Neal Morse is a very busy man as usual with a new solo album ‘Momentum’ due next month on Inside Out, Flying Colors touring the US and Europe during September and October plus he has a Christmas album due out in November. So plenty to talk about, despite a poor telephone line!
What are you trying to achieve on the new album ‘Momentum’?
I am trying to achieve a good album, to make the album that was the right album this time. It’s not a concept, some shorter songs, its about momentum.
You used YouTube to pick your touring band and they appear on the album. What gave you the idea to do this?
It was by invite, I was looking for certain kinds of players. We had a great response, over one hundred people. We whittled it down to thirteen and then down to the three who are now in the band.
Mr Big’s Paul Gilbert also guests on the title track. How did you he become involved?
I emailed him and I met when we did this side project, a kind of Beatles thing. I love his solo stuff as well. So I sent the songs to him and I wanted him to appear on more of the album but we ran out of time and he just appears on the title track. He did a great guitar solo.
We have tour dates in the US already and we are working on some solo dates for Europe right now.
You have the thirty three minute epic ‘World Without End’ on the new album and I was reading a recent interview with the Flower Kings’ Ronnie Stolt who said they cut down their epic songs as they go along. I wondered how you approached writing these longer songs?
You just take steps, its like a journey really. You take a few steps, then go out further, like a three mile walk. It started out as a classical piano piece, then we changed the organ intro and it just evolved from there.
You are about to start touring with Flying Colors. How did the band get their name?
I had written a line in a song using the words flying colors and the producer Peter Collins heard this and said ‘Flying Colors that would be a good name for the band.’ We ran past this other band members and it stuck.
Will the Flying Colors set list include songs from the various members other bands like Transatlantic and Deep Purple?
Yes we will be doing selected songs from these bands.
Is the idea to do another album based on how successful this is?
I don’t know we haven’t really sat down and discussed this yet. We are basically just getting ready for the tour.
Would you be doing a live DVD form the upcoming tour?
Yes we are planning a DVD shoot.
I notice on your Twitter you are doing a Christmas album and Steve Morse is amongst the guests. Is this all covers of traditional Christmas songs and who else is on the album?
It is traditional tunes like ‘Joy To The World’, ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Drummer Boy’. It is out in November and we are giving these songs the full prog rock treatment. Mike Portnoy and Randy George are on the album, along with Steve Hackett, Steve Morse and Paul Bielatowicz.This is just a studio things right now.
What was the appearance with Spock’s Beard at the High Voltage festival like last year?
It was really so much fun catching up again with those guys. The music was great, the weather was perfect. It was great to spend the whole week catching up with friends in England.
I have co-wrote some of the songs on the new Spock’s Beard album. My brother Alan came out to Tennessee to write some songs with me for their new album. I am involved as a writer on their next album and I’d play again with them on stage if and when the opportunity arose.
What are Transatlantic’s plans?
We are trying to schedule something in but we will definitely record a new album and tour with it afterwards.
Any plans to follow-up your book which was well received?
No I haven’t thought about that. It didn’t come so naturally to me. I enjoyed writing it and the process which was unique and interesting, but I’d really have to think that God wants me to do this.
You are very prolific with all your music. Do you map it out or is it a case of doing the music as the offers and ideas come along?
I always try to plan ahead for four to six months. I always try to figure out what comes next. I pray about it a lot so I can do the best I can.
Your new solo album is out on Inside Out. Are there any plans for a box set maybe, any unreleased songs?
I don’t know that’s a good idea maybe I will have a word with those guys about it. There is some unreleased stuff around.
Do you prefer working in the studio or going out and playing the music live?
I like recording and playing live. The only thing about playing live is the traveling and being away from the family which can be rough.
My favourate part is the initial writing process because you don’t have to get it perfect. You can throw things against the wall, try different things.
How do you decide which covers you record?
Record companies always used to ask for a cover version as a bonus song for albums plus we did them for Spock’s beard when we were starting out as we didn’t have enough of our own material to fill a show. That was how it started.
Every time Mike and I get together we talk about covers. When you have worked so hard on the new music its a great way to let off steam, to run through something like ‘Peace Love and Understanding’ by Elvis Costello.
Any other musical styles you’d like to work in?
I did a Christian folk album that I really like. I like to different kinds of albums. I don’t see myself doing a metal album, but I’d like to do big band and a classical album with a full orchestra.
Message for your fans…
Thank you very much. I appreciate you all very much and pray for us to be able opt play a lot of long prog songs (laughs).
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