Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Interview with Andrew Osenga

When you record an album inside of a home-made spaceship (while wearing a custom built spacesuit no less), it can seem a bit anticlimactic to approach your next batch of songs with just a blank notebook and a willing musical spirit. Singer-songwriter-studio wizard Andrew Osenga knows this experience all too well as his last album, Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut, was crafted under such creatively constructed conditions. So for his next release - or should I say releases - Andrew is writing four separate EPs, all approached from 4 separate musical genres.
Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone is an exercise in experimentation, allowing Andrew to fully dive into some sonic spaces that are near and dear to his musical heart. The cliff notes version is as follows: Heart will be acoustic singer-songwriter, Soul will be blues, Flesh will be rock and Bone will be ambient instrumentals. As fan of both Andrew’s music and the EP format as a whole, I’m pretty jazzed for the whole thing. 

You can check out Andrew’s hilariously informative Kickstarter video below:  

NoiseTrade: The first question that comes to mind after watching your Kickstarter video is… are you really that bad of a bowler or did you just sandbag for the camera?   
Andrew Osenga: Dude. I'm a horrible bowler. It is true that I go every week, but it's purely for the hang. I've started working on a spin, but I don't think it's helping. There's a reason guys like me picked up guitars in the first place, sports were not for us.  

NT: Your current Kickstarter campaign is to help record Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone - 4 brand new EPs themed around specific musical genres. What sparked this creative approach and why the EP format? 
Andrew: With the EPs, I'll have both a lot of musical freedom and the sense of an assignment. Both are necessary. Indie artists don't have bosses, someone to tell us what to do each day, so I'm looking forward to having a year's worth of songs to write and record on my To-Do list. And the imperative to go further into musical genres I've only really dipped my toes in. 

Having built a spaceship for the last record, I knew I couldn't just make a regular old album of songs. I first wanted to do something simple, maybe an acoustic record, or a collection of soul songs. Maybe a live rock album?  An extension of the instrumental stuff I started into on Leonard (my last record). I basically had those four records on a revolving list in my head and finally realized if I did EPs I could do them all. This would be a bit more fun and ambitious, but revolving around music and writing and not story or set pieces. 

NT: You’ve made your 2003 EP, Souvenirs and Postcards, available for this week only here on NoiseTrade. From your perspective, what similarities and differences can listeners expect between your first EP and these new ones? 
Andrew: Souvenirs and Postcards is one of my favorite things I've ever recorded. It's very raw and simple and has some of my favorite songs. I think the first EP of this collection, Heart will probably fit in nicely with this. I'd really like to be back in that headspace of just finding and telling great stories. A lot of those songs were based on novels and so I've been diving back into the classics on our bookshelf.  

NT: Sticking with the EP-themed questions… what were some of your favorite EPs growing up? Andrew: I've thought about this question for a while. I really haven't had many EPs on my radar until recently, but I cut my teeth on Beatles, Dire Straits and Pink Floyd albums. In the old vinyl days, albums couldn't be that long. A lot of those classic records are not much longer than what EPs are nowadays. 

Also, so many of those records utilized the two sides so creatively. I've long said that my favorite Beatles record was the Side B of "Abbey Road". It is so incredibly and staggeringly brilliant. I just listen to that half of a record over and over. I think that's a whole lot of the reason I've had so much fun with EPs throughout my career. 

Plus, there's a heft and weight to a full album, at least to me. It has to say something, has to accomplish something, has to earn its right to exist. EPs, by their nature, just seem a little more casual. I feel like you sometimes have more room for fun and personality when the expectation of THE NEXT BIG ALBUM are lifted. 

NT: One of the coolest backer rewards on your Kickstarter campaign is one of your gorgeous, heavily-used guitars. Were you surprised with how quick it got snatched up and what are some of your favorite memories with it? 
Andrew: I was surprised. And a little sad. I had thought we might have a tough time getting to the budget I'd set. I want to do this project badly enough to make some sacrifices for it, and that guitar seemed like it hadn't gotten as much use recently so it ought to be the one to go. As soon as I put it up there, of course, I started playing it again and fell in love with that dang Strat all over. Oh well. It's not the first Strat I've owned and it probably won't be the last. And I know the new owner and I'm glad for who it is. That guitar will be going through a custom Leonard overdrive pedal that was a Kickstarter reward for the last project. Almost worth it right there. 

NT: Since your last album was conceptualized lyrically and these new EPs will be conceptualized musically, which boundary lines do you think are harder to create within? 
Andrew: That's a tough question. Kind of feels like another way of asking "What comes first, the music or the lyrics?"  The answer is, writing is rarely easy and good writing never is. It takes time, time and more time. It takes turning off the internet and putting away the phone. It takes setting goals and then moving, ever so slightly, in the direction of completing them. 

As to which is harder, musical boundaries or lyrical, I'd say this time it will be those lyrical lines. The last project trained me to write from this one angle and try to explore it completely. It's going to take work to break out of that. 

The boundaries are a gift, though. They inspire creativity. If you come to a wall and you have a truck full of ladders, you're just going to use a ladder and climb the wall. Now when you're not allowed to use a ladder?  That's where it gets fun. That's where you start seeing creativity rear its head. Those are the kinds of records I love to listen to and so I always give myself rules for each project. I want to figure out how to get over that wall!  Creativity never happens if you don't give it space to start growing. 

It's always amazing what happens when you finally give yourself the time to make some horrible first drafts, to write some terrible songs and clear the pathway. Once the muscles are flexed you almost can't keep the songs in, they just start showing up all over the place. Or at least, the first couple of lines. Then it's back to the work. 

I'm glad I love the end product enough to put up with the process, which is rarely any fun in the moment. But man, do I love the feeling of knowing a song is done and it's good. One of the best feelings in the world. And I've just taken a few hundred people's money and promised to dig up that feeling a whole lot this next year. I can't wait. 

With a week to go, Andrew's already 4/5 of the way there. You can help make this project a reality by visiting the link below:

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