Always on the move, inhabiting cities from Baltimore, to New York City, to Los Angeles, Michael Trainor and Whitney Tai have left their mark everywhere they go. Both as a duo and solo acts, each artist’s unique style stands out whether they play together or separately. As they enter 2019, Michael and Whitney tell The Aquarian how they met, what they dream of, and the times they’ve had along the way.
Where are you all from?
Michael Trainor: I’m originally from Baltimore, but I’ve been moving between New York City and Los Angeles for 20 years. I can’t make up my mind.
Whitney Tai: I grew up in the Big Apple, but after some much needed world travelling, I packed my bags and left New York for sunny Los Angeles.
How long have you been a band and how did you get started?
Michael: A few years I was looking at Twitter, I saw a tweet by Whitney promoting one of her songs. I listened and fell in love with her voice. I sent her a message and we stayed in touch over the years. We didn’t actually meet in person until early 2018 when she moved to Los Angeles. The music part of the relationship happened naturally.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
Whitney: The newly-formed writing partnership with myself, Michael and Billboard-charting Belgian film composer-producer, Tim Janssens, has a unique combination of musical influences. Flowers By The Roadside sounds like folktronica meets alternative; a unique blend of folk-pop and ambient-electronica.
Paul Apelgren, music editor to Michael Giacchino, elaborates, “Whitney Tai and friends approach pop with an almost classical sensibility; they make old things new and new things soar. Tai has a voice and perspective that may very well become part of the greater musical lexicon in the next couple years, and she provides a fervent answer to that constant question of what you should be listening to NOW.” Publications have described the new mini EP as:
“Completely hypnotic and undeniably unique.” – Happy Mag
“Haunting, deep, wonderfully layered. a reminder of yesteryear when songs meant more & made you feel.” – Mofoamerican Custom Guitars
What was your latest release of music and can you talk about that a bit?
Our newest release, Flowers By The Roadside consisting of the title-track, as well as a new spin on popular holiday classic, “Silent Night,” was born out of an impassioned need to both express and absorb the pain of our brothers and sisters worldwide. Be it personal or political. Social and cultural.
If for just a moment, one considers just how we are benefiting economically, yet suffering on a deep, psychic level from the sovereign exploitation of environmental and human resources by transnational corporations and government corruption. People aren’t leaving their homelands for fun, but for pure survival.
What is your writing and recording process like?
The writing process was very organic. For example, in the case of Flowers By The Roadside, I had written a 13 chord progression. Fortunately, when Whitney heard the first four chords, she came up with the melody and lyrics spontaneously. It started taking shape when we sat down with producer Tim Janssens who visualized and arranged a soundscape to encapsulate our creation.
Our interpretation of “Silent Night” is a reflection of the political and cultural challenges facing the world. By omitting the word peace in the final line of the lyrics, we allow the listener to reimagine and determine their own conclusion. Our wish is that they find not only both comfort and hope, but to inspire the individual into action.
What are current projects you are working on?
We have some other interesting projects in the works. Michael is working on his solo guitar EP and Whitney is in the process of putting out her second full length studio album in the spring of 2019.
Is there any significance behind your band name?
Whitney: Rewind back to the toddler years of my childhood where my parent’s house parties were the neighborhood fix, voices from the room including family and friends, off of an old video tape, were grooving to James Taylors’ 1970s classic “Sweet Baby James” while chanting “Whitney Tai, Whitney Tai,” as I strolled around in my walker humming feverishly. I guess you can say this name branded into my identity at a very early age.
What is your favorite memory as a band?
Well, we could start with the one night Whitney and I were walking on Hollywood Blvd. and after being disrespectfully cat called, with her New York City chutzpah, she flipped off a group of men. A few minutes later we were accosted, but given my Baltimore city experience I was able to diffuse the situation before Whitney knocked his eye out with her glittery heels.
Or the time we played Hollywood Improv and one of the comedians kept ripping hard on our European keyboardist for appearing to be “sent straight out of a J. Crew catalog from 1990.” The entire room was in tears of laughter.
What are your goals for the future as a band? What are your plans for 2019?
To write beautiful music and tour internationally so that we may connect with the hearts and souls of every city.
Where can readers find your music?
Whitney – Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music, CDBaby, and all social media.