‘Melancholy, wistful, cinematic’ | Interview with Stephen Foster

Sharing Perils is a compelling project with cinematic quality. A collection of 13 songs with great variety makes the task to label it using specific genre tags very challenging. Read our discussion with Stephen Foster below!

Describe your sound in 3 words

Melancholy, wistful, cinematic

Tell us a few things about this project Sharing Perils. Was this blend of different styles and sounds what you had in mind in the first place?

I wrote most of this before and during the initial phase of the pandemic and then recorded in a studio when the pandemic lessened in severity. The project was intended to exorcise some demons;
I struggle with mental health issues and music is my outlet. The blend of styles was intentional; I have a wide taste in music and have always had a soft spot for spaghetti western tunes (Despues de la Inundacion and Olam are examples) and occult-horror film soundtracks (Sadie’s Gift). I also like gentle / soothing steel string (In the Sea) or nylon string (The Passing Shadow) based music, and am a fan of jangly pop (George Bailey’s Honeymoonm, Desolate Cities). I figured I would include some of each since I just write the songs as they come and I usually have no control over what spills out.

Which track of the album represents you the most and why?

That’s a hard one! Probably Desolate Cities because it combines my inner thoughts (heaviness of life, broaching death) with my generally upbeat persona (the melody of the tune is upbeat, despite the dark lyrics).

If the music of Sharing Perils was the soundtrack of an Italian produced western film, which film would that be?

Wow, another hard one. I would go with Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence), since it doesn’t rely on a black and white (good vs. evil) premise; everything is a shade of grey and “good” may not prevail in the end.

Can you describe for us that moment when you know that a song is complete and anything else added would be a superfluity?

I usually start with an acoustic or classical guitar and compose the main melody and lyrics over that. Then, I hit the record button at my home demo station. I play it back, close my eyes, and imagine other cris-crossing melodies, background melodies, harmonies, etc., and then sing/hum those to have them recorded. Then, I pick out which instruments I want to play those parts (at least the instruments I can play!). Finally, I add vocal harmonies (if I feel like it needs them), and that is the final, final piece for a song with vocals. I actually write out the notes on music staff paper, especially if I’m going for 3 or more harmony parts. Makes it easy when I head into the studio and I can just read off my notes vs. trying to recall everything. I don’t think I answered the question yet, but that is the general process. I know it’s done if I listen to the song a few times and no additional melodies or harmonies pop into my head; sometimes, they do, but I’ll feel like it’s “too much” and don’t want the song to get clogged.

Artists and people that have inspired and influenced you?

Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Zombies, ELO, Tom Waits, The Innocence Mission, Elliott Smith, Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3), Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, my wife, Elisabeth, my brother and his wife, Mark and Geissel, and my Recording Engineer (and musical artist – check out his stuff!) Henry Chadwick, each of whom have encouraged me endlessly, especially when I am feeling discouraged or embarrassed by my songwriting/playing/singing ability. Oh, and Larry David, because he always makes me laugh.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Take that trumpet scholarship when you graduate high school; do NOT, I repeat, do NOT play it safe and become an accountant.

Future plans?

I’m not as shy as I used to be about my mental health issues (primarily depression/anxiety), so I’ll say that due to that (“anhedonia”), I haven’t picked up an instrument in almost 9 months.
That said, my future plans are to get that part of me going again as soon as I can. Hard to say when that will be – it’s hard to force myself. But I am optimistic the mood will strike and I’ll be back at it soon.
I’d love to release another batch of songs in the next 2 years and I’m curious what direction they take.

Thank you!

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