This past week, I was able to chat with Chase Tremaine to discuss his deluxe reissue of Accidental Days. The deluxe edition of the album has been re-released today on Bandcamp, and it features ten new bonus tracks, plus commentary on the ten main album songs. I continue to be impressed by Chase’s extensive work ethic, and I hope this track-by-track sheds some light on his creative process.
Let’s get started. The first track that you have on the deluxe edition is called “After Love,” and it features Benjamin Daniel. It has some cool electronics and keyboard elements on it, too. Can you explain what went into that one?
Yeah, so I’m sure he’ll be fine with me outing him, but Benjamin Daniel is a Chorus.fm user named Lucas27. We met on Chorus back in 2016 in the forums, hit it off, and started messaging and emailing each other. And we would send each other song demos. So our friendship from the very get-go has been established on us encouraging each other and helping each other with our songwriting and the music that we’re making. He and I are both kind of on the same track together in a cool way. We both debuted in 2020, and at this point, we’ve each released three studio albums. So “After Love” comes from our first attempt to co-write together. It was a Zoom session back in, I think 2020. We were working on lyrics together, and I had my acoustic guitar out. We basically just came up with things until he liked it, and I let him guide what I was writing until we were on to something that we both thought was really cool. By the end of the session we had a working acoustic demo of this song that we loved a lot.
I wanted to spotlight this one more than the other nine bonus tracks because this is a special song. It’s the big single for the deluxe edition re-release of Accidental Days, and it’s something that we’ve been excited for people to hear for a long time. And it just evolved from that original acoustic demo. What was originally just an acoustic guitar part, I turned into a synth part that goes throughout the entire song. I challenged myself to get a little unconventional, thinking out of the box with the drum parts that I wrote for it. And I got to have a lot of fun writing the bass for the song, pushing myself as a bassist. And then I got to bring Ben into the studio here in Nashville, the place where I recorded Development and Compromise and also where I recorded these bonus tracks for Accidental Days, called The Hilson Studio. Ben came in and recorded his vocals for the pre-chorus and the bridge, and then I had him and my wife Paige sing the gang vocals for the third chorus. The song just kept expanding and getting bigger, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
Granted, at this point, I haven’t talked about what the song is actually about. It started with an idea from Ben, of just how easy it is to think of love, or to kind of get warped and twisted in our heads when thinking about love, in terms of merely what we’re getting from others: about what we’re receiving and not about the love that we’re giving. So the song kind of takes a bit of a cynical view from the perspective of someone who is just using others. One of my favorite lyrics in it is “You give me warmth, yet I leave you cold / You kept me young until you got old.” It’s this idea of using people in a way that isn’t actually love and makes no attempts to be reciprocal. I think it ties back to the rest of Accidental Days in a nice way. There’s a running theme throughout a few of the songs of love withheld – of not doing the good that we should do. I think about “Nothing Wrong” from Jimmy Eat World’s Futures; it’s a great encapsulation, in my mind, of the idea that not doing a good thing is its own form of evil. You can say that there are two categories of evil in the world. One is the explicitly evil things that we do. And then the other evil would be the good things that we should have done but didn’t. And that wasn’t even an intentional theme throughout the album. That’s more one that I just realized was there after I made the album. And I think it plays into a few of these bonus tracks as well.
Nice, that’s a great answer! Obviously very comprehensive. What about “Time”? It has a haunting, somber opening, with layered vocals and a steady beat to it throughout the track. Can you walk me through the process on that one?
Yeah, that’s basically the exact opposite. If most of my music is trying to push the envelope into writing melodies, drum beats, bass licks, and guitar riffs that I haven’t before and pushing myself to go bigger and better.. ”Time” was really an exercise in pushing myself in the opposite direction. It’s just a two chord loop, the entire song. People joke that music is like three or four chords and the truth, whereas my songs usually tend to be closer to like ten or twelve chords. Twelve chords and a strong opinion! I just don’t do “simple” very often. “Tme“ was originally going to be one voice, one guitar, but then the producer and I started having a bit too much fun in the studio. He had weird ideas for the guitars, like recording an acoustic guitar that had a plastic bag wrapped around it, or putting weird effects on things, and that resulted in the “spookier” loop that you hear. And again, without trying too hard to make this happen, the themes of these bonus tracks tie into the rest of the album nicely. “Time” is about struggling with time wasted, time passing, and us not keeping up with it, which is very much what songs like “Heart Reset,” “Settled in the Unsettled,” and “New Creation Great” were about as well.
Great, that’s a nice way of putting it too. Can you walk me through the next two acoustic B-sides, “Skeleton” and “What It Takes”? Do you write most of your songs on the acoustic guitar?
Yeah, so the big behind-the-scenes storyline to these two songs is that, back in 2012, a very long time ago, I spent a summer living at the Grand Canyon. And that was really the season of my life where I think I discovered myself as a songwriter. I’d been writing songs my entire life but didn’t finish them very often. Or didn’t feel very good about what I wrote. Or wasn’t prolific at all. This was the first season of my life where it was kind of prolific, and I felt pretty good about it. So I came home, back to college, in the fall of 2012, wanting to make a full album of the dozen or so songs I’d written that summer. But it just didn’t happen. I tried recording something in my brother’s closet, which didn’t pan out, and plans just got redirected a few times. Then in 2013 and 2014, those were really low songwriting years for me, as I kind of became a better student, I guess. After nearly losing my scholarship and dropping out of college, I decided to get my stuff together and focus more. So there was a two-year period where music was very much put on the backburner, but there was that hanging desire to do something with that “Grand Canyon album.” So “What it Takes” and “Skeleton” are both songs from then, with really no changes. I haven’t done anything to the lyrics or melodies from how I wrote them in 2012, so they kind of represent some of the oldest writing I’ve ever done and some of the oldest songs that I’m still proud of and want people to hear. Accidental Days is very much like the evolution and grand fulfillment of the seed that was planted back in 2012, with two songs from Accidental Days being songs that were originally written that summer: “Distracted” and “The Checklist.”
In “What it Takes,” the first verse is, “It takes time,” and the second verse is, “It takes love.” So again, there’s this throughline of “After Love,” “Time,” then “What It Takes” wrapping the songs together by saying, to be a good friend, to be a good spouse, to be a good human, it takes time and love. And it’s me kind of wrestling with not feeling like I have enough or that I want to give them away in order to be the man that I should be, the friend that I should be, the boyfriend or future husband that I should be. And then “Skeleton” kind of hits that from a different angle, just saying, I don’t have the strength in myself, but I can seek the strength somewhere else, that I can receive that guidance and power and love and time from God rather than trying to find it inside of myself.
To answer your second question, I did generally write everything on acoustic guitar, and then would just have fun trying to build it up into a big rock song. “Distracted” and “The Checklist,” for almost a decade, were just acoustic songs. And then during pre-production for Accidental Days, I built them up into rock songs and wrote drums and guitar riffs and everything for them. And I had a lot of fun doing that, and that is how I’ve done it a good amount of the time. But I never want to settle or just have that be the way that I do things. So I will often push myself into different ways of writing. Whether it’s starting on bass, starting on drums, writing something acapella and building the music around it, or building up a full instrumental rock track then writing lyrics and melodies on top of it. So I never want to just have the one way that I write songs. But the most common one would probably be writing songs acoustically, first.
That’s interesting. So it’s kind of a “comfort zone” for you also to have that acoustic guitar feel?
Yeah, I definitely have a special place in my heart for the acoustic guitar. It was really the original instrument that I clicked with and did a lot of my learning on. Being a drummer and a bassist is a more modern development of pushing myself to get better at instruments that I’m not naturally good at. Acoustic guitar was the one instrument, as a kid, where it felt natural, where something clicked. So it’s like home base for me, and it’s where a lot of my playing happens. And then there’s the whole “one man band” thing, where I’m writing and recording everything myself. Back in early 2020, I wanted to make a band and play all this music out live with friends and other musicians, but the pandemic squashed those plans. Ever since, I’ve kind of enjoyed just hanging back and focusing on writing and recording instead. So the few times that I have performed, either in person or on live streams, have just been me and an acoustic guitar. I want my songs to be able to strip down to acoustic and still hold up as good songs.
And I think they do. I mean, that’s a credit to your songwriting, for sure. The song “The Checklist (Original Version),” could you walk me through some of the differences and nuances between the two versions?
Yeah, so in terms of structure, guitar parts, and melody, it’s almost exactly the same. And this was another Grand Canyon song. So this “Original Version” is exactly what the song was coming out of the summer 2012. And like “Skeleton” or “What it Takes,” it’s a song that I am still proud of and think stood the test of time well enough for me to share it. But the interesting thing about “The Checklist” is that this original, acoustic version is 100% what I expected to be on the album. I thought Accidental Days would have this quirky, very biographical, down to earth acoustic number, with lyrics that are very on the nose, in terms of me just learning this lesson to be friends with people who are different than me and to appreciate them. It’s me coming to terms with this idea that we kind of only have two options: for people who disagree with us or people who are different from us, we can either fight with them or fight for them. So this song is about learning to appreciate that dichotomy and cherish those relationships. But it was a very late-in-the-game development before going into the studio to record Accidental Days that a rock version finally just “clicked.” I’d wanted to try turning it into a rock song for years, but it just never worked. It never made sense. I always tried going metal with it or made it too complicated. And I finally made the instrumental version. I was so excited to record this new version and put it on the album, but the original lyrics just didn’t work at all. Having a line like “Same hope, same style, same morals and same taste in music,” that type of down-to-earth lyricism, just felt really awkward and out of place in this new rock instrumental. So basically, I tore the lyrics down and rebuilt them from scratch, making more of an esoteric, metaphorical version for the main album. Yet they end up in the same place. The concluding outro lyrics are exactly the same, but the journey there is very different in the rock version. So I’ve really wanted to get a good recording of the original version, just stripped and acoustic, with the lyrics that I wrote 11 years ago, and I’m really excited this is finally out in the world.
Nice! The next song “Settled in the Unsettled (Theo’s Version),” I’m a very big fan of the original version. Can you walk me through who Theo is and everything that went into this reworked song?
Theo is a good friend of mine who has had a big handprint behind the scenes on all of my albums. It’s kind of like a tradition to go over to his house before recording a new album and just play the songs for him to get his thoughts on things. “Settled in the Unsettled” was a song that was inspired by him because he’s more from the folk, country, and bluegrass world. We have a little bit of crossover in terms of the music we both enjoy, but for the most part, we live in different worlds with different writing styles. So rather than our typical verse / chorus / verse / chorus structure, which is now basically what everyone uses across the pop spectrum, one of the writing structures that he champions is having a hook that is the final line on every verse. So instead of having a traditional chorus, each verse will be a different little story or a different set of details that always ends in the same way, putting a different spin on the same lyrical hook over and over again. So having these five verses that all end in the phrase, “Why do I get settled in the unsettled,” was my attempt at doing that. And so, being that the song was inspired by Theo, I wanted to bring him into this song. He sings harmonies and plays the piano solo on the album version. But going back to that night, I went over to his house to play all the songs for him. Just for fun, he grabbed his acoustic guitar and started fiddling around with, like, a countrified version. And I filmed a video of it. I really enjoyed it and I’ve watched that video a handful of times. I just really liked that coloring on the song. So when I was putting together ideas for the bonus tracks, I really wanted to get him to record that countrified version. I sent him the video and said, “Hey, do you remember this? Would you be down to replicate this?” So I brought him into the studio, and he did a great job recreating the version he was messing around with that night.
It’s almost like a crossover between like Zach Bryan, and what he’s doing with Americanized-country, and then obviously your style too…
Yeah, it’s a weird morphing of things. Because I know I don’t write authentic country music. But to hear someone who is more in the country scene putting a country spin on a song I’ve written is really cool.
Also, there are the bonus tracks “Psalm 75” and “Psalm 90,” which I assume goes along with your religious influence. Can you walk me through what each song means to you and how they’re kind of structured for these acoustic B-sides?
So the funny thing about these two, historically, is that I’ve recorded them before. Back in 2018, I think, before I ventured out on making my “Chase Tremaine” solo music, I met someone here in town who was a student at a big recording studio. His class project was to record a band and get it produced and mixed and whatnot. So I got to be his band for his project, and I went into this really cool, famous historic Nashville studio to record these two songs, “Psalm 75” and Psalm 90,” as well as the songs “Developments” and “A Compromise” from, of course, Development & Compromise. And so that was supposed to be a four-song EP to release back in 2018 or ‘19. But something happened with the class’s data, like, it all got wiped from the studio’s servers or something once the class was over and the project was done. So I was really excited about this four-song EP that I’d made, and then the whole thing just got lost to time.
So it worked out that “Developments” and “A Compromise” got re-recorded on their titular album, and then these two songs were just sitting around for a while. At this point, they date back a whole decade to the summer of 2013, which, as I mentioned earlier, was one of those non-musical seasons for me. These were two of the only songs I wrote during that summer, between my junior and senior years of college, and it was really just kind of a nice little respite for me, like a little project to work on in between other priorities. And it was my first attempt to do something that has been done over and over again for thousands of years: taking the Psalms from the Old Testament and putting them to music. A lot of psalms historically even started out as songs, we just don’t have the music recorded for what they sounded like when they were written 3,000 years ago. So I was throwing my hat in to the old tradition and taking a stab at it. And I really enjoyed taking an adventurous musical route with it, trying out chords and progressions and key changes and stuff that I’d never done before. And just taking the opportunity to get real weird and see what happened. I also picked two psalms that wouldn’t comfortably be sung on a Sunday morning in church. They’re very much on the darker side of dealing with harder things: death, how small our lives can be, and how quickly they can be just swept up. So these two psalms were the ones that were hitting me heavily that summer, but it also felt like two psalms that I’d never heard done musically before. So I just ended up being really proud of how they turned out, musically. I’m bummed that the rock versions disappeared from existence, because I had a lot of fun putting drums to these, and when you hear the songs, I think you can probably hear that they’re kind of asking for more. They both end with these extended musical segments that kind of tie them together and make them feel of-a-piece.
And I especially love how the main lyric of “Psalm 90” circles back to the opening track of the album, “One Day.” So if you look at just these 18 songs as a unit, it feels kind of surprisingly cohesive, with the big question at the end of the song “One Day” being, “What can I do by the work of my own hands?” And then come back around, 17 songs later, with “Psalm 90,” and it ends with a declaration of establishing the work of our hands. So that mirroring helps “Psalm 90” feel kind of like an answer or a response to “One Day.” I do think, thematically, there’s a glue there that excites me.
That’s awesome. Let’s talk about “One Day,” the 2017 demo. How did this evolve into the final version that you put on Accidental Days?
Yeah, so as the final two bonus tracks, I’ve included two demos that I’m kind of ashamed of at this point. They’re very old and sound pretty bad in comparison to my official music. But, for anyone who gets this far, to hear tracks 19 and 20 on a 30-track album…you deserve to hear the old stuff and where the songs came from. And I especially hope that anyone who is a writer or musician can hear these songs and appreciate how far a song can come. With “One Day,” there were extensive re-writes of the verses and a complete replacement of the bridge. I generally kept the chorus the same, melodically and lyrically, but the new version is a different speed, with different chords beneath the chorus, and totally new drums. There’s so much about the song that got stripped down and built back up from scratch. And the irony is that I didn’t expect to do any of that. I wasn’t thinking that the song needed it. I spent a lot of time, from 2017 through 2022, being quite proud of the 2017 demo, compositionally. I just wanted to create a better quality version of that. And it was really just in early 2022 that I was relearning the song, going through the details, and realizing that there were things that weren’t adding up and parts that didn’t sound very good to me anymore, plus lyrics I thought could be better. And then – going back to that night where I went to Theo’s and played all the songs for him – I played him that old version of “One Day,” and he pointed out how the bridge was really just me singing the root note over and over again. Which is kinda the most boring thing to do. I was like, “Yeah, you’re right, that’s not cool.” And I generally want my bridges to be the biggest, most exciting part of a song. In my mind…great songs peak during their bridges. I ended up having a lot of fun just writing brand new parts and building completely new drums, new riffs. And one fun tidbit is that the guitar part that starts the song and plays throughout the first verse comes from one of the Grand Canyon songs. So it’s just one other element that goes back to that summer of 2012, writing an album in the Grand Canyon, and bringing that into this album in a cool, full circle way.
That’s great. And the final track is “Gloriously Mundane (2016 Demo).” Obviously, there’s a lot of work that went into getting from that point to the finish line. Can you walk me through your finishing process?
This is another song that, in hindsight, I was kind of hilariously proud of and held in high regard for a few years. As I started recording Unfall and became better at self-editing and better at arranging songs, what I thought was really cool at the time was just so goofy. The demo has these stock electronic drums and hand claps. And it had this time signature change into the chorus, but the chorus in 4/4 is just so cheesy. I also made some lyrical changes after I realized in the editing and pre-production process that “One Day” and “Gloriously Mundane” had some redundancy and crossover. One of the things I wanted to do with the updated lyrics was to make “Gloriously Mundane” less preachy, but I also wanted it to be more distinct in what it’s saying, as its own song and not bleeding over into the other tracks. But musically, I really thought to myself that if I could successfully turn “Gloriously Mundane” into a rock song, then Accidental Days should be a rock album. I had all these acoustic Christian pop songs going into pre-production for the album, thinking that this was just gonna be a stripped, acoustic, poppy album. And then I started challenging myself to do my normal genre, my normal thing, and to see how well I could make the songs convert into my genre of choice that I’d done for the first two albums. And “Gloriously Mundane” was, like, the song to crack. If I could crack the code here, then I could make it work on the other songs as well. And it really was like a mind game for a while, of just using my imagination, not even with a guitar in my hand, not sitting behind a drum set, just thinking about the song, thinking how it could sound in different genres with different arrangements. And once I imagined this, almost like a kind of metal pop-punk version in my head. Once I had that in my head, I knew that if I could take this from my head and actually record it, then this is what the song should be. So for anyone who’d like to intensely study the two versions, which I don’t intend anyone to do, there are definitely a lot of little details that map from the demo onto the new version, just changing instruments or changing contexts. I took the original little piano lines and gentle baselines and turned them into guitar riffs.
So it is a really cool evolution, and I put these demos here at the end of the bonus tracks not because I’m proud of how the demos sound seven years later, but more because I’m just really proud and excited about how far they’ve come. And again, I hope that they can serve as an encouragement for people listening who maybe aren’t proud of how their home demos sound or are displeased with their songwriting, so you can see how far a song can be pushed when you try different things, learn new things, and allow yourself room to really edit and tear a song down. Truly surprising things can come from it.
That’s great, Chase! Congratulations on another great release. Any last words for fans to check out things coming in the near future from you?
So I try to release a kind of homemade covers album every December. The most recent one was 10 months late. <Laughter> But it finally came out in October, so that’s on Bandcamp. And I’m hoping to get back on schedule and put out another covers album this December. So those are just a fun thing. My wife sang a few songs on the most recent one, including a cover of “26” by Paramore, that I just think is absolutely gorgeous. So I would love especially for Paramore fans to go check out Commitments & Cover Songs, Volume 3 on Bandcamp. I have a surprise album that may or may not release this November, but I’m just not gonna make any commitments because it might not happen. So that’s a fingers-crossed thing. And then I’ve been working for years on some sequel songs to Unfall, which I actually teased the last time you interviewed me a few years ago. And I can now confidently say that it’s really coming out. It’s recorded, and it’s currently being edited and mixed. So this January 24th, on the fourth anniversary of Unfall, I’ll be releasing Unfall 2!
That’s very exciting! Congratulations on everything, Chase. I continue to be marveled by your inspiration that you put back into your music, and I also look forward to what the future holds for you.
Thanks so much for taking the time, Adam!