Today, Rogue Planet interviews Sperry Alan. Alan lets us in on his process, his thoughts on the music industry, and what it was like having his songs on a SyFy original series.
I still live where I was born, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.
What did you enjoy most about growing up there?
As a kid it was great because there was woods in the backyard we’d play in there all day.
Are there any direct influences that shaped your musical passions and/or career?
All kinds for sure, the people in my life, my family and friends and random people I’ve met over the years. They all contribute the music I write. My brother has probably been one of the biggest influences on me. He’s a musician himself, so hearing music he produces really charges me up and makes me want to write music that’s just as good.
When did you form Sperry Alan?
Sperry Alan is the artist name I’ve been using since 2004 when I started producing albums. Over the years when I’ve pieced together members for shows we’ve played as Sperry Alan too but right now there is no active band. I’m recording new music for an upcoming summer 2016 release, so it looks like I’ll have to wait until then to get out and play some shows as a band.
You write all the lyrics and music for your songs. Do you have a certain process to doing this? Does it change from song to song?
Yes, typically I write the complete song on guitar and get it so I’m happy with the song by itself with no lyrics. It’s like a gauge, if I can play the song over and over to my self with no lyrics then I know I won’t get bored of it and then it’s safe to start writing lyrics. 99% of the time it’s always that order, music then lyrics. So much so that on the new album there are 5-6 songs I’ve already laid down the music for without knowing how the lyrics will work out in the end. It’s sounds weird and risky but I know my own process enough now to trust it.
I’m lucky enough to have a home studio in Nova Scotia, so the experience was awesome. It is a real blessing to be able to work from home with no limits so I can concentrate solely on the music. I have had the experience before of recording in a normal studio with studio musicians but I prefer working on my own. I’m able to hear all the instrumentation of the songs in my head before they are recorded so it’s a lot easier for me to sit down and record by myself without having to try and communicate the music to another person to play what I’m thinking.
Your music has been said to have very unique progressions. What, in your opinion, sets your music apart from other musicians?
Tough question, maybe that most folk / alt-rock music is generally straight forward from the point of view of song structure. I tend to throw that all out the window, better or for worse, and let the song direct where it wants to go. So sometimes that means cutting a song short to make an emotional statement or make the number of vocal lines in a chorus and uneven number because it suits the music better. I’m not too concerned with traditional songs structure. An obscure reason why it’s different is the way I like to experiment with time signatures. I take a lot of effort to mask how weird some of my progressions really are so they sound normal and easy to listen to. For example there is a song on my second album that’s in 7/8. The nature of that time signature makes music sound bumpy instead of smooth. I didn’t want that particular song to sound bumpy so to smooth it I took hours figuring out how to record drums in a way to mask the weird timing so in the end make the song feels like a normal signature and easy to listen to.
You also released a music video for the song, “Aching Mind”. What about this song compelled you to make a video as opposed to any other songs?
It was the most straight forward song on the album and made the most sense to use it. It was also the first song that was mixed. We were filming outside and winter was on it’s way so we had to do the video quickly and couldn’t wait for any other song to be mixed. So it was logistics and Justin and I both liked that song anyway. I would like to mention, too, that we did create a video for a song to support Before Our Time. It’s called “Give Me A Warning” and was shot last spring. It’s a quick story of a guy who loves a girl who doesn’t feel the same way and leaves him with no warning.
You have played with some pretty awesome musicians. Who would you say were the top 3 you have played with and why?
Yes I’ve had some highlights, at different points in my career I’ve played along side or opened for The Trews, Wintersleep and Jenn Grant. They all seemed to be great people and well respected, it was a pleasure to have had those experiences.
You are a man of many trades when it comes to your career. One would assume this gives you full creative control. If given the opportunity to sign with a record label, would you take it?
It’s hard to say. I definitely grew up dreaming about being on a label and having that support. I can honestly say that’s not a priority for me anymore though. I would love to have more exposure that a label would bring but at the same time I love the level of control I have by self producing. I have the luxury of not having to ask anyone if what I’m creating is acceptable and okay to release. I just create what I want to and put it out there. That being said I’m sure there is a label out there that is well suited for an artist like me and it would be a great partnership, I guess I’m just willing to wait for the right thing.
In the age of digital music, the pros and cons are endless. With piracy running rampant, yet exposure growing immensely, where do you see your career heading in the music industry in the coming years?
I feel my biggest impact will happen when I’m playing live full time. I had planned to support my current release, “Before Our Time” with some live shows but fate stepped in and I started recording again. I plan to release my fourth record Summer 2016, with it I would like to get a band rehearsed and playing to support all of my albums properly. I think there is a lot of energy and potential in this work that won’t be realized in a large way until Sperry Alan is playing live regularly. I feel I have a mature catalog of music now worthy of touring the country and beyond, so I intend to make that happen. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Four of your songs were chosen to be on the soundtrack for season 3 of the SyFy show, Haven. How did this opportunity come about? Have you seen the show, and what was it like hearing your music set to a story?
There was a family connection to the person who was doing the video editing on the documentary portion of the Haven DVD. It worked out great, the video needed instrumental music and Shawn knew my music, so he started rough editing the video with it and it ended up being used in the final edit. It was pretty cool experience. There was a screening of the piece during our Film Festival here so I got to go see the unveiling of the documentary in a big screen theatre. My brother also had songs included so it was a family affair.
What advice would you give a young musician starting out in the industry?
I think the common response is very true, be creative because it’s a great outlet and a way you can discover who you are personally. I know I am a very different person then when I started creating music. Music will show you parts of yourself you didn’t know existed and will grow other parts of you into something greater then they were before. Treat music with respect and dedication to get the most back out it.
What is next for you?
The next album, It’s my most ambitious work yet compared to my previous work. It’s 14 songs and a whopping 45 minutes. I say whopping because my other albums all hovered around 20 minutes each. I’m very excited for it, it’s coming together quickly. The songs are strong and I’d say more digestible for listeners than Before Our Time is.
Website: CLICK HERE
Facebook : CLICK HERE
Twitter: CLICK HERE