Derek Sanders, the lead singer of Mayday Parade, recently released an EP of cover songs titled My Rock and Roll Heart and did a short run of supporting dates. He graciously sat down with me for a quick interview before his Atlanta performance at Vinyl on Sunday, February 16th.
Jason: Hey Derek, thanks for taking the time to do this. So what are you up to today, you just came up from Orlando?
Derek: Yeah, we played Orlando last night, it was an early show and then we hit the road to drive up to Valdosta. We stayed in Valdosta then drove the rest of the way and got here about an hour ago. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and it was nice to get the first one out of the way, you know, I was definitely, like, pretty nervous just because this was my first attempt at doing this up there by myself. I’ve done short acoustic sets, but to be up there for an hour-long headline set, you know a real deal show, it’s definitely a lot of pressure to be up there by yourself the entire time. The last 14 years all I’ve really done is, you know Mayday Parade, it’s just so much different. But last night was so cool and I’m really excited to be doing it.
Jason: What inspired you to do this at this point in your career?
Derek: Well, you know, it’s a number of things. It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do or thought eventually I’ll do something like this. Then before you know it’s like, damn, we’ve been a band for 14 years, you know. It’s just crazy how fast time flies. Even this project, the first song that I recorded for this project I recorded just over three years ago. I recorded it on Valentine’s Day of 2017. It started that I recorded the first song called “But Lauren” for my wife, it’s a song by an artist from Tallahassee that we both listened to when we were teenagers. I recorded it for her and then it kind of just became a thing from that, I showed it to Mike Hansen, the guy who wrote the song and he was the first one to suggest that I should put this out, that I should show people. Then I recorded the other songs and at that point, I still didn’t really know if I was going to release it, or if it was for fun and more to just get better at recording my own music from my house studio. Then I started talking to Mayday Parade’s manager Josh Terry about these songs, that maybe it would be cool to put them out and the ball kept rolling and it became a real thing.
Jason: So did you record all of the songs on this EP at your own home studio?
Derek: I did, I recorded almost everything at my home studio. I recorded the piano for two of the songs at Brooks’, the guitar player for Mayday Parade, at his house. But other than that everything else was recorded at my house.
Jason: So the EP dropped this weekend. You’ve got this short tour to support it, do you have plans to do more shows if this goes well?
Derek: There’s not a plan, we don’t know what it looks like, but I definitely want to do more of this. I’m really pumped with how well it’s going and I think it makes sense to do more, especially if it’s something like this. Denton, Mayday Parade’s sound guy and tour manager, is with me and it’s super easy to just hop in a car and drive around and play some shows. I’d like to do more regional stuff like out to Texas or up the East Coast, then maybe flying around to other areas. This year I’ll hopefully do more of these whenever there’s a gap. Mayday Parade is obviously still my first priority, and this kind of falls into place whenever we have gaps.
Jason: So you said you’re playing about an hour-long set. You’ve got the cover songs on the EP, are you going to be playing any Mayday Parade songs?
Derek: I’m playing 12 songs, and it’s the 5 songs from the EP, 3 other covers, and a couple of original songs. Throughout the years there are a ton of songs that Mayday Parade never did anything with, and hopefully, I’ll release those at some point. And then 1 Mayday Parade song to close out the set. I put a lot of thought into how to approach that, because I know people who come out to the show probably want to hear that, but I don’t want the guys in the band to feel weird about me playing Mayday Parade songs without them. I don’t really think it would bother them, but I think just playing one song satisfies both.
Jason: So you said you have some unreleased originals that you think you’ll put out in the future?
Derek: Yeah, I’ve actually already recorded a handful of them, and I plan on getting back at it and recording a few more and do another 5 song EP. Like we were saying time flies so I was thinking, I’m hoping to do something like this again next year around Valentine’s Day. It seems like a long time but it’ll be here before you know it. That’s my goal right now, to hopefully make it a tradition to put something out every year, but it has to make sense.
Jason: Last time I saw you guys was at the Forever Emo tour which seemed to go really well, how did you come up with that as a concept?
Derek: It’s something that we talked about doing for a while, something I originally mentioned to the guys. We do so many of the Emo Night DJ sets and I’ve always been like, yo it would be so cool to actually play these songs, actually put in the work of learning these songs. It seems so much cooler than just getting up there and pressing a button. In hindsight, I think that us doing it the way we did was pretty difficult. We had 2 tours going on at the same time, Anywhere But Here anniversary shows sprinkled in between the Forever Emo thing, and that was nuts. The Anywhere But Here songs we hadn’t played in over 10 years and the Forever Emo songs were songs we had never played, had literally just learned. To have to build both of those sets and rehearse all of those songs was a lot. On most tours, you get into a groove after a few days of playing the same set over and over but on this, we were bouncing between different sets.
Jason: Did it remind you at all of when you were first getting started, where the songs aren’t so ingrained in your DNA, and you’re like, “I hope this goes well tonight!”
Derek: I mean yeah, but it’s good, it’s good to challenge yourself. I think we were able to pull it off reasonably well, but I think in hindsight we would have done it differently. I think also, we have such weird feelings about the album Anywhere But Here, and actually doing those shows actually helped me feel less weird about those songs.
Jason: It was kind of cathartic?
Derek: Yeah, I mean it was just such a crazy time for us and the process of making that album was kind of a nightmare. I was honestly dreading doing those shows, and we didn’t want to do a whole tour having to play those songs every night, it seemed like such a bummer. But now it’s like, we probably should have done it. The shows did really well, seeing sold-out rooms singing those songs made me push aside my personal feelings. But, that’s the past, now we’re onto the next thing.
Jason: Is there anything musically or touring-wise that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
Derek: There’s a ton, I mean there are bands I would love to tour with. But, we’ve had the chance to do so much in these 14 years that we’re so grateful for, it doesn’t make sense to focus on you haven’t been able to do. We always enjoy the chance to go to new places which doesn’t happen as much anymore, we kind of fall into the cycle of doing the same sort of runs in the same areas. There’s a ton of bands we would love the chance to tour with, as a band we all love Jimmy Eat World and Third Eye Blind. We don’t really support much though, we’re in this spot where we pretty much only headline which is great, but you don’t really get a chance to make new fans by playing in front of new people. The last support tour we did in the US was in 2014, so you know we just never really get a chance to do that, but who knows!
Jason: Do you have any tips in regards to making music with the same group of people like you have?
Derek: For us, a lot of it was, and this isn’t really a tip, but we all grew up together. I’ve known Brooks since I was 12 and we’ve played in bands since then. We all knew each other from different bands and then we found each other. It all kind of clicked when we started Mayday Parade. We all just genuinely appreciate the fact that we have the chance to do this. Our lives could have gone many different ways, we’re just so lucky to do this. There are times when it’s stressful, when you’re on the road and you miss your family at home. But understanding this isn’t going to last forever and seeing how happy it makes people, that makes it easy to want to keep going and do better.