The king of romantic sing-alongs - Chris Carrabba - spoke with me about his newest album, The Shade of Poison Trees, and why the writing and recording process came so naturally this time around. Thanks to Chris and to Sonia at Stunt Company for making this possible.
First of all, thank you very much for chatting with me. I'm a big fan. So how are you doing today?
Chris: Everything is cool. Just packing up. I leave for tour for three months. Getting all my laundry and cleaning up my house and ready to move on.
It's going to be a very exciting tour because we have The Shade of Poison Trees coming out, and a lot of people are thrilled to know that you are coming out with a solo album. Why did you decide to record a solo album?
Chris: It's not a solo album; my band's on it. Have you heard the songs online?
Really? I guess I just assumed it was. I have I heard the songs online - "Thick as Thieves" and the other song you just put up on your Myspace.
Chris: Did you hear the band on "Thick As Thieves"?
Yeah, you're right. I did.
Chris: But I know what you're getting at. It's an intimate record. In the spirit of The Places, keeping it in my pocket, not letting anyone know what I was doing.
You're already leading into so many of my questions, it's great.
Chris: I'll slow down, haha.
Lemme go through my list. There is so much I want to ask. Is there a overall theme to The Shade of Poison Trees?
Chris: It's a little tough for me to disseminate. I'm sure that there is. I'm not sure what it is yet. It takes some time. After I've slept on it a bit. The what did I do with this whole thing?
When and where did you think of the name for the new album?
Chris: Well, there was a lyric while I was writing a song, and it stood out. It hit me and I wrote it on the top of the lyric page. As soon as I had written the words it was evident that was what the album was called. The lyric was As we lay in the shade of poison trees / are we as safe as we let ourselves believe? There is something about that, that encompasses what the whole record is.
I like that a lot. No one knew much about anything about this album. It sort-of popped out of nowhere. Was there a reason you decided to keep this on the down-low?
Chris: Um, I don't know what to say. It's kind of more fun when it's just me for a little while. It's something I haven't been able to do since my second full-length. No one cared that I was making The Places That You Come To Fear The Most. No one cared. There's this big media machine, lots of speculation. I don't really care for any of that. The whole big marketing mania - you have to have it, but I don't enjoy it very much. So I thought that if there was ever a way for me to hand deliver it to my fans, this would be the way. There wasn't a whole lot of hype so I can tell them all at once.
You must be excited to get this out then. What songs are you most excited for your fans to hear?
Chris: Off the record?
Yes, let's say off the record.
Chris: Oh! I don't know. I like them all, haha. There's a song called "The Widow's Peak." It's kind of haunting. Yeah! I can't pick! I really like them all.
Well then, that's the best thing we could hear. What songs off the album meant the most to you to write - most touching to write - to put onto paper and turn into a song?
Chris: That's probably why I said "The Widow's Peak." It was the last song written for the album, and I kind of remember letting my guard down. It's a more morbid song than all the other songs. There's this song called "These Bones." If you can investigate it, there are secrets hidden in there.
Did you have to deal with any writers block?
Chris: No. I knew what I was doing from when I started the first song of the album, which is called "Where's There's Gold." I knew exactly what I was thinking and I knew - easy is not the right word - I knew that it was going to be fluid, and it was just going to flow. It doesn't always work that was, but I knew it would. We finished the record in like ten days, with the exception of one song that carried over and I had for awhile. It was just ten days.
Ten days! That's remarkable. Was there a time crunch?
Chris: No, I had as much time as I wanted. It took ten days to record the songs, and then it took ten days to write the songs. I don't know if that's just a coincidence or whatever. By the way, that's just what I've been told - that it took me ten days to write the album. For all I know, it might've been two months. I would sit down and just hear the song and there was the song. No one was telling me anything except, "There. You did good." With no pressure, it's like no problem. And I was able to sleep in my bed every night. Wild!
Sounds like everyone should record their album that way.
It's a very organic way to go about recording an album, very natural and very special to you. Now, Don Gilmore, who also recorded Dusk and Summer is back on The Shade of Poison Trees.
Chris: We started together for one thing, which was "Vindicated." And the process with him was incredible. He's a reserved guy, very funny, but kind of reserved, you know? He makes sure there was a genuine interest in what we were doing. He wanted it to be care about it and wanted it to be as good as it could be. That was overwhelming, and when we worked with Dusk and Summer, it was absolutely relevant. When we finished Dusk and Summer, the last song we did on Dusk and Summer was the song "Dusk and Summer." I was with the engineer - Don wasn't in the room - he got held up and he was a going to be a little late - so we were just going to record it anyway. He made some comment about his mixing style and how he can make something sound complete without having a million layers. When you work with a producer, their job is to get something out of you, right? Every time I've worked with a producer, it's essentially been how they're getting it out of me. For Don, it's a process with myself - it's just not the same. I can't figure it out; I don't know his trick ... He would never let it be inorganic. And I don't know if that's something that people know about him because he's known for bands like Linkin Park. That's a big-sounding record. People often don't think of big-sounding records as being organic. I do. He makes it big and lets it be organic.
One more question: People want to know if the cover CD will be available somewhere else other than at the tour dates.
Chris: I haven't even thought about. On the Internet it will be. It's probably on there right now! I'm not really sure. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do, to have something to go home with. And if people find another way to get it, I won't be bothered by that.
really good interview julia. dont let people be ass holes, it was well done especially for the alloted time.
Thanks, 'ppreciate it. Whatev, I don't really care. I was so happy I kept my cool during the interview ... I was so excited to be chatting with Chris ... so none of this negativity is going to phase me.