Exclusive Interview With Neal Morse (By Diego Camargo)


By Diego Camargo

Progshine – Neal, 2011/2012 were definitely busy for you, weren’t they? You released the second Testimony, a book, live boxes of Transatlantic and yours, a Xmas album for Inner Circle, recorded Flying Colours, then released it, then a covers album, the drums DVD from Testimony 2 Live, recorded a new album, Momentum, that will be released in September, gathered a band together to play your next tour which is already happening. Have I forgotten about something? (laughs).
Tell me Neal, are you trying to conquer the world? (more laughs)

Neal Morse – Yes, you have forgotten something like 5 more or how many more 6,7 or 8 or more inner circle releases. Well, I guess I try to keep busy. (laughs) No, I am just trying to do what I feel inspired to do in the moment. Something surprised me like the Christmas album. I really wasn’t expecting to make such a thing out of it, but I went driving into town one day and started singing into my recorder. I just had all these ideas and when I started to flesh them out it became like a whole album. Sometimes I am not expecting it and I get surprised as well.

Progshine – There’s one thing people kept asking me when I announced I would do this interview. ‘When will Neal Morse come to Brazil?’. That was mentioned lots of times. Is there any chance? Especially now, with Adson, a Brazilian, in your band? Let me tell you, you and Transatlantic have big audience here, for sure! Do you know any brazilian music by the way?

Neal Morse – I know some of Adson music and people have sent me some Brazilian bands. Yes I have heard some Brazilian music, there is some pretty cool stuff going on down there. I would love to come to Brazil, I am sure Transatlantic would love to come to Brazil. We just never have had any kind of good offer from a promoter down there. If we got one and it seemed like a good idea we would certainly come. We would all love to come and play for you all down there. It would be great and I am sure Adson would love it and he could translate for us. (laughs)

Progshine – And about your 2 new records this year? Cover2Cover and Momentum, tell us a bit about both.

Neal Morse – Well, Cover 2 Cover includes 5-6 covers from I think the Lifeline sessions and 5-6 covers from the Momentum sessions. In January Mike and I were talking and we definitely wanted to get together and record something. He had some time and I was feeling like it was time to do that. So Mike and I were talking about what to record and he wanted to do a Covers album. I didn’t want to get together just to do a Covers album. I was more excited about making a new album, but I really didn’t have the material. I felt like if I would booked the sessions the music would come, as it says in the liner notes of Momentum it really came in a big way. So, we made the Cover 2 Cover album and the Momentum album in the same sessions essentially. It was really fun we really had a good time it was pretty intense, it usually is, we used every second of time we had which we usually do. So, Cover 2 Cover is a collection of covers, there is a really great version, and my favorite cut is “Come Sail Away” by Styx. I heard that when I was working out at the gym one day, the original version, and thought someone should redo that with the drums really kickin’ and maybe it should be me and Mike. So, that is one of the ones that really stands out but there is a lot of really good covers on there, Jethro Tull tune, Neal Young rock block and all kinds of cool stuff. Momentum is my new prog solo album, it’s kind of more like the Lifeline album or Spock’s Beard V. In the sense that the content is similar, the layout is kind of that way there is like 5 or 6 shorter songs and then one big epic at the end. The epic at the end of this on is called “World Without End” I think it is one of the best we have ever done. The shorter songs are really good, it all just turned out great I think you are going to love it!

Progshine – Talking about such extensive work, it has been a big trip since Spock’s Beard, hasn’t it? 17 years and counting. How do you feel about your musical journey after all these years? Do you have any big dream not fulfilled yet? Maybe some musician you would like to play/record with?

Neal Morse – I feel great about my journey! I feel God has been so good to me, we have been so blessed. You know there are always things if you compare yourself to others there’s people you might think are doing better, then there are people that are doing worse in terms of sales and all of that. I just try to stay out of that and just be thankful for the music Gods given me and my family and that I am able to do music full time what a blessing very few people get to do that so I am very grateful. My big dream is to record and to perform particularly with a real orchestra, like with the Nashville symphony, that’s a big dream that is not fulfilled yet. I would love to do that if the Lord would make a way someday. That’s one of my big dreams.

Randy George, Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy

Progshine –And after so many records and projects, can we call you a musicaholic? (laughs) Do you have any favourite album you’ve played? If yes, why?

Neal Morse – I feel like I take a lot of time off as well. People think I am a workaholic or just a music maniac. I went camping with the family and took a lot of time off. I wrote a few songs during the three weeks, but I spent a lot of time with the family and just resting. I think it is really important in our walk with God. He will give us rest, so we want to enter into His rest which is just a wonderful thing. One of my favorite albums if I had to pick one of mine it  would be the One album. I don’t know why exactly it just really touches my heart and  I love the way it sounds. I love Phil Keaggys and Rick Altizers involvement it just really touches my heart and I think it is one of my strongest albums, is the One album.

Progshine – In Testimony 2, you gathered the Beards together again for a very special and amazing track, ‘Time Changer’. It was a natural thing to do I guess, cause that is the moment when you tell the story of the band, right? I just always loved the Gentle Giant influence at the vocals you guys had. How did people take the track and Testimony 2 in general?

Neal Morse – I think Testimony 2 in general went down very well. Having the Spocks guys guest at that point is kind of a funny thing it’s like if you were doing a movie and your telling the story about some people and then all of sudden the actual guys show up in the movie and do their part. You know that was really cool that they agreed to do that and I really think it is an awesome section of the album.

Progshine – Talking about the Beards again, are you following their news? I’m aware that you wrote some pieces with your brother Alan for their new album, right? Nick D’Virgilio’s departure was a shock at the beginning, wasn’t it?

Neal Morse – Well, yes but you know everyone has to do what they feel compelled to do in the moment. I wish Nick all the best of course. Yes, I do keep up with the Beards. I have been talking with my brother Allen pretty frequently on the phone. We just talked yesterday and he told me how it was playing the Loralie festival in Europe and I told him about playing at Cornerstone. So,  I keep up with what is going on with them in a general way and I am really excited about their new album. Yes, I did help write a few of the pieces. From what I hear the things that I have heard just sound absolutely amazing, I think is going to be one of their best in awhile.

Progshine – I interviewed Roine Stolt (read the interview HERE) a couple of months ago and I asked about Transatlantic, he answered me ‘I don’t know when it will happen, but I’ll be definitely there and will love every minute’. I know that the group isn’t supposed to record every year, but you know your fans and how much they love Transatlantic. Plus, The Whirlwind is the album of the decade! Do you see any album in the near future with the guys?

Neal Morse – Frankly I have been trying to get them together, but Pete and Mike their schedules will not seem to permit it. Pete does not have any significant time off until the late Spring of next year. So that is what we are looking at this point unless something opens up. So, we will just keep writing, praying, plugging away and maybe that is just the perfect time. We will just see how it goes.

Progshine – Beside your Progressive Rock career, you’ve been doing Christian music for over a decade now, am I right? How your Christian albums are received by your Prog fans and vice-versa?

Neal Morse – Well there is a certain crossing over, you know there is a certain amount of people who like both kinds of music. But, there are a lot of  people who don’t. Some Christians that don’t get prog and a lot of prog that don’t get worship music. So, I just do what I feel called to do in the moment and let it be a blessing to whoever listens to it. I am kind of like a chef, I cook up all kinds of different food and just hope it nourishes the people who eat it.

Progshine – You’ve been playing with Mike Portnoy and Randy George since 2003 or so. At the moment, I think there’s chemistry and a very close relationship between you guys. It’s very much like a family I guess. Can you tell us how it’s to work with them?

Neal Morse – It’s great! It’s so great to have people you trust and that you know and you can count on. Not just for great musical performances but also for great collaboration and great input into your music. I have become quite addicted to that. It gives me great comfort. Like when I am working on a piece many times I can relax and know that I don’t have to have it all perfect. If I am missing it those guys will help to put me back on the right track.

Randy George, Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy

Progshine –And to complement that, tell us about the new band, how the idea of the internet auditions came together and how is to playing with a completely new band?

Neal Morse – It is absolutely amazing! These guys are just incredible! I mean they showed up Monday morning really knowing all the material. We started working out background vocals on day one because all the music was there. They are really nice guys and just great! I can’t say enough good things about the new band. Not to cast off on any of the older bands because I have had a lot of great bands and been privileged and blessed to play with many great musicians. But, this new band is really special and great. I am very grateful.

The idea for the internet auditions came while I was thinking about these festivals. I was already thinking about the Momentum tour. I was already thinking about putting together a smaller group, because the Testimony 2 were larger because of the strings and everything. So, I was already thinking of putting together a smaller group for the Momentum tour. I thought I would like to find a group of people who were closer to me and who could play and sing all the material. So, I thought I would put it out there to see what we would find and I think we have been very, very blessed.

Progshine – You are definitely a working progger, 2011/2012 proved that. What can we, fans, expect in 2013?

Neal Morse – (laughs) Wow! I am still trying to work through 2012. But, I would imagine in 2013 I would hope, I don’t know for sure, there would be some live material released from Flying Colors, some live material DVD or what not from the Momentum tour as well and hopefully an new Transatlantic. Who knows what else, you know I will have to pray about it.

Progshine – Neal, I want to thank you for your time and the great music over the years. Now I would like you to give Brazil a few words!

Neal Morse – Well, Brazil I love you and I want to see you just blessed in the Lord. I wish you all the best that God has for you. My word is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things shall be added unto you” We can’t wait to see you and we hope to get down there to play. I hope a promoter will contact me and we can play down there, I think it would be awesome.

God Bless you all and take care. Bye.

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