At the the recent Flying Colors gig at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire O2 (a stunning show that I was fortunate to witness), DPRP’s John Wenlock-Smith caught-up with Neal before to the show to discuss his new album, Momentum, Neal’s future plans and how the Flying Colors tour was going.
Neal: Ah nice to meet you.
John: I have some questions for you, actually about the Momentum album
John: Momentum, I’ve had the album for a couple of weeks and I’ve had a good listen to it and it seems to me that there’s a bit of a shift, a bit of a lyrical shift in that on your other albums there is a lot more focus on your faith, this time around it seems to have not backed off but there’s a different type of perspective, what’s your feeling on that?
Neal: I don’t know. When you’re writing you kind of you write whatever is, it seems to come out at that time, I don’t know how to put it very eloquently. I would have said this is what came out of me at this time, I wasn’t really…you can’t really plan these things, you just kind of write and stuff comes out and there it is. I felt this is what God wanted me to say and do at this time and I did it to the best of my ability, I hope people are blessed by it, but as far as, well I recognize, it’s a little bit lighter in terms of Christian content compared to, well certainly compared to the Testimony albums where I’m testifying about what God’s done for me in my life. It’s different from those, its shorter songs, 5 shorter songs and 1 long one, I know there’s some stuff about God in there and some references to Christ, but it isn’t like I’m giving my testimony, it’s a little different.
Neal: A different flavour, but I feel it’s the right thing for the right time.
John: That’s good; when I listened to the album I got a sense of joy, a sense of urgency about the whole album really.
Neal: Well I don’t know, it seems kind of funny to talk about, it’s not, I’m glad that’s what you feel from it. I feel like it’s got a real freshness about it, it’s kind of intense but a fun album, it’s a little more, lighter than some of the heavier stuff I’ve done, and I don’t really know why you’re in it and creating, it’s like you are just painting against the canvas you know and then you step back and go ah, what do you think? So it’s kind of where we are now.
John: Have you got plans to tour with this album?
Neal: We are doing some dates in the US, we’ve got us dates and a date in Mexico City, and we’re working on dates for Europe, and praying about it, talking about it.
John: and the UK?
Neal: Hopefully, yes we’d love to come here, I’ve got this really good live band and I’d love to bring them here.
Neal: Oh well he was one of the guys that auditioned and he seem to just be, well you know there were a lot of good people, it’s amazing how many good musicians are out there you know and really nice people too who were very talented, but Adson (Sodré) was just a little bit, a cut slightly above and I thought, we thought This is the guy. It seemed right, right away when he came and played, he doesn’t speak very much English but I could feel his heart too; he’s the right guy and he’s an amazing player, has an amazing heart for God and has a good voice too.
John: So he shares your faith as well?
Neal: Yes, and of course it’s not a requirement but it’s nice that it’s turned out that way.
John: That they are sympathetic to what you believe?
Neal: Yes, well you want to feel that as much as possible, that you’re on the same page you know, that you are pulling for the same thing, you know, it’s very nice.
John: That’s good that’s really good. I was going to say how does Neal Morse wake up in the morning and know whether he’s in Transatlantic, ex Spock’s Beard or whatever else you’ve been up to?
Neal: Ha Ha!
John: You wear that many hats…
Neal: Well you know I wake up in the morning and I pray, it’s the first thing I do when I get up and I’m asking God all the time, What do you want me to do ? What’s next? What do you want me to do after this tour? What do you want me to do and a lot of times, I get some clear direction, which is great. Sometimes it’s just like, well wait and see and things become clearer as you go, sometimes you can’t. God may now give you a floodlight to your future but more of a light to your pathway through your next step.
John: Obviously you’ve played with a lot of different types of people, one of the things you did recently was to play on the Affector album, Harmageddon with Ted from Enchant and Daniel Freis. How did that come about? How did you enjoy doing that?
Neal: Well I’ve been friends with Daniel Freis for many years, who had been working on it first and I knew Colin.
John: He was in your band?
Neal: Yes, he was the bass player; Colin and I are good friends, so I’ve been friends with three of the guys so when they asked me, I said sure.
John: Did you enjoy that session?
Neal: Yes, they sent me the tracks, quite a while ago now.
John: But the album only came out this year…
Neal: Yeah, A long time in Nashville, so I was home, so that was good.
John: I reviewed the album for DPRP…
Neal: Oh Cool!
John: Yes I seem to get your stuff and their stuff, so that was fine, you’re obviously a Christian a keen Christian, a practicing Christian and that’s fine, have you ever thought of pulling in all the heavyweight Christian prog stars you can find and doing something?
Neal: I have thought about it, but I’ve never felt it was time for that, never felt like the green light you know. I don’t know, I pray about a lot of different projects and sometimes I feel like that’s for me and a lot of times I don’t and I just don’t do it.
John: You know Kerry Livgren from Kansas ?
Neal: Yes, sure, I know a lot of the guys. I have thought about who and what role, but just getting everybody together in the studio and to pray and see what might happen would be a really cool thing, but I don’t know.
John: Could be really interesting to see what would come out of that…
Neal: It would be, it would be.
John: What’s next for Neal Morse after all this?
Neal: Well we’ve got a week to prepare for the Momentum tour, it’s pretty short it’s like 10 dates around the states plus one in Mexico, then I’m going on holiday with the family for a week. When I come home the Christmas album comes out, a Christmas album that I’ve worked on with a lot of guys, Steve Hackett, Steve Morse, Pete Trewavas, Roine Stolt, Mike Portnoy; a lot of people have played on this Christmas album it’s called A Proggy Christmas by The Prog World Orchestra.
John: Sounds interesting…
Neal: It’s a bunch of Prog versions of Christmas songs, some of them are straight depending on the song, but some of them are really out there. Mike Portnoy riffing out over Little Drummer Boy it’s a lot of fun and Shred Ride with Paul Bulatovich, the guitar player who’s so amazing, he plays on Shred Ride and Mike Portnoy’s playing on that too, Sleigh Ride goes all shreddy, I think it’s fun,
John: It will be good and interesting to hear
Neal: I think so. I like it, lets see how people take to, it’s out in November.
John: I’d love to hear it, that sounds really good. So how is the Flying Colors tour been going for you?
Neal: Great, Great. It’s been really fun, It’s been really different in a lot of good ways you know. This is really interesting, it’s a really unique thing, Flying Colors I think. This group of people, these songs, it’s just been really really good and a nice break from the three and a half hour marathons. We have a support band and we only play for about an hour and forty five minutes, it’s been really good, audiences have loved it and it’s been great.
Neal: Probably, probably. Everybody’s getting on really well and we are really feeling it so I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
John: A question of scheduling I suppose?
Neal: Yes, of course, always.
John: Busy with their other bands or projects. So it’s a case of getting you all in the room together and doing something, because the Flying Colors album was all put together fairly quickly?
Neal: I think nine days writing of the initial album, two or three days for vocals and then overdubs at our individual houses, and mixing later. I’m really happy with it, came out real nice.
John: Good. Well I’d better let you go it’s been a delight to talk to you.
Neal: It’s been nice to talk to you as well.