If you’re doing it right, your impressionable years, your teenage years, that’s where you listen to the music that shapes you. Short of writing autobiographical songs, it’s the most intensely personal connection to music that 90% of people on the planet are going to have. That’s what’s so cool about Mayday Parade frontman Derek Sanders’ debut EP, My Rock and Roll Heart. It’s not a collection of original material, but it’s somehow more personal than that. These five cover songs tell a story about who Sanders used to be and partly about how he turned into be who he is today.
“I recorded the first song, ‘But Lauren’ originally as a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife in 2017, just over three years ago,” began Sanders talking about his new EP with Alternative Addiction in a recent interview. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything with it, it was just something I wanted to do for her. Then I showed that song to Mike Hanson from Goodbye Love, he wrote that song and he’s someone who I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. He was the first person to suggest that people should hear it and I should put it out in some form. That got the wheels turning. Then I decided that it might be cool to record a bunch of covers and put them out. That song was a song that I was into when I was a teenager. I thought it would be kind of cool to pick out songs along those lines… songs that meant a lot to me in high school and songs that kind of pulled me into the music I make today.”
Going through the track list of My Rock and Roll Heart there are songs from The Juliana Theory, Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate and Goodbye Love. Those are five direct influences of Sanders and Mayday Parade.
“Before high school I listened to a lot of alternative rock/90’s rock and bands like that,” explained the Mayday Parade frontman. “Then I started getting into bands like Saves The Day, The Juliana Theory, and Jimmy Eat World – and that kind of brought me into this genre of music and influenced the music that I’d go on to create. I tried out a whole bunch of different songs, but I ended up picking songs that meant a lot to me and songs that translated well into this style. The ones that felt natural and felt best – those are the ones I went with.”
“These songs genuinely mean a lot to me,” added Sanders. “It was important for me to pay tribute to these bands. It was a little bit of a struggle for me to make these songs my own without walking on them. These are all great songs and it was hard not to feel vain putting them out. It’s a weird thing finding that line, but the response has been really cool, and the process has all been very humbling.”
This EP isn’t just about the connection that Sanders has to these songs, it’s also a bit about Sanders learning how to produce and record his own music. The album started with “But Lauren”, and it started with Sanders working on the song in his own studio set up in his home.
“I have a small set up at my house. I think for a lot of these songs, I Still didn’t know for sure if I was going to release them. I was just teaching myself how to get better at recording on my own. I took my time with it. Whenever I’d have free time I’d jump in and mess around with songs. That first song was three years ago, so it was a slow process. Once I got it all done, I started thinking about what to do with it. It kept moving along and now I’m playing these songs and it’s a real thing.”
Sanders recently wrapped up a very short run to promote this EP. He played three shows featuring the songs from the EP, a couple of other covers, an original song, and then Mayday Parade’s “Jamie All Over” – a song that he got to perform with Daniel Lancaster – the younger brother of Jason Lancaster - while out on tour. Talking about playing the songs, Sanders described how weird it was being up on stage without his cohorts in Mayday Parade, but how it was a welcome challenge at the same time.
“It’s really strange to be doing anything without those guys, for the past fourteen years that the only music project I’ve worked on. It’s also strange to be up on stage where it’s just me for an hour. I was so nervous before the first show in Orlando, but it was so fun. It’s different and challenging. Playing Mayday Parade shows is second nature, I don’t have to think about them. Playing this stuff, it’s challenging, but I’ve been having a lot of fun.”
So, where does this leave Sanders? What’s next beyond the immediate promotion of this EP? He’s kind of taking that one step at a time.
“I haven’t put a ton of thought or energy into what’s going to happen next with it. I’d love to do some more of this. I’d love to put out another EP with original songs. I’ve recorded those and I’d love to put those out at some point. Then I’d love to do some more short runs of shows where it makes sense when Mayday Parade is out. It’s tough because I have a family at home and I’m already gone a lot with Mayday Parade, so I don’t want to be gone even more. I don’t think I’m going to do anything super-extensive with it, but I’ll do something. I’ve been trying to just do what feels good with this. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to do a couple more short runs of shows and then finish up the next EP and see where it goes from there.”-aa