Saturday, June 28, 2008

sample press

You recently spent a month in L.A. working with Rhett Miller. What are the details of that project?
SN: Rhett asked me to come play bass and help out with his second solo record. He’s on Verve now and they’re really supportive of what he wants to do. It was a really positive experience. We both took our families out there with us for 5 weeks and had an amazing time. George Drakoulias was the producer and another long-time recording vet, Dave Bianco, was our engineer. We recorded in a studio called Sound City that was built in the ‘70s by Rick Springfield’s manager. It was hilarious – brown carpet and wood paneling everywhere – like it hadn’t been touched since 1975. In its heyday loads of classic records had been made there. Like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes,” and Cheap Trick’s “Heaven Tonight.” The ghosts of rock’n’roll heroes past were everywhere…especially in the “Loggins Lounge”!!!

In the liner notes of your new CD "Beautiful Noise" you thanked the neurosurgeons at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. May I ask why?
SN: I wrote most of “Beautiful Noise” while my family was going through some difficult times. Our son Gavin, who was only 3 months old at the time, went through a serious operation for craniosynostosis – a condition where the plates in the head prematurely close. So I guess “Beautiful Noise” is a by-product of extreme sleep deprivation and stress. That whole period is already pretty hazy. I only have vague recollections of how most of the songs came to be.

You have a Who's Who list of great local musicians credited on this album. How did you choose them? Or did they come to you first?
SN: Over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve come to realize that we have a tremendous amount of world-class talent right here under our very noses…a lot of these musicians now happen to be my friends. I’m really lucky that every single one of them gave their time and talent for this record as a labor of love because it would have been nothing without them. Sometimes I feel like the Dallas music scene is a desert island, stranded in the middle of nowhere with the outside world having little or no inkling about what’s going on here. I hope my cds help in some way to spread the word to far off places ‘cause at least they are making their way around the world – even if in small quantities…Anyway, it was lots of fun choosing which person to play on each track. I know each of their individual styles pretty well so I just sort of picked whomever I thought would work best for a particular track – it was like “musical baseball cards.”

The lyrics on all of the songs from "Beautiful Noise" are very intriguing. They read like personal stories from your own life. Are they? If so, would you mind choosing a few of your favorites and telling me what inspired them?
SN: It is very much the most personal record I’ve ever made and I feel a bit awkward while awaiting people’s reactions. These songs helped me make it through some hard times so I’ve already gotten something out of it. It was my therapy. So if people like it – that’s great – of course I want them to like it…but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter ‘cause it’s already helped me get through something. The bridge of ”Never say Never” is directly about Gavin’s operation but I wanted to leave the rest of the lyric open-ended enough to where people who didn’t know could still relate to it. “Do you remember when the angels spoke to you…” starts the actual bit about his operation. “1st Love” is about my grandparents. I’d been thinking my whole life about 2 things my Grandfather told me as a child that blew my mind. I could never put them in to words until I wrote this song. “I’m afraid of dying…” which no other adult had ever confessed to – and “don’t marry your 1st love” as he, of course, had done. I think he meant your 1st love is an irrational love. You have nothing in common but a love born out of youth and inexperience. Something he apparently regretted. My grandmother was a devoted Christian and it troubled him greatly that she would often say she looked forward to seeing their son Richard, who had passed away, in heaven. They both new he was gay and the bible taught her that gays do not go to heaven. I think all major religions preach that as well. Don’t they? So my grandfather had a really hard time reconciling this with her. He wanted to talk to her about being scared of what was out there after this life on earth but couldn’t. So he talked about it to us – his grandchildren. It was really very sad. The lyric “when we go to church, there we stand but I’m still not sure and she says Richard waits for us but I don’t think he really does…” That’s my grandfather speaking - it’s a direct lift of his words.

How do you write your songs? Do you get an idea for lyrics and go from there? Or do you start with a melody? Do you have a particular method? Or something entirely non-formulaic?
SN: Entirely non-formulaic - they are mostly spurred on by lyrical ideas. Sometimes these ideas float around in the back of my mind for quite some time until the moment of “writer’s coma” sets in (usually triggered by some sort of emotion). I don’t believe in writing songs as an “exercise” or because you need material to fuel your desire to have a career. Too many crappy records are being made because of this.

Do you also write the back-up (i.e. drums, bass, keyboard, rhythm, etc.) portions of your songs? Or do you work with your back-up band to find what sounds supplement your melodies best?
SN: Everything on the record is a collective effort of sorts. I do believe when working with talented people whom you trust – trust them!!! Of course, there’s lots of input from me and ideas bounced back in forth but if they played the part then it’s most likely their idea. I disagree with producers who take the heavy-handed, know-it-all approach because they’re too insecure or bullish or whatever to trust their musicians.

You mentioned to me when I saw you recently that you'd garnered a second back-up band to fill in when the original "Polaroid" band isn't available. Can you tell me who this second band consists of? Does this mean you'll be playing live shows more frequently?
SN: Well, it made sense to me to try to play live with some of the guys who contributed the most to “Beautiful Noise.” Daniel Hopkins (from Radiant), Danny Balis (Sorta), Chris Holt and Richard Martin (Shibboleth). I’m still going to play with the Polaroid band (Dufilho, Knoll, Garner and Duncan). In fact, we have the “Live at Pleasantry Lane” cd set to come out on Summerbreak Records this fall. I thought it would be fun to have two bands that both knew a different set of songs – because between my two full-length cds, the “A Way to Your Heart” E.P. and the Nourallah Brothers cd, there’s plenty of material to choose from. As far as playing more, probably not, because I’m too busy recording people at Pleasantry Lane and because the Dallas music scene is still ruled by club owners who prefer nu-metal bands as they apparently “draw more…”

Where would you like to play that you have not yet been able? Perhaps we can persuade our readers to help set a demand for you in those cities!
SN: Ft. Worth. I’d also like to play Austin more often…

You seem to be enjoying a lot of success with your recording studio, Pleasantry Lane. The last time I spoke to you (via email) you told me you were booked up for months. Has owning your own recording studio always been a dream of yours? Did you initially build the studio primarily to record your own works or did you always have the idea to open it up for public use?
SN: The studio was initially started by my brother Faris and I for personal use only. We recorded the Nourallah Brothers cd on a little 8-track recorder set up in one corner 6 years ago. The studio has been a slow “work in progress” that’s only recently finally arrived. Faris is no longer a co-owner – he has his own personal studio. My friend Rip Rowan, editor of, came in and helped me really take it to the level necessary to start recording others. I made the decision to try that as I was looking fatherhood straight in the eyes as a commercially unsuccessful musician. It’s been great though – I love what I do, have made tons of new friends and still feel everyday that I’m involved in trying to make good music.

What advice would you give to fellow do-it-yourselfers who are considering building an in-home studio? What are some of the pitfalls and successes you've experienced?
SN: I don’t know…that’s actually the toughest question you’ve asked. Though no pitfalls yet, thankfully.

What are your hopes for the future of Pleasantry Lane?
SN: Help people make the recordings they’ve always dreamt of making but never thought possible. Keep using it to make more Nourallah music and also support my family.


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