Q&A: Ed Kowalczyk
After years of fronting Live and then embarking on a solo career, Ed Kowalczyk decided to turn the recording process "on its ear" for his new EP, "The Garden," which is set for release Nov. 19.
The EP includes four original tracks, a cover of John Lennon's "Mind Games" and five remixes from artists including Elder Jepson (Evanescence, Cartel), Karsh Kale (Sting, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan), Jamie Candiloro (Ryan Adams, Luscious Jackson, R.E.M.) and Juno Reactor (The Matrix). Produced by Candiloro, the EP was recorded in Los Angeles.
Kowalczyk's honest and earnest songwriting is still there, but the tunes are filled out with instruments like a Wurlitzer and a myriad of percussion. It re-energized the singer/musician, who built an impressive resume with his Live bandmates that included eight full-lengths and nine Top 10 radio hits such as "Lightning Crashes," "I Alone," "Selling The Drama" and "Heaven."
"A lot of [the EP's sound] was Jamie, my producer, super talented," Kowalczyk told SoundSpike about the evolution. "He was sending me versions of these songs in that he was really creating different soundscapes for me and how I had heard myself in the past, from the way the vocal was recorded. From the very beginning I was very excited and had the mojo kicking big time."
Two years ago, Kowalczyk released his first solo album, "Alive," which spawned the hit single "Grace." He is traveling the country with his "I Alone -- Acoustic" tour. "The Garden" is the predecessor to his follow-up album due out in mid-2013.
Kowalczyk took the time to talk to SoundSpike about "The Garden," his acoustic jaunt and what he has planned in 2013.
SoundSpike: Tell me about the making of "The Garden." I understand you recorded it a little differently.
Ed Kowalczyk: It's been finished for a little while, then I started putting on these remixes. I was pushing back the release date -- but it wasn't for lack of it being finished. I started February/March with my producer, Jamie Candiloro. He has a small studio on Melrose. I was going down there. The way I started doing these is I brought the songs in and the first thing we did was take out my acoustic guitar, my tracking guitar. In this point in my career, it had always been the starting point for everything that followed rhythmically in the production. My and Jamie's idea was to get rid of that right away and really start with the vocal and the melody. How can we deconstruct our idea about what this should sound like and start with a blank slate? Immediately, a song like "The Garden" has really interesting percussion and things in the beginning and a little bit of a Wurlitzer rather than a guitar in the intro -- things that are a little different for me in terms of the palette. Right away, it got me really excited because I knew that I was pushing myself and going beyond what I had done before. I mentioned the remixes; well, once all the songs were finished in a way that reinvented the wheel a little for me, still you hear a song like "The Garden" or "Rise" and they rock. It's recognizable in terms of what I've done in the past. What I really wanted to do was go further than that. For each song there's a remix. My favorite one right now is this one that Elder Jepson did for "Rise," which Hawkman, my friend who's a Jamaican singer, is on. It's totally different than the album version. It made the EP come out a little later, but it was a lot of fun and totally worth it.
"I'm The Proof" is a remarkable song on the EP.
It's a song about catharsis and change and transformation and moving forward. That's not always easy. There's always stuff to overcome. I feel blessed as a musician to be able to express that. If I couldn't, I would probably go crazy. But to be able to write a song and to have a song contain that emotion was great. That's what it's all about. People who have heard that song say that they're going through something, their conscience is changing or they're growing. Here's this song to go along with it or become a soundtrack to it. I wrote the song with a really good buddy of mine. It was funny, the session was about 50 percent actually sitting there with guitars writing, and 50 percent having one of those deep, spiritual conversations you have with a buddy. "And hey, we have this amazing song. Check this out." It was a fun song to produce, too. I did two versions -- a sort of rock version and I decided to do a duet with a girl named Eva from Eva and the Heartmaker from Norway. She's got one of those Nordic, angelic voices, almost a Kate Bush kind of Celtic vibe thing. There's a real strange but beautiful kind of quality to her vocal. So when she did that and sent that back, I thought, "This is something really special."
I understand you're working on a full length?
I am. I'm in the mid-stages of seven or eight more songs. I'm hoping to have that done mixed and everything so we can bring that out in the spring of next year.
Are the EP tracks going to be on the album?
All of them will be on there except for "Mind Games;" the John Lennon cover will not be on it. We're going to do a different cover for the full length. That will just be available on the EP. There should be seven or eight of my songs and another cover that I've wanted to do for a long time.
You're on an acoustic tour right now. That must be fun.
I love it. I still rock about half the time. I have my full band that goes out a lot, too. The "I Alone -Acoustic" tour, which I am currently doing and going to be doing into next year, I love it. It's really malleable. It's me by myself, or me with my friend playing box drum percussion, or a show with me and my bass player singing background. He's got a great voice. We do it a couple different ways. It's essentially a stripped-down acoustic show that's based around me banging on the guitar and going back to the core of where my songs come from, which is almost always with an acoustic guitar. They translate into that environment easily.
Do you perform Live songs?
All the hits from my work in Live get in there. People want to hear "The Dolphin's Cry," "Lightning Crashes" and everything from "Throwing Copper." We get a good amount of that in there. It's a show that spans my my first solo album, "Alive," which came out a few years ago. Then, of course, there are now two or three from the EP and from the new album. The fans really like it. They get everything they can sing along to but they also are exposed to where I'm at now and where I'm going.
What do you have planned for next year?
The new album in the spring and more touring. I'm going to go to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I'm taking the "I Alone -- Acoustic" tour to Europe in May and June, so I'm really excited about that. I think it's probably going to be mostly the acoustic shows because I'm having so much fun doing those. And the songs "The Garden" and "I'm the Proof" are really amazing like that. More worldwide touring and putting out the rest of the full album.
7 - El Cajon, CA - Sycuan Live and Up Close
17 - Bay Shore, NY - YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts
18 - Englewood, NJ - Bergen Performing Arts Center
15 - Chicago, IL - City Winery Chicago
28 - Keene, NH - The Colonial Theatre
1 - New York City, NY - City Winery
2 - Fall River, MA - Narrows Center for the Arts
3 - Sellersville, PA - Sellersville Theater 1894