It’s been amazing to see the happiness that marriage and the birth of your two boys has given you. Has that stability in your personal life affected you as an artist in the creative process?
I was just talking to my wife about this the other day. Before we had children, a lot of things were different in our lives. You can do whatever you want when you don’t have kids. You can be out the door for a party in two minutes. When you have kids, their lives are dependent on you. You can’t do that stuff. I’ve always been the type of person that just works whenever I feel like it. I could lie around and be lazy. Now that I don’t have that option, I have to manage my time. Like today, I’m going to work from nine until three, and then I’m going to take the kids to the playground. In that time, from nine until three, because I budgeted it out, I am mega-focused. I enjoy the time. There are also all these things constantly happening that are inspiring to write about that I don’t think I noticed before. I have notebooks from when I was 25 and 26 that are outlines of things to write songs about. I was brainstorming things that I thought would be cool to write about. Now, I don’t have to think about that. It’s definitely changed the way I manage my time, which in turn changes the way that I write. There is always darkness. Sometimes it’s darker than others, but you don’t always have to dwell in that. I’m battling the same demons that everybody is. Being happy and having all this amazing shit happen in my life has made it a lot easier for me to focus on making music and doing new things. The old feeling of “Oh, I’m going through this terrible break up right now, but it’s fine because it will be great for the songs” is fine, but how many fucking songs can you write about being pissed off or being lonely or being sad? You can’t do that forever.
You need a spectrum, an ebb and flow of emotions. It seems like that makes better records.
Yeah! And I think it makes better people. For me, this is my job and I love doing it, but writing an album and putting it out is not like writing a status update and posting it. When you do this for a living, you have this incredible opportunity to express yourself in one of the most primal and purest ways in existence. You can share that with people and get feedback from it. It’s this incredible gift, and I feel so lucky to be able to do it. Every day I worked on the record, I thought if everybody had this in their lives and had a way to build something beautiful and meaningful and possibly dark or hopeful, whatever represents them, people would be way less stressed out. They would be clear. There is so much stuff in my life that I understand from writing about it. Listening to other people and being inspired by it; it’s just this wonderful cycle. For a long time when I was really conflicted and only drawing from that, I felt like I was just constantly kicking myself in the foot. It’s painful to write about that stuff. When I sing songs about painful memories, I’m reliving those memories. I see guys on stage all the time that go up and just do their thing. You can tell there’s a lack of heart and you don’t connect with it as much. When I’m in that moment, I’m feeling all that stuff 100%. It hurts just as much as the moment I wrote it. It’s elating, too. It’s intoxicating. It makes you feel good at the same exact time, which is weird and confusing. When I was younger and had all this time to fuck around with, I don’t think I realized how lucky I was. This record was very much a therapeutic thing for me. I got to go in with a song that had nothing to it and write it in the studio that day. It’s the epitome of organic. I know people throw that word around a lot, like what really makes something “organic?” There are songs on the radio that you would think are the most organic things ever that were written by dudes in suits trying to figure out how [they were going to sell the song.]ß
You seem to be at a point where you are okay writing about these painful things, but it wasn’t always that way. There is a feeling of isolation in some of your older songs from writing about painful experiences. “Your Friends Are Gone” from 2007’s On Letting Go specifically comes to mind.
It’s weird because when I sing “Your Friends Are Gone,”I think about something completely different then what that song was probably intended for. When I wrote the song, I was processing something else. Songs grow. Their meaning and their words change to you over time. Going into the studio with a pretty idea that you’ve been humming along to for a while, and letting it just happen, it was such an exciting and new feeling for me. I can remember having that as a kid. It wasn’t that I was lazy, I just didn’t do it. I was just waiting until I had to commit to it before I would. I don’t know what these songs will represent to me in 10 years. A lot of these songs were written for specific people. None of them really have names, but there is a song I wrote for my mother-in-law. There is a song I wrote for Colin [Frangicetto, Circa Survive guitarist]. There is a song I wrote for [my wife] Meredith. I wrote a lot of these songs as notes to people.
It’s often easier to communicate a feeling or sentiment through a song than try to describe that feeling to them.
Yeah, absolutely! You know how when you’re talking to your mom and you say a specific word in a specific way, it gives a completely different connotation? When you write a song, you really play with words and change their meaning. The feeling of the song can be completely affected by just the melody, and the words can be almost opposite. You can do anything with communicating through music. You don’t even need words. Everything gets more colorful; everything takes on more life and more meaning. It’s always been easier for me to say things to people in a song. You can tell somebody to get the fuck over something in a song in a way that is still pretty and hopeful, as opposed to just saying “get the fuck over it,” which can be cold.
Do you have any solo tour plans coming up?
Yeah, I’m hoping to put out the album and go on tour shortly after Uproar. I want to do a full U.S. tour for as long as I can, and then try to get overseas. I want to try to play some small shows in the U.K. or Europe or Australia, which I’ve never done with my solo stuff.
The Rockstar Uproar Festival with Alice In Chains, Jane’s Addiction and Coheed And Cambria starts in August. Congratulations on that.
This is the first tour Circa have done in three or four years where people are congratulating us. [Laughs.]My aunts and uncles, who don’t even pay attention to our band, are like, “Oh wow, you’re going out with Alice In Chains, that’s great.”
When the old folks start congratulating you, that’s how you know it’s real.