Music is a journey and, as a writer, songs are vessels that
lead you to places you never thought you'd go.
How would you describe your style of writing?
The root of my songwriting has always been storytelling. That's how I like to write...creating a story, based on my own emotion and experience. It's so much more interesting than writing anything autobiographical. Most people think every song someone writes is about the themselves. Unfortunately, I'm just not that interesting so I have to make up stories.
The majority of my songs all begin the same way...just lyrics and chords on an acoustic guitar. The journey that a song takes from there is like watching it come to life. From its inception in my kitchen or living room, through a development stage where it evolves and takes form, into the hands of a producer and other musicians where it is enhanced and refined, into a studio where it all comes together then to a stage where it takes flight. It is one hell of a ride. When I write a song, I think of it like it's just a shell. It's like, okay...here's this thing. Now, what are we going to make out of it? I tell everyone I work with that nothing I write is set in stone. I want it to change. It's so exciting to show someone an acoustic song...to hear a different interpretation of it...and then to witness the final product.
I have written a lot of songs over the years. It actually amazes me when I think back to my teen years when I couldn't put a song together to save my life. Then one day, something clicked and it started to come together. There is something so special about writing a song...the idea of your words and emotions...your experience or observation...your passions, fears or regrets...combined with melody, rhythm or rhyme to produce this “thing” that five minutes, five hours or five days ago...never existed.
For me, the coolest thing about being a song writer is looking back at something I've written, in an absolute state of disbelief, thinking to myself...”wow...where the hell did that come from?"
Your music has been a real mix of genres. Is that intentional?
The old industry standard of the “musical genre” doesn't exist anymore. There is such a blending of genres these days...so many sub-genres, it's almost imposible to keep track of them. And really, who cares? Music packed neatly into specific boxes labeled “rock”, “country”, “heavy metal”...they just don't matter. Most music fans these days don't care about the classification of the song they want to hear...they just want to hear it!
Artists are sponges. We are constantly on the look out for new inspiration, new challenges, new directions and ideas. Lyrics on a page can lead you anywhere.
My songs, though they start out usually as acoustic tracks, have gone in a lot of directions...places I couldn't have taken them on my own. That's what's exciting about working with new people. They can introduce you to knew styles and ideas and next thing I know I've got a metal or progressive rock song. It's crazy sometimes. It challanges me as a writer and as a singer.
What can fans expect from your new material?
Well, we're gonna go for a ride. After MIRROR, I seriously considered packing it in. I didn't write anything for a long time and I thought I was finished with the whole song writing thing. Then I started getting the itch again and songs started coming at me from all directions. When I recorded the other albums, I basically recorded everything that I had written at the time, with the exception of a song here or there. This time, I just kept writing with no recording planned at all. So, as I head into this new project, I'm going in with around 60 new songs to pick from! It's pretty crazy...I'm proud of myself because it's such a "Springsteen" thing to do. It is going to be really exciting to have so much material to work with. I can't wait to get started.
As for the direction of the new material, I decided to be true to the songs and to myself as a story teller. Don't expect a big, over the top production. It's going to be about the songs. Over the last couple of years I have really emersed myself in country music, a genre that I never really listened to before. As I got more and more into it, I started hearing myself...or my song writing style...in a lot of the music and I started to think that it would be exciting to take the new material down that road. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.
You have to evolve.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a singer/songwriter?
Well, I'm going to date myself, but that would be back in the early 80's. I was big into pop music and I would record myself singing in my bedroom. Let's say, it didn't go over well. I was always listening to music, putting on pretend concerts (for myself), that kind of thing. My mom bought me a guitar for christmas one year and I started to write songs. Well...lyrics, anyway. No matter how hard I tried, I could not put words to music, and it drove me crazy. Eventually something clicked. A friend and I tried a collaboration on some songs he had no lyrics for. I asked him if he'd let me play around with them to see if i could come up with anything. Within a couple of days, I had 4 songs written and from then on the songs haven't stopped coming.
What was the first song you wrote?
I think that would be “Without You”. That one came together both lyrically and musically for me...but it wasn't easy. It was the song “Buried” that I co-wrote with David Parkinson that finally triggered the writing.
What song are you most proud of?
Definitely “Peace Be With You”. There are a lot of songs that I look back on in disbelief wondering how I was able to write it, but Peace really stands out for me. I'm really proud of the overall composition of the song, musically. I think it is the best song I've written.
Would you like to record studio versions of your older albums?
Some yes, some no. The early ones, although I am proud of them as a whole, I don't think they are necessarily worth the time and expense of a studio production. Don't get me wrong...there are songs on those albums that I would love to record. Maybe someday. I always thought “Puppets And Pageantry” would be an amazing album with an over-the-top studio production. The problem is, the theme of the album is so specific to the time that it was written that I don't know if it would find an audience. The songs are very dark and angry. But it would be a kick-ass studio album. I would love to do a full studio version of “Every Town”. I am really proud of that album because I think my writing really took a turn on that one and reached a new level of maturity. There is a lot of emotion on that album and definitely some of my best story songs. Like I said, maybe some day.
Who are your biggest influences?
In one word, “Springsteen”. If I had to sum everything up from songwriting right through to performing, it would be Bruce Springsteen. I couldn't count the hours and hours I've spent with his music and going to his shows. There is a roller-coaster of emotions I experience in his music. He's the best. There really is no bigger single influence on my music than him. But there are so many other artists who I love and who's writing has and continues to influence me. From Phil Collins, U2 and Sting to Kip Moore and Eric Church. It's actually endless.
What advise would you give to a beginning singer/songwriter?
Believe in yourself. Confidence issues and insecurity can cripple you. I have fought with that for as long as I can remember. I had dozens of songs written that I wouldn't let anyone hear. I wouldn't sing around anyone...I kept it all to myself. I let it paralyze me and most of the time the fear won the war. So, believe in yourself. Follow your passion no matter where it takes you. Don't fall victim to fear. Every singer, songwriter or performer is his or her own worst critic.
Who cares what anyone else says?