Chatting with Ari Hest

Musician Ari Hest performed on the Main Stage at Carnival on Friday night as a small crowd enjoyed his upbeat personality and performance. Hest, who released two full-length albums under his own label, Project 4, just recently signed with Columbia Records. His first major label album, Someone To Tell, is in stores now.

The Tartan had the opportunity to talk with Ari Hest via telephone interview, and here?s what he said:

Tartan: What inspires your music?
Ari Hest: Day to day things that happen that are sort of out of the ordinary. Occasionally something is so striking that I want to write about it, whether it?s bad or good. When nothing?s going on in my life, I can?t write. When things are going on, things flow. It?s really no different than anyone else who wants to express some feeling coming from something intense.

T: Are there any musicians you aspire to be like?
AH: There are some songwriters that I wish I had written those songs: Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Sting. I?m jealous that I didn?t write those songs. You listen to them and you want to write something like them, but you try and fail. I?m trying to aspire to be that kind of songwriter ... very respectable, and just very good at songwriting.

T: What kind of music do you play?
AH: I think that what I play is really personal music, really honest; and I?m trying to talk about things that I think I know that are very real and relatable. Not necessarily candy-coated. I guess when I was younger [I did] just write happy-go-lucky songs. [Songs] can be happy, but now the nature of them is a little more involved, and they don?t necessarily put you in a great mood. But they make you think. My songs are therapeutic for me.

T: How did you get where you are today?
AH: Slowly; four to five years of very hard work. It?s hard to call it work, but it is. When you?re not on stage, there?s a lot of work that I did myself. I worked pretty hard on the business side of things. To play and write was fun. It took a while to get to this point; there are a lot of bigger things that can be done, and Columbia can help me with that.

T: Is this your childhood dream?
AH: My goal as a kid was to be a baseball player, but that didn?t work out in college when I found out my fastball wasn?t very fast. My goal right now is to be happy doing what I do, and to never think of this as a job. I?m not living out my childhood dream, but this is fun; this is a good way to live.

T: How does it feel to be signed to a major record label?
AH: Well, it was a goal, but it wasn?t a big goal for me. I?d have been happy without it, too, but it?s nice to be involved with such a respected label, one that has my heroes Springsteen and Dylan on it, too. I?m excited about the opportunity, it?s a help to stardom. Usually things don?t work out to the level you want it, so I?m not holding my breath, but if they can help me that can be great.

T: What advice would you give about achieving goals?
AH: What helps me to stick with things is repetition. Kind of like, ?I?m going to go to the gym five times a week.? You have to get in the habit of doing it. If you want to go on seven dates in seven days you need to make sure you keep with it; make the calls, be smooth on the phone. If you set out to do something and don?t have any practice, you suck at it. That was a horrible example, but basically, if you don?t practice you don?t get better. Practice makes perfect.

T: What?s your most embarrassing moment from touring?
AH: I was once in the middle of [Pennsylvania], at State College. I?m a big sports fan, a Philly Eagles fan specifically. So I was at the school, and there was a playoff game going on. I was on stage and I yelled, ?Go Eagles!? I expected everyone to cheer with me, but everyone started booing because everyone was a Steelers fan. That was not what I expected. It was embarrassing that it backfired.

T: Where do you see music heading in the next couple of years?
AH: Well, what?s popular always has a way of changing every few years. You see it from the Backstreet Boys era to Britney to Duran-Duran-like bands that are getting popular again. There are cycles of everything. I just hope it?s good. I wasn?t too much a fan of BSB.