INTERVIEW: Patrick Ames
Hi Patrick, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I have been great. I’ve just finished a year’s residency at a local venue here in the SF Bay Area, and it was both envigorating and productive. And during those sets, those reps of songs, and refining them, a new LP grew up. I’m about to release it on leap day Of 2016. It’s called “The Free Will in Patrick Ames.”
What´s the story behind the title behind your EP The Free Will In Patrick Ames?
Oh, it’s a bit of fun I get to have now and then. Yeah, it’s a pun on the old master, on “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” the record that launched Bob Dylan. I know, ha, ha. Anyway, The Free Will here is about being authentic as a songwriter, and choosing to do so, even though I don’t know what in the hell drives me to write songs and then sing them.
How was the recording and writing process?
I write 2-3 songs a month, pretty regular, so it’s never a question of “Do I have enough songs for a LP?” It’s finding the right musical space to record them in. For “The Free Will” I established a band, then slowly filled in the band personnel, digitally, in software. With each new track they became more alive, more of their own personality. Once the core parts of a song were recorded I moved in to refine each band member’s contribution. Some songs featured one player or another, and I gave them timing nuances, milliseconds early, for instance, for a more humanlike feel. The whole process took about 4 months, and on some songs I went into the software to digitally paint the notes, the phrases, the melodies.
So, the whole LP starts with the street sounds of “Come Back to Me”, a Romeo and Juliet type incident, with the (digital) band and I (a little intoxicated) singing I up to my girlfriend’s window. It’s fun and clever, but what it really does is introduce the band to the listener in a fun way. And throughout the LP the listener keeps coming back to those band members and their instruments as we romp through the tracks and the various decades of musical styles.
The Free Will in Patrick Ames is all about these multiple instances of myself that were created for the LP. It sounds weird here, written on paper, but once you listen to the LP, you get it immediately.
In some way the LP is a tribute to Dylan as well or is the only similarity between this record and Bob is the title you borrow?
You mean the title I punned. <laughs> The LP is a tribute to songwriting, Dylan’s and many, many others. I’ve been called “Dylanesque” so many times that I thought I might as well accept it and pun the great master. If it is like Dylan and others, it’s because I use all the song genres to do so: blues, New Orleans, gospel, protest, rock, disco, and country, and then kind of munge it all together. So yes, it does pun the great master, but I do think it moves onto my own little world quite quickly.
The album is pretty eclectic but it has a strong 80s vibe into every song – did this decade played a role in the album or is it a coincidence?
It does have an 80’s vibe, thank you. When I was mid-way through recording Mi Gato, track #4 on the LP, it started to sound like Fleetwood Mac and something by Stevie Nicks. And of course, opportunist that I am, I grabbed the ball and ran with it. The lyrics are about the death of my pet, so the band, mind you, my digital band, just kind of ran away with that 32-bar disco vamp to get me to a better mood… <laughs> But yes, all the songs use classic chord progressions so you might contribute that sound to older decades. But really, there’s a few 1960’s songs (Freedom Summer & On the Next Sunny Day), some 1970s (And the Angels), 1990s (Hold Me & Come Back to Me) and songs that only make modern sense because of the lyrics, such as My Nightly Prayers Are Getting Long which is about the current 2016 Presidential Debates.
Does your technology knowledge influence your music as well?
Yes, it does. I’m fascinated by this era we, as a culture, are moving through, from analog to digital. That’s because I’m an analog songwriter who is digital maverick. If all that makes sense to you, then what I tried to do in The Free Will of Patrick Ames was merge the two together. That’s my sound.
Any plans to hit the road?
That’s another thing that is about to change in the digital world… Right now I’m concentrating on hitting the web, getting and maintaining a web presence, while also looking at streaming programs and venues so I can play the world and not just another bar in Iowa. I actually prefer being a weekly attraction at a local venue rather than putting together an expensive and exhausting tour – and when I’m on the road I don’t write. I’m a songwriter more than I am a performer, but hopefully you can catch me in the San Francisco Bay Area this year.
What else is happening next in Patrick Ames´s world?
I am writing new songs, constantly. And as you review this new LP, I am writing and performing songs for the next release. In fact, I’m a quarter of the way done. The new stuff is fantastic. ; ) .