Robert Moses er endelig tilbake med nytt studiomateriale. Den joviale herren fra Chicago, som har tilbrakt de siste 20 årene i Norge ble raskt en favoritt her på Dust of Daylight, da han ga ut Self Developing Country i 2013. Vi tok en prat med Robert Moses i forbindelse med dagens singelslipp, og ønsket å høre litt om hva han hadde gjort de siste 3 årene og hva vi kan vente oss av platen.
Dagens utgave av The Harmony Crusaders består av Robert Moses: Vokal, akustisk gitar,
Malin Pettersen: Vokal, Anders Hofstad Sørås: Elektriske og akustiske gitarer, Ketil Kielland Lund: Hammondorgel, Terje Støldal: Bass og Glenn-Vidar Solheim: Trommer.
Platen slippes på Voices of Wonder tidlig i 2018.
Singelen «Rise From The Mud» er tilgjengelig på alle digitale tjenester, og ligger som Spotifylink helt nederst i denne saken.
Torsdag 19. oktober har de slippefest for singelen på Last Train, og det hadde ikke forundret meg om man fikk høre litt fra den kommende platen. Sjekk ut Facebookeventet, og kjenn din besøkelsestid. Vi lover at dette blir bra!
Robert Moses, you’re releasing new music. Finally! We have been waiting.
What have you been doing since the last record?
Since the last record, which ended up winning the 2013 Alt. Country Album of the Year at the Independent Music Awards in the US, I have been pretty busy. After the record came out we toured Norway as a band and had some really well received concerts. Last year I toured Norway supporting Mark Olson of the Jayhawks, and I have also played quite a few duo concerts with Malin Pettersen.
I have spent a good deal of time working on the songs for the upcoming album, going to songwriting seminars, one of which was with Pat Pattison, who was Gillian Welch’s songwriting teacher. That was eye-opening to say the least and I took some time integrating all that I learned from him. And since the spring of 2016, we have been working on the upcoming album with Anders Møller and Torgeir Waldemar as co-producers. Now we are in the final stages of mixing and mastering it.
Why did you choose «Rise From The Mud» as a single, and what does that song mean to you ?
We chose Rise from the Mud partly because, musically speaking, we felt it was pretty representative of what the band can do. On the album there is quite a bit of variety when it comes to the songs, so it was difficult to pick something that could indicate what was going to come next without feeling like we are leaving something out, but this one has what we can do in terms of performance, but in a compact version, under four minutes. When I first started to write for the record, I had the idea that this song was going to be part of the thematic center of the album, and maybe lead us towards a bit darker or desperate songs or music than before. I am not sure if that is the case completely, but the song did end up being about hitting a low point in life and trying to find a way to have the destruction or ashes of a past relationship become the building materials for what’s hopefully ahead, like a phoenix or even an alchemist. But mud is sticky and hard to move out of. That is how low points in life can feel sometimes.
There’s a dark, gothic feel to «Rise From The Mud», and I like the lines «Hear my plea, make this fever pass». It tells a lot of the mood of the song. Would you say the records theme centers around dark desperation and the need and abilty to move on from something that didn’t work out, like the song talks about?
That’s good that you got that impression from the song and lyrics. I try to make the music and lyrics match each other in mood, emotional content or what I am trying to say. Yes, you could say there is some degree of desperation in every song, some it ranging from more pure desperation and to desperation with a feeling of joy while moving on. What I write is usually somewhere on a scale whose outer points are confusion and clarity, and it is about the movement between them. If I write about confusion, hopefully there is always a hint of clarity in there, and vice versa. I guess its not possible to know what confusion really is unless there is a little bit of clarity in there somewhere from which to look at things. And there can also be desperation and confusion in which the singer in the song has no clarity at all but really longs for it. I think the scale of confusion and clarity, and the movement between the two, offers a lot of possibilities. That is kind of what I have been interested in my personal life – how to learn and not be fearful of what appears to be ‘confusion’.
How do you work when you’re writing songs? Do the words come first, or do you write melodies – or a combination?
I have written only one song in which the lyrics were finished before I started on the music. If anything, the music, and most likely the melody, comes first and sometimes I will complete all of the music and only have a couple of lines for the lyrics, like maybe where the title in the chorus will be. And then a concept for the song will appear, maybe a new way of looking at a situation that can stand on its own, or even how I see the music ‘moving’ in relation to a wordless mood I want to create, and that will form the basis for the focus of the lyrics. And then it is a matter of whittling it down further until it more clearly centers around one emotion or mood connected to it. When I can see that clearly, when it is something small I can hold in the palm of my hand, then the lyrics come kind of quickly. Most often a combination of music and lyrics arrive in pieces in the beginning, and then I will abandon the lyrics and fine tune as much of the music as I can with this ‘mood’ in mind. Words have always come kind of easy to me, so in a way it is more interesting for me to explore music and the possibilities for expression within it. Music is something where there is no end to what you can learn and develop, and the more I learn about it, the more that is proven to be true. Sometimes I think it can difficult to pin down how songs are written because sometimes I feel like I am witnessing it happen and that my job is to get out of the way of it happening.
Do you feel your singwriting has changed over the last years?
I would say that my songwriting has changed in the sense that I know more about the craft of songwriting, both compostion and lyrics, and I have been trying to experiment with musical techniques since the last record. I look back at some of the songs on the last record and think ‘I didn’t know what I was doing, now I do.’ But hopefully I will say the same thing a few years from now about what I am doing today! That is always one of my goals – to keep learning. But I would say that the aesthetics or the creative process of what I do hasn’t changed. I kind of know who I am as a singer and songwriter. I just have more knowledge that I try to apply when I am in the process of writing or editing it. I like experimenting with new ideas and learning to see how they work.
And how did you approach this recording?
Did you have it all written and planned out, or was there a lot of work done it the studio to get the songs right ?
In the studio, the single Rise from the Mud was written down to the smallest details when it came to lyrics, chords and how the parts of the songs were put together and arranged, such as in the bridge that has a different sort of rhythmic accent.
However, I never tell the band what to play, even though I might suggest a mood for the song or the emotion behind it. I mainly demonstrate what the skeleton of the song is on acoustic guitar, and then they do whatever they like.
So it is a combination of what we all do best – I put a lot of time and effort into small details, and then they spontaneously and joyfully blow it up! I think it is great to watch them do it, too. I try to write and choose songs for the record with the band and what they can do with the material in mind. I leave a lot of space for them to come forward and really express something and enjoy themselves and sometimes I purposely create sections for them. I wrote a song for Malin Pettersen to sing solo on and it really suited a side of her singing she may not get to do all that often.
And a couple of songs I had the producer Anders Møller in mind because certain songs seemed to lend themselves to what he is interested in doing. Everyone involved is able to pick up things quickly in songs and create something interesting on the spot. They have so much experience. We didn’t need many takes. But there were also two songs that are basically instrumentals in which I just had a couple of melody lines for each and a basic outline of what could happen and then they had a lot of space to let loose and create something. They took a little longer for us to do, but hopefully you will be able to hear us playing as if we have just entered a room with all the lights out and our eyes have not yet adjusted to the darkness. One of my goals in working with this band has been to see and then work to their strengths. And it has been a pleasure watching them pour themselves into the music we all made together.
You say you’re writing songs with specific band members or to the bands strenghts in mind. Would you say it is more of a common band effort than the last one?
On the last record, it was a full band effort, too, except that at the time it was recorded there were a couple of band members I had played with only once or twice, so I didn’t know them that well or who we were as a band – even though some of them had palyed together for many years. It was just as spontaneous this time, but now I am able to understand what is going on better and since I know them quite well I can forsee opportunities and try to make something of them. Maybe it is more of a band effort because I am more a part of the band then I was before! I have a better understanding of what my role is amongst these fantastic musicians. I also have to say that the co-producers also played a part in getting or allowing the band to really have fun and express themselves, and to tighten things up and be serious when that was necessary. They both fit into the dynamics of the band quite well. So yes, it was more of a common band effort.
What was your favourite moment in the studio ? What song gave you that «THIS is it!» feeling ?
I have a number of favorite moments when I was in the studio listening to the others work out their parts and then create something unexpected and fantastic. One of them is the performance the band and Malin did on the song she sang lead. It is the quietest, most tender song on the record, one about my childhood and my mother, and Malin’s singing choked me up. The band also held back and played with such sensitivity. And there is another song on the record, also kind of sensitive, in which Anders was able to bring out so much emotion in one of the mixes he did that when listening to it, it made me feel exposed and kind of naked. It was me as I am, for good or bad, nothing really polished over, just exposed. There are a number of moments in which he pulls things out of the songs where he matches what I had envisioned without me previously saying a word to him about it. On the song I am talking about now, I feel he went beyond that and just laid it bare.
I have to come back to what you said about creating the melodies first, that’s not that common in «your» genre. I’ve spoken to a lot of songwriters over the years, and so many of them start with the words…
No probabaly it isn’t. People think they have to say something meaningful in the lyrics, and maybe the lyrics are the only place where they can pack meaning in. I try to put the meaning in the music first and foremost. With the right music you can say something as cliche as ‘if you leave I’m going to cry’, or anything for that matter, and it will be packed with meaning. You can often hear it when songs are written as lyrics first. Maybe the lyrics are nice but the music is often boring. Maybe good storytelling, but there are so many options and possibilities within music that are never explored much less known about.
You can tell a story, which is a mood, with music much more effectively. And many lyricists have too many emotions in their songs. It is a real struggle to get it down to one per song, maybe even one and a half.
I had a long discussion with Jørn Christensen on this subject. I was quite convinced in my opinion that the lyrics are the most important part of the song, what makes you feel something. After an hour of debating, where he knew he had me where he wanted me… he said: «So… how do you feel about Bethovens lyrics»… Case closed.
What made you feel something in my song was hopefully the techniques I employed to gain certain effects, some of which I had not used in a song before and this was the first time doing it. The lyrics are really only supporting the whole thing and offer a platform from which to be like an actor.
The music is the stage, costume, lighting, make up… the lyrics are there to say something after the listener has already been convinced of something.
Yes, because it’s the melody and the instrumentation that create the mood.
You could have taken those words and put a 90s-pop song melody to them, and it would not have any impact at all. I’d just shrug it off as unintersting, without that gothic groove behind it, you don’t stop to listen…
There is only one Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Why try to be them? You have to be incredibly exceptional to mainly have incredible lyrics and boring music – though those two have good music.Tto me, there are so many things to explore within musical expression, it is limitless, so why stop learning and experimenting?
And yes, if you take my lyrics and look at them alone, they could be kind of interesting, there are some good lines, but without the music doing most of the work, who cares? I am not trying to be a ‘meaningful’ person. I am trying to be one that discovers and learns and uses all of the possibilities that are in front of me to say something.
Vi sier takk til Robert Moses for en hyggelig prat, og ser frem til å få høre det ferdige resultatet!