The year before, the band released the epic, multi-layered concept album ALL YOUR HEROES BECOME VILLAINSwhich featured a large musical collective of artists and musicians that Hale and his Transcendence bandmates knew from the New York and Miami music scenes, an album that fused their traditional alternative rock and melodic pop with a variety of other instrumentation such as strings and horn sections, creating a mammoth and dense soundscape that surrounded Hale’s darkly emotional vocals and dystopian lyrical themes, evidenced in songs like “Blind Eye”, “Solaris”, “Waiting for Godot”, “Indian Princess” and the anthemic “After Tomorrow”.
During the releases of GREAT MISTAKE and ALL YOUR HEROES, Hale was still in Billboard’s Top 40 with several songs from his BALLAD ON THIRD AVENUE album, including the romantic whisper-pop ballad “Scene in San Francisco”, which reached #24 on Billboard’s AC Chart, the delicate harmony-driven acoustic ballad “New Orleans Dreams” — which had been the album’s biggest hit until “San Francisco”, climbing to #10 on the AC Charts in the U.S. and garnering radio airplay on hundreds of stations worldwide. Hale and company allocated a portion of all the proceeds from sales of the song to the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts in New Orleans after several devastating hurricanes in the region. The album also hit big with the first single,“I Walk Alone”.
Through the years Hale has also become well known for his unique brand of social/political activism and his humanitarian work, as well as Civilian Diplomacy efforts toward world peace. In 2008 Hale was one of few Americans over the last 30 years to visit the country of Iran on a peace mission. He’s also made similar trips to West Africa and Israel/Palestine along with others. Hale speaks five languages and is a prolific writer, blogging almost daily in The Transcendence Diaries since 2002.
Over the next year, Hale and band will release at least three new albums — the aforementioned SO FOR REAL, BORN TO LOSE, and ANOTHER DAY IN THE APOCALYPSE, along with a variety of singles and b-sides. After their tour of major cities on the West Coast in 2013, the band entered the recording studio to swiftly work on what was supposed to be “a quick follow up to BALLAD ON THIRD”. Instead, they stayed holed up in various studios around the country for almost three years, finally resurfacing with enough songs for at least four new albums. “Tell You True” and “Summer Flowers” are the first of those new songs.
All Ed Hale albums are available for streaming and download anywhere music sold including Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon.com, Google Music and iTunes.
Ed Hale Talks about Growing Up His Earliest Influences and His New Album So For Real
Where did you grow up?
Ed Hale: Well we travelled around a lot when I was a kid. My mom was a single mom trying to raise two young boys. So we lived in 16 different cities before I was 11 years old. That wasn’t easy. In the fifth grade I went to three different schools in three different towns. It was not optimal. Hard to make friends. Hard to put down roots. Half the time we didn’t even unpack. Just lived out of boxes. I guess in a way you could say it just sucked. But eventually we ended up in Palm Beach, Florida. That’s where I met Matt [singer-songwriter Matthew Sabatella, who shared lead vocals with Hale in the band Broken Spectacles years later]. But that was only for like a year or two. Then we moved to this really small town called Naples, also in Florida. And we actually stayed there for a while. That was the first time that we ever got that experience of having a home or a hometown, real friends, neighbors… It had its ups and down of course. It was small, in the middle of nowhere, super white and Christian conservative. I was an outcast from day one. Especially in the beginning. I wore a lot of girls clothes and wore makeup. Other kids didn’t understand that at all. But music saved me. It set me apart and gave me an edge that I think helped explain why I didn’t play a lot of sports like the other kids. I was obsessed with music and art. And that helped me find my place.
So your musical background started early on?
Ed Hale: Oh yeah. For sure. On my mom’s side we had deep roots in music. My uncle Tony was a famous musician. He was the bandleader at the Las Vegas Sands during the Rat Pack years. You can watch him and Sinatra and Sammy Davis and Dean Martin on YouTube. It’s awesome. And his father was a well-known arranger and conductor in Italy. So music came easy to me. It was in my blood. I was playing piano since I was a toddler. I would just hop up there play every morning. Making stuff up or earing out songs that I liked. Mostly musicals when I first started…. My grandma would sit next to me and teach me actual music… how to read and what the notes were… She really appreciated the fact that I appeared to be carrying on the tradition for the family.
Musically, what are your biggest influences and who are your favorite musicians?
Ed Hale: Well I’ve obviously answered this question a LOT over the years. But I dig where you’re coming from. I don’t mind answering the question again. For me as a kid, there was something seriously missing from the music that was popular on the radio. It didn’t move me a lot. But then I discovered all these old albums my parents had on vinyl. These were old albums. From the 40s and 50s and 60s. And for whatever reason these really MOVED me, in ways that popular music from my day did not. Bands like the Beatles became obsessions for me. They created GODLY music. It was EPIC. Same with the Mamas and Papas. They were so haunting and melodic and harmonic. And Simon and Garfunkel. Their songs were so good and so were their voices. So deep. Then I discovered all the singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and Donovan and Springsteen. And they turned me onto the serious nature that music can take on, the issues and human themes. It really intrigued me. Of course I’m talking about when I was a young kid still. But these were the formative artists for me that made me want to make music. There was something magical and important about this artform that I wanted to be a part of. Later I discovered Bowie and T. Rex and especially Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. And the just blew my mind. Because they took music to a whole new level of a real life art-form. Like living your art. Not just in music, but in who you ARE. Your whole BEINGNESS becoming your art. And Lou Reed showed me that lyrics could be literary. And that was important. For a lot of us. I think Springsteen was heavily influenced by Lou too.
How would you describe your own style?
Ed Hale: I don’t think I have a style, per se. Not compared to most artists these days… Because we tend to skip around to a lot of different styles over the years. BUT I will say that we definitely tend to lean more towards the Brit-pop or Brit- rock styles. Even now that I have been making a more softer Adult Contemporary or singer-songwriter style, it still sounds like it has its roots in a more British sounding pop-rock sound. We use a lot of orchestration still… besides just the traditional four piece rock band instruments. A lot of it depends on which album you’re listening to….
In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
Ed Hale: That’s a great question. When I first started, I didn’t have much of a direction. I mean, who does? I was 17 years old when my first album came out. So I was pretty much just trying to still master songwriting and learn how to sing. Eventually I kind of mastered the skills necessary to be able to deliberately decide how my music would sound, what direction I wanted to go in. Lately we have been really focused on creating music that is both commercially accessible, so people can get into it, but at the same time still trying to knock down barriers and create new things… to innovate sonically. I have also started taking a lot more time to craft lyrics that are more poetic in nature, more literary. And less just verses that rhyme. That’s not easy. It takes time and commitment and patience. You have to be willing to wait it out….Not be in a rush to just get the song done. Lame rhymes bother me. Though I’m just as guilty of them as anyone else sometimes, I know.
What are the main inspirations for the lyrics you write?
Ed Hale: Well again, good question. I usually do NOT have anything in mind when I write a new song. I let the song come to me, believing that it already exists in some other dimension or in a parallel universe. So I simply act like a shaman or a midwife to help it get here to this world safely, and hopefully to be the best that it can be. After a while of playing it, certain words or phrases start to come out of my mouth that sound like they’re part of the song. So I jot them down. Like assembling a skeleton. Sometimes it’s real obvious right from the start what the song is about. “Gimme Some Rock ‘N’ Roll” is about the magical qualities of this vibration we call rock and roll. It was obvious. “Summer Flowers” was about the magic of the transformation from Spring to Summer that we experience in our world. These themes are eternal, ideas that everyone can relate to.
Other times I have more concrete ideas going into a song about what I want it to be about. We have a new song coming out in a week or two called “Marsha’s Sleeping” that I wrote while watching this girl sleep… And I just basically wrote down what I was feeling and thinking in that moment. That’s the truth. That’s all it was. Music is like part of me. Probably the easiest form of expression I have available to be, and hence the most honest and sincere…
We are really looking forward to your new album, SO FOR REAL, which drops August 24. Are you happy with the finished product?
Ed Hale: Yeah… For sure. Really happy. We had close to 40 songs recorded to choose from for this one. But we knew what we wanted it to be… It’s funny because you think that with 40 new songs that it would be easy to build the perfect album. But it wasn’t. Because we wanted every song to not just be great, but also to sound like it fit on that one album. And with us, that’s not easy. Because we recorded so many different styles of songs in those sessions. But ultimately Roger [Roger Houdaille, Transcendence bassist and Ex Norwegian frotnman] who produced these new albums was laid down the law and said “look man, these are the best of the best for this album. No more, no less.” And it was only 9 songs! I was shocked. I figured we could have had 11 or 12. But he said “We can’t put anything on there that isn’t really good and nothing that doesn’t fit in with the others.” So we ended up with 9 tunes in total. BUT I will say, they’re all really great songs. And for once, they all sound like they fit together. There are no outliers on this album. It’s a really cohesive sound. Easy to listen to. It’s both fun and moving.
Of all tracks on the album, is there one that’s especially important to you on a personal level? If so, which one? And why?
Ed Hale: Yeah. Weird that you ask. At first, for a while, it was “The Prince of New York”. Because that song is just so damn special. Like even for me it’s still thrilling to listen to. But on a deeper level, the song that really means the most to me is “So For Real”, the title track. For one thing that song is very personal. It’s me talking directly to my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time… And our relationship was a real challenge at first. Love at first site, but with a lot of challenges between us. Like Romeo and Juliet (laughs). So we had to overcome those challenges if we were ever going to make it work. Which we did. It’s a miracle. But we did it. And that song is kind of like a testament or a record of all of that. So it means a lot to me. Plus that song doesn’t really have a standard modern sound to it. It sounds more like one of those big epic songs off the All Things Must Pass album, you know? [George Harrison’s first album]. And I really dig that we went there and didn’t shy away from it. It’s not going to be a radio hit or anything. But it just might be the most special song on the album.
How essential do you think the video is in relation to your music? Is there a video of “Gimme Some Rock ‘N’ Roll” already released or in the works?
Ed Hale: That’s a tough question for me. For a lot of reasons. Number one, in the current music business, due to how low royalty rates are for artists, we simply don’t have the money to create music videos like we used to. So we have to make due with letting the music do all the talking. Kind of like before music videos were possible. But that’s both bad maybe but also good too. Because the music has to be really GREAT now again. It has to rely on the sound more and not some cool flashy expensive music video. You can’t just get a song popular because you danced really well in it or because you came up with some cool new technological idea to gain views. That’s the reality of it.
Whenever we get a chance, we do music videos. But it takes using all of the resources you have available to you. Your friends and associates and other colleagues. Just to get something cool made. It’s become very DIY again. And that’s kind of cool. Think of that Replacements video from the 80s where it’s just two minutes of the song blasting out of the speaker while the band sit on a couch and smoke cigarettes and drink beer. That’s so totally DIY and ghetto but it’s also really cool.
Musically, what’s next? Do you have any new projects on the drawing board?
Ed Hale: Well, after So For Real comes out, we’ll immediately start releasing the singles from the Born To Lose album. Which was actually the album we originally went in to record! We just got side-tracked. (laughs). And that’s a real bummer of an album, let me tell you. It’s ten songs that are pretty dark and emotional, about the drama and challenges of love relationships… It’s honest and over the top real. So it’s a depressing ride. But fulfilling too. Roger thinks it’s actually the “better” album. I don’t necessarily agree… Because I really like how polished and professional So For Real sounds. But I can see where he’s coming from.
And then we also have the third album ready to go, Another Day in the Apocalypse. And that’s an even darker more dystopian collection of songs, but more about the world and our present culture… It’s more socio-political. And more rock. We’ll probably drop that one after Christmas though. It’s just too dark to spring on people around the holidays. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of different new music in the works and ready to go.
Any plans to tour? If so, where and when?
Ed Hale: Well we always “plan” to tour… But we’ll see how it goes. I’d love to see all the guys get together and at least play the major cities, which we haven’t done in a while. There’s nothing I like more than getting together with the guys and piling into rehearsal rooms and hotels and getting back on the stage. It’s such a rush and a thrill. We’ll probably start in New York, Miami, and LA for sure. Hopefully soon, once at least 2 of these new albums come out.
For more: edhale.com/music