MENU Profile // Half Seas Over ***FREE DOWNLOAD***

Profile // Half Seas Over ***FREE DOWNLOAD***

April 8, 2010

Half Seas Over is singer-songwriter Adam McBride-Smith and pianist Elan Mehler and we’re really very excited to be releasing the album of tender, richly cinematic songs that they have created together. Drawing on folk, Americana, jazz and rock, it sits at the midway point where two musical styles converge. “This record” says Adam, “is about bringing together our two very different musical backgrounds – folk and jazz” which, as Elan explains, is not always an easy thing to do: “Jazz musicians and singer-songwriters don’t even seem to speak the same language. But in some ways this project was a natural transition for both of us.”

Check the band at Au Chat Noir in Paris on Friday 16th April or at one of our favourite London venues – Cafe Oto – on Tuesday 20th April. You can bag your tickets for Cafe Oto over HERE.

The duo’s self-titled album drops on 3rd May on Brownswood Recordings so we thought it might be nice to introduce you to Elan and Adam to get the skinny on how the album came together.

What’s your musical background?
E: I’ve been playing piano since I was 6. Discovered jazz in high school via Duke Ellington and majored in piano performance at New York University. I’ve been blessed to play with some great musicians and feel very lucky and proud to have recorded two albums for Brownswood.
A: I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 15. When I was a teenager we lived in the country, so I think it was a way for me to combat boredom and teen angst (and still is). I guess at that age I listened to a pretty diverse mix of music: a lot of country and blues but also jazz and classical – one of the nice things about playing with Elan is that it has reconnected me with jazz which I hadn’t listened to as much in recent years. My influences are always changing, so that’s a hard question to answer. At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Joanna Newsom, Kevin Coyne and John Coltrane. I’ve been in a lot of bands since I was a teenager. Most recently “Tenkiller Twins,” which was a folk/country duo with my good friend from Oklahoma, Marisa Frantz.

How did you first meet?
E: We met through the bassist Paul Defiglia who was in my band and also played on Adam’s first record.
A: I think I was aware of Elan musically before I met him. Paul had played with Elan and we used to listen to his music around the apartment (we were roommates for a few years.) But its hard for me to remember when exactly we met for the first time. There was undoubtedly liquor involved. I think he might have made some ungentlemanly advances at a party. My memories are hazy.

What characteristics (musical and otherwise) made you want to work together?
E: Adam has the sweetest smile and very lustrous facial hair. Also, he writes really great songs.
A: Writing and playing with Elan is really easy for the most part. He has good ideas but he’s really open to letting a song develop in unexpected ways. His understanding of harmony is something that awes me. But as an accompaniest, he has a really subtle approach that I admire. It’s funny though: in spite of that subtlety, he’s definitely the one who is laying out the architecture of the song in performance. I was reading this interview with the Rolling Stones recently and they were talking about Keith Richards and how “Keith doesn’t play with you, you play with Keith,” or something along those lines. I think there’s something of that in Elan’s playing too.

How has it worked with one of you in Paris and the other in NY?
E: Well, once we decided to write a record together we started sending back and forth little recordings of fragments that would gradually turn into full fledged songs. It’s my first time collaborating on compositions and it’s really opened up a whole new element for me of my own musical sensibility.
A: It was tricky, but we worked out a pretty good method for writing songs using digital recorders and the internet. Elan made a few trips to Europe last year and I was back in New York once, so in the end we were able to make it work.

Can you sum up the album and what it means to you please?
E: To some up the whole album in just a few words seems like a tall order and perhaps a little self-defeating but I’ll give it a shot. “Half Seas Over is an album of devastating and perhaps prehistoric power that captivates the very essence of our shared humanity and the tenuous and fleeting qualities of life itself. Making this album has cost me at least 20 years of my life.”

Do either of you have any interesting quirks/habits/rituals on stage, or before going on?
E: Unceasing, enormous and profound flatulence.
A: I don’t need to be drunk to get up and perform, but I like a beer handy when I’m on stage. It’s kind of a crutch. I just need to know that its going to be there for me… to whisper in my ear and tell me everything will be alright.

What’s on the HSO rider?
E: I copied Jose James’.

You can check out more Half Seas Over album tracks on the Brownswood Jukebox or on their MySpace.