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An Interview with KESMAR: A Track by Track of His Debut Album, 'Always Chasing Rainbows'

Written by Abra Richardson

Nathan Hawes grew up around all of the classics, from Fleetwood Mac to Crosby, Stills and Nash, and branched out his musical likings from there. Now, he writes, records and produces under the name KESMAR and just released his debut LP, Always Chasing Rainbows, on May 12, 2023.

“I think there's just something in me that kind of wakes up and wants to write a song,” KESMAR said. “It also comes from the feeling of when you think you write a good song– that feeling just makes me feel like I'm on top of the world and nothing can match that– so I want to chase that all the time.”

KESMAR learned guitar at a young age and evolved from there, learning how to produce and work in the studio with guidance from Tobias Priddle, who worked with him on his last two EPs. Priddle was supposed to help with the album, but then the lockdown happened and KESMAR decided to make it all by himself.

While at home, KESMAR added more tape machines and recorders to his home studio, which allowed him to explore recording through analog. "I was learning how to engineer as I [went] along,” KESMAR said. “For this record, it was just me [at home] with the instruments and just kind of figuring it out. I think when you have a kind of childlike mindset, or like a learning mindset, it can make you do things that you wouldn't necessarily do if you were a trained professional or something.”

When writing the songs for the album, KESMAR decided to title the album ‘Always Chasing Rainbows’ because of a saying for always wanting something bigger and better. “I guess it just comes from always chasing something,” KESMAR said. “It's just kind of the mind of the creative struggling with ways to keep up,but in such a positive way of hoping that drive was always there to keep doing it forever.”

Always Chasing Rainbows is comprised of eight tracks and KESMAR spoke with Penny Mag about each song.
Always Chasing Rainbows

The idea of opening my record with an acapella has always been a dream of mine. Growing up on the Beach Boys, I have forever been inspired by the ever-so-recognizable voices of the four freshmen, and I knew just the person to nail an intro like that, Flore Benguigui. I also know she is a huge fan of the above. I gave her a brief and had the multi-tracks in a few days, and it was perfect. She's a freaking pro!

We've done a song before called ‘Johatsu,’ on my previous EP. We've known each other for a while, but we've never met, we've worked on projects together here and there.

Day By Day

‘Day by Day’ is one of my favorite songs from this new up and coming collection of music. It's a song that I wrote towards the end of 2020, really to be straight up it's just a break up song, I hadn't been alone for a while and was really struggling with thoughts. I can just remember what I was feeling at that time so clearly when listening to it, so I think maybe that's where that feeling comes from.

Writing music a lot of the time is a big coping mechanism for anxiety and at that time the future, as the world was changing drastically. There have been countless versions of this song, it really pushed me and my creativity.

After playing it live for about a year I knew I had to try and capture the sporadic essence of playing it live. The end of the song features an elaborate keyboard solo by Tim Ayre tied with the energetic drums by Patrick Rogers.

Out of Luck

This tune is basically a covid tune, it’s about waking up late, feeling like you’re going in circles. I made a point in covid to write strictly no songs about covid, but it found its way to creep in.

It was quite depressing, but it's just something that happens so naturally. Just the repetitiveness of the day is that everyone was going through it just subconsciously came out of that way.

I also wanted to write a really British-sounding song. I had the verse and chorus for a while but always wanted to do a resolving outro that would shed some light on anxiety and just regular feelings that were common in lockdown.

Change My Name

This song is about not being there for a friend; it took me a while to realize but somewhere along the way I did them wrong. Writing this song was part of the healing experience, and it was a self reflective personal song that made itself come out.

Is It You I Miss

This was a song that went through so many different versions. I really couldn't pinpoint what I wanted to achieve; I ended up bringing it back to the absolute basics. Drums, bass, electric keyboard, and a guitar. As soon as I took out all the unneeded parts it fell into place. Working in isolation can drive you mad, but the payoff is equally as nice; making this record and learning how to make it in the process really pushed me, it pushed me to always do better, not to cut corners, and when recording on an 8-track it will bluntly reveal a good song or a bad song.

It was the second last song written. There was no order for the songs to be written. If I wrote a song I was like ‘Oh, that one's cool, we’ll put that one on there. It just kind of fit its way in the album somehow.

Dreaming About You

This song came from the idea of wanting a "musical" song. I guess with three key changes and all. It's just a ridiculously cheesy love song. I just wanted to try and write a song like that that has kind of no boundaries of like how sappy the lyrics can be or like how the instrumental can feel.

Is It Me or Is It Love

I just had that hook for so long and then one day I really just sat down there for like two days just trying to write a chorus. That song was done like two completely different times in different sessions. The meaning of the song might stray here and there, but I think the vision came out as what I wanted to feel like at the end of it.

[The vision] is a bit hard to describe, I think that was coming from a third-person thing. I wanted to have the feeling of walking down the street feeling rejuvenated. This song is a little hard to describe,but I think the feeling of it is kind of translated [into the song].

Shine A Light

This was the last song that I wrote for the album and also last in tracking listing order. I wanted to finish on a note that felt true to myself and true to the influences I constantly draw on. I had the lyrics 'Shine a light' for ages but never found the right melody and instrumentation to go with it. One day it just clicked, and the whole song was written really quickly. This track really just showcases the direction of the music to come!

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