Timothy Showalter’s Songwriting Survival Kit
The Indiana-based singer-songwriter behind acclaimed alt-rock outfit Strand Of Oaks takes us into his world and reveals his essential gear
Every songwriter has those items which they just can’t do without. Whether it’s a trusty guitar and amp, a tatty old notebook or the family cat who curls up at your feet whenever you’re feeling inspired, a songwriting survival kit can make all the difference when it comes to setting the mood and getting those creative juices flowing.
For this issue of Songwriting Magazine, Timothy Showalter, the Goshen, Indiana-based singer-songwriter behind acclaimed alt-rock outfit Strand Of Oaks takes us into his world and reveals the kit he needs to make his music.
1. MIDI CONTROLLER
Believe it or not, my first instrument was a synth. When I was 15, I saved and saved and bought a synthesizer and eventually two turntables. I wanted to make rave music and wasn’t even sure what that meant. Every song I’ve written for the last three records began on this $100 keyboard. I probably spent 1,000 hours on this crazy little thing. It’s covered in layers of graffiti and it is essential to everything Strand Of Oaks has been for the past six years. Nothing really changes, for the past 21 years I’ve been able to escape the world into this magical world of sounds.
2. DANNY CLINCH POLAROID
Danny Clinch is not only my favourite photographer but he also is an amazing human being. We first met at Bonnaroo in 2015 for a scheduled photoshoot. In the midst of the insanity of being a band at a festival, I was able to briefly be in the presence of his genius. My wife Sue was with me and we were just beginning to really come back from a rough patch in our marriage. Danny I think recognized this without knowing us and asked Sue to join me in the picture. Nothing will ever come close to capturing our love and what we’ve been through together. After the shoot Danny handed me the polaroid, my manager said he’s never seen Danny do that before, which made it all the more special. I will cherish this forever.
The kinetic energy of physically writing is essential for me. I can’t type lyrics as it feels cheap in a way, actually, the words just won’t come if I’m at a computer. I need there to be my weird drawings, terrible handwriting, harsh edits, and my hand smearing the ink.
4. PALO SANTO
I like to think that anyone who lives in my apartment after me will forever wonder why the corner room smells like a campfire made by hobbits. Lighting the wood is sacred to me and signifies when things are really getting cooking.
I self-released records for years and in order to fund them, I constantly sold gear and most of my possessions. I spent literally my last dime on plane flights to get to a gig opening for The Tallest Man On Earth in Los Angeles. Well, those gigs and my best friend Kristian began the process of me getting signed to Dead Oceans. When I got my first advance, I went out and bought this MacBook. My hands were shaking because I was so nervous to spend that much money (I also bought the Midi Controller the same day). I’ve never taken the laptop on the road or barely out of the room and clean it constantly. I never forget what that investment meant and the pride I took in having such a nice thing. It’s provided me with tools to make my life what it has become and I’m grateful for that.
I wish you all could just come over and hang with me in this tiny little room. It is basically a physical reproduction of my brain at its most peaceful. At times this room has been dangerous because I never wanted to leave it and face the outside world. I get overwhelmed easy and incredibly anxious, feeling like I have to be someone in public, and here in this space, I’m so safe.