CEV Artist Interview
CEV: After your initial failure to get into Berklee College of Music you started studying with a piano teacher. What was it that this teacher taught you that you had not picked up during your own self-taught training on the piano?
CEV: Once Berklee accepted you what did you learn about music and about yourself in regards to what you wanted to do with your singing/songwriting?
SF: I learned that I did not prosper in the academic environment. I wanted to have a band, and I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to be in school. I wasn’t interested in any structure designed by someone else. I wanted to make music that sounded new. I was inundated with terribly boring music. I was an explorer. I wanted to be a destroyer of all ideas. It’s a pity they never had a class for that.
CEV: Was it worth the time that you spent at the school in relationship to the reality of what your music is all about?
SF: It’s all worth it, because it all happened.
CEV: When you look at the artist’s music that was influential to your own musical foundations what is it that touches you about what you hear in their compositions and how does that translate into your music?
SF: Music carries an ineffable transcendental quality. After all these years I still honestly believe it cannot be quantified.
CEV: What is the most difficult thing about writing your songs?
SF: I don’t know. Not getting permanent marker all over my fingers?
CEV: What is the most enjoyable thing about writing your songs?
SF: Focus. Task. Doing. Being in that moment.
CEV: Did you always assume that you would eventually record your music and release albums for sale?
SF: Yes. It was all I ever wanted aside from being a roller skating waitress or an astronaut. It wasn’t so long ago in the grand scheme that I was singing Tina Turner into a hairbrush.
CEV: How did you go about making sure that would happen for that first album Cocooning? Did you have a mentor in all of this that helped you along or did you go it alone trying to figure out the ropes of getting an album released?
CEV: Are you comfortable with all the business aspects of having a music career? Is it difficult to balance the creative side and the business side so that neither one is shortchanged in time spent? How do you do it?
SF: I wouldn’t say I am comfortable. I am passionate about what I do, and if I bother to do something, I try to do it the best I possibly can. It’s not all roses, but in my experience it’s better to spend time in the Chinese garden rather than the hot tar pit.
CEV: You became aware of the power of the internet back when Cocooned did so well on MP3.com. Tell me how the internet figures into your releases since then and how has social networking through Facebook, Twitter etc. changed the game when it comes to getting your music heard?
SF: Well, I started all this using MP3.com ages ago. I remember how amazing I thought it was. There was nothing like Facebook in existence to help you. You had to figure out a way to get visibility and put your music out there before social networking was what it is now. I spent years working at it. We received about 350,000 plays as I recall. I worked on that from a little place in NYC that I lived in with my band around 2002. We played shows wherever we could. It was a logistical nightmare.
I spent a lot of time during this period studying the psychology of music. I have always found the way music reaches people to be an extraordinary thing. Music holds the innate ability to alter state of mind. It changes the world. That seems to me like a topic worth discussing, that people don’t mention frequently enough.
CEV: Your latest album is called Near Infinite Possibility (NIP). Would that be a comment on the potential of your music career?
SF: HAHAHAHA! That did cross my mind after the fact. Funny. However, it actually comes from a Hunter Thompson quote which is : “Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ”the rat race” is not yet final.” -Hunter S. Thompson
CEV: When did you start writing the material that ended up on NIP? Were you working with any sort of theme in mind for the finished album?
SF: Actually David Baron and I created four albums in four years. They were not released in the order they were created. Some of Near Infinite Possibility was created first. The only theme involved was to make a good album. We just couldn’t stop.
CEV: What would you say were some of your largest influences/inspirations during the writing of NIP and how did those influences manifest in the songs that appear on this album?
SF: I tend to believe that people don’t always know what is influencing them. The musicians and the talent that was imminently around me was I think the highest influence. David Baron was a tremendous influence in incalculable ways.
CEV: When you were in writing mode for NIP did you work with others as you polished the songs or was this a solitary process for you? Explain.
SF: David and I worked together a lot. We make a great musical team. There was a lot of adaptation.
CEV: Were there any songs on the new album that hold a deeper meaning for you than the others? How so?
SF: I wouldn’t say any song holds deeper meaning than another.
CEV: When it came time to record NIP how is it that you and the band start to work out how it will all sound and who does what? How cooperative is the creative process when it comes to how the music on NIP will sound?
CEV: One of my favorite songs on the new album is Invisible Satellites. Tell me about the writing of the song and what message you wanted to get across with the lyrics.
SF: When I am writing words, they mostly fall out like acorns. I’m not sure if it’s premeditated. The best part of music is unspoken and left to interpretation.
CEV: When you are working on an album like NIP through the whole writing/recording process how do you know when it is done and that no more tweaks will make it any better? Is this something that you just intuitively know or have you learned it through working on your other albums?
SF: It’s a dangerous time toward the end of an album. You are attached and you don’t ever want to stop. David knows that even more than I do. So, it is something you know, and also something that is practically decided for you as you run out of money.
CEV: Do you have any favorite songs from the new album that you are particularly proud of?
SF: They change. Right now I’m with Everything Becomes Whole, Morning Time, and Disappear.
CEV: How do you feel when a project like NIP comes to a close and the album is put out there for the world to listen to?
SF: Stunned and Warm.
CEV: Will you be doing any concerts for the rest of 2011 in support of NIP?
SF: Yes I have 5 coming up this month and I will keep going hell or high water. Live music as an independent artist is a serious challenge.
CEV: Do you enjoy doing live shows? Why or why not?
SF: I love it once it’s all there and all you have to do is play music. That is only about .04% of the job though.
CEV: Do you go out and find reviews of your music on the internet? How do you feel about what is posted about your music either by reviewers or bloggers on the internet? Have you learned to be a little thick skinned about it all?
SF: I don’t seek them out. There isn’t enough time. If it’s good and I come upon it, I thank them sincerely. If it’s bad, that’s probably good too. This is the way I see it.
CEV: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers about NIP or your music in general?
SF: Stay in touch and thank you for being who you are.
CEV: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us here at Cutting Edge Voices.