How has serving as a music director of a synagogue impacted your own creations and choices within the music industry?
Thanks for having me here. I never intended to be a music Director at a Temple, but I must say it’s had a powerful impact on my art. I used to write songs, but the primary goal was doing something catchy and cool. But now – that’s changed. I try to do something that elevates the spirit, something transcendent, that takes people out of the humdrum daily, and makes them aspire to be better. I can’t say everything I write fits that description, but it’s aspirational. Week after week, I am in front of a group of people and it’s my task to make them feel the power of something greater than them. Whether they’re atheist people who believe in a higher power, or just people who are into community, music can have a positive impact on people’s lives… it lets deeper thoughts and truths sink in. Truth is beauty. And so, every week I have a chance to do music, my own compositions, and try it out in front of people. When I see people closing their eyes and swaying, or moving their bodies and attaining a meditative state, I know I’ve done something right. I think this informs everything I do when I write. On some subconscious level, I’m trying to do something that I know it would have that kind of power.
Can you describe your songwriting process and where you tend to draw inspiration from?
I’ve become a bit of a lazy songwriter. What I mean by that is I used to sit down at my instrument, the guitar or piano, or synthesizer, and say to myself, “I’m gonna try to write something today.” I’ve taken the approach more of the romantic era composers, who, I understand, felt that setting an instrument was counterproductive because it blocks inspiration and leads you to put your fingers in places that they’ve been in—slipping into patterns and past performances. So what I try to do is become a divining rod, just to pick up some cosmic frequency or whatever you want to call it; some beautiful thing that’s out there and it’s my job to shut down the internal walls and let myself absorb it. That means that I like writing by not trying to write. It’s more mindless than subconscious. Whether I’m taking a walk – in the shower, lying in bed or even mindlessly strumming on the guitar… whenever something good happens, I just sing it into my phone and then come back to it later and flush it out. Songwriting can be pretty boring and dispiriting when you’re asking in your head into the wall hour after hour and not doing something good. For me as long as the inspiration keeps flowing, it’s a faster way to keep myself enjoying the process.
What is the significance of the film Waltz With Bashir? How did it help develop the visual for “I Don’t Know The Way To Your Heart”?
Waltz with Bashir had a powerful impact on me. A graphic comic kind of feel… A film about Middle East Lebanon war, and the atrocities that were committed, and how it was suppressed in peoples’ subconscious for years, but it always finds a way out. I watched several documentaries on how they made that, filming live action in front of green screens and frame by frame animating, and putting it all together. It was really powerful. And it had that forlorn lost feeling which I felt my song “I Don’t Know The Way To Your Heart” has. That song is about searching, yearning, and chasing something that keeps moving further away as you approach it. I thought that the color palette we chose was influenced by that film and others like it and created the right vibe that matched the song.
How has meditation impacted your creative process?
I don’t meditate in the classic way at all. If I try to do a lotus position, I’d probably throw my lumbar. In any event, I do try to create something that puts people in a meditative state. Slower tempos, sometimes a little bit of a dotted rhythmic feel. I do listen to a lot of Middle Eastern music, including Sufi music, which has that effect. in other words, I try to make my music meditative and inspire that in other people, in the listener, but that’s more important to me than the state I’m in when I’m writing.
Are there any hopes, dreams, or plans for the future of Palms Station that you’d like to put out into the universe?
I have years and years of songs collected, and the next record I’m putting out is special to me because it has some of the songs that were supposed to be on a record I was to make for A&M records back in their heyday, but the project never came to fruition. It’s amazing for me to be able to do some of the songs and have my daughters sing them with me. Talk about full circle. Also, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Curt Smith from Tears for Fears recently , which was an amazing experience. We practiced a group of eight of us and Curt, and he was the most modest and humble guy in the room. Also working on a new record with Joe Chiccarelli, who is a fantastic producer who has done some records I’ve loved over the years. I also started writing songs with Alain Whyte, who is Morrissey’s chief songwriter, and we’ve come up with some good stuff I’m excited to put out. So I suppose meeting new talents who might be interested in collaboration would be a goal of mine. Also, hoping to come up with a new batch of tunes this summer. I like to vacation out of the country and bring an instrument with me because that’s usually the best trigger for inspiration: foreign places, new experiences, and especially nature, Ocean, beach, sun, trees, wind… It all gets my synapses exploding, which is what makes good art possible.