American multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse is releasing his second autobiographical album these days. With Testimony Two he continues to tell the story of his life. Time to talk to Mr. Morse about his latest piece of work.
For some people it's difficult to open up and talk about themselves, but it seems that Neal isn't one of the kind... "As long as I know where I want to go or what I want to say, it's no problem. For me it's harder to write, if I don't really know where I want to go to." Neal Morse explained. "The main problem was to figure out what I want to talk about." He also did a book about his life which "gave more room to write in detail." And even if the songs aren't the chart-compatible 3 minute tracks, it's limiting the writer. "It came natural, in a minute movie you have to tell the whole story in 3 minutes, I had more time but still... it was a challenge. Jayda has just few words / lyrics. But you have to make sure that everything comes across about what we were going through. I had to describe it in 5 words, syllables." What seems easy isn't always easy, but in music you have to make it sound easy. "One morning I woke up and I knew what to do, I got a lot of help. I knew that if I have faith in God, I will get guidance." Jayda is a beautiful tune and a very personal one, Neal Morse put in his heart and soul into it. When I asked him what have been the hardest part of doing Testimony Two, Neal Morse admitted that it's been Jayda. "I can hardly sing it without crying, I don't know how to do it live... Even when I did the percussion for this song I couldn't do it without crying." But there was another task which wasn't easy for the Californian... "It were musically difficulties, the hardest thing was to make the parts fit together. Mike and Randy had a lot of good ideas. They are good friends, they really helped me to put the pieces together. And I trust them."
Sometimes writing and recording an album takes a lot time, but it seems that Neal Morse is working quickly as he's presenting an album every year, even if some are live albums or part of his Worship Sessions. "I wrote it all in October, November and the early weeks of December. As soon as I knew where I wanted to go, it was no problem. The struggle was to demo the songs in time, to do it before Christmas. To have it recorded til February, so that it could be released in May. It all worked out with a little help, God's the planner."
For Time Changer he got a little help from his former band mates and this will spark the hope of some Spock's Beard fans for more. Neal confirms: "Die-hard fans probably hope for something like that, but to be honest, I never thought about it. I just thought how cool it would be, when I wrote about that time in my life. And to do some vocal arrangement the way we did it in Spock's Beard. I contacted them and they agreed, I sent them the track by email and they did their part wherever they were at the time. And I'm very happy about it, it's an honor to work with them again." And obviously there is no bad blood between Mr. Morse and the Beard's. Sometimes people have a problem with changes... "It's hard for some people to deal with changes." he confirmed "But you have to move on."
Neal Morse will play the first shows even before the album is in stores, but in my opinion the songs speak for themselves and tracks like Jayda and Jesus' Blood can enchant people right away. You don't need to know the lyrics, you can feel the emotions, the intensiveness will carry you away. But still, it's better to know the songs before going to a concert... "We made the songs available for fans who pre-ordered the album. And so die-hard fans will know what to expect live.
At the tour for Testimony Neal Morse recorded a show for a DVD, I was wondering, if there will be another live document? Perhaps a live album / DVD with songs of both Testimony albums? "We will film Testimony Two live in L.A. and Europe."
But Mr. Morse not just have a new album out, he also wrote a book - Testimony - The inspirational and spiritual journey of a prog rock musician. "Writing the book was a challenge, it's nothing like writing music. At some days it was flowing..." At a book you have more space to go into detail than on an album, but you can also get lost in details... Very often writers have a person close to them who reads it first, way before a lector takes a look at it. "My wife isn't much of a reader, so I gave my first draft to an editor, a friend of a friend who lives in Chicago and is also a fan. He was the first to read it. I was pretty much uncertain and I didn't really want to share it. But he was very encouraging and 80% of the book is the way I wrote it and 20% is overdone. He was reassuring me, his contribution was about ends of paragraphs, etc. He actually wrote some of these. We spent so many hours on the phone, I wrote a draft and sent it to him, then he sent the draft back. Writing wasn't a big joy, more labor. But I don't rule it out that I write another book, if the Lord wants me to do it, then I'll do it." For Neal it was important to tell about his experience and what his family have been through. And even at other releases where he talks about God and his faith he isn't doing it in a preachy way and so Neal Morse's work isn't just interesting for Christians... "If you trust in God, he will lead you. You can count on that, he'll bless it." Neal states and it's what made him do this album and book.