Premiere: “Driver”, Sean Green Is Always In Love
Interview by Molly Madden
Sean Green, the “millennial jazz” musician from Chicago is set to release his new EP, Perfume Hill, later this summer. Having worked with other talented, up-and-coming artists from Chicago, the multi-instrumentalist is now focusing more on his own art. In anticipation of the full release you can find the first single, “Driver”, streaming exclusively below. As well as a conversation between Sean and Molly Madden, Chicago’s Uma Bloo.
You can find Sean at Cole’s bar tonight, Saturday June, 8th with T.C. Superstar and The Slaps.
Molly Madden: I'm excited to talk to you. I rarely get to talk to musicians about being musicians when we’re not all drunk at a party.
Sean Green: Yeah, or it's someone that you really like and they're like “I'm so famous.”
Molly: That's also why I don't really hang out with musicians because it's just overwhelming and it's hard not to compare yourself to what they're doing all the time.
Sean: That’s a good decision. I was talking my friend Ryan about this recently and she was just like I don't hang out with musicians. Brilliant.
Molly: No, I'm not into it. Sometimes it's fine. You meet some chill people and it's cool to talk about things but it's so hard to make music every day, especially when you have to work. What do you do for money?
Sean: I work two or three days a week in a sushi restaurant.
Molly: Oh that's right. Okay.
Sean: They just cut my hours so I went from being an insured full time employee to barely working. Now I'm living the broke life and It's really nice.
Molly: Yeah? You don’t mind?
Sean: Yeah I don’t mind it. I think it's ideal. They give me whatever time I want off for tours. They have total flexibility. It's kind of fun. The funny thing, I was talking to my literal therapist about this yesterday, after cutting my hours at work I've started making almost more money because I'm so much more relaxed now. There's also more pressure on me to make money at work because I'm working fewer days. So I go in there and I'm like I'm going to sell everyone every most expensive item! It’s working out really well.
Molly: That's great. I used to do serving. I'm always curious what artists do for money. I’m always wondering how are people making this lifestyle work for themselves because I've just done so many different weird things. Now I'm at a pre-school, I’ve been there Monday through Friday which sucks. I mean I love the kids. It's really tiring. I mean it's just really demanding and they suck the energy from you because they need it. I'm not mad at them just like fucking-a i'm tired.
Sean: At least you’re giving it to a good cause.
Molly: Yeah I know, it feels better. I was doing brunch service for a while and now I'm just dealing with actual babies instead of adult babies.
Sean: Oh yeah, I understand.
Molly: Damn. Well that's wild I'm glad that you have something that's working for you.
Sean: It's nice.
Molly: Yeah it's hard to find that sweet spot especially when you need time time off. Anyway, new music coming out. How are you feeling?
Sean: Really good. I was really nervous for a while. Putting out new music is very fulfilling but it's an emotional experience.
Molly: It's insane, it’s like it's not yours anymore.
Sean: Not mine at all. The new album is very raw and emotional and sad. A couple venues in Chicago call me psychedelic music. I was like i’m not psychedelic music. So I think it's kind of a part of me really wanted to prove that I don't play psychedelic music. I specifically made this album almost as sad and non-psychedelic as possible.
Molly: Yeah, you're like fuck you.
Sean: We cut all the reverb. I was like don't put a delay on anything or you’re in big trouble.
Molly: That's funny. So that's cool, a different direction for you.
Sean: Yeah it's inspired a lot by like Serge Gainsbourg and a lot of French and Brazilian music.
Molly: That's exciting, that's new. Well at least from what I've been hearing coming out of the city. So you wanted to do it just because you didn't want to be psychedelic?
Sean: I think mainly it's like music is one of those things where there's two types of people: people that are really good at marketing themselves and do it because they're like this is what I'm good at. And I think for me it's definitely a necessity.
Molly: Yeah, totally.
Sean: I don't think there's much of an option, especially because I only got a therapist like a year ago. If I wasn't playing music before that I can't imagine anything. So I think for me it's almost a way to process. This whole one is about a big breakup that I went through, more childhood experiences. There's definite happy moments too. Lots of reflection.
Molly: That's really hard. I definitely feel that. I feel lucky to have music. Every time something fucked up is happening and you're like oh I know what I need to do now, I have a way to kind of look into this. And when it's bigger than that— I've been experiencing that more recently where I have just kind of encountered some problems I still don't even know how to articulate what they are. I feel like when you think about topics of things to be upset about there's like money, love, the usual suspects— and then when there's something that's kind of a little bit more ambiguous it's so hard to figure out what that is or what kind of song to make about it. I know my music gets called love-lorn all the time and I'm like I’m singing about wanting to die. It has nothing to do with somebody I was dating. I don't know, I know people have to do that sort of thing.
Sean: But I think a lot of people project anything that they are feeling onto their relationships. That's a typical way of talking about your problems in a more acceptable way. Like you talk about it in regards to a relationship. I think that's easier for a lot of people. I think I'm definitely someone that would do that. I'm looking forward to the future to speak specifically about things.
Molly: That would be fun. Because then you could do a concept album. I would love to do that. Do you have a big goal or a dream album you want to make?
Sean: I think just a full length would be incredible.
Molly: Is this next one?
Sean: No. This was going to be a six song EP, which is the longest I've done. I write pretty slow.
Sean: Do you know Andy Shauf. He did a concept album two years ago that was my favorite album of the year. I saw it live and it was beautiful. It was like they were playing the record, it was really incredible. It’s all about being at a party and it's called The Party. The songs will just be about how he hit on his friend's girlfriend when he was drunk and how it's awkward. It's like kind of affected his friend group or about showing up too early. All of these other really interesting things but it's a beautiful beautiful album. There's a lot of tension, there's trauma in it. It's a whole story. It's so cool.
Molly: That's so interesting. Parties, I feel like they kind of shrugged off as trivial things but so much happens there. I remember there was one time it was right when I first started performing and I had done 12 shows in a month.
Sean: That's wild. That's absolutely wild.
Molly: It was fucked up. Because I kept it a secret for so long that I played music and so then all the sudden I was like I don't have to do that and then I just played literally anywhere anyone would let me. It ended up being twelve different places on different nights, I just did a tour of the city.
Sean: I love a Chicago tour.
Molly: I was just trying to get comfortable I think. A lot of my songs tend to be reflective and not necessarily directly about one thing or another but you know hard stuff. But I lost my fucking voice and so the last show I did was arguably the biggest deal or whatever, it was going to be for a lot of people that I had just met. Not just met but I had known from the scene and so I wanted to impress everybody and I lost my fucking voice and I was at the party and I wasn't drinking so I was sober. I was just looking around and serving everybody. It was insane, because I couldn't talk either because I was trying to save my voice. I had to wait till 2:00 A.M. to play because my set time just kept getting pushed back.
Sean: So brutal.
Molly: I was just looking around and I was like there is so much happening. Watching people watch each other from across the room, it literally is like the animal kingdom.
Sean: I went through major sober phase in Chicago. I was still going out just as much. I just wasn't drinking. I had a great time. Honestly the only way you could like create romance is to do so very specifically. You just have to go up to someone and be like “Hey, My name's Sean and I think that you're really cute. Can I have your number? And do you want to hang out sometime?” That was so fulfilling in such a different way. The relationships I created then were really special.
Molly: That must have been. I remember when I first came to the city I was just so repressed, such a repressed little baby and that was the only way I thought to know how to find somebody that would find me interesting, was if we were both fucking wasted. Now they really know me.
Sean: Oh God I've been there before. Like you know me too well, I can never see again.
Molly: I remember the next morning they'd be like okay, bye. I'm like what! I thought this is what love was?
Sean: Yeah, weren’t you suppose to stay at my apartment forever.
Molly: Now we're dating. That’s how it works.
Sean: We're married because we kissed at the party last night.
Molly: Oh no. It was a messy time. That must have been nice though, the sobriety. How long did you do it for?
Sean: Probably around like six months or something. I'm kind of blessed with a weak body. Whenever I try to develop any kind of dependence on anything my body will just be like you can’t. If I drink two days in a row I'm stuck in bed in pain. So it wasn't for any of those reasons but whenever I feel like I've become potentially one step too far or something like that I'll try to scale back in some minor way. Yeah I'll become a vegetarian or I'll cut out drinking and it will kind of slowly spread throughout the rest of my life until everything is very chill and calm again.
Molly: Oh that's nice. The process. My body is too resilient. She likes to get beat up. I guess in some ways it is a strength. Yeah but I wonder what it's going to be—what’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Molly: I'm sorry. I feel like I just keep asking you intimate questions about your life and not your music that’s coming out. So, Perfume Hill?
Sean: Yeah, so it’s named Perfume Hill. I was selling weed in high school and I would go to the trailer parks and as you approach the trailer park you could smell a lot of the chemicals in the air, because of all of the meth. There was this one trailer park which I think it was called Pigeon Hole or something like that. The whole thing is kind of like walking uphill into the trailer park and smelling the perfume of the meth.
Molly: That's poetic.
Sean: It was strong. I know that saying an homage to your roots is such a boring phrase but I really want to pay tribute to where i'm from.
Molly: Yeah. I think that's fair. Even with your parents, when you write about shit that even if it's not flattering it's what made you you or in part shaped it.
Sean: Especially in the country, the current political climate is shit. People think they can keep ignoring small towns. I think Democrats and liberals specifically 100 percent ignore the poverty that is present in small towns. Trailer parks are maybe not statistically as brutal or violent but definitely as drug addled as the underprivileged neighborhoods of Chicago. It's a big problem as a lot of these really failing struggling communities and Trump tells them what they're suppose to think, I think that just even being mentioned is so powerful to them. They need a lot of help.
Molly: They are a punchline.
Sean: Yeah it's sad that people think of country people as fucking idiots.
Molly: Just there's no resources.
Sean: Yeah, it’s like they haven't read queer lit. They don't even know what queer lit is. The education system can be terrible in small towns. People judge them in these really specific and kind of elitist ways and I don’t enjoy it.
Molly: No it’s a bummer, everyone needs help. What's it like to make music when shit is so chaotic, for you?
Sean: I think it puts a little more pressure on everything.
Molly: Do you feel obligated to talk about these things?
Sean: I feel obligated in my personal life to make a much bigger effort in my interactions and I feel like it’s important to think about what you’re writing critically, but I don’t think it’s necessarily important to write about these things. I think a lot of people want to write political music and they want to have something powerful to say. Very honestly you've got to have something interesting to say.
Molly: I mean I think also that the personal is political and saying your experience is. It’s just annoying that is so often undermined I think. If only everything could be like this. Everything is political these days.
Sean: One thing they didn't think a lot about. I can be totally wrong on this but I think that in the new recordings on explicitly mentioned gender.
Molly: Oh, That's exciting.
Sean: I'm pretty sure I don't use specific pronouns. I had a conversation with a guy that I was hooking up with and he was like I think you should cut out all of the feminine pronouns out of this album even if it was written before, because most the songs were written before I was out of the closet. He was like I think it would be important for you and your identity, to express it neutrally. I really thought about that.
Molly: It's exciting to like take it out because you know people are like looking for something to cling to. And to remove something like that that is such a foundation of how people are going to view you and like you do is a real power move. Are you more of a recording person? Do you prefer live situations?
Sean: I think that right now like I translate better live. I have a really great band, which I am just very lucky for. Max my bassist just played Carnegie Hall on Sunday. He plays classical and stand up bass. He's an absolute monster. Peter is like a drum god to me and Claudia, you know her, she's amazing. So I play all the instruments on the recordings and do some of the recording myself. It's kind of funny whenever I take the songs to the band and teach them the parts they always end up playing them better than me.
Molly: Yeah well you know they have less to focus on. They have one thing.
Sean: So it's really nice. I'm looking forward to the future.
Molly: Do you have a line that you can't wait for people to hear?
Sean: Off of the new song? Or the album?
Molly: Any of it.
Sean: I think that the opening line of the second song on the album. Which is the first, I don’t want to say real song, but the first appropriate amount of time song, I think it's my favorite line on the album. Saw you around like a painting, at a bar in my hometown.
Molly: That sets a scene.
Sean: I really like that, a lot.