An Interview with NEAL MORSE, Winner of 2014 Prog Sphere Hall of Fame

Neal Morse interview

Prog Sphere has recently finished the first edition of the Prog Sphere Hall of Fame, with 64 acts competing for the title. Neal Morse made it to the final stage and in the grand final he faced progressive rock’s one of the most loved and missing bands – Porcupine Tree.

It’s amazing really! I’m really surprised,Neal comments on the recent news. “I would think that Porcupine Tree has a bigger fan base then I have. They are an incredible band. But, I’m really flattered that so many people voted for me. Thank you. Yeah, I am amazed at how devoted the people who appreciate my music are. People meet me at events and say things like “I drove 800 miles to be here.” It’s truly incredible.

Morse completed a new solo album called Songs From November, which is not a classic prog release from him.

I took a different approach because it’s a very different kind of album for me. I haven’t made a song oriented album in many years,” he acknowledges. “The approach I took was to get with this very young, and I mean very young, drummer and engineer by the name of Gabe Klein, and began to just play the songs down with only piano and drums to feel out which ones were the best.

Neal Morse - Songs From NovemberFor Songs From November, Morse recorded 20 new songs, but 11 made to the album.

I even did some pretty full production on many of the ones that didn’t get used. I then sent the rough mixes of the songs out to about six people that I trust. It was hard to choose even after I got feedback because the people didn’t always agree. But I think it was fruitful and the results are on the album. I was listening to it yesterday and it still holds up even a month later!

On the new album he is straying from his trademark prog sound towards more simple song structures.

I guess it’s just the period in my life and what I’ve been listening to and what I’ve been going through,” he admits. “When I’m going to relax on the deck for example many times I’ll choose to listen to a singer-songwriter album, like the other day I put on Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman. I love the stripped-down approach. There’s so little going on. Sometimes that’s really nice. Anyway, last November I started writing some simple songs and thought it would be great to make a record like that. I had to wait until the TA tour was over and then I began it in April.

Neal told us that he is already considering making another album in the same stripped-down style as Songs From November.

I am enjoying the album so much I’m already thinking about the next one in that style. But who knows, you never know what the Lord has in store.

Lyrically Songs From November is far more simpler compared to some of Neal’s previous solo efforts.

In general, this album has more simple themes. The music is simpler and so is the subject matter. “Flowers in a vase”, is about how nice it is to spend an evening at home with my wife. “Whatever days”, is a lighthearted look back on my days before I was married. So, most of the lyrics are about simpler things in life that most people can relate to. However there are a few that deviate from that. The song “Wear the Chains” is a bit of a social commentary. “The dreamers all got day jobs” is how the song started and really where the whole song sprang from in my own mind. It’s about the high ideals we have one we’re young then after a while we wind up being very happy just to have a decent job and pay the bills. But, most of the songs are pretty straightforward lyrically.

Flying Colors

This year shapes to be very busy for him. He released the fourth studio album with Transatlantic, toured the world, and besides work on his solo album he also completed a new Flying Colors record which is called Second Nature.

In my opinion, Second Nature is a little more progressive. I agree with Mike who has been quoted as saying that without a producer we kind of went off the chain a little bit in some parts and that’s a good thing. So, I think this album is a little more experimental. But all the great elements of Flying Colors are certainly there. Casey‘s voice is soaring, and the songs and composition are real strong as well as the instrumentals. I think you’re going to love it!

Neal will be hosting a two-day event in November in Nashville called Morsefest.

We will be performing the entire Testimony 1 album on Friday night, the entire One album with bonus tracks on Saturday night. We will also be having a special Innercircle acoustic concert in the day time on Saturday and also a prog name of that tune featuring Mike Portnoy. It’s going to be killer! I can’t reveal any guests yet as we are still working on it, but it is surely not to be missed in my humble opinion!

Neal praised our work with the whole Progstravaganza project.

Bands need platforms to stand on. They need a place to launch and express themselves and get known. That’s something that was always a struggle for us in the early days. So bravo! Keep up the good work!

Songs From November is out now, buy it from Radiant Records here.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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