T John Cadrin…Why Boston? Which Time Signature? And Where’s Dubstep?

T John Cadrin’s music is not what I expected from his bio:

“T John Cadrin is a smart-pop singer-songwriter from Boston, Massachusetts. With influences ranging from The Dillinger Escape Plan to The Punch Brothers, the culmination of his music brings the listener along for an interesting ride. His eccentric strumming style, odd time signatures, fluttering vocal range & jolting change”

While this description is all true-this is pop with a twist, more than a few turns, and a whole lot of prominent guitar-Cardin’s lyrics certainly pop out, and vividly. A writer at heart.

Cadrin and I had touched base before I changed the course of my site. Seeing that there are so many songwriters looking for some insight, feedback, or other thoughts on the whole process, I thought a fiction writer/songwriter blend would be an interesting profile.

And you know what? He’s so darn approachable!


Photo credit Izzy Berdan

You have a good deal of writing on your Tumblr. Is that all you? Did you write before you considered yourself a musician, and how does that impact your songwriting process?

I do love writing poetry and fiction. It’s a place where I get a lot of thinking done. And I would say that it is how I came to music originally. I received my first guitar at 15, but I’d been writing poetry for years at that point. It felt very natural to set the words to music and I found that there was more freedom when music came into the picture.

The process for me at this point is kind of (still) all over the place. Songs rarely come in complete thoughts to me. They usually are put together, bit by bit. Songwriting is kind of a slow process of continued discovery for me.

And in terms of anything I post online…if it doesn’t have quotes around it, it’s most likely mine.

Why Boston?

I’m from Mass. originally. Boston seemed like the next reasonable step for me after college in Vermont. I’d already been playing lots of shows here, had a ton of friends around, and wanted to be in a city. Now, though, LA & NYC are calling me pretty hard.

I hear you on that one!

So you’re from Massachusetts…what is your background, leading up to the present?

Prior to Boston, I went to St. Michael’s College in Vermont for English & Music Composition. I spent a lot time writing short stories, poetry, plays & scoring them. My songwriter music has always been there. I was helping run a music venue & putting together shows. Once I graduated, I went through a slew of jobs. The biggest moment for me post-college was when I realized that my creativity could be channeled into each of these endeavors. Whether it was delivering pizza or making salads in a kitchen, it all eventually started to feel like creating music or writing. Now I serve tables, love that, and love the personal creative opportunities I create for myself.

Was there a song you heard, growing up, that may have been a game changer for you? Or a moment that persuaded you to pursue music?

Honestly, the first song I learned how to play on guitar was ‘Shirts & Gloves’ by Dashboard Confessional. And regardless of the social movements surrounding Carrabba’s genre of music, he was one hell of a songwriter. He knew how to elicit emotion and make it catchy as all hell. I learned a lot then from that early scene: Coheed & Cambria, Dashy, Hot Rod Circuit, Ben Kweller. When I got up to Vermont, this was the game changer. Being the jam band capitol – it’s where Phish started, for instance – there was so much music being tossed around and played all the time. There is a fantastic jazz scene up in Burlington as well. Odd tensions and strange arrangements blew my mind.

Odd time signatures are listed in your bio as well…are you more of a Dream Theater odd time signature guy, or jazz (as you mentioned)? What type of music got you into that?

If it’s odd, it’s in. I think the first tune I ever tried to count out was The Mars Volta’s, ‘Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus.’ My bass player and drummer at the time were (and probably still are?) super into Dream Theater and Primus and they were very well trained in jazz. They loved that odd groove. I think they bestowed it into me. We would sit down after band practice and get re-amped on counting out songs and geeking out to time signatures.

Math rock! Please lend some insight on this for those who do not know…

Math rock is odd-time centric rock. I think though that the term may be a bit played out at this point.

Being a musician-or even involved in the community-can sometimes seem like a thankless job. What’s your spin?

Absolutely. Even within the music community, I think we all take our gifts for granted sometimes. Especially when we’re surrounded by musicians, so many artists, so many acts, it becomes very easy to view creating music as less than art. I think what we have working to our advantage, now more than ever, is the pay what you want notion that has become so prevalent and recognized as appropriate.

Let’s get into some more random questions…

…How do you feel about concept albums? Best one? Do you ever anticipate writing one?

Early Volta was some serious conceptual stuff. I loved it, how out there and non-linear it is. Of course, none of that would have been possible without concept albums from bands like The Beatles or Pink Floyd.

And I did write half of one once. It was an EP called ‘This Fall… – the structure of it moved through they keys of A, B, C, D, E, & G. Maybe I ought to finish it. The second half was going to reverse through those keys. This rotation was to represent the cyclical nature of the seasons, moods, friendships, etc.

Dubstep. Thoughts? It seems to be creeping into everything lately.

I think it’s interesting, though nothing new. Those rhythms and noises are now just ultra concentrated and bastardized into one genre. Like any fad, it has its place. Honestly, it feels like it’s on its way out.

Is there a venue in Boston that you feel is underrated? A hidden gem?

Well, I’m not sure I can totally answer that. I’ve certainly not played them all. But, a couple weeks ago I went to see Eva Walsh at O’Brien’s down in Allston. I liked the intimacy of it. That could be an awesome place to pack.

Love Eva Walsh.

If you could cover a theme song…?

Rocko’s Modern Life or Hey! Arnold.

Plans for Spring and Summer 2013?

Keep on keepin’ on, really. I’m looking to play new venues with new bands and meet new people all over, always. I’ve got a bunch of shows booked through June in NYC, Providence and Boston. I have a fairly large PledgeMusic campaign that I’m putting together. It’s going to involve recording a new record and publishing a book whose content coincides motivically & lyrically. If all goes according to plan, it’ll go live with this Fall/early Winter.

There you have it. Approachable. See for yourself.

His next show is this Saturday at ZirZamin in NYC.

His latest release, Nothing Is Hidden, is waiting for your ears!



3 thoughts on “T John Cadrin…Why Boston? Which Time Signature? And Where’s Dubstep?

  1. I’m so excited you two talked! Tom is an incredible musician & writer & a whole lot of other things, but he’s an even more incredible person. 🙂
    P.S. Thanks for the shout out!

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