New Album: Jarad Miles in Ancient Wave

The smooth voice of Jarad Miles rolled back into the public ear recently with the release of his third studio album, Ancient Wave. For the past few years, Miles has been a semi-regular fixture on Portland’s folk scene, and his latest work warrants more attention around town.  

From the optimistic opening of We’re Reborn I, to the uplifting rise of the album’s title track, Ancient Wave, Miles’ songs captures the optimism of the American West. Listening to the album, you can easily imagine yourself driving around the open spaces of Miles’ native South Dakota and through the urban landscape of, Portland, Oregon, his adopted hometown. Not everything is sunny, though, and Miles’ pulsing vocal style adds an unsettling tension in more than a few places.

(Watch the video of Ooh Child, a single from the album released in 2013, below.)

A little bit folk, a little bit pop, and a little bit country, Ancient Wave is easy to listen to. Most artists would be loathe to bring together diverse sounds like the steel guitar or a driving synth bass drum, but Miles pulls it off gracefully. He has created a well-done album that people should hear, in this writer’s humble opinion.

Q&A with the artist

To give me a closer look at Ancient Wave, Miles agreed to answer a few questions about the album and what is happening with him these days:

CPDX: How does the new album compare to its previous ones? 

JM: This album was much more collaborative in its nature because I was playing all the songs live with a band. In the past, the songs were much more folk-centric and mostly about capturing my solo performance. This time around it was each band member finding their place in the song and making it their own. I suppose in that way the arrangements were more thoughtful and involved. Also, I would say this album more accessible in that the songs are not just lyrics with acoustic guitar strumming. There is more of a rhythmic element driving each song with little grooves and hooks glued in along the way. It's not lo-fi sounding in terms of its production style like my previous albums, but it still sounds like real people playing real instruments (which it was, well... 98.6% of it). 

CPDX: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

JM: Mostly church hymns and country songs. It did seem that country radio was playing in the background wherever I went there for awhile. I remember Randy Travis' deep voice, and something about John Anderson's songs and one in particular by Mel McDaniel. And Dwight Yoakum. I still love Dwight Yoakum. His song "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" is still great to me.

When I was around eleven or twelve I remember finding a cassette tape of 50s and 60s rock-n-roll hits. I don't know where it came from or where I found it but I popped it in the player and it really shook me up. Songs like "All I Have To Do Is Dream" by The Everly Brothers,  "House Of The Rising Sun" by The Animals, and "La Bamba" by Richie Valens really killed me. I was obsessed with Richie Valens for many years after I learned that he had died so young in a plane crash like he did.

By the time I hit junior high and high school I was hearing all kinds of new stuff- rap, grunge rock, Emo and skater punk, death metal and pop stuff. It wasn't long before I was introduced to bands like Modest Mouse, Radiohead and Wilco that would stay with me through the years. I remember finding Elliot Smith's album XO and some Mark Kozelek's Red House Painters stuff at a Goodwill store in Brookings, South Dakota and to hear that music at that time in that place was like discovering best friends I never knew I could have.  It wasn't until my early twenties that I really became aware of Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Especially Dylan who I would later emulate as I learned to write my own songs.

CPDX: What was the goal for the new album?

JM: I don't know that I had any goals. Well, I must've wanted people to hear the songs. I sorta felt like the songs had their own will to be born. Maybe I felt a responsibility to the songs in some way- to feed them and clean up after them and take them to school.

CPDX: Which song on the album is your favorite? Why?

JM: I should probably say I don't have a favorite. But, I'm not going to fall into that trap. My favorite song on the album is the last song, Ancient Wave, because it gets right to the point and in not too many words. I really thought the outro of the song came out so nice and sweet. It seemed like an appropriate way to end the album. 

CPDX: Please describe your creative process (i.e., where you get your inspirations, etc.)

JM: Basically, I like to write and sing wherever I am but it usually ends up working best when I'm alone at my desk. It can be nice to write from a moving vehicle also. Many times I will play a melody on piano or guitar and words will seem to naturally fall right in. Sometimes the words mean something and other times it's just the emotive sound they have that is the meaning.  Songwriting can be a lot like putting a puzzle together. If ever the pieces don't fit I know it's time to go take a walk or eat a sandwich. 

CPDX: Where can people get your music?

JM: People can find the music at jaradmiles.com, iTunes, Gumroad, Bandcamp, etc. I also have some new videos up on the tubes.

CPDX: Any live shows coming up?

JM: No live shows planned right now. But, I am preparing a live set of new material called Ancient Wave.  It will be more visual and conceptual. I will no doubt debut it before the year 2014 is through. You might look for it on CNN's "breaking news".

CPDX: We’ll do just that. Best of luck to you.

(Check out this video for another example of Miles’ music.)

ABC's new online coffee school

The digital delivery of higher education is making knowledge more accessible to more people than ever before. Increasingly, people are turning to the internet to provide their schooling, and it is now possible to get a complete degree (even graduate science degrees) from some of the best universities in the world, without ever setting foot on campus.

Both students and universities benefit from these changes. Students benefit because they can watch lectures and do the coursework on their own time, giving them the flexibility to work more while going to class. Online education can save the students money too, since they can avoid the cost and disruption of moving to a far-away location.

The universities benefit because the marginal cost of delivering a set of courses online is not much different for ten people than it is for five hundred people, and by putting classes online, universities can make them instantly available to people all around the world, significantly broadening their customer bases and spreading their ideas farther than in the past. Societal acceptance of online degrees is coming around too, and every day there is less stigma associated with them.

Naturally, the movement of education online is not limited to university education. Recently, the American Barista and Coffee School (ABC) announced it was opening a new online school, onlinebaristatraining.com, that offers courses for baristas, café owners, and other coffee people who want to learn about barista training and/or the business of coffee. 

A first look at ABC's new online school

The nature of the new course also makes it easy to take in the ABC curriculum in smaller bites too. Instead of a five-day marathon that could lead some people to experience coffee overload, onlinebaristatraining.com allows the user to digest information in smaller increments on their own schedule. Accordingly, the up-front cost will be lower, with subscriptions starting at $14.95/month.

I reached out to Matt Milletto, VP of ABC, and Phil Schlieder, ABC’s Director of Business Development, with a few questions about the new online school.

CPDX: Will the courses include the full ABC curriculum? If not, what will be missing?

MM: The online barista training platform is not meant to be a substitute to our hands on business and barista training classes, but more of an ongoing resource for coffee bar owners and baristas. We will be focusing more on how to maintain and grow your existing business thru a linear training methodology for your entire staff, and business guidance on how to succeed in this ever changing industry. 

CPDX: Are you worried the online school will compete with your on-site courses?

MM: No, again we are broadening our reach globally and providing an incredibly valuable service to primarily existing coffee bar owners. Our on-site classes represent a full immersion learning environment for those looking to open a new business, and nothing can replace the over 50 hours of comprehensive hands on training our primary class offers. 

CPDX: What are the biggest benefits for the enrollees?

MM: As a coffee bar owner, your monthly subscription gives you a resource to establish a consistent training program and education to your staff. You are able to assess your employees progress, and follow along as they move thru the courses. Also, you are constantly updated with new content to help you succeed, and have a true resource for guidance, tips, interactive live webinars, and more. 

PS: The cafe shop owner that enrolls in our product is able to not only offer a consistent training platform for their employees, but they are also able to use our management tools as well. Right now online barista training offers a business owner the ability to track his employees progress with their training, but we are looking to expand in the future into such things as scheduling and social interaction between everyone at the coffee business. This tool is especially great for businesses with multiple locations and a large staff as they are able to have a centralized location for all things coffee.

CPDX: What makes ABC’s online courses different from other online coffee classes? 

MM: We have not only taken our training methodology to an online format, but have developed a way to ensure assessment and progress that can act as the foundation for a coffee bars training platform. Our course are meant to provide the education, to then take to the espresso machine and practice, practice, practice. We also have eliminated the common large $500+ upfront cost to many other online courses, allowing a business owner to include a small monthly budget dedicated towards training and ongoing education. We have developed a platform that not only includes hours of HD video, but also written curriculum, articles, checklists, live webinars, and more, to promote engagement. 

CPDX: What is the cost of attending the new school, and what can students expect to get for that?

MM: The online platform we have developed starts at just $14.95/month depending on if you are a single barista looking to hone your skills, or a shop owner with 10 employees. 

CPDX: Do the courses include any interaction with live humans?

MM: We plan to offer live interactive Q&A and webinar type education monthly, and as the site grows, we will be offering more and more ways for our members to interact with our trainers and advisors. 

CPDX: How will the courses be laid out?

MM: The barista training methodology is divided into multiple modules, with internal courses and an exam at the end of each. This way everyone will be able to rely on the same training, promoting consistency. There will be additional content added for your staff regularly. A coffee bar owner also has a full dashboard with the ability to add employees and monitor their progress and will have full access to the business and operations content available, as well as the many features we've discussed above. 

PS: Our courses layout is in the form of modules and individual lessons. The main barista training platform includes 7 modules each with between 5-10 lessons. At the end of each module there is a comprehensive exam that the employee is able to test their knowledge. At the end of the barista training course there is a final exam with a diploma awarded when a passing score is reached. Our business courses are geared more for the business owner themselves. These are also delivered in a similar format. For both the barista training and business courses, there will be consistently added content for an evolving platform.

The new school should be accepting signups by the end of this week.

The new school should be accepting signups by the end of this week.

Done right, online coursework can be as rigorous as with a traditional classroom (though you do lose some of the social benefits of the traditional model—i.e., it is much harder to go out for drinks with your online professors after class). But the inherent flexibility and the ability to access the best training in a particular field, no matter where you are, will make online education continue to grow in the future. In the case of coffee training, while nothing can substitute for actual hands-on work with an espresso machine or grinder, an online course can give new café owners a strong knowledge base to work with. Equipped with more information, they are less likely to make costly mistakes and more likely to be successful with their ventures. 

Help for the Instant Coffee Drinker in Your Family

We all have our own unique tastes and pastimes—some people are into sports, others video games. Some like to knit, some roast their own coffee. In Portland, some people are big into pickling. One of my pastimes is watching British sitcoms. 

When I was growing up, I used to watch Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom based around the blundering owner of a small hotel. The proprietor, played by John Cleese, would get into the most awkward situations, usually caused by a combination of his own arrogance and ineptitude. 

As I got older, my interests in British sitcoms widened to include Are You Being Served?, Keeping Up Appearances, Waiting for God, Coupling, and the Vicar of Dibley. Something about the British sense of humor resonates with me. 

Accordingly, the other day, the folks over at Make Decent Coffee, a coffee and coffee equipment retailer based in the UK, sent me the following graphic with a dose of British humor. You can share it with the instant coffee drinker in your life. (Here’s one for you, Dad!)

Transient

(Note: Although far from converted, my father went with me to Water Avenue and Coava the last couple times he visited Portland. In both cases, he seemed to enjoy his coffee—thus, there’s hope yet!)