Everything Matters: A Conversation with Chris Vos of The Record Company

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Jen Rosenstein

“The only moment you can do anything about is the one you’re living, so you might as well live in that moment,” Chris Vos says, speaking by phone from his Los Angeles home. And if anyone should be enjoying the present moment, it’s vocalist/guitarist Vos and his band mates in The Record Company. Bursting onto the scene with the release of its 2016 debut album – the Grammy-nominated Give It Back To You – the trio’s raw, timeless sound found mass critical and commercial appeal. In June of this year, The Record Company released All Of This Life [Concord/Universal], a 10-track collection that has charted on the strength of the single “Life To Fix.” On Tuesday, October 30, the band will perform at Saturn. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear will open the 8 p.m. show. Over the course of our interview, Vos gave his take on songwriting, the current music industry climate and recording the follow-up to a successful debut.

Birmingham Stages: Chris, thanks for your time. How did the material for All Of This Life take shape? Were these newer songs, songs that had been around for awhile or both?

Chris Vos: It came both ways you just described. There were a couple of creative bursts and there were a couple of concepts that had been hanging around for awhile. “Make It Happen” had been hanging around for awhile and on “The Movie Song” we had a chorus we liked but we didn’t have anything else. “Make It Happen” came together that way, too. “Life To Fix” is a creative burst I would say. When we made our first record, we made it in our living room borne out of the struggles like any other band. Nobody knew who were and we didn’t know if anybody would ever care who we were and we just wanted to make the best record we possibly could. When it came time to make All Of This Life, we wanted to stay true to the experiences we’d had. Life had changed, but we stayed the same in a lot of ways and that’s how we wanted the sound to be. We wanted to evolve and grow but hang true to our roots.

Birmingham Stages: An artist recently told me that sometimes a certain song tells you that it’s time to make a new album. Was that the case with All Of This Life?

Vos: We just knew we wanted to make another record. We had just finished the first record and we were playing those songs for a year and a half before the record came out and then the record comes out and you’re playing them for two years after and we wanted more music to play. There wasn’t a song – we just knew when we were done touring we wanted to start recording the record.

Birmingham Stages: To your point of playing a limited number of songs repeatedly, how have those songs stayed continually fresh to you along the way?

Vos: I don’t know. When you’re in love and walk through the door and see your wife for the 500th time or the 50,000th time and you really love each other, it’s always a good thing. That’s how the music is – when you really love what you’re doing, everything matters and every show matters. If you feel like it’s getting stale, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What am I doing? Is my heart in the right place right now?” It never gets stale for me. That being said, as an artist you get done with the painting and you want to paint another one. I can still play all those songs and feel them on a very deep level every time  because every time is different. I just look at it as a tremendous gift and you’ve got to work hard to stay worthy of it.

Birmingham Stages: Given the success of Give It Back To You and the touring and promotional demands surrounding it, was it difficult to find time to write songs for a new record?

Vos: Bob Dylan said in the movie Don’t Look Back, “When I’m out here, I’m collecting ideas and then I go home and write songs.” I am constantly typing phrases in my phone and singing into the phone. It gives you a constant recording device that is in your pocket. The chorus for “Life To Fix” – we were crunched in the back of a van in Colorado and Alex started humming this melody. I said, “What is that?'” He said, “I don’t know.” I said “Record it.” Later on, we listened and it became one of the strongest melodies on the record.

Birmingham StagesYou mentioned recording Give It Back To You in your living room. Today’s technology allows you to self-record, release and distribute music, but some artists say the ability for anyone to do so creates clutter. How do you view today’s climate?

Vos: I think it’s great. I grew up on a farm and it puts a field in front of everybody and you’ve got to go out there and tend to it – you’ve got to work. It’s got to be about the music first, no matter what the technology is. It’s got to be about saying something. Once you put it in the technology, the secret ingredient is working your butt off. It does seem impossible, especially in the beginning. You have to set the mission – What are the songs? Who are the people that are going to play them with me? The journey is very rewarding. You make friends with the word “No.” A lot of times you don’t even hear that. When you hear “No,” someone actually cared to reply.

Birmingham Stages: The phrase I often hear from artists regarding the current industry climate is, “The gatekeeper has been removed.”

Vos: In any era of music, the gatekeeper is the individual listener. There are a million little gates. The greatest gift a listener can give an artist is 15 seconds of their time to say, “Alright, show me what you’ve got.”

Birmingham Stages: You mentioned staying true to your sound on the new album, but obviously your band’s circumstances changed between the recording of the two albums. Did those circumstances tempt the band to change or tweak any part of the approach?

Vos: This is the first time any of us have ever gone into a record knowing there are some people out there that are going to want to hear it. That is intimidating at first and every artist that has made more than one record knows that feeling. We just looked at each other and said, “It just comes down to the three of us sitting in here and working it out.” When the three of us sit down and work together, things start happening. The focus has to be the music. We had gone from a living room to clubs to theatres and opening for bigger artists – we did Madison Square Garden with John Mayer. So, we wanted our sound to grow because we had grown. But the center is always the music and that’s something we didn’t want to compromise.

The Record Company will perform at Saturn on Tuesday, October 30. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear will open the 8 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $22.50 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.