Interview:: Josh Rosenthal’s Q&A about Overture, Album 1 of 4 in the Suite Project

27 Aug

Singer/songwriter Josh Rosenthal has undertaken a gargantuan task by releasing a series of four albums in four months.  The project, simply know as the Suite, speaks of how people live together in community and relate to one another.  The first of the four albums, Overture, introduces listeners to the substance of the next three albums.  Overture is now available on iTunes.  The second album, Even the Strongest Hero, is slated for a September 15 drop.  While this article was originally intended to be a write-up about Josh’s work, I was too impressed by his answers to let my words get in the way. So I bring you Josh’s introduction to the Suite’s first installment, Overture.

Why are you releasing the Suite as a series of four albums?

Two reasons.  One, I feel that it will grab people’s attention.  I don’t have the luxury of radio play (yet) so until then, I want to generate as much grassroots word of mouth as possible.  Two, each album tells a different part of this idea of community and how we live our lives together.  Each facet needs its own identity.

How does Overture lay down the framework for what is to come?

Overture is a stylistic taste of what’s to come.  Album  2, Even the Strongest Hero, is a solo acoustic album. Just me and my guitar.  It’s a broader commentary on what living in seclusion sounds like.  Solo acoustic albums always force the imagination to add other instruments and other people to the song.  While acoustic albums are good, the listener would always benefit from more–while living life alone, we benefit from being surrounded by more people.

Album 3, Lonely Together, is a full band album.  It’s the one I’m most excited to release.  There are a lot of instruments in this one.  Full band albums usually entertain the listener more (I think).  But sometimes, living in a tight knit community can leave us wanting less.  People get so involved in each other’s business that seclusion sounds better.  If that’s the case, go back to the acoustic album for a bit, then come back to the full band album.

Album 4, For a Day, is the most ideal approach from a community stand point.  I’m spending a day with one artist for each song.  We’ll write and record a song together in one day.   Two instruments and two voices.  No more, no less.  Overture is a snapshot of all those titles.

“Amy, Please” is my favorite song on the album (not just because my name is in it)—what’s the story behind this song?

Most of my previous albums have elements of dealing with my parents divorce.  “Amy, Please” is the nail in that coffin.  I’m healed of that pain and uncertainty.  “Amy, Please” tells the story of the night I learned my parents would divorce.  My dad called to tell me to come home.  I knew what was coming so I asked my friend Amy to take me because I knew the news would be bad and I knew I’d want to leave after he told me.  It’s really the story of our need for friendships in the most painful times in our lives.

“Down to the River to Pray” has an old time gospel sort of feel—why did you choose to go acapella with this one?

Alison Krauss’ version is my all time favorite.  I was heavily inspired by it.  Mainly I chose acapella because it commented on what life in a village might be like.  When I think of communal living, I think of voices.  I don’t think of instruments.  “Down to the River” is my way of showing togetherness and interconnectedness in a traditional sense through song.

What are “You Won’t Last” (my fave song!) and “All That Matters” about?

Men are very concerned with their legacies.  “All That Matters” entertains that idea.  It’s about a young boy finally realizing that his grandfather’s stories were meaningful.  His granddad’s parting thoughts are “all that matters when you’re dead is the legacy you leave behind.”

“You Won’t Last”, again, is about our need for each other.  If we don’t know how to love when we are doing fine, we’ll be lonely when we’re hurting.  If we don’t know how to build meaningful friendships, when we’re alone, panicked on a sidewalk, we won’t have anyone to come to our rescue.  I feel like the line “You won’t last when you’re not at your best/ if you don’t learn to love when you’re well” captures the idea pretty well.

Did you write and record the albums sequentially?  Really, how did it all come together?

No.  I wish I did.  I recorded the full band and acoustic album at the same time with [fellow singer/songwriter] Josh Wilson in Tennessee.  I recorded Overture after that.  I am now recording For a Day.

It all came together by the grace of God.  I don’t have any management or representation.  My wife has been a huge help.  This is a huge undertaking that has been a blur.  I’ve just kept my head down, working like crazy.

How does the Suite build in the next installment?

As an overture, it just sets the tone for everything on the horizon.  The next installment is solo acoustic which is referenced in the acoustic version of “Amy, Please”.

Stay tuned for coverage on the second album in The Suite series, Even the Strongest Hero, releasing September 15.  In the meantime, visit Josh Rosenthal online at joshrosenthal.net, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter.

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