How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
I write concept albums, so: first I picture the story arc of the whole album as if it were a screenplay, then I figure out who the characters are, then I pick a spot in the album that needs to fulfill a role in the plot — the characters are meeting, fighting, falling in love, etc.
Once I know who the characters are and what’s happening at that moment, the verses tend to come incredibly fast, because I feel like I can just hear the characters talking. The choruses take longer because I hold myself to some consciously higher standards about the phrasing and sound of the most important lines.
Very typically, I’ll do a quick instrumental track in GarageBand, sing a draft of the lyrics over it, and put it on SoundCloud so I can listen to it as I walk around. Then I jot notes in my phone when I come up with new lines or a better way to say something. Sometimes I’m in the kitchen or whatever, and I have a huge realization — often it’s because some line in the chorus suddenly fell into place — and I’ll sprint back up to the studio and rerecord the vocal, because I can’t wait to hear it.
I always write lyrics in some kind of online doc, and I do an enormous amount of polishing individual rhymes. But it’s funny — no matter how much you think you can improve the song via typing, there’s no substitute for singing through it. Often this will completely flip over whatever clever idea I thought I had going.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in songwriting?
Keep your choruses simple, powerful, and repetitive. A chorus really has to deliver the goods; to hit the heights in one way or another.
Are you ever scared of revealing aspects of your personal life/experience to strangers through your music?
No. I just don’t think most people are going to try that hard to draw a connection between my lyrics and my life. Even if they try, they may see meaning where I didn’t intend any. And if someone guesses correctly, you can just be mysterious and not confirm it. It’s reassuring to remember that no one can actually read your mind.
What is the best lyric that you ever wrote (the most meaningful for you)?
Everyone’s watching your movie / Catching the rays from your glow
Everyone’s taking notes ‘cause everyone hopes / To bottle what’s making you go
Everyone sees it slide off you / No one but me sees the cracks
No one but I sees the beauty inside / The disarray under your mask
Is there a link/a common theme among the songs of the new album ‘Omicron’?
Yes — the whole album is one story, start to finish, involving three characters (with a fourth appearing in the last song). Pretty much every song is either about power (as the characters revel in confident moments or try to convince each other of something) or its opposite (as they reflect on some corner life has pushed them into).
Among the songs of the album, is there a particular song that has a special meaning for you?
It’s “Silence,” which comes right after the title track. It tells the story of the whole album in microcosm, and it has one of my favorite lines, which I almost used two questions ago: Enemy / Don’t become a friend of me / I’ll never give indemnity.
What is the best suggestion your producer gave you?
He said that when I smile, my personality comes through in a positive way that can be heard on the track.
What are your plans for 2019?
Share Omicron with the world — and begin recording the sequel, which is already written.
To conclude the interview a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Define in one word your album ‘Omicron’: Intense.
- The best show you ever played: I sat in with a bar band in Venezuela. The guitarist was nervous about lending me his Telecaster, so I picked it up and kissed it. I’ve never forgotten how reassured that seemed to make him.
- The one thing that you must have in your backstage: Room temperature Perrier (I heard Robert Plant likes it hot, but that would be a bit much for me). I got this from Resonate Music in Burbank which has the best kitchen.
- The soundtrack of your childhood: Many U2 albums.
- Your favorite song lyrically speaking, but not written by you: “Buzzcut Season” by Lorde, particularly the chorus.
- Last question is “unusual”, we want to know your best relationship advice: Read ‘The Five Love Languages’, even if you feel certain from the title that it’s not for.