It’s holiday season and our newest Spotlight – Emily & Mike Ayley. Mike from the critically acclaimed band Mariana’s Trench got together with his wife Emily to bring in their own little piece of the holidays. We got the chance to chat with the husband and wife Duo about their newest release The World Needs Christmas which is out now!
You have been a member of the wildly successful band Marianas Trench for over 15 years now. Why decide to do a solo single rather than with the band?
Each guy in the band has done a Holiday song at some point over the years. With the extra time on hand, it seemed that this was the year to do it. Emily actually had a general idea for a song, and I started coming up with music and some melody to go with her concept. After that, Emily and I worked on the arrangement together and she started writing the lyrics. It was a really nice, truly collaborative effort and we have since been working on a number of other songs. It’s fulfilling to be able to pursue creative outlets while living in a different world than the one we had been used to.
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories? They can either be from when you were children, or something you do as a couple?
For me personally, the best Christmas memories are those made with family. All of my memories consist of my parent’s annual Christmas Eve dinner. Friends & family would come over – there would be music, hors d’oeuvres, presents, and a delicious dinner. Then, of course, the anticipation of waiting to open the gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. My sister and I would take turns sneaking downstairs to look at what was under the tree and report back until my parents finally woke up. Since Mike and I have been married, he has now become part of that tradition and we both look forward to it every year.
The song has all the makings of the classic Christmas song. There are xylophones, whimsy, and of course bells. What does the song mean to you guys? What is it that you want people to feel listening to it?
It was a lot of fun having the opportunity to really go for that holiday song genre when working on The World Needs Christmas. Before starting work on the demo, we thought to ourselves “So it needs bells, LOTS of bells. Like, too much bells. We can use french horns and choirs and…” In the end, I don’t think we did too much of anything, but it sure was fun seeing what could work within the framework of the song.
The meaning and inspiration for the song is from our experiences during 2020. Emily is from New Jersey and has been living in Canada since May 2018. When she made the decision to move to Vancouver it was our plan for her to be able to see her family as much as possible. As you can imagine, the possibility of that in 2020 has been essentially zero. We had booked a couple of failed trips and after cancelling yet another in the late summer we decided to spend the time working on a holiday song. Much of the lyrical inspiration comes from that struggle the many people are surely dealing with as well as some of the other challenges that surround us.
When listening to the song, firstly we want people to feel good and simply just get a few minutes escape from whatever stresses are effecting them in their day to day life. Secondly, we hope that the song leaves a feeling of joy and optimism.
Emily, this marks your first publicly available single. Was it daunting to finally put yourself in the spotlight?
I wouldn’t say that sharing the music itself was daunting, mostly because I’ve posted some videos of my original music online in the past. However, the process of recording in a big studio, doing a photoshoot, filming a music video, and doing any sort of press is all new to me and I was quite anxious for each of those firsts. It has always been a dream of mine, so while for some artists, it’s their usual day-to-day, for me, they’re all very big milestones and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to do it.
Are you and Emily planning an album?
We would love to put out more music! We are working on other songs at the moment but don’t have an official plan to release any of it…yet. We are really focusing on The World Needs Christmas. We hope it connects with people and that they feel a relationship with us. At that point, it would make sense to release more music but we are just beginning the process of introducing ourselves to music lovers.
Is there any opportunity for Emily to be involved with any Marianas Trench tracks the way Jessica Lee and Kate Voegele were?
The conversation hasn’t come up with MT at this point, but I suppose anything is possible. She certainly has the singing skill to warrant it!
Describe the feeling of winning a JUNO award?
It’s definitely better than the feeling of not winning one, ha! I love that the Juno award we won was for Group of the year. In fact, it sits next to where I am typing this right now. The four members of Marianas Trench have really worked hard of the years, have had a really strong relationship with each other and have gone through some very sweet and very challenging times together. We truly are a group. I don’t think any other award could have been more suitable.
Do you prefer stadium shows or intimate venues?
I go back and forth on this all the time and it usually depends on what we are touring at the time. There is something breathtaking about playing arenas with big production or a festival with 40,000 people watching. There is a huge adrenaline rush when you first walk on stage for one of those shows. However, there is another very cool feeling about the club shows. Honestly, the big small show is the best! When you have something like 1600 people crammed into a venue that hold 1599 people, it still feels big but also intimate. It’s packed and exciting and like we all still have a little secret relationship between the band and audience.
How was the success of the online show compared to an in-person concert? Will there be anymore if restrictions continue?
The online show was a very, very different experience. It was even more different than I thought it could be. From the beginning, there were so many questions about what we could do with production, filming, setlist, how the sound would be delivered, etc. The problem was there really wasn’t a template on how to do it yet. It was probably as much work getting this single show ready as it was preparing for a national tour.
All of us weren’t sure if people would even be interesting in watching a Marianas Trench concert in that fashion. We did whatever we could to make it entertaining. We played songs off of every album we have released and let the fans choose which songs those would be. The challenge with that was all of those songs were VERY rusty and we couldn’t get together and practice due to the quarantine restrictions.
So it was a lot of practice at home and hope for the best. In the end it turned out quite well! I was very happy with the final product. It seemed the experience was very enjoyable for our fans and a lot of them did end up “attending” that show. We don’t have any more scheduled, but we would consider it again especially if we could add a few twists to keep it fresh for our fans.
How are Zoe and Ziggy getting along?
Oh my, those cats are the light of our life. Each of them has so much unique personality. They are best friends – they play together all the time and cuddle with us in bed every night. They are amazing!
Given the quarantining we have all been doing during this year, what is some self-care that you have been doing? What are some other forms of self care that you would suggest to folks?
We live in a pretty beautiful area outside of Vancouver. It’s a great place for hiking, biking and getting out for fresh air in general. We have really taken advantage of having that right at our doorstep. We go for walks or hikes nearly every day. I find them very good for my mind, body and spirit. Personally, I have also started reading a lot more than I used to.
It feels great to stimulate the mind by reading somebody else’s well thought out perspectives and insights. We invested in a table tennis set up so we could have some fun family time indoors too. Of course, embracing the missing aspect of music was an incredibly freeing experience. Having that outlet, in the past, being so tied to whatever Marianas Trench was doing meant that during quarantine I wasn’t doing anything. Rediscovering that passion independent from the band and with the support and partnership of Emily has been the number one highlight of 2020 for me.
What is Marianas Trench working on right now?
We are all keeping our creative skills sharpened. Josh is taking the time to write new songs and Matt has also been keeping busy being creative.
Covid has affected independent and smaller businesses disproportionately. Are there any local favorites you want to give a shout out and plug to?
There is a chain of fitness studios called Oxygen Yoga & Fitness that are great. Although there are many locations, as far as I know, they are all franchises. The Covid pandemic has been really tough on them. They had to close for months, re-opened for a few weeks and have now had to go into temporary closure again. The owner of the location we go to is a wonderful woman who is very passionate about the business and what it does for people. I really hope that we are able to support businesses like this safely again very soon.
What would you like to say to your fans and readers?
Have a healthy, safe and merry Christmas this year. Embrace quality time with your loved ones. Be good to people around you. We are eternally grateful for your continued support.”
Mike & Emily
This Spotlight – Emily & Mike Ayley is at an end. Big things to Mike and Emily for taking the time to chat with us.
Check out The World Needs Christmas available now!
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