There is now no one who doesn’t know songs like “Legendary” or “Sanctuary,” which have stormed the European charts in recent years. Despite their young age, the six-piece rock and pop band Welshly Arms from Cleveland, Ohio, has produced more than one hit since 2012. A conversation with frontman Sam Getz about music that goes to the heart, home and impeachment.
Your single “Learn to Let Go” was a great success in the European radio charts. What does this song mean to you?
This song is based on difficulties that friends of mine and myself had at the time – worrying too much about the past and carrying that burden around with us. And “Learn to Let Go” is about letting go of the past and all the things that keep you from looking ahead. At that time, it was important to say that, also myself.
An advice for all the people who listen to the song, or rather a private thing?
Absolutely not something purely private. That’s the beauty of music, or any kind of art, that the artist says something about himself that applies to so many other people at the same time. You can write about something in the hope that others can take it to heart as well.
In your songs you combine alternative rock, pop, blues and gospel. Was it a deliberate ambition to create your very own unique style of music in this way?
I think it’s important to make music that we can feel, that we feel inspired by. We have always loved soul and rock ‘n’ roll, and I personally grew up with blues and blues rock. And all that comes together in our songs. It shouldn’t be any different. I don’t want to make music that I don’t like to listen to myself.
Do you think people are looking for this new mix, or are they just being drawn into this kind of vibe that you have?
I think songs, melodies and lyrics can attract people without them actually wanting to like the band. Style is always just a question of loose interpretation. This Blues-Rock-Soul-Music is simply our style and it draws people into it.
Why do you think is it the Germans who like your music so much, even more than in the US? Coincidence?
I really don’t know, I don’t have a theory about it yet. But I think you’re right. It was the German audience that really gave us the first attention for the song “Legendary”. And when we played the first concerts here, we were amazed how many people knew us and could sing along.
Are you surprised that it’s especially the hymn-like songs like “Legendary” or “Sanctuary” that are the most successful ones?
With these more anthemic songs, people really seem to get into the themes, and these melodies anyone can sing. So maybe that`s why they are the favourites.
Do you aim at writing songs that people can sing along to and dance to?
I think we naturally tend towards such songs. And as a band with so many vocalists, there are five in total, we create melodies that just work best with so many voices. That carries over – the audience can sing along so easily.
Your last studio album was called “No place is home”, and you say that travelling a lot, living out of a tour bus sometimes makes you feel lost. How important is the term home for your band?
It is very important. Every time we return to our hometown Cleveland we have to ground ourselves. We spend time with our families and friends. And also the culture of Cleveland has clearly shaped our sound, the way we play together as a band. Cleveland is an important part of our journeys and routines. I like the phrase “No place is home” because I don’t think home is really a place. Home is a mentality. Home is what you make of it and where you build it up. “No place is home” means, home is not only Cleveland for us, today we are at home in Cologne. We are like one big family. We have our music, our instruments, our fans – and that’s our home tonight. We step on stage, and that’s home. It is not a place, it comes with us.
You produced the whole album from 2018 in an old farmhouse in Cleveland that became something like your headquarters. Is this an attempt to find a fixed place in this jumpy, eventful music business?
Yes, but it also just makes it easier for us. This place has a certain vibe. You arrive there and make music. We have consciously built up this “homie feeling”. But it’s also just practical for working efficiently when you have all your equipment right around you.
How do you work then? Who has the central ideas for the songs?
Every song is different. One of us has an idea, for example for the chorus, and carries it into the band. Jimmy, the bass player, finally produces the songs, and he plays an important role in determining how it all comes together. Everyone gives their part, but in the end he puts everything together.
Is it sometimes hard to find a consent from six band members?
Of course, you often have different ideas with six people. But what we can do very well is to respect each other. If you propose changes to another person’s part, it’s never because you want to step on their feet. Jimmy has the last word, and we all respect that. However, we always work on the songs until everyone is happy and convinced of what we are doing.
When you produced the last studio album you said that the world is getting crazier and crazier. What role do political developments play in your music?
From this we take a lot of inspiration, a lot of energy. Right now it’s crazy what’s going on in American politics. These are exciting times, and I don’t think that this can be fixed so quickly. Probably many are bored to hear comments about it and I think the system is broken. I haven’t written anything being politically motivated for a long time. But in the early days of that period we had a lot of songs that had their origin there.
Do you think you will get another opportunity for political inspiration?
It’s very crazy and very unpredictable, so it’s hard to say what’s going to happen. But that’s exactly how the political system works in our country at the moment: from right to left, back and forth. We are dissatisfied with left-wing politics, so we turn extremely to the right. And then we are dissatisfied with this and turn extremely to the left again. And as long as we don’t solve this problem, don’t find a moderate approach with people who can handle right and left thinking, we will continue to do this crazy dance.
Do you express a kind of American identity with your music?
Good question. I think our music has a sense of the region we come from – the Midwest, that particular sound from Detroit, Michigan, Ohio. I guess it plays into our music just as much as the way we grew up. We come from a city of hard working, resilient people. This culture is in our music, more than a general American culture.
How did your band come about? Has that always been your dream?
We all made music as kids, and we have all been in different bands once. Mikey, me and Brett used to play together in high school, and Mikey, Jimmy and me in another band. We founded the Welshly Arms in 2013 because somehow we all found together. We met in my house and started a jam session. And it was so fun that we arranged to meet every week. And then a year later we met Jon and Bri and that was exactly the sound we wanted. It was more or less a coincidence that we were all friends.
How important is it to you to carry your music in front of a live audience?
Very important. If people don’t come to our shows, they will only know these few songs on the radio. Hopefully this will be some more songs in the future, but you understand these songs on the radio much better when you see them in connection with the other works. More than anything else we are a live band and our show is more moving than a record can communicate. People can see how much the songs mean to us and how much is behind them. There is this feeling of being a community, of being one. That’s very important.
By Katharina Moser