Our very own Social Anxiety got a chance to interview the profound and utterly captivating AllOne about his current projects and approach to creating. Check it out below!
KMM: So you just released “I’ve Been Thinking…” not that long ago and it’s a really solid album and a fantastic achievement for you as an artist. What was the process going into making that album and how has it impacted the process of future albums?
AO: Well, to begin, thank you very much for those kind statements! It’s definitely a project that I’m proud of! Funny enough I just did a blog series called “Thought Process: Behind the scenes of I’ve Been Thinking…” in which I elaborated on each song’s origins, meanings and creative process which any readers can check out at allonenetwork.blogspot.com . But the short of it is, this is a collection of narratives and songs that I’d written over the last few years while traveling, performing, and just developing my craft and my person. My Savannah friends Dope KNife & Miggs, who are responsible for independent hip hop label Dope Sandwich Records and Tapes asked me if I wanted to put out an album with them, and “I’ve Been Thinking…” was one I had in the pocket but wasn’t sure when I’d work on it. I was working on two other albums at the time and I figured “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”, meaning…just take every opportunity so you never have to regret not choosing the right one! Some of the songs I already had instrumentals to or were already being performed (“Rush Hour ’98”, “The Case Of Sydney Barringer” and “Seize In Caesium” for example) whereas others I hadn’t quite finished writing yet though I knew I wanted them under the umbrella of this project’s concept. I sought out instrumentals that matched the vibes of my lyrics’ intent and message from sources old (Tony Mahoney, Sik Sense) and new (Dope KNife, Alexa Dexa, Drip N Drive) and began recording the project in the fall of 2015. How has it impacted the process of future albums? Well.. only time will tell! No, I kid! Every time I work on a new project, specifically when I’m in the studio again, I learn a ton of new things, short cuts, recording prep and efficiency, vocal tempering and how to get the most out of a session. I’m the kind of person who will do 30 takes of a verse before I’m happy with it, and no matter how much I prepare, I’m still improvising and changing cadences and little delivery nuances almost every take. It makes it more of an organic adventure for me. I also sing more on this album. This is the first full length that I did not record with my friend Michael Korb (“Creative Differences (A Split)” was also recorded with someone else). and I worked with my musician and engineer friend Franky Bones, who was just a fantastic person to work with. I was really nervous taking on such a big project with someone new but as an engineer he really toes the line between relaxed and open to ideas and getting genuinely excited when a take or an idea comes out perfect to being critical or offering suggestions and ideas, even when recording more serious songs, we had a really great time every session and it made the process much easier. A good engineer is paramount, so working with him in the future is inevitable (in fact, today I’m getting back mixes for an EP I just recording with him this past month for my acoustic side project “Almost Elijah”).
KMM: I’ve heard you mentioning this acoustic project and it sounds amazing. What is the name “Almost Elijah” in reference to?
Thank you, I’m very excited about it! So the name “Almost Elijah” is pretty literal and its origin is surely not a unique experience, but given the context of my creative life I find it especially apt. Up until a day or two before I was born my mom was absolutely positive that she would name me Elijah. I’m not sure what occurred precisely but in the final stretch of decision, they obviously opted for “Bruce”. So I was (and am) “Almost Elijah”! Now, the reason the project bears the name that I did not [get] is because this is a side-endeavor that deviates aesthetically (being nearly entirely singing and all acoustic guitar instrumentation) from what I normally do under the AllOne or AllOne & The Room heading. I like the impacting but subtle rhetorical question of “the butterfly effect” here. Wondering how my personality and creative interests or adopted skill sets and hobbies would have developed differently just based on how life might be based solely on something like having another name! Maybe I would be a singer-songwriter who learned a bunch of instruments or something as opposed to a rapper? Hence, “Almost Elijah” a fitting name for a project born of and celebrating the question of “what if?”.
KMM: That’s a really fascinating story and I absolutely love it and that it influenced you to name this musical deviation of yours that. What is the “Almost Elijah” EP going to be titled and what are some themes you address in its lyrics?
AO: So the EP, a concept record if you will, is called “For a year”. Each of the songs is a descriptive and poetic anthem and unabashed love note through wide child’s eyes of one of the seasons. John and I are from Long Island, New York and so we get a full four seasons out of every year that express themselves very distinctly. Like many, our childhood memories are rife with season-specific adventures, activities, and sensory input. I wrote the lyrics with an intention and attention on being vivid theme-songs and celebrations of each of the seasons, focusing on the practices, traditions, facets and experiences that I did (and do love) about each of them. The goal of these songs was to abandon a fear of something being “corny” just because it is jovial and ecstatic, to shed the banal drudgery of adulthood and just smile at the flowery dust adorned by a chubby bumblebee or the heart-rushing, blister inducing excitement of being a flush-cheeked infantrymen in a snowball fight. While the approach or attitude may be childlike (not “childish”, mind you), the writing is still complex, literary and mature. When people ask me to describe the project I ask them to try to imagine Ray Bradbury and The Decemberists collaborating.
KMM: That sounds like it’ll be an incredible listening experience. When can the world expect to hear “For a year”?
AO: The way things are looking, we’d like to do a soft release (primarily digital with a short and crafty personal run of physical copies if the demand exists, which locally there seems to be one!) of the project in late September or early October. Right in the onset of autumn, which happens to be my favorite season personally! I’ve never released a fully new, official project in autumn, so there’s a sort of special significance in that for me as well!
KMM:That’s super exciting! Is Almost Elijah the only thing on your plate musically at the moment or is their some AllOne material brewing as well?
AO: Of course! Ask any artist if they’ve got an overwhelming amount of work back-cataloged and the answer is almost always an exasperated “yes”! Personally, I’m always juggling multiple projects. Foremost among them is the next AllOne LP. I’m probably 70% through recording it, that has been my sincerest most difficult challenge and obsession over the past few years. It’s all live original music I’ve collaborated on with the most talented musicians I have the pleasure of knowing all set as backdrops and settings to narratives I wrote. The project is also being illustrated by my friend Elly Cornwell and will be called Rapologues. Don’t quote me on when that will be available, I’ve said “this year” every year for the past 3 but working with so many people, schedules can get impossible to navigate to make progress but it’s coming along steadily and will be my crowning achievement (not had without help surely). I’m also intending on releasing a b-sides and collaborative song compilation. I released one on thanksgiving of 2013 called “We’ll Make It Together” (which you can go download for free at allonevoice.bandcamp.com if you so choose!) and since then I’ve had the good fortune to amass many collaborative songs for other people’s projects so I like to provide one place where my listeners can get all of these scattered pieces of work that lay in the corners of the internet and on other’s albums, as well as expose my supporters to the talented people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. That will be a free digital-only release called “Stone Soup For The Soul”. I have 2 EPs and an LP written aside from that that just need some production and recording and always a ton of ideas churning of course! Almost Elijah has already begun to write the next material project’s material actually.
KMM: Of course, the artist’s mind is never off. I don’t think true artists really have a rest mode. There’s always the thought of the next project, even sometimes when the initial project isn’t out yet. All of what you are undertaking right now is so exciting and I’m greatly looking forward to the final products of them all. One last question and it might be kind of hard to answer but I like to let interviews end with questions like these because I believe it’s when fans see the more human components of the artists they adore. What has been the most fruitful part of your creative efforts thus far?
AO: The most fruitful part of my creative efforts (outside of the genuine intrinsic value of creation, which is the joy of imagining something, the exercise of the puzzle of executing the idea and the sense of fulfillment of completing and seeing something come to fruition that you worked hard for) More than any of that , the thing that makes it all so beautiful and multiplies all of that self contained victory exponentially is when I share my art with people and they sincerely connect with it. It’s not necessarily the validation that something you worked on was great, (although that is certainly a part of it, something many of us creative hams and grown-up-class-clowns probably feast on greedily and admittedly somewhat desperately). It’s the fact that I created something that changed someones mind about something bad, or opened them up to a new favorite artist/musician /film maker /writer that I referenced in a song, or I wrote a song that emotionally impacted them and improved their situation, whether emotionally, or intellectually or just that they related to a scenario that I described in a song and then really really felt it. That connection, that moment of communication…that is what I do all of it for. I don’t have to share this stuff, I could just make it and keep it for me right? But I choose day after day to strive to create art and share it, and that is because I cherish and believe in the deeply human communication, the unification and the love and change that art is uniquely capable of. I’ve been blessed to have many people, a shocking amount of people come to me, strangers at shows, friends and family, and people I’ve never met on the internet and tell me that I helped them in some way. I’ve had multiple instances where people have come to me crying after performances. How beautiful and surreal that is! That’s worth every week I don’t eat right, every hour of sleep I lose and every penny of money I pour into this that I may not and often don’t get back. That is the stuff of life. How blessed am I? How wonderful! That is the most fruitful thing about all of this by far. Outside of challenging and entertaining myself as I make new pieces and pursue new endeavors my most poignant task is finding ways to really deeply connect with people through my work, or hear their stories and write them, or explore all the beautiful and painful corners of my experience or observations of other’s human experience. That’s what the whole “AllOne” moniker(mantra) is! The paradox that we are all alike in our uniqueness. That we are all “one” in being alone. The more we can see that, the better off we will be, I think.
KMM: That was beautifully put, Bruce. Thank you so much for engaging in this discussion. I wish you and all your creative efforts the best of luck!
You can hear “I’ve Been Thinking…” below so check it out and support AllOne!