@skopemag Q&A Featuring Azalea

So back at it on a quarantined Saturday morning here in New England. One thing that covid19 cannot stop so far is the music and we are grateful for that. Today we have a married musical duo that go by Azalea. We were supposed to do this Q&A earlier but they got caught on a cruise liner due to the pandemic which you can read all about on their site. The real reason these 2 are here though is to talk about music, life, and the new live album ‘Live At Home’. So lets jump right in –

@skopemag – How are you doing this week so far and are you freaking about COVID-19?

Benjamin: We’re doing well, thanks for asking. And no, we’re not freaking out, but this is definitely a serious time. As you may or may not know, we have been performing almost exclusively on cruise ships for the past year and a half. Our first real confrontation with this virus came only one week into our last contract. The ship had embarked all its passengers, we were preparing for our evening show, and the ship was getting ready to set sail. All of a sudden, we hear the captain over the P.A. system announcing that all the passengers had to debark and we were no longer sailing that day. This was the beginning of a two week stay for us, docked in Port Canaveral, with only the crew onboard, just watching the news and waiting. This did, however, provide us with a great view of a Space X rocket launch! Ok, where were we? Right… as the days went on we saw how the situation around the world was escalating so we found our way back home to Canada. It’s definitely a relief to be home, even if it’s under self quarantine procedures. We have been away a lot over the last year and a half, so there’s a niceness to staying home. It’s giving us some time to work on some long awaited projects.

@skopemag: I love your name – ‘Azalea’ – how did that come to be your musical alias?

Mia: Well, when we first started out, we were going by “Benjamin & Mia” and that was ok, but we liked the idea of having more of a band name. So we started thinking, taking into account some of the things people said about our music. One thing that often came up in the beginning of our career was that our sound was “colourful”. So, we thought “flowers are colourful, let’s look at some names of flowers”. In our research we found out that when you give an Azalea to someone, it is a sign of affection or first love. We knew right then we had to use it because we had met, started making music, and fell in love almost simultaneously. It was perfect.

@skopemag: At what point in life did you both decide you were going to turn your talent and passion for music into a possible career/lifestyle?

Benjamin: I think it was a little different for each of us but I had a pretty good idea shortly after picking up the guitar when I was 14. I realized then that music was going to be a central part of my life. I got a rush from creating sound from nothing that was unmatched by anything I’d experienced in the past. As I started my own musical journey, listening, and recreating the music that moved me, I realized that was the only thing I wanted to do – make music that moved others the way my musical hero’s moved me.

Mia: I knew I wanted a career in the performing arts from a very young age. I have memories of being maybe 3 years old, singing into a microphone my dad bought for his prized stereo system. Then I remember wanting to try other things, like being a vet, or a translator, or a business woman, but I kept getting pulled back to performing. All the while, I had been taking piano and vocal lessons, and I had taken drama class every year in high school. Each and every performance I had ever done, was exhilarating, satisfying, and made me feel alive. So when it came time to apply to universities I knew I couldn’t do anything else.

@skopemag: For those who do not know, you two are married. So I must ask – what came first… the love & romance or the music?

Benjamin: As Mia said earlier, it really all came together simultaneously. We met during Mia’s first year of university. She was studying music and I was planning to do the same the following year. We both loved songwriting but weren’t satisfied with anything we’d written. We decided to try writing together and honestly this was the breakthrough. Getting to know each other while delving deeper into our craft, sharing ideas, etc. brought us closer to each other and also inspired songs of which we are still proud.

@skopemag: How has music helped enhance your marriage and how much time per week do you perform and network your music?

Benjamin: Life is a wellspring of inspiration. It’s pretty cool to go through a situation together, and then work out your thoughts and feelings by writing a song about it. Also, making music can be a very intimate and even spiritual activity. As the sound of our instruments and voices blend into one song it connects us in a deeper way that goes beyond explanation.

Since performing on cruise ships we’ve been performing 4 – 5 hours a day, 6 – 7 nights a week and the bulk of our networking has been taking the time between sets to get to know the good folks who have come to our shows and taken the time to listen to the music we make. It’s been a wonderful experience and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know our fans on a first name basis. In fact, that’s Mia’s little trick. She’ll remember people by name whereas I’m like, “Remember that guy, who was with that girl, when we were on that ship in the Mediterranean?”. I’m getting better at this though.

@skopemag: You recently released a new live album – ‘Live At Home’ – https://open.spotify.com/album/3SIa9Y5uPsRWVQ4d7MiUO1. Please explain how this idea turned into a reality and how long did it take to release it?

Mia: It’s pretty cool actually. This album came out of another album! In October 2017 we released “Gypsy’s Moonlight Motel” which was a long time coming for us. Our other releases were all EP’s and there was a four year gap between GMM and the previous EP. We worked really hard to make an album we were proud of and wanted to share with the world. During the making of that album, we did a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo and one of the perks was to to attend a house concert that was to be recorded and given to the backers. In May 2017, we performed and recorded that concert in our own home, to a very gracious audience, and we were so happy with how it turned out that we decided we should also do a proper release.

The whole project took longer than we expected, partially because during the winter of 2017/2018, when we were initially going to mix and master the live recording, we had started working on our demo for cruise ship work. Then, we got an offer and had to brush up on a bunch or repertoire before we went off to our first contract in September 2018. So, we ended up using our weeks off between contracts to finish it, and we actually finalized the release during September and October 2019, while we were on board the Norwegian Jade.

@skopemag: For music engineering tech folks like me, what kind of recording equipment did you use to get that crystal clear sound and how did you set up the room acoustics?

Benjamin: Yea, it was our first time capturing audio from a live concert environment so there was an element of experimentation to the whole process. The good thing was that this concert was recorded in our living room, so we were able to use all the recording gear from our attic studio and only needed to move it all downstairs.

In the end it was a fairly simple setup to capture everything. We close mic’d the live instruments and had stereo microphones aimed at the audience for some extra room ambience. Everything first went to a mic splitter that split the signal between the house mixer and a PreSonus FP10 recording interface. We used an iMac with Cubase to record everything and mixed it all down later. Including the audience microphones we had a total of eight tracks or less per song.

@skopemag: Can you speak a bit on Big Flower Records – is that your label or are they partners in this?

Benjamin: Big Flower Records is our label and publishing company. We run the company and it’s the means by which all our business is done and through which all our music is released to the world.

@skopemag: If you could do a music video to one song on the album, which song would you choose and how would that look visually?

A: Being a live album, we would most likely string together some footage from the concert itself. But if we were to use one of the studio recordings from Gypsy’s Moonlight Motel, we like the idea of creating a video for “The Start of Forever”. That song talks about both the agony and pleasure of true love & desire. It blends our personal experience with each other and the house in which we live. We’ve done so many projects from our home, that it would a fun experience to film a music video here as well.

@skopemag: I am not sure if you have or want to have children but if so – will they be added to the group when they are grown?

Benjamin: If we have children we would always encourage them to follow their passions, whatever they may be. We’ve had the privilege of experiencing what that’s like and wish it for everyone. But I don’t think the size of our group will ever change. Azalea has always been the two of us. It’s what makes our music what it is. While we love collaborating with others, at the end of the day, when we think of our band, we think of us.

@skopemag: What do you like to do when not making music and how can other married couples find a common passion bond like you do with music?

Mia: For people who travel a lot (and love it) it may be a surprise to some people that we’re big time homebodies and crazy cat people. So, our favourite things to do when we’re home is to cuddle up on our sofa with our two cats Licorice & Peppermint and binge watch our “of the moment” Netflix show. We’re pretty big on health, wellness, and self care too. So, we take some time for meditation and reflection every day, we try to exercise 5-6 times a week (we are huge fans of a home workout), and prepare healthy satisfying meals. That being said, I also love to bake, and when we’re home we definitely eat more sweets than we should. Haha!

Our passion for music brought us together, and I think most couples have something in common, which is why they clicked in the first place. So, I think that if you are always honest with one another and you open yourself up to your partner, you’ll be able to grow together. That could result in discovering an activity you’d both like to do together, or not. The main point is that trust and honesty will always keep a relationship strong.

@skopemag: Social media is so crucial nowadays – so where can we go to Follow, Like, Comment, DM, etc?

A: Our website – http://azaleamusic.net