Interview with Neal Morse
DPRP’s André De Boer
Being present for a concert review at the Zoetermeer gig of the Prog Rock Royalty Tour, with Neal Morse and The Flower Kings performing and doing a Transatlantic set together as well, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to have a little chat with a relaxed Neal beforehand.
André: Let me start with thanking you on behalf of the Dutch Progressive Rock Page. That’s what this interview is for. And of course I will be doing a concert review tonight.
André: It’s been a few years ago since you left Spock’s Beard. For me that was the biggest disappointment of the year. Because I thought you’d never make any music again. And that turned out to be my biggest mistake.
Neal: Yes, Many years now actually. Well, I didn’t know this was gonna happen, really.
André: Was it your intention, to stop playing music? Writing music?
Neal: No, I didn’t know. I figured that God was gonna use me in music in some way. But I didn’t really have any idea how. I only felt like I got the instruction to finish the album we were working on and than quit. This is what I felt in my heart when I was praying. And I kept praying about it every day for many months and I kept feeling the same thing. And so I finally did it. And it was very, very hard [looking away]. I didn’t know what I was going to wind up doing. So…I’m so blessed, you know. Because now every night we’re on stage and we are playing. And it’s so much fun, the blessing of God is so strong. I’m amazed how it has all turned out!
André: I’m amazed too. Because of all the energy you will have to put in it. And the dozens of productions you’ve made until now.
Neal: It’s incredible.
André: Yeah, it is incredible. Where do you get the energy from?
Neal: From God, that’s for sure! It’s the spirit of God that gives me the strengths and the creativity really, all the times. I wake up in the morning and I feel something from the Lord, like ‘go and write’. You know, there is no shortage of creativity with God. He’s got plenty.
André: Okay. Does he support you on the high paced life you have right now? You were in Spain only a few days ago…
Neal: Well, it is not that high paced for me particularly. I mean, touring is challenging, but I try and make sure that I get to my bunk fairly early. You know, so I try to get to bed by like 2.30 and then I try to get enough sleep. Sleep until eleven. As long as I get enough rest and I can get outside and walk and get some fresh air I feel okay, you know. It’s kind of a strange life. I wouldn’t want to do it for any more than like two weeks. Than it starts to get weird. But I’ll see my family in like four days now, so I’m feeling good [thumb up].
André: Talking about getting outside, is this weathering sky now or not?
Neal: Yeah, it is a bit. I see a little bit of blue!
André: About your songwriting. How do you do it, what is the first thing you do when you start creating a new song?
Neal: Usually I write the music first. With a couple of phrases. [thinking] But sometimes the words start. Like for example with Freak on the Momentum album. I just woke up in the morning with this thought of “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer”. Which I heard somebody mention, it’s a scripture from the bible, I heard somebody mention it. Actually it was on a TV show that I was watching. And the next day it all came from the lyrics. So sometimes the music is lyrically driven.
André: Like Weathering Sky?
Neal: Yeah! For Weathering Sky the chorus came first. Than I wrote the rest of it around the chorus.
André: And that was because of a nice day?
Neal: No, I was walking around the studio with my handheld recorder I think [gesture of pressing a button] and just had that chorus idea. You know, sometimes I’m on vacation with my family and I’ll be out for a walk with my wife and than I say ‘hey, I am hearing this melody’ and I just lay it down.
A lot of times I wake up with it. Which is interesting! [smiling] It’s like the angels are planting things in my brains. It’s great! Praise the Lord.
André: So we can enjoy it! You are a multi instrumentalist. When you go on a tour, you will have to choose. Will the guitar be my main instrument? Or the keyboards?
Neal: Yeah, what will I play on this part. The guys need to know so they can practice their stuff. So I just kind of think about the song, I would I like to play guitar here. You know, I’ve got a band of multi instrumentalists now. So it’s almost like I don’t even need to play a lot of the time! So I’m pretty much playing the things that I want to play. So I send them an e-mail, saying ‘at this point I’m gonna play this part maybe you should play that part’. And I divide up the vocals. Generally, in this band, Eric sings the high parts and Bill sings the middle or I will.
André: Neal, you’ve done one album with your brother. Four o’clock and Hysteria.
Neal: Yes, yes, his solo album.
André: Any plans on doing something like that again in the future?
Neal: I’d love to! I thought it was a lot of fun. And I like the album a lot, I think it was really a cool thing. It’s up to him. Sure, I’m up for it. I was basically in on helping him to do his thing. I only spent maybe a little over a week on it. We got together and we wrote for a few days. We didn’t have any words to write! You know, it’s just melodies and jams and stuff. You can go really fast sometimes. It was great.
André: You were very busy in the past ten years. Are you going to take a little rest or planning new albums?
Neal: Well I’m going skiing with my family next week in Austria. So we have some time to rest. Than we are having a church meeting in Frankfurt. And than I go home and I plan to rest a little bit but I’m really feeling to write. Writing for me is like…very enjoyable and very pleasant. It’s like being on vacation. So, I should have most of April to take it fairly easy anyway.
André: And another album is to be born?
Neal: Oh, sure, yeah! Other things will be happening. There is a new Transatlantic in the offing. So I will be thinking about that. We’re scheduled to get together in my place in Nashville at the end of May. So I guess this is our big announcement! [hands in the air] We are all really looking forward to that.
André: Me too!! Is there anything you would like to say to our readers that I didn’t ask?
Neal: Well people wanted a new Flying Colors. I don’t have any idea when it is will be released, but we have been writing together on Skype. And we probably get together this year and hopefully for a release in the following year. So I don’t know what’s gonna come out this year, but next year should be pretty good! [big smile] And I just want to say thank you to all the Dutch progressive rock fans. I really appreciate their enthusiasm and their heart and their care for the music. You know, you can’t have a great concert without a great audience. I couldn’t make these albums if it wasn’t for you and all those like you. So I’m really really grateful to be able to do this. And all the Dutch fans are part of that. Very thankful. And good venues, good people. Just a good feeling. We love you!
André: Neal, I thank you very much for the interview and for your time. I will see you tonight!
Neal: Yeah, you will be in for a treat. It is the ultimate prog night I think!