giovedì 31 maggio 2018

An interview with Amanda Somerville

An Italian translation is available here.

Multifaceted and hyper-productive metal singer Amanda Somerville is back with the new album by Trillium, the band she fronts, called Tectonic which is being published these days. To discuss her new work and her other projects, Amanda accepted our proposal for an interview that we are offering our readers today.

We would like to thank Amanda for her kindness and availability.

125esima Strada: Hi Amanda, first of all thanks for the time you are giving us. Let's speak about Trillium's new album Tectonic first. To me it's outstanding and it's maybe your best record so far, how was this record conceived and written?

Amanda Somerville: Thank you for your interest and I’m very happy to hear you appreciate Tectonic! It was quite the labor of love, taking a long time to create. In the time since Alloy came out, I got married, had three kids, went on many tours and released several other albums, like Kiske/Somerville and Exit Eden, so there was a lot going on. Tectonic is a lot about all of what went on in those years and trying to make room for everything in my life, especially the big change of becoming a mother. I think it’s always life-changing and a huge adjustment to have a child, no matter who you are, but combining a career - especially a music career - with that is an incredible challenge. The first year after my first daughter, Lana, was born, I pretty much only wrote lullabies and silly children’s songs. Full Speed Ahead has a lot of race car metaphors in it, but it’s basically about me waking up one morning and realizing, "Whoa. I need to get back to myself as a songwriter and serious musician!"

My husband, Sander, and I wrote, produced and recorded everything you read and hear on the album almost entirely on our own. It was a major undertaking and yet immensely gratifying because we work so well together and love what we do. We are both really happy with how it turned out. For many songs, Sander had composed and tracked instrumental demos that we then reworked together and I wrote the lyrics and vocal lines to. Sander was in charge of the main part of the the production to get the instrumentals polished up. There were some songs that began differently, like Shards, which I had written and recorded as a piano-vocal demo and then we re-worked the arrangement and Sander laid down the instrumental tracks. Nocturna began as an acoustic guitar-vocal demo by a friend of mine from my hometown in Flint, Michigan, named Ashley Peacock. But everything ended in the same way, with hard work and wonderful musicians, just as you hear it on the album!

Of course there’s the geological definition in relation to a figurative meaning in my life as a reason for my naming the album Tectonic, but it’s also having to do with art and architecture and the combination of various elements in order to make a new work of art or structure. This album is combining so many elements and experiences from my life that span the last seven years that it’s really an incredible structure for me to present to everyone. I’m so very proud of it.

125esima Strada: Is there any song in Tectonic you like better than the others? If so, why?

Amanda Somerville: You know, it’s always been difficult for me to choose favorites amongst my songs because they’re kind of like children to me. They’re all special to me for different reasons, so I’ll just take a few as examples and tell you why.

Time To Shine - I chose this to be the opener because I think it epitomizes what I set out Tectonic to be: heavy sounding with a positive and uplifting spirit. It’s about keeping on working to fulfill your dreams, staying true to yourself in the process and not letting anyone stand in the way.

Shards - This could have been the opening track because it’s really the song that transitions the restlessness and emotions from Alloy, leaving that behind and beginning anew with everything in Tectonic. I love the song and it means so much because, after writing it, I felt free of all of the darkness in Alloy.

Fatal Mistake - This is probably the saddest and heaviest song on Tectonic and I will NEVER play it live because it was so difficult to even record for me, but I still love it. My music is like therapy to me and my songs are like a journal in many ways, this being no exception. I wrote it after my friend and bandmate Simon Oberender committed suicide just before we were going on tour with Trillium in 2012. Tectonic is dedicated to him.

125esima Strada: My favorite song is Eternal Spring because it shows both sides of your voice: the power and the sweetness. What's the story behind this song?

Amanda Somerville: That’s wonderful, thank you! I co-wrote that with Yves Huts, who was the original bass player in Epica, along with another song that’ll probably be on my next solo album (whenever that’ll get done!). He sent me the instrumental demo track and then I wrote lyrics and the vocal lines and tracked some vocals. He really liked it and actually ended up using it as a wedding song for his brother. It’s definitely a love song!

125esima Strada: If we compare Tectonic to Alloy it seems that this new record is more metal oriented. Do you agree? If so, what's the choice behind this?

Amanda Somerville: Yes, definitely. My husband is the metal child of all metal children and so anything he touches is bound to end up very “metalized”! Haha! Since my background is really more folk / pop / rock, that’s how most of my songs start out sounding. I’m also a piano player, not a guitar player, so my songs needed him to bring out the edge and create a heavier sound. We both wanted this album to be more “pure” in the metal genre than Alloy was, which was kind of a mixing transition for me.

125esima Strada: How do you explain that your pop and jazz oriented solo records are so different from Trillium's albums and from pretty much everything else that you do?

Amanda Somerville: Well, that was really how I grew up as a musician and is my foundation, where I come from. Even though I’ve lived in Europe for many years and I’m fluent in various languages, my mother tongue is and always will be English. I feel that’s very similar to my musical path; I’ll always be a “singer-songwriter,” but I’ve also added hard rock and metal to my musical being.

125esima Strada: One of my favorite records of yours is Heroes Temporis by Magni Animi Viri. How did you get involved in that project and how do you like the original Italian version?

Amanda Somerville: Oh, yes, that’s really a great album. I got involved just like I have with many other bands and projects; Giancarlo [Trotta, producer of Heroes Temporis -- Ed.] contacted me and asked if I would like to be a part of his project. He sent me the original songs and I thought they were really beautiful. I think the original versions are amazing! What a voice Ivana Giugliano has! Really incredible.

125esima Strada: Talking about another of your current projects, will there ever be a second Exit Eden album?

Amanda Somerville: Yes, as a matter of fact, we’re recording it right now!

125esima Strada: I remember you mentioning more the once that you don't consider yourself a metal girl, so apart from metal what other kinds of music do you like?

Amanda Somerville: Haha! Well, I’ve become much more of a “metal girl” than I ever thought I would and have really embraced it. There’s really also no escaping it, living with my husband! I love jazz, specifically old-school, big band and modern easy listening jazz. I also love pop, rock and singer-songwriters like Tori Amos, Imogen Heap and Sarah McLachlan.

125esima Strada: Who are your all time favorite musicians?

Amanda Somerville: Paul Simon is my all-time favorite musician and songwriter. I met him once a long time ago in Hamburg and it was so embarrassing; I was a total fan-girl fail. He actually told me, “It’s all right, it’s all right. Calm down now.” Oh, my God!

125esima Strada: Thanks again, Amanda! It was a privilege speaking to you.

Amanda Somerville: Thank you and all the best!

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