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AM Interview

Posted on 03 March 2010 by UnSpunHero

Acclaimed singer, songwriter, and musician, AM, sat down with us to discuss major achievements, past and present albums, and rugged acts of man violence.


Los Angeles, CA

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You were born in Oklahoma, raised in New Orleans, and are currently residing in Los Angeles. Has each stop in your life affected your music?
AM: Definitely. Tulsa was where I spent my innocent years. First learning how to play guitar. Seeing my first concert (Hall & Oats). When my family relocated to New Orleans I was exposed to a much more intense culture. I think everyone feels it when they go to New Orleans…it just has a vibe. I spent my “coming of age” years there and it couldn’t have been a better experience. My family actually lives right outside of New Orleans in a small town called Mandeville, but New Orleans proper is only 3O minutes away. It was this perfect blend of small town and big city, both culturally and musically. In Mandeville I got to be around acoustic and bluegrass players while in New Orleans I was exposed to all of this jazz, funk, soul and R&B. Later when I moved into New Orleans I just dove in to experiencing that city. My love of soul, jazz and groove definitely comes from New Orleans. Some of the best years of my life. Los Angeles is the third chapter. Adult life I guess. The pace is much different here, but still one of the most diverse cities both musically and culturally. Everything is here. There are so many amazing musicians, filmmakers, writers…it’s hard not to be humbled constantly. I also think picking your neighborhood is important in LA. It’s so big and overwhelming. When I moved out here from New Orleans I asked all of my musician friends that had ever been to LA where I should live. They all said Silverlake/Echo Park…I’ve never lived anywhere else in LA.

In 2008, you released a duets album with friends and other Hotel Cafe artists. How is working as a collaborative effort different than your typical solo initiative?
AM: The whole duets project actually rose out of me being kind of sick of myself. I had a bundle of songs, but at that time wasn’t feeling inspired to actually sing them. I figured I knew so many talented singers, both around the Hotel Café and elsewhere, that it was insane that I hadn’t collaborated with anyone and decided to put together an EP of duets. Everyone said yes and it was done so quickly. It was so exciting to hear someone else’s voice on my songs. It actually inspired me to start doing more writing for other artists and to do more collaborating.

You covered While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison as a duet with Tina Dico. How did you come to choosing such a significant song? Was there any pressure associated with this choice?
AM: I’ve always loved the song. The original has such a rock vibe I really wanted to expose the beauty of the song by making it more of a ballad. Of course after it was done I was like “what did I just do! Who do I think I am touching this song!” Eventually I just said screw it. Everyone covers songs…or should. I haven’t encountered any enraged Beatles fans yet, in fact quite the opposite. People seem to dig it, which I couldn’t be more happy about. Hopefully I did the song justice.

Throughout your career you have been the recipient of many prestigious awards from major publications like LA Weekly and iTunes. Does any award stand out as your most significant achievement?
AM: I think the LA Weekly award stands out because it was totally shocking. KCRW in Los Angeles had just started playing my record, I was still so new to everything. All of a sudden I was at the Henry Fonda Theatre and Brian Wilson was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award and I was picking up this Best Singer/Songwriter Award. I was like “what”? Happy, shocked, and of course felt undeserving. I mean c’mon, “the best singer/songwriter in Los Angeles?” In fact I remember walking up to a club shortly after the awards and this guy I knew said “hey, here comes the best singer/songwriter in Los Angeles”…we both started laughing.

Your debut album, Troubled Times, had all 10 songs featured in films and television. What do you think the album’s connection was with the screen?
AM: I’ve always been a big fan of the arranging side of producing and writing. My songs have never been the type that you could just “jam” too. They’re specific and arranged. I think that combined with a total resurgence of directors and filmmakers wanting more than just score in their projects probably led to many of my songs getting used. A little bit of right place right time, but also I think my music (even more so now) has cinematic leanings.

Charles Newman (who has a long relationship with the Magnetic Fields including 69 Love Songs and the new album Realism) produced your latest album, Future Sons and Daughters. How did this relationship develop?
AM: I knew I wanted my next record to have a more playful quality so I knew he was good at that type of stuff. I had always dug the productions he had done with The Magnetic Fields and had a feeling we could drum up something groovy. I started making Charles mix tapes of all the music I had been digging on the last few years…Brazlilan Bossa Nova, 60’s and 70’s Italian and French Soundtracks and Turkish Psychedelia. We sought out to combine my love for that music, but put it up against something modern. We wanted to hint at the influences, but not let them dominate the sound of the album.

Your video for Self Preservation flashes images of rugged acts of man violence. Does this theme play into the inspiration for your song?
AM: Absolutely, but not just “man violence.” Human violence and cruelty, which can manifest in many ways. The song is a commentary on the “survival of the fittest” mentality. The video uses a lot of Union Films which are of course full of men. We chose that footage because it has a playfulness…you can tell it’s fake. The subject matter deals with a much bigger and darker question. That as humans we’re programmed to survive, even if it means letting someone else die. I mean an act of self preservation happens every time you deny a homeless man money. Every time you keep something for yourself while someone else struggles. But how do you live in such a world as master or victim? Try to be compassionate when you’re in the dominant position and when you’re the servant you just gotta keep moving. You gotta stay alive.

Any last words?
AM: The band and I will be hitting the road with AIR on their North America and Canada tour in March. Check out www.amsounds.com to see if we’re coming your way.

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