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MORPHEUS MUSIC INTERVIEW - BLUE STONE

27.03.07

     

Q: Can you give us a bit of background as to how Blue Stone got going?  

Bill Walters and I have been friends for a long time, but after awhile, we lost track of each other. After several years, we reconnected when I was really into the electronic music thing and looking for someone to work with. He wasn’t really sure about electronic music, since he’s a blues and rock guy. As it turns out, his non-electronic background makes things a lot more interesting. In fact, most of our songs still start out on guitar and piano.

After we had a few instrumental tracks recorded, we started to experiment with small vocal parts. The vocalists that we were using were adept at different styles, so we just kept building and building until we developed our own sound and style. That’s when we said we needed a name. We decided on Blue Stone and called our first release “Breathe” – which was the first song that we recorded.

For the next release, “Worlds Apart”, we wanted to continue experimenting with the music and the vocals. That’s when we recruited Sheyenne Rivers. She had just become available and was looking for something different. She definitely brings a powerful element to our sound. We also brought on the very talented Samantha Sandlin and Maura Hurley to maintain the theatrical character. All of our singers are incredibly versatile and unique.

 

  Q :  What was the vision for Blue Stone initially - what sound were you after?

 

We didn’t purposefully try to sound like anyone. We wrote what we liked to listen to. If we liked something and listened to it over and over again, then we followed it. If we tired of something quickly, then we let it go. For “Breathe”, we wrote about 25 tracks and ended up throwing away ten of them. By the time we had five or six really solid tracks, we had found our direction. At that point, we charged forward.

     
             
Q : Did you have a particular aspect of your sound that you wanted to develop on Worlds Apart?   On “Worlds Apart”, we wanted to shift our focus a little bit more towards the vocals. There’s so much that can be done with the human voice. And I don’t mean just catchy verse/chorus stuff. All the layering and descants and syncopation possibilites are endless. I’d be happy producing an “a capella” project. That said, we didn’t want there to be too much departure from “Breathe”. That theatrical/operatic ingredient is a very important part of our sound.   Q : How do you see Worlds Apart as different from your debut Breathe now that it's complete?   It’s really hard for Bill and I to see the difference because we’re so close to it. But, most people are telling us that it sounds like Blue Stone grew up for “Worlds Apart” and that it’s a bit more sophisticated than “Breathe”. I think there’s a double personality to “Worlds Apart”. The songs with Sheyenne are more pop leaning. But, the songs with Samantha and Maura are more atmospheric and dramatic. I see this duality as one of Blue Stone’s strengths. If you listen to the whole CD from end to end, you’ll see that the two styles compliment each other.
             
Q : There is some darkness about Worlds Apart that wasn't there in Breathe, including the cover art - what led to this development?   Perspective is a funny thing. Bill and I always try to write along the dark and moody vein. We’re always telling each other “That sounds too happy – make it sad”. But, by the time the song is finished, people are telling us that it sounds dark but uplifting!

It’s that contradiction that led us to the concepts for the cover. Even when the music is at its most powerful sections, there are still a lot of little intricate and delicate parts intertwined within it. I think that the artwork did a good job in capturing that strength versus frailty coexistence.

One more thing about perspective – some people are calling it the “sleeping angel cover” while others are calling it the “dead fairy cover”. Maybe it’s a glass half-full kind of thing?

  Q : How did the singers on the new album come to be involved?


  We’re always looking for new and distinctive voices. We also wanted to move toward using a more vocally-oriented palette of sounds.

Sheyenne had just left her band and was looking for something very different. She heard of us through some friends and checked out our music. She liked the music, but she never sang like this before. We tried her on “Waters Flow” first. Bill and I were floored. We knew right away that we had to work with her. We all got along so well that the creativity really flowed. As things progressed, she became involved in the writing process on later songs.

As we were working with Sheyenne, the music was taking on a wonderful life of its own. But we also had other, more theatrical tracks that needed to have their own voice.

Samantha is a wonderful singer that I met at a karaoke contest (which she won). While talking to her, I discovered that she had a diverse musical background. She stepped right in and recorded “Adrift” with very little effort. I would play the line on the piano, and she would sing it back to me perfectly. It went like that for all of her other songs as well.

Maura is a singer/actress that lives in New York. We met her through some friends that recommended her. We flew her down to Florida and recorded all of her songs in one afternoon. It was pretty amazing to work that fast.

We’ve been very fortunate to be able to work with such talent and professionalism.

             
 
     
Q : What aspects of your music do you feel each singer draws out?  

I think that the combination of singers cover a wide range of moods, from sensual intimacy to operatic theatrics and everything in between. Sheyenne is skillful at expressing emotion through her singing. Samantha and Maura gave us that nice blend of operatic and pop voicing with their own flair. The mixture of all their talents shapes the Blue Stone sound. I’d say that the quality and capabilities of each voice guides the music.

  Q : How do you go about recording your music - what gets laid down first, when do the singers get involved?


 

Bill and I start off writing independently. When we show each other what we’ve been working on, we decide which songs sound decent. I take the good songs and produce them into the full tracks. Sometimes the songs get reworked entirely, and sometimes they only change a little bit. If the track is strong enough to stand on its own as an instrumental, then we work together to add the vocals. Most of the time, we write the words and melodies as we’re recording them. Even if we’re actually prepared and have something written, it will change a lot during the recording process. Overall, it’s really interactive and fun.

There are exceptions to this process, however. Joe Hurteau, a very good friend and lyricist, wrote the striking words and melodies for “Worlds Apart” and “Event Horizon”. He worked independently on those and brought them to us.

After the vocal tracks are all recorded, then they get produced and finished off. It’s not always that easy, though. Event Horizon had great lyrics, great melodies and great vocal performances. But, the music was so horrible that Bill and I were going to scrap it. I ended up wiping out all the music and started over by writing new music to the vocal tracks. In the end, we couldn’t believe it was the same song. Now, it’s one of my favorites.

             
Q :   How involved are each of you with the artwork and in what ways?  

Bill, Sheyenne, Neurodisc and I were all very involved with the artwork. We all had the same vision about the mood it should convey, and the concept of the sleeping/dead angel/fairy was liked by everyone. Sheyenne offered to pose for the photograph, which I shot. Then, we worked with an artist, Brian Son, who did amazing things with that photograph. Brian was able to capture exactly what we wanted. We also included a couple of throwbacks to the “Breathe” cover by including the blue ring on her finger and the mask. I don’t know if other people have noticed that stuff, but I like the continuity of it all.

   Q :   Is the discarded mask from the previous album significant?  

 

The thinking behind the mask (ha ha) is that this beautiful angel put on the mask and something terrible happened to her. Then she cast off the mask as her wings turned to stone and she fell to earth. She might be sleeping or dead, but there’s a glimmer of hope that she’ll wake up. I don’t know if that’s just a cool idea, or if I need therapy.

 

           
         
 Q :  What was the intention behind the video and how is it being received?   Gary Cole, the director, approached us with his vision for the song “Worlds Apart”. Once he explained it to us, we were hooked. There’s so much more behind it than can be explained in a four-minute video. Gary is a genius with both the technical and creative sides of filmmaking. It was a great experience for all of us.

Once completed, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen with the video. We knew it was really good, but we think everything we’re involved in is really good (just kidding). When you’re involved in something like this, it’s really hard to be objective about it. Anyway, Borders asked for an exclusive deal to sell the DVD together with the CD in their stores. That special edition includes 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and a couple of remixes. In addition to that, the video was in the Top 5 of MVSpy.com and has gotten a lot of positive feedback on other sites.

    Q :  Where do you see Blue Stone heading soundwise - what are your future plans?   While we were recording many of these songs, we kept thinking “Wow, that would make a great remix”. So, we’re putting together remixed versions of several tracks. There’s a lot of freedom in this genre anyway, but when you do a remix, the sky’s the limit.

We’re also putting together a live show. It’s amazing how alive the music becomes in a performance setting with a full band. The live show is going to have a lot of energy and dimension to it. We’ve actually had to reign it in to not rock it out too much. We’ll have to see how much influence these shows have on our future releases!

Thanks to Robert Smith and Bluestone for allowing us that interview.