Monday, July 14, 2014

Letters from High Latitudes: Interview with Ed Roman

Right out of the gate, with his freshman release in 2000, Special Ed and The Musically Challenged, Ed
Roman defined his paradigm with inventive, infectious tunes that shook one’s marrow and stirred the spirit…This guy is unique! Three follow-up releases with SEMC continued to mesmerize and astonish, with music that both kissed and prodded, seduced and challenged, hypnotized and enlightened…

In May 2011, Ed released his solo venture, Oracles and Ice Cream, and has never looked back. It is 22 tracks that are an amazing marvel of songwriting wizardry, prodigious performances and contagious energy, with the mystery and magic of a lucid, tantalizing dream. The music both traverses and convenes broad music styles into the consummate collective of penetrating rhythms and canyon-wide harmonic explorations, glazed with lyrics that are both poignant and whimsical.

Now, in 2014, with Letters from High Latitudes, (an homage to his Ontario, Canada home) Ed Roman has done it again, creating an earthy, funky and magical mix of music to seduce the listeners’ ears! An accomplished musician, Ed performs 90 percent of the instruments on his album, recording drums, bass, guitars, organ, vocals and even sitar! The sound is rounded out with help from some of the top Canadian session musicians like Dave Patel on drums (Sass Jordan) and Mike Freedman on electric guitars (Tia Brazda.) Sit back, get mellow and listen to this truly skillful musician weave a tapestry of enchantment from an eclectic fabric of musical styles.

One can never get too comfortable however, as Ed will undoubtedly prompt the listener to examine their world and stimulate them to make it better! Ed asks us everyone to glimpse the world from his vantage point, offering up his vision and sometimes helping to point out the areas that need tidying. Like the janitor of conscience, he’ll frequently show the cobwebs and sweep the dirt from the corners of one’s perspective. The listener is left uplifted, invigorated and enriched by dewy new jewels of insight and permeated by a mosaic of musical mayhem. Funky, ethereal, grungy, luscious, rowdy, serene, provocative, clever, insightful and uniquely exhilarating, Ed Roman’s marvelous musings drop dollops of tasteful delight through our ears to our hearts. You can’t help but dance. You can’t help but smile.

Interview with Ed Roman

Tell us how it all started. When was the first time you picked up the guitar?

Ed Roman: Well, first off thanks for having me today. I guess it all started when I was very young. I started playing music long before I could speak. It seemed like everybody in my household loved music, and music was the most important thing in anybody's life. I grew up in a household with three generations of people. My grandparents loved music. My grandmother was always singing. I can't remember a time when she wasn’t enjoying or talking about music. My parents listened to a lot of jazz music. My brother and sisters who were 10 years older than I was, were listening to music from the 60s and 70s, everything from rock, folk, disco, you name it. Because my household was so busy and I was the baby, I found music as a necessity in order to be heard and to listened to. I'm also dyslexic so music for me was a way to gravitate to my own form of self-expression and be able to relay my ideas and stories to other people. For that reason music is really a way of life for me. It's not just a job, occupation, it’s everything in my life and my life is music.

Who influenced you to become a musician and write songs?

Ed Roman:  There are so many people that have influenced me over the many years. It's really hard to say or pinpoint just one person or group of people, but nonetheless much of music over the last hundred years has greatly impacted me as a writer, singer, composer and lover of music. I first fell in love with the Beatles. My grandmother would always pontificate about Paul McCartney and how much she loved him, and later when I was six or seven years of age she gave me my first five dollars to be able to buy my first record. That first record was Meet the Beatles. I listened to it over and over and over again and fell in love with the harmonies stylings, and robustness of the music. As I grew older and came into my own frame of musical thinking, I fell in love with Jaco Pastorius. I was given a couple of records by Bud Hill, who was the music teacher at Richmond Hill high school. I didn't actually attend Richmond high school, but my good friend and musical cohort Tobias Tinker attended. Bud gave him two Jaco Pastorius records, and told him that he should give them to his friend Ed. Those two records, Jaco Pastorius, his first solo record, and his second album Crisis completely transformed me as a young player. I also love a lot of progressive rock music like Yes, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd and as I got a little older progressive jazz music like Stanley Clarke, the Brecker Brothers, John MacLachlan, David Grisman, and other pop progressive music like Level 42. As you can see there are many genres of music that I have fallen in love with and that doesn't even include jazz musicians like Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and really the list goes on and on. So the list is really endless and ongoing. Some of the music today that inspires me are people like the Derek Trucks band, Lorde, and Esperanza Spalding.

In your bio it says you perform 90 percent of the instrumentation on your album. That's quite an accomplishment.  What motivated you to play all these instruments? Do you incorporate all your talents in your new album?

Ed Roman: I find that new instruments are something that can really motivate you as a player on your principal axe of choice. There is something very fundamental and humbling about trying to express yourself on other things that you are not as experienced on. Your thinking is very open and different and you are being pushed in ways outside your comfort level. I have always found it to be greatly cathartic to express with other means..

Speaking of your new album Letters from High Latitudes. Tell me about this album. Why is this one so special to you and why should people pick up a copy?

Ed Roman:  Letters from High Latitudes is a very special record. It once again illustrates the diversity of my music and discusses some very important sociopolitical and spiritual topics. From day-to-day so many of us think about problems, actions, and where we are headed in our future, yet most of us lack the ability to artistically articulate these day-to-day feelings and spiritual impressions. I believe that an artist is a person who is a reflector of the subconscious of the mass of us that live together on the spinning ball. Herbie Hancock once wrote on the back of Jaco Pastorius's first record, the definition of an artist is one who has the ability to fuse their life with the rhythm of the times. I believe this statement to be true. When you listen to my music whether it's the new record Letters from High Latitudes or something that I've written in the past like Oracles and Ice Cream you are always going to find me being humorous and trustworthy to the truth that is showing itself to me. It's an important record for this day and age.
When you write songs, which comes first, the lyrics or the music?

You know that's a wonderful question. I'm so often asked this and I think it's something that everybody wants to know. Music to me comes like a thief in the night. You hear a noise and you react, you get out of your bed and you look for the sound. Writing music is very similar. You're not always sure when the idea is going to come to you, the important thing to do is to follow the path that it is leading you on. So often we have ideas and thoughts yet we know not how to articulate, and or forget to act on the thought by writing it down and sharing it. Melody works very much the same way. It starts to present itself to you in these little pods, small ideas, whimsical things that amuse your imagination. Once again when you follow that path the melody starts to present itself to you provided you follow it. It's very much like the statue of David. The music is always there, the leader is always there, you just need to carve away the excess in order to be able to see and hear.

What other parts are you involved in the recording process? Do you also perform the production and engineering as well?

Ed Roman:  I've always dabbled in recording and it seems to be a necessity for most musicians. When I feel inspired much of the time I find I'm in a compositional mode. Song sometimes take a while to evolve in the mental time fog that will eventually turn itself out right. In other words wood shedding, the evolution of the peace. When I feel the piece is ready to be recorded, sometimes I will start to create acetates of the piece. This allows me to hear how the composition has evolved outside of my head. There were points in time where I would set up microphones and be running from room to room, that is control room to performance room and you can actually hear me running from place to place. Some of those recordings end up being the best tracks for music that I will eventually elaborate on. I find it however highly invaluable to have somebody working with you to free you up and allow you to be creative without being connected to the machine. This person for me is none other than Michael Jack. Michael Jack is my musical Corsican brother. I've been working so closely with him since I was a teenager that he's more like my family than just my engineer and producer. When we’re in the studio Michael is one of those people that allows things to flow and knows when to step in when things may be going awry. I greatly appreciate this help over the last 20 years of my musical career. Without him I would never have had the quality sound that you hear in my music and on my albums.

What is the most difficult part of being an independent artist?

Ed Roman: The most difficult thing about being an independent artist is that sometimes you're more like a juggler, or if you'll excuse the pun, a one armed paper hanger. I book gigs, I make posters, I haul gear, pay people out of my own pocket, make my own videos, produce my own music and if that isn't enough, I’m also the artistic designer for all merchandise. Some days it's hard to find time just to be a musician and songwriter. It greatly helps if you have somebody working with you to help you get your message out there. This person for me is Michael Stover. Michael Stover is my personal manager and is one of those people who believes in what I'm doing the way I do. I feel very lucky to be working with MTS, and day-to-day I see such great things happening with my music and more more people being exposed to what I'm doing. The important thing is that you keep going, and believe in yourself. If you don't all hope is lost, you must believe. If I could quote the great and mystical Yoda at this moment in time "there is no try, only do."

What is the best part of being an independent artist?

Ed Roman: The best part about being an independent artist is that you can pretty much do anything that you want at any time. There are no suits, executives, or big money people hanging over your head telling you what you can and can't do. You alone are responsible for everything that you do, good and bad. But you have a lot of freedom which really helps out the perspective and the depth that art and music can truly have. The independent industry as well illustrates that there are so many talented and wonderfully gifted people who've worked extremely hard to get where they are today as artists. The mainstay industry and Leviathan mega-corporate music companies don't really want to participate in good art. They're more interested in creating ego-icons making loads of money from it and using that imagery to sell more and more products. So many artists that I've seen in the quote unquote Grammy super sludge over the top superstar positions, are selling more clothes and cosmetics than they are actually writing good art. You always find wonderful interpretations, high-end writing, extreme dexterity and you will keep hearing great art in the independent thoroughfare.

You released a music video called, "I Told You So". That is one of the first singles from Letters from High Latitudes. Do you have more music video projects soon to be released?

Ed Roman: Yes it was an extreme pleasure to bring you I Told You So and in fact just today, Monday July 14, I just released a new video for the second track on the album "Comin My Way". It's a very Dylan-esque portrayal of the song set under the beautiful 250-year-old sugar maples on my farm here in Ontario Canada. The barn that we built two years ago that has two huge silver lightning bolts on the door also made its way into the new video. It's fun, hopeful, and views more like a Rembrandt painting on TiVo.

What is in store for Ed Roman? What can fans expect from Ed Roman in the coming months?

Ed Roman: Well I'm planning on a tour to the United States in September and October. I'm hoping to do a little pre travel in August to suss out some work in Pennsylvania. Later on in October I plan to head closer to the eastern seaboard towards Boston, New York, Florida, and anywhere that will have me. My motto is I'll play in a ditch or a play in a stadium. Come on by the website at and see what I'm up to, where I'll be playing and what radio shows I'll be on in towns near you. You can also go to iTunes and get the Ed Roman App for your android or iPhone today. Thanks so much for having me and it's been such a pleasure talking with you today. Much love and respect. Ed Roman.

Find more of Ed Roman
Official website

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