With over 100,000+ streams across Spotify, award-winning Kingsville, Ontario alt-folk-rock-to-blues duo Fresh Breath direct urgent attention to the world’s obsession with social media in their new upbeat, sing-along single, “Likes & Shares.
The song is part of a series of four songs the duo (and husband and wife team) released since May. It’s a catchy song that seems to fit the world’s current obsession with social media. The video shows the pair’s Essex county roots and their need to get out of town every once in a while.
Katie and Josh Pascoe checked in with 519 to chat about the new songs, their career, relationship and rural living. We found out the duo finally took the plunge to make music their full-time career, just in time for a world-wide pandemic to cripple the music industry.
I’m going to start with talking about new music because you guys have cranked out four new songs in three months.
Katie: Yes, we have.
Let’s go through the songs. We’ll start with the first one that came out the beginning of May, “Tomorrow Today”.
Josh: Tomorrow Today was actually expedited and put out ahead of the other three songs because we had those ones, like I said, coming down the shoot, but Tomorrow Today we wrote in the first couple of weeks of lock down and we dedicated it to the front line workers. We wanted to get that one out first and because of the music video, we wanted to do a performance piece, but also put something that reflected the times. We had been watching a lot of those daily briefings that has an American Sign Language interpreter there, and my mom happens to be fluent in ASL, American Sign Language interpreter. So, we had her do a social distance video shoot with us and Katie wrote the lyrics and everybody’s been sticking together.
Katie: It’s a song about how this is tough times, and it’s not easy to do. And it’s a lot about attitude, hope while just continuing to fight for what we know we can have, and eventually getting through this together.
We were all shocked by what happened and we’re still not over it. So, some of us are still in shock. But as an entertainer, it’s taking the entertainment industry a lot longer to recover. So, that probably has things going through your mind I would think.
Katie: Absolutely. It’s been hard. This year for us was actually our first year that we both are doing music full time. We’ve been playing professionally together for over a decade, but we’ve always also been working at other full time jobs. So, this actually was our first year that we are dedicating music a hundred percent. So, it was really difficult for us to watch all of those tours and gigs canceled. Having these releases lined up was a silver lining because we still feel like we can connect and put music out and be socially active that way.
We’ll jump into song number two “Make It Together”.
Katie: This was a single that we had written back in 2019. The last three singles that we put out, we recorded with Brett Humber in Kingsville at Sound Foundry Studios. Make It Together was a song that Josh and I kind of co-wrote. I had lyrics in an old journal that I had written a few years back, and I found them, and I thought they were something to re-interpret, maybe rework into a song. And so, it worked out kind of neat, it all feels pertinent to the times again with what we’re talking about. In a way, it’s like all of a sudden things could change in your life out of nowhere, and are you happy with what you’ve done so far? That’s the theme. So, I think again, it’s relevant to the times and the pandemic with everything that’s going on.
Josh: It’s crazy how this song that we had written and recorded in late 2019 and all the videos and stuff in 2020. It fell in line with a timeline of the lock down and then all these restrictions and then things lightening up. Those three singles fit what everybody was going through at the time. So it was almost like seeing the future, I guess it’s weird. Make It Together dropped in once everybody was just trying to figure out what we were going to do. And the main thing was just to sit together and we’re all going to get through this together and I think kind of modeled that. It fit the times really well.
If you guys wrote these songs last year and they really fit the times, I hope your next songs are very happy, positive.
Katie: We’ve actually been writing a lot in this time because, like I said we’re at home, a lot of our stuff has been canceled and I think that’s across the board for a lot of people. But recently we have been writing and I don’t know if it’s actually so upbeat and happy, but there’s definitely a new spin on it. We’ll see what happens with all that.
Well I’m sure with not being able to play anywhere and turning this into your full time career, there’s a lot of time now to sit and develop and maybe tweak to find what you’re looking for.
Katie: Exactly. We’ve definitely been noticing that there’s also a gift in this time to take a break and maybe reset a little bit with just our mindset and approach to our career. So it’s been good and it’s been difficult, but we’re slowly figuring it out along the way.
So on to the next one “Time For A Change”.
Josh: Time For A Change again, it’s weird how we chose when to release these, a little bit before everything was happening, but this one came out a month after it had been discovered. So Time For A Change was when everything dropped on everyone. Everyone was like, “God. Okay, I’m done being in my house. It’s time for a change.” But when we wrote it was actually for our tour in July and August of last year. A friend of ours in Calgary had come in and we were supposed to have a couple of shows in Calgary during the Stampede on the tour and he called us up and was like, “You guys need to brush up on your country because it’s cowboy boots and cowboy hat time in Calgary.” Almost all the times are, everybody’s a cowboy at the Stampede.
Katie and I looked at each other and we’re like, Oh, we had just had some personal turmoil on the weekend, go down. And we’re thinking let’s just write a country song because we don’t really have a genre that we fit right into, so were able to bounce around, which was nice. So we just stuck to a two code structure, a simple country song. We talked about getting away in a Chevy, and we had all the components of country, heartbreak, and booze, and all that. And then, like I said, when it got released just the title of it really fit the times again. Which is kind of crazy how that was happening.
You talk about the different styles of music because Time For A Change is very countryish and then Likes & Shares, to me sounds almost like a soft Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Tell me about that song.
Katie: So Likes & Shares was a song that Josh wrote. Again, it was last year when he wrote it and recorded it again with Brett Humber at Sound Foundry Studios in Kingsville. And then this one, he wrote it, we re-wrote it and manipulated it for a long time. When we got into the studio, it didn’t quite come out the way we had thought of it. We were thinking of going a little bit more pop with it and everything that we tried didn’t seem right, and then we finally clicked it all in. We worked with Brett a lot as far as producing and arrangements, so this one he had a big part in. The three of us all putting our two cents in over a little bit of time and effort, we finally evolved into what we thought sounded most Fresh Breath.
I think at the beginning we were making it something that it wasn’t, and that’s why we had a bit of a struggle. Josh wrote the lyrics and it was inspired after a couple of shows that we played that were disappointing with crowd reaction after certain songs. In particular, a girl got excited that we were playing a song, took video, posted it, you could tell she was posting it and put her phone down. And then when the song was over, she and her friends just didn’t clap or say anything. And we were thinking, that’s interesting, it’s all about the posts. Right. And so that’s what inspired it, it’s all about the likes and the shares.
Josh: Nobody really cares.
Katie: And I think that a lot of people, not just musicians can identify with that or understand that social media is this huge thing where it takes some people over or it takes precedence where it shouldn’t. And so the song Likes & Shares is saying, ah is that all it’s about?
Josh: Social media is pulling us out of being social and actually interacting with the time at hand. All of the new devices and social media platforms are great for what they’re worth, but it’s just a gentle reminder to try and be present when you’re enjoying something or be present when you’re around people. That’s what real connection is and where we went with that.
You would definitely miss something if all you’re doing is staring at your phone. I’ve been to so many concerts and I say to myself, c’mon people put your phone down and enjoy the show.
Josh: Yeah, you’re watching it through a three inch screen, you know what I mean?
Katie: Josh always says whenever you go, well before the pre-pandemic times, when you could go to a concert and you buy these tickets for yourself, go enjoy it for yourself, it’s not for anyone else. You know? You’ve got to experience that, don’t waste your time recording every single song and then posting it online because, I don’t know, to me it seems like that was a wasted opportunity of an experience for yourself, right?
Likes and Shares really is relevant with everybody is relying on social media for information at this time.
Katie: Yeah. Yeah.
Josh: And when it came like this, the way that we thought that it fit in again, is that now people are kind of over it. So now it’s back to people just sharing either misleading information or sharing things that are just not useful, but some of it is harshly funny or just harsh. And they’re just trying to create a story, all about the likes and the shares again, right? Instead of just living in the now trying to be present in your own life and making things better. It’s a bit of a downer idea set to a very uplifting, sing along song. We kind of pulled from Ann Murray on that one, I guess.
Likes & Shares has a really nice video.
Katie: Thank you. Thank you.
Josh: We’ve known Steve Shilson for a long time. He was a friend of a friend, and then we thought, we’ve just known each other because he believes in the arts. And so we’ve known each other for a long time and we both loved his work and so we talked to him quite a while back about shooting the video for Likes & Shares. And we put together this drawing board, we were going to rent Walkerville Theater and have a bunch of extras and do this really big production because we just thought the song could benefit from the visual of having a hundred people in the stands all staring at their phone while you’re performing, that kind of idea.
But once the COVID hit and we realized we weren’t going to be able to do that just with distancing and whatnot. And when Katie and I decided to go through with the timeline and that was going to put everything out regardless, Steve came up with the great idea to be able to shoot it with just the three of us present. Socially distant, all of that, sort of did at the farm where we live and that stage that’s in that video where there’s nobody playing that barn is actually the converted barn for our concerts. So he came up with this great timeline of how we can still get the message across without doing the big production and we love the way that it came together. He did a great job.
Are these four songs going to be part of a collection or are you just going to constantly put out some new material?
Katie: You know, talking about it, we’re not a hundred percent sure of what we’re going to do. We thought maybe we would put them all on an EP or an album or something, but we’re still kind of up in the air with what we’re going to do about it. We did just release a full length album last June, 2018. So I think that’s why we thought like, oh we have these singles, we were really excited to record them and since we were going to be touring, in May we would have been on a whole Ontario tour for pretty much the whole month. And then again in July and August. So the idea was we’d have these singles to play and promote on tour as we travel throughout Canada. Right now I think we’re just going to leave them as singles.
We’re currently working on a lot of new music. So I think by the end of 2020, we might, we’re working on a Christmas song and so that will be our next release, I think for this year. And then hopefully 2021 that we will either be putting out an EP or an album again of some sort.
Josh: Especially in the times right now, it’s a matter of where you want to spend your money as an independent artist or whether you want to put together your EP and buy your physical copies, or if you just want to keep releasing singles periodically to keep putting new music out there and stay relevant. It’s hard to navigate right now because it makes sense to release singles and then tour them, so that you have new music and you can create far more than you ever would. But now that most of us are going to be trying to pretty much sell music again, instead of just streaming music, it might make sense to go with an EP and actually get some art work done and try and sell physical copies to bring in revenue, right? It’s such a hard thing to navigate right now.
It’s almost gone back to the days when there was more concentration on recorded music than concerts, and then it switched. With digital music, it switched to more concerts and it kind of looks like it’s back. So hopefully there’s a nice mix when this is all over.
Katie: Yeah, for sure.
Josh: I was starting a conversation online last week about just what people think we should do as artists, but what the fans are willing to do. Most fans are willing to pay for the music, but it’s a matter of getting their money into the hands of the artists that make the music, right? So there’s this, it’s like band camp that gives you 85% of your revenue, you get 85 cents per dollar instead of the 0.00067 cents per stream or something, you know? So it’s just like there’s a fine line of where you should be releasing the music and you have to be on these platforms like Apple and Spotify to have legitimacy pretty much, you know what I mean? To be on the level of everybody else, but also as an independent artist where you can’t tour, it’s like catch 22. Yeah, you’re on there, even if you have thousands of streams, it’s not exactly paying the bills.
Katie: We’re kind of talking on the idea right now of possibly releasing another single or maybe our EP exclusively on a download only site to test the waters and see how that goes and potentially make money off of our release.
Not only are you guys an independent band, but you’re also small town people. Tell me about Essex and how that has formed you as a person and as a band.
Katie: I grew up in Essex County, so did Josh. So where we live right now actually is just on a farm that’s outside of Essex near Cottam. We both grew up in a small town our whole lives, and I think it has a lot to do with our music. A lot of our lyrics are conflicting about our hometown, about how we want to leave or take off or runaway. And so that definitely shaped a lot of our writing styles, growing up where we have.
Josh: There’s definitely been many songs that reference getting out of town or running away or just going out and looking for the bigger picture. That conflicting relationship you have with small town living. And also the deep appreciation you have when you go to big cities. And especially when you’re a touring musician, big cities is where you want to be because it’s where all the people are. Get people in the seats, you know? But it’s a very quick reminder of how grateful we are to have a quiet place to create and to get as loud as we want as well. The luxury of just turning up your amps and not having worry about who’s around you is a big plus for us too. The biggest way it’s affected us is that we’ve both grew up close to each other. We are each other’s musical driving force, I guess. So we’re lucky that we met. I don’t know if we could do this if we didn’t.
You live on a farm. Tell me about the farm. What do you do? Do you grow stuff? Are there animals?
Katie: Yeah, it’s a crop farm. So we grow soybeans and wheat mostly. So it alternates usually every other year, every two years. We’ll grow wheat and then soybeans is mainly our main half crop. We have big barns, lots to do on the farm, especially during the pandemic, we’ve learned there’s always something to do, if you’re bored you’re just being lazy. So we also throw and host our own concert at the farm. We call it Barn On The Farm. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s an annual concert that we do and we’ve had all kinds of acts come and play on the stage, Sarah Smith and Christine Campbell and Blake Johnson from LP.
Josh: Local acts too, like this year we’re supposed to have 5051 and we’ve had Chris McLean come out.
Katie: The Oh Chay’s, and a bunch of local bands, and we play as well. And usually it’ll happen in June and it’s a limited ticketed event.
Josh: We turned the cornfield in the back into a 120 seat, kind of theater almost. So we built the stage and there’s a big ceiling that the sound is really good up there. And then we have seating for about 120 and then standing room for about another 15 or 20. And the last three years it’s sold out, which has been great. And we go through, it’s just kind of a BYOB. The tickets are affordable. All the money goes to the artists so it’s very good for the artists themselves. We have a small staff of volunteers. We have a green room that’s set up in another barn. We try and make it as legit as possible and just make it a good listening experience for the audience. Yeah, but it’s finding the time. So hopefully we can.
Katie: This year, we canceled it, obviously it was supposed to be June 20th and we called it earlier because it’s just it’s a lot of responsibility and obviously you couldn’t gather at that time of that many people. And so we rescheduled it for October, but we’re still just not too sure about it. We haven’t really done much more advertising because we’re really uncertain of how that will go. It just depends on how everything plays out, right.
The one thing we didn’t talk about is that you guys are not just a band. You’re actually a couple.
Katie: Yes we are husband and wife, we’ve been married for 10 years.
I think that deserves a congratulations.
Katie: We actually met when we were both learning how to play guitar around 17 or 18. Josh was a couple of years older than me and we were both learning how to play and sing. So we naturally gravitated towards each other at a party. We both had some mutual friends that knew each other and we started playing together and we haven’t stopped playing together since we met.
Josh: We started writing original music pretty much the second we started playing together because Katie was writing her own songs and I was writing my own songs and we were doing it therapeutically. We were both going through some heavy stuff and so we were writing for therapy, and we met each other and we started the band before we started dating actually. So we wrote three full length albums that we never released. We just wrote, and wrote, and wrote and recorded and listened back, trying to figure out what we wanted to do, what was working, what wasn’t working. And then we put out our first body of work in 2010. So that’s called The Speed Of Sound, it’s everywhere. It’s online, you can find it on our website too. Then we just stopped playing and we got married in Jamaica 10 years ago and we went back actually this year for our 10th anniversary and we got to perform at the resort, which was an amazing time too.
Is there a song that you could credit to you guys getting together? Was there a definitive song that kind of created the relationship?
Josh: To be honest, I don’t think so. There was a lot of songs that never got recorded during our courtship, because we’re both songwriters so there was a lot of really cheesy loves songs being written in the beginning and I don’t think any of them ended up being recorded just because of how personal they were.
Katie: He learned and preferred cover songs that had a couple of songs that he was playing, I had a couple of songs that I was playing too. I don’t think they were anything amazing but we wrote one of our first songs together and it was about Fresh Breath and what we were trying to portray with it. I forget how it goes, but I just feel that was our definitive moment of being in a band together and our connection.
We’ve been telling the story a little bit but we decided to call ourselves Fresh Breath in really early stages of us playing. There was one other name we picked first, but we quickly changed it. And so I think right around that time and we wrote the song about Fresh Breath so that was probably our way of connecting.
Josh: I remember now, it was put on one of the first early recordings that we recorded, but it’s not really used. I think the first line is Fresh Breath fills your mind with scope. But yeah, like Fresh Breath to us early on was always just like, what is something that nobody can bad mouth, you know? Like no pun intended, but pun intended. But you never hear anybody say, “Wow, your breaths so fresh, that’s terrible.” Or there’s, “You have fresh breath.” Some go, “You ever heard of Fresh Breath? And its terrible.” You can’t really smear the shit out of it, like oh we think that works. We’ve grown up and found ourselves and matured more, so it’s turned into more of a positive and a grateful mindset reminder of let your breath be fresh with the words you speak, let the things that come out of your mouth be positive, grateful, fresh, and not negative, dark, or bad. So it’s kind of evolving as we grow and find ourselves, but it’s still something that is hard to argue that it’s bad.
That’s it, just think if you were like a heavy metal band, you could have called it Bad Breath.
Josh: Yeah. Bad Breath. There’s been a couple of stink breaths, a couple of friends like to joke around with us, but we let it slide.
The one thing I like about the music and you guys in general is that everything seems to be so positive.
Josh: We try to keep it that way. There’s always conflict and resolution in a lot of writing. That’s how we write our songs together is we think of what’s the singable course that can help people get through what the lyrics just described, you know?
Katie: I feel like we’re also just generally pretty positive people. We laugh and call ourselves positive rockers because we are, we like to make people feel good. And I think that it’s something we want to share with people with our music, right? So that’s always been our outlook as far as writing and arranging songs.
Josh: And the live shows too, we’re always trying to meet new people. When they’re leaving they’re in a better position mentally then when they got there. We always feel better after shows being able to share the music that we love with people that are enjoying it. We just try to promote positivity whenever we can and be genuine as well. If you put on the positive face, when you’re not, people can tell instantly, right? So, in our live show there’s no holding back, we don’t hold back on stories, we tell them and the darkness that comes from life or just on how our outlook helps us through it.