sounds are a bit psychedelic and a bit folk, really cool stuff. The album is embedded below and available to stream on Spotify now.

He is someone with an interesting story, if you want to learn more about him, keep on reading!

Angie Moon: How would you describe your music and poetry in a nutshell?

Bee Appleseed: As an artist, I always make my most earnest attempt at turning the personal universal – to touch on the things which speak most to humanity, generally exploring subjects such as spirituality, politics, travel, freedom, sexuality, life, death, and romantic relationships.

Angie: What inspires your songwriting and sound?

Bee: Forgive me for being general here, but just life in all its infinite potential is pretty inspiring to me! 

Angie: How did you get started in music?

Bee: I started playing guitar when I was 14 after seeing my older brother having a hell of a time being in bands and all that. By that time, he was off in college and I had recently knocked my teeth out skateboarding and didn’t want to hang out for awhile because my mouth was all fucked up. I had six stitches on my upper lip and even though I was a talented skater in my little town, it was the beginning of stepping back and putting that creative energy into music and writing.

However, like my older brother I was self-taught, which meant it took an especially long time to get decent at what I was doing. People told me to stick to skateboarding and all that, saying the usual nonsense, but now I’ve recorded over 500 songs that I wrote and played somewhere around 700 shows in 40+ countries with ambitions to go to as many as I can, so I guess it’s been working out.

Angie: What brought you to LA?

Bee: As a child in my hometown of Canby, Oregon I had visions of moving here and made a trip out when I was 17. Four years later, my first show in LA was in 2011 at a place called The Home Room (RIP) when it made even more sense to move down, but just not at that time.

I then floated to Europe the next year, stayed there a few years, moved back to Portland for a couple years, and in 2017 made the journey here in hopes of giving a better life to my music. Three years on, I feel I’ve done exactly that. 

Angie: How different are LA and Portland?

Bee: The West Coast has always been my home country and while these two cities are very similar politically, they are also very different. As an artist, it’s certainly much easier to collaborate with other artists in Portland, but I believe a lot of that is due to lower costs of living allowing people to have more free time to spend as they please.

In Los Angeles, the vibe is a little different, the music machine is here as well as the rest of the entertainment world, so people come from all around to pursue their own thing and do it on a professional level. It makes sense though because the entertainment world unfortunately is all about those personal connections and it’s much harder build the momentum you need to put food on the table when you stay home.

In terms of scenery, both places are so beautiful in different ways. I didn’t love living in LA at first, felt like it was all concrete and palm trees, but as the years go by I’m finding all the great nature spots in this massive city and I’m much happier getting my regular dose of sunshine than having six months of bipolar weather every year.

Lastly, as much as I love my home city, it is also one of the least ethnically diverse cities in America (lots of history to look into as for why) and though there’s plenty of great food to eat from all over the world, as a traveller it just feels more natural to be in a place with people from all over the world allowing me to have the cultural exchanges I seek from travelling without even having to leave the city.

Angie: I saw in your bio that you went backpacking. What were your favourite places that you visited on your travels?

Bee: Yeah, I was backpacking more-or-less for three years and funded it all organising a ridiculous amount of concerts using my computer while traveling. I lived in a number of spots for some months including Vienna, Austria and Leipzig, Germany, but now I prefer places with a more Mediterranean climate, hence also living in Southern California. 

Of course there’s beauty everywhere and the people are often even more beautiful than all the fancy buildings wherever you go, but Italy, Spain, Croatia – these are some true gifts to our world.

Angie: How did traveling impact or inspire your album, Backpacker Blues?

Bee: Backpacker Blues was an exploration in travel and isolation. I wrote it all on the road, somewhere in Europe in 2012 and 2013, but didn’t actually get to finish the record until 2015 and didn’t actually get to release it until 2018 and so I’m happy anyone is interested in talking about it in 2020. 

I remember meditating heavily on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare’s Hamlet one day in Peter Piek’s apartment in Leipzig, which lead to “The Messenger” flowing out in fifteen minutes and “This Must Be Life” was written in about the same amount of time in my own apartment in Vienna.

“Leaning” I wrote on a park bench overlooking the valley below in Luxembourg City and “I Don’t Really Mind” came reflecting on my then girlfriend back in Macedonia while I was far away in Braga, Portugal about to head to Spain. Other than that, I think I wrote the rest of them on trains while looking out the window and reflecting on what was going on.

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The day has finally come! My new album “Starflower’s Cosmic Soul” is now out worldwide on @babyrobotrecs! Big thanks to @sleevelaboom, @jonnyturbo86, @thatjohngraffo, @airplayjunkie, and the rest of @babyrobotmedia for the huge help in getting this out there, playing on radio stations and appearing in publications across the country! Mega thanks to @folkepatron in Sweden for working so hard to make the artwork so amazing, to @waffle_horse in Olympia for recording, producing, playing keys, and singing, and to @andrewendres in Portland for mastering the album over and over to perfection! Lastly and so importantly, the greatest thanks ever to my all star band for helping me achieve the dream! Specifically very grateful to: @ohhellobo (bass, vocals), @jdoubleyousee (lead guitar, vocals), @daniel.k.rossi (drums), @andy_rayborn (saxophones, clarinets), @she.is.water (vocals), @idalina (vocals), @jellypray (vocals), @greenertrees (vocals), Jonny Dee (vocals), @onyx_marie (vocals), @gallopingstrider (violin), @calebad (vocals), Lukas Nause (vocals), Nathan Curtis Warner (vocals), Daniel McIntire (trombone), and Richard Matusow (gong). What a long, long journey it’s been to get this into the world! I’m so excited for you all to hear and have you’re own experiences with it! Link in bio and you can also listen and buy it on @bandcamp. Thanks for listening and enjoy!

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Angie: What was it like recording Starflower’s Cosmic Soul?

Bee: Well, there were a bunch of us and there’s a completed music video on the way for the song “Life Is Only Beginning” that really captures visual of the process, but generally we spent months practicing the record in Daniel Rossi’s basement (also Denzel Mendoza’s basement who recently won a GRAMMY) before heading up to The Guest House in Olympia, Washington where River Nason lived and had recorded my previous album Backpacker Blues. 

We set everything up down in the basement where Daniel Rossi (drums), Brett Olivieri (bass), Jake Capistran (lead guitar), and I (rhythm guitar) tracked out our instruments live before bringing everyone else in to lay it down with an eight piece choir and everything. Saxophones, clarinets, trombone, violin, and gong were all recorded back in Portland with some vocals and mixing later done in Los Angeles. There was a lot of incense, a lot of magic, and a lot of love.

Angie: What do the songs mean?

Bee: I think it’d take another interview just to answer this question, but luckily I already did! There’s an episode online from a radio interview I did last week on KXFM in Laguna Beach where we go through each of the songs and give a back story. Simply search for Bee Appleseed on the programme Full Album Fridays on KXFM!

Angie: What makes this album different from previous releases?

Bee: Well, I’ve made a lot of records (most of which are no longer online but intend to be rereleased this year) and this one especially feels like what I’ve been trying to do with music all along.

If you listen start to finish with headphones like I highly recommend doing, not just for my album but for any artist that views the album as an art form rather than a collection of individual songs, it’ll guaranteed take you on a journey in a way that you likely haven’t experienced with many artists. 

I wrote this album so that even the songs occasionally end in another key than they started for the sake of beginning the next song in that key, allowing optimal transitions between songs and a continued flow from one moment to the next until ultimately leaving the listener on the note that life is only beginning. I believe all of my albums have a voice to them, their own special life force and the voice of this one is louder than ever before.

Angie: What is one of your live shows like?

Bee: I’ve played so many now that there’s lots of variation, from playing solo to ten people on stage, either playing a set list or making all the songs up on the spot, being more in the zone or telling jokes and being ridiculous, singing or reading from my recent book of poetry, but they’re always fun and enjoyable experiences.

This year alone I’ve already played fifteen concerts without even leaving Los Angeles, so it’s happening all the time. A full list of shows can be found at beeappleseed.com/performances and my next concert with the band will be at the SoCal Psychout later this month. 

Angie: What are your goals for the year?

Bee: Do a full USA tour, visit Mexico for the first time and hopefully play some shows, put out some music with my other band Elf Freedom, and release my next Bee Appleseed album 21st Century Prayer.

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My other band @elf_freedom just released our first album today from our performance in Troyes, France at @themessagetroyes recorded while on tour across Europe in September and recently mastered by my dear friend from high school @andrewendres at his studio in Portland. Completely improvised and perfect for meditation and relaxation, I played electric guitar with my hands, harmonica and backing vocals with my mouth, and omnichord and tambourine with my feet, occasionally all at the same time while @nora_keyes channeled her lead vocals. Next show is a soundbath at @thepublicschoolla this Sunday joined by our dear friend @lordblobbie himsELF. Follow along on Spotify and the other stuff for infinite regular releases. Artwork by @nora_keyes and released through our label @godysseymusic. Cheers.

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Angie: Any words for your fans?

Bee: Enjoy the journey.

You can follow Bee Appleseed on Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, YouTube, and his website.

Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog.

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