Just two years after the idea was born, singer-songwriter Jacob Mallow released his debut album “Neighbors” on Nov. 12.
The University of Georgia graduate student started working on the album in May 2020 and began the recording process shortly after. Mallow released an EP, “Seeds,” in 2019, and has since come a long way in his music production.
The album details stories of love, friendship and how far one would go to maintain these relationships. “Neighbors” was a project that took several contributions and collaborations from Athens residents, which makes the album even more special to Mallow.
The Red & Black: Tell me about “Neighbors.” How long have you been working on this album?
Jacob Mallow: We got the first two songs done in May of 2020, so the recording process was a little over a [year and a] half ago. I started writing in 2019, but didn’t start laying it down until May 2020.
R&B: How would you describe the sound and overall feel of your album? How would you describe your lyrics?
JM: I wanted the sound on this one to be smooth and for the songs to flow together. At the same time, I wasn't too specific about it. I think I’m folky and more alternative pop, but I add an element of indie to the album because all of the songs were made in my house and we played all the instruments. I was worried that the songs wouldn’t mesh on this album.
R&B: What was the process of producing this album like?.
JM: I started writing songs for the album in fall 2019. “Flesh Wounds” and “Pain” I recorded with Tommy Trautwein, and then a week later “From The Beginning” and “Always In Your Company” [were] recorded. A long time went by, and I did a kickstarter [campaign] and raised money to record the rest of the album. All together there were three different producers on the album, which made it logistically hard ... it's [just] easier to do it once and get it done. The way everything worked out and the timing of it all changed made it hard, but that's one of the things I love about the album because it was touched on by a bunch of different people.
R&B: You said the album was about love, friendship and the depths to which you’ll go to keep those things. Was there a specific love or friendship you had that contributed to you writing this album?
JM: It was written for a purpose at first, which was to win someone over — or win someone back, really. I feel like love can drive you crazy sometimes, for better or for worse, and there’s a lot of good in this album, but also a lot of pain. The album is good, but it’s taken a piece of me –– that's the price you pay to share and heal. Because of the collaboration, I was really excited about what was happening with the local artists. A bunch of people helped make this album so that’s how the friendship piece ties into the album.
R&B: This album seems to be quite the collaboration project. Many local Athens residents contributed to its completion — could you tell me more about those people and their individual contribution to “Neighbors?”
JM: The primary Athens person was Tommy Trautwein, who is in a couple of different bands, but Well Kept is his band. He’s played with me and other people before, but he’s also produced a bunch of music because he started [his own] label, WBAZ Records. Zac Crook played guitar on it and Gideon Johnston from Hotel Fiction played drums on one of the songs. Alec Stanley played synth on one of the songs. Tommy played bass on the whole record. I played keys and sang. Gracie Huffman sang on one of the songs and sang backup on two others. Andrew Blooms produced it, but he also sings backup in the parts we sing together. Aidan Hill sang in some parts, too. I wanted it to be this big project that would feature people in Athens.
R&B: Is there any song on the album that you favor the most? Any song you wish you could have fixed or changed before the release?
JM: “Morning Sun” is probably my favorite and we spent the most time on it. I have a sweet spot for “Always In Your Company,” the one I made with Andrew. It was the first one finished and [it was] done so long ago, but I really like it. As for one I wish I could change, I played “Never Enough Time” live at the Wesley chapel and one day we recorded it there, [but]sometimes I wish I could add more to it. [I] thought at the time it would be cool to do it live, so I wanted to dress it up more. In the end I had to just let it go.
R&B: Have you performed in any Athens music festivals or events?
JM: I was supposed to do AthFest, but it got canceled. I’ve done my own gigs in towns, but no other festivals or events. I have been trying to do a bunch of house shows, but I played at the 40 Watt Club in August. I played at the Georgia Theatre two years ago and I [would love] to go back!
R&B: You released an EP, “Seeds,” in 2019 while you were still a student at UGA. What was it like producing that EP as a student?
JM: Releasing the EP felt easier because I was in [the] music business [program]. Even my school was focused on music, and I did not have to work much outside of class. Now, I feel like I have to be more intentional with time because I do work and have a different job. In a way, there are still things that make it easier now like the slight free time. There were things that being in school [made difficult], but being surrounded by people made it easy to share information through word of mouth.
R&B: Do you think “Seeds” and “Neighbors” show the change you endured while growing from a student musician to where you are now?
JM: I definitely challenged myself with music this time. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a crazy song, and I wanted things to be cinematic and big this time. I don't know if I’ll keep going that way in the future, but I did spend a lot of time between graduating and now in music. In the pandemic, all I did was play the piano — [I] got into jazz and a bunch of different things. I think there is an element of “Neighbors” that is more complex and developed than my first EP.
R&B: What are your future plans with music?
JM: I would love to tour this next year, and in the future I would like to make more albums. I've even thought about getting into production more. Who knows — if I started investing in that, then that could be something in the future too.