"It was definitely a lot harder this time around..." - Alabama Shakes open up about Sound & Color
We chat to Alabama Shakes' singer Brittany Howard about making their new album Sound & Color, touring relentlessly and life without day jobs...
When did you begin work on Sound & Color?
"We began working on Sound & Color in November of 2013. We recorded most of the album at Sound Emporium in Nashville, Tennessee. We spent almost a year on and off recording the record. There were four 3-week sessions in Nashville. We then mixed the record at United Recording in Los Angeles (formerly Ocean Way). We also recorded 'Over My Head' at United."
How did you want your new songs to move on from Boys & Girls?
"I don’t think we were intentionally trying to move on from Boys & Girls. We are really proud of that record. That being said, I think we all felt that we had grown as a band and as songwriters. We also had a lot more time to really focus on the album. This allowed us to experiment more and I think the end result is a really great reflection of where we are as a band right now."
You worked with Blake Mills on the album, what did he give you as a producer?
"I think Blake is such a talented musician and I think he pushed us to all perform at a really high level. I also think his attention to detail really enabled this record to be more layered and textured. Blake really believed in us and got to know us and helped take this record that is pretty diverse and make it feel like a cohesive record. Shawn Everett, our engineer, also had a very important role in making that happen."
You’ve said you’ve experimented with different and wider influences on the album, what were you listening to during the making of the record?
"I listen to a lot of music. I think over the recording process I was listening to David Axelrod, Gil Scott-Heron, the Temptations, Roberta Flack, Prince, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk and the Velvet Underground."
What inspired the lyrics for the new album?
"Some of the lyrics are based on real experiences or people I know. Other lyrics on this record are fictional. I think there is a broader mix lyrically on this record than on Boys & Girls."
Last time, you all had day jobs to work around while you wrote, was it strange to adjust to writing a second album with that being your only focus?
"That is a really good question. It was definitely a lot harder this time around. I guess you can say we had a lot of time to write the first record, but not as much with the second. We came home from that last tour and really needed a break from Alabama Shakes. We were all pretty tired and needed to decompress and get re-energized for the second record."
"We did exactly that. Most of the record was written from the end of 2013 to the end of 2014. I would say it was done in spurts. I am glad we took our time as I think some really strong songs came throughout the year-long process."
Why did you settle on Sound & Color for the title?
"It doesn’t have any deep meaning. We thought it sounded good as an album title and I think it is a fitting title."
By the end of the tour in support of Boy & Girls you were playing to pretty big crowds, did you write with playing bigger places in mind this time?
"I did not. I generally write for myself, not really thinking this could work well for a different size crowd."
How much touring do you have lined up for the year ahead?
"We are back to living on the road. We will be out for most of the year supporting the record. It looks like we are traveling across the globe. It should be a really fun year."
Alabama Shakes' new album Sound & Color is released on Monday (April 20th). You can pre-order the album in-store now.