Super busy! Lot’s of work to promote a new record, ironically even more when people LOVE it! Good problems to have and we have our hands full with our 3 year old son too, so it’s a lot to juggle. Very excited for the new year, new decade, very hopeful.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Old Soul”?
We love this song, where to begin…it’s the lead-off track on the album and really sets the tone for us. It features our blended vocal approach, a special guitar tuning, and was an extraordinary vehicle for our production approach, where we were able to start with simple “a cappella” vocals and gradually grow the sound into something much bigger, while still staying authentic and true to the song.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
First of many great questions you are asking…Not really, although the birth of our “Old Soul” boy, and the love that went into that, is a thread that runs throughout the entire album. The inspiration might also lie in some special places we love, for sure our ancestral cabin up on Lake Superior, Ojai CA, Sedona AZ, Austin TX and the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, are all channelled into the setting and feeling we’re attempting to invoke.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes, there is a lyric video about to premiere. It features a beautiful photo from Lake Superior with a vintage looking typeface. The lyrics to this song are carefully crafted, and there are some words like “loam” and “gloam” that might not be heard properly (mistaken for “low” and “glow”) so we thought it would be nice to share the poetry of the song in a way that gets this nuanced messaging across. We will probably do another more artistic video eventually, but this is a good start.
The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after the band?
Another good question. We struggled to find a great name for the band. But in the past on our solo projects we have often gone into our lyrics to look for record titles, and this was an extension of that approach. The name comes out of the lyrics for our song “Move Like Africa”. Funny, with as much as we sweated the band name, there was little or no discussion about whether or not to name the album the same thing. Certainly many bands have done it, and it seemed like a perfect fit for us. Now if we could just pronounce “eponymous”!
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing experience was sublime. We were in Nashville visiting our friend Keb’ Mo’ and his home studio is such a comfortable creative space. Steve had been experimenting with a new guitar tuning and heard the melody coming out of the guitar part, and came up with the title Old Soul…he had most of the song written before Heather even heard it, but she jumped in and found the hookier vocal parts, as she does, then the song just flowed. We even tried to stall it so Keb’ Mo’ could join us but it literally wrote itself in the space of a couple hours and by the time he was home it was a done deal.
The recording was also special. We had a solid start to the track with the main guitar and the vocals, and we were invited up to Rick Rubin’s studio Shangri La in Malibu to record the keyboard parts done by Eric Lynn. Steve was already hearing the harmonium, then Eric suggested we add piano and we got a great micing of their beautiful Steinway grand. Eric has great arranging ideas so he helped shape the overall sound as we added the various components and the song grew to a bigger sound. Steve was building a tube compressor for a client at this time and we “squeezed” the vocals with that, using this song as kind of a “guinea pig test” for the new compressor, and we got a really nice sound that we then carried through the production on the rest of the album.
What role did California play on the writing on this record?
Interesting question. In a way, not much, because we were channeling places like the upper peninsula of Michigan (old growth pines, cathedral woods), Nashville, and the North Carolina Mountains. But we also have spent a lot of time in some of California’s beautiful places, certainly Ojai, kind of a mystical home base for us, and then Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula where we have friends, fans and family. The old growth cathedral Red Woods are certainly also imagined. We think the song is a touchstone for people’s connection to the land, to the natural and supernatural force of our experience on earth.
What aspect of loss and tragedy did you get to explore on this record?
Powerful question… Heather and I are blessed to still have both sets of parents with us and Heather’s grandfather just turned 99; our baby boy got to meet his great-grandfather. Wow. We have tremendous gratitude for the health of our family and children. We know that we will experience immense pain and grief one day, so perhaps we are “paying it forward” in a sense. That said we are keenly aware that some of our loved ones will not be with us forever…Heather’s father had stage 4 non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and is now 5 years in remission. We wrote the song “Circle Up the Wagons” when he was going through chemotherapy and we thought we might lose him. It was a very scary time.
Back to “Old Soul”, those cathedral pines around Lake Superior is where Steve’s grandparents’ ashes are spread, so it is sacred ground and, yes, these life cycle themes have crept into this song.
What made you want to touch on some of these dark themes?
We think there’s a lot of irony in our lyrics, at least we hope so. It makes things more interesting, kind of a “sweet and sour” palette that gets the juices flowing. Ultimately our goal is to be a “lighthouse”, but you don’t need a lighthouse on a bright shiny day; you need it when it’s dark and the going is uncertain.
How did you go on balancing the darkness with the much uplifting message?
Yeah. I think we try to embrace opposites and the contrasts in our writing. All the best artists understand this and work it into their “compositions” one way or another. Van Gogh for example, using “complimentary contrasts” in his painting, a vibrant red against a vibrant green, a blue against a yellow, to create an ecstatic effect. So in “Old Soul” you have a scene where people are gathered in a church-like setting, outdoors, singing songs, as the sun is going down and you are approaching the golden hour just after the sun sets. We tweaked the order of the phrases “a prayer sung low” and “a song sung on high”, presenting it both ways, and then came up with some nice phrases like “sugared light” to describe that magical light. Then we stumbled on the somewhat archaic language, which also helps forward the quasi religious feel of the lyric, with the beautiful words “loam” and “gloam”. Loam, the earth, sand and clay, decaying leaves and other organic material, humus, which I suppose has an even darker meaning if you want to go deeper… ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust… Gloam is a wonderful word, referring exactly to the hour just after sunset, the “belt of venus” when the sun’s light is bent coming into the earth’s atmosphere and creates the gorgeous reddish light so sought after by photographers and cinematographers. So we’re dancing in that light, and the impending darkness of night doesn’t stand a chance of ruining the moment for us. Ah, now we’ve done something special. It comes from our own real experiences, but if we’ve accurately transcribed that feeling into words, then we will resonate with our audience’s own unique experiences. And if we can talk about lightness despite darkness, then we have achieved some kind of balance. You cannot know one without the other.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
We are slaves to the words. We will go anywhere to find them. These days you have few excuses, rhymes and synonyms are are a few clicks away, google and wikipedia, seconds away, we will go deep down “rabbit holes” searching for language that fits our theme. We also read and we write. Constantly. Like working out your muscles. Object writing, teaching ourselves how to tune into our senses for denser and more descriptive verses. We write poetry to free ourselves of the structures imposed by songwriting…if we’re lucky that will trickily back in when we write songs. Classic novels, like Paul Bowles’ “The Sheltering Sky”, which was a big part of the impetus for “Move Like Africa”.
And then true life experiences. Sometimes the words will take songs away from the “true stories” that gave birth to a song, but that’s OK with us…that process can make things more “universal” and less “topical” which makes songs sound more “timeless”. But there usually is a kernel of a situation, a real story, that births the song, and gives it its authenticity, even if it is obscured by the lyrics in the end.
Any plans to hit the road?
No plans, just dreams. Hopefully our music makes travel possible, but for now we are happy at home raising our boy, and seeing we comes of this record. If we are blessed with offers to bring our music to various corners of the world, we would love to do so.
What else is happening next in Love Me In The Dark’s world?
We are working the PR now, a totally different process for us, and a bit of a learning curve, trying to get the album to radio, to Spotify, to Youtube etc., and see if we can build some momentum and fan base. We both have done other musical endeavors, but this is after all a brand new band and we need to see what kind of impact we can make just by making it all public. Then we’ll see. Otherwise, we are teaching, producing, recording, “healing”, trying to help people through other avenues. That is what Love Me in the Dark is about!