Hailing from Dayton, Ohio is modern-folk duo, The Nautical Theme. Consisting of Tesia Mallory (vocals & keys) and Matt Shelter (vocals & guitar), the group first made their debut on the musical scene in 2017 after meeting one another through a mutual friend. On July 30th, they are set to release their third studio album, “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed”. Drawing upon their signature blend of American, folk and indie pop, the 3-track EP explores topics related to the theme of commitment.
Recently, I spoke with The Nautical Theme about their upcoming EP, songwriting and goals for this year.
Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell us a bit about your path to pursuing music? What made you both want to become artists? How did Nautical Theme come to be?
The Nautical Theme: Music has a way of sinking its claws in and not letting go. Matt has been writing, recording, and performing in bands for 20 years (Waking Kills the Dream: Goodlife Recordings, Simply Waiting: Gasoline Records/A Small Voice Screams World). His past experience includes touring in 19 east-coast and mid-western states, playing a myriad of venues from coffee houses to sold-out 3,000+ capacity venues, opening for national acts and everything in between. I’m (Tesia) a formally trained musician and vocalist, practicing my craft regularly as a vocal coach and instructor. I’m a multi-instrumentalist and had the opportunity to perform for President and First Lady Obama in 2012 at the White House.
Matt and I were introduced to each other back in 2013 when a mutual friend thought we could potentially start a new project. We hit it off immediately at that first rehearsal and eventually when that musical endeavour came to a close, it was only natural for us to continue to collaborate. I think we have a unique musical synergy and can match one another’s musical ambitions/commitment. It just feels right.
Kyla Pearson: On July 30th, you’re set to release your EP “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed”, which features 3 songs centred around the theme of commitment. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind the album? Can you tell us a bit more about each song?
The Nautical Theme: Commitment is crucial to the health and vitality of oneself, our relationships, and the world we live in. But it’s also hard…and that’s an understatement. Sometimes the right decision is the decision that stretches us the most. It’s the decision that requires something of us: sacrifice, perseverance, altruism, causing us to place more value on long-term growth than instant gratification. Commitment also requires a great deal of trust in others. What if they don’t have the same level of commitment? The dynamics of human relationships are layered and complex.
While the EP title gives a nod to old marriage/wedding folklore, each song on “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed” speaks to different aspects of commitment.
Something Old: All My Faith, a reimagining of a song by Simply Waiting (Matt’s previous project). This song evokes a sense of trust. Even in situations of hurt or pain, there can be sincere forgiveness on the other side.
Something New: Somewhere Just Okay (But Not Alright). This song explores our need for real human connection in a world dominated by screens and isolation. We need to stay committed to ourselves to be better for the world around us.
Something Borrowed: Cover of “Kill” by Jimmy Eat World off the album, “Futures”. This is our first cover song and we’re humbled to be able to interpret it in our harmony-rich TNT style. This classic song has spoken to so many people and through it, we recognize that the commitments we make aren’t always reciprocated. We can lose ourselves in the love we give, only to receive nothing in return.
Kyla Pearson: Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting/recording process that went into making the tracks on the album?
The Nautical Theme: This project came together during the long period of COVID-19 lockdowns. We recorded together safely when stay-at-home orders were lifted and tried to keep the musical connection going virtually (all while trying to make sense of what was going on in the world around us, like everyone else). We actually set out to release a full-length album and recorded tracks for around 10 songs in Matt’s home studio. However, they weren’t hitting home the way that these three did. We eventually decided to release a three-song EP centred on commitment, speaking to the level of commitment it took to create something meaningful during the pandemic. We’re really pleased with how it came out. Plus we have a lot of material to work with for forthcoming music.
Kyla Pearson: In relation to the album’s theme, why do you think people struggle with commitment, be it a relationship, a lifestyle choice. finishing a project or otherwise?
The Nautical Theme: It’s definitely hard to answer this question because everyone and every scenario is different. I personally think that it’s much easier to give in to a primal sense of self-gratification, even if it’s not good for you in the long term. I also think that commitment is something that takes practice and is learned over the long haul. It takes humility, patience, and sacrifice, and sometimes I don’t think those things are inherent to human nature. I know I struggle with them.
Kyla Pearson: When it comes to writing songs, do you find it easier to come up with the melody or the lyrics? What do you think makes a “hit” song?
The Nautical Theme: Matt is the primary songwriter and lyricist of the duo. The songs are inspired in a myriad of ways: personal experiences, wider cultural experience, or as random inspiration at times. They can start out as short lyrical lines or get worked out into an entire song fairly quickly with music and lyrics. One of our favourite songs, “Have a Little Fun” off our 2018 album “Float” came together in 30 minutes during a collaborative writing session and we played it live at a gig the next day. It’s proven to be a crowd favourite. Sometimes the songs that come out of thin air can be the best. When it comes to writing music, we believe that vulnerability and authenticity are important to creating a space where listeners can connect with music. Connection is so important.
Kyla Pearson: Where do you think the best song ideas come from? What is your ideal setting to write?
The Nautical Theme: We practice for 4-5 hours every week. Sometimes Matt will bring a finished song and I will add in harmonies, piano parts, and suggestions to fill out the arrangement. Other times we will work on things together by riffing on a chord progression. Either way, we are open for creativity and musical inspiration to flow. I find that the songs that I connect with the most come from lived experience. I want to believe the artist. I want to feel something. I want truth-telling. I think our music is an honest expression of life.
Kyla Pearson: With live music starting to be a reality once again, what is one venue or show you’re looking to perform at? What live shows do you have coming up that fans can catch?
The Nautical Theme: We have a lot of fun performances lined up in the coming months, but a few favourites are our EP Release Show on August 1 at 3 p.m. at Oak and Ivy Park in Wright Dunbar Village in Dayton, OH. We also have been invited to play at the For Dayton, By Dayton Music Festival on August 14 at Riverscape in Dayton. A new one on the calendar is a gig on October 2 at Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY. It’s been a goal of ours to play there for a long time, so it’s rewarding to see it coming to fruition.
Kyla Pearson: Lastly, what is one goal you hope to achieve by the end of the year? Do you plan on releasing new music other than your upcoming EP?
The Nautical Theme: Absolutely, we plan on releasing new music. We already have some tracks in the works and have the ambitious goal of releasing a new single by the end of 2021 and every month throughout 2022. We want to stay committed to ourselves and the love/drive that we have of writing and playing music. As I said, it has a way of sinking its claws in you.
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The Nautical Theme. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Jul 15 2021.
Unknown.“Featured: The Nautical Theme”. Photo courtesy of The Nautical Theme. Accessed Jul 15 2021.