Ed Hale just released his fourth single of the year, the infectious summer groove “Gimme Some Rock ‘N’ Roll”, and we had a chance to sit down and chat with the singer about it and other matters like how to achieve your career goals and the secret to creating a classic album
1. First of all, for our younger readers, what can you tell us about the start of your professional career? How did you get your start?
Ed Hale: I’m still waiting for my professional career to start! (laughs) Honestly man I have to give most of the credit to my parents. My mom was super supportive of my music career. Once I got that first guitar, I didn’t leave my room. I was obsessed with becoming a good guitar player, learning how to sing, being in a band, writing good songs… So all I did was practice those things and listen to music and try to get better. Once my parents saw that, they started seeing that I that commitment, maybe even an obsessiveness, and that it was real. I wasn’t messing around. It wasn’t a hobby. I was serious from a very young age. So they did whatever they could to help me. I know I’m lucky in that. And I don’t forget it.
But more importantly in terms of your question and other people just starting out, I was very shy… So I totally get that… You know, that’s something we have to deal with. But at the same time, I didn’t hold back and wait for something to happen. I knew it was going to come down to me. And as crazy as it sounds, I know I got really lucky and it’s not a normal thing, but in my first year of college, I gave my demo tape to one of my professors, and he heard it and started actively shopping me around and that’s how it all began. I was opening for big acts and playing in huge venues by the time I was 17 years old. I quit school and went on the road. It was absolutely crazy and awesome. Almost effortless.
Of course it didn’t end there. There have been a lot of ups and downs since then. And maybe that’s the more important thing to say… is that your career doesn’t have a start or an end… It has a lot of them. So you have to keep at it. What it comes down to in the end is what YOUR goals are, and if you’re achieving them or not.
2. What were some of your goals then? Specifically.
Ed Hale: Well for me at first it was all about getting girls and partying and getting attention (laughs). Probably like everybody. Especially at that age. But that goes away real quick and then you start thinking about more important things, like the respect of your peers and how good you are. Wondering if you even are good…. And I honestly believe that’s the key to it, like if you want to have a real career. You have to be super focused on being great, whatever that means to you. For me that meant writing and recording songs and albums that were as good as the ones I loved as a kid. My goal was just feeling like I actually deserved that kind of success at such a young age. I didn’t want to just be a novelty act because I was young. That buzz went away pretty quickly. I wanted to be respected for being a real artist. And to a certain degree that’s what still drives me. I look at music-making like physics or filmmaking or architecture or great painters or authors. You’re either super fucking great, or you’re not. And if you’re not then why bother?
3. So is that what attracted you to begin a career as a singer? Why do you feel that was the ideal profession for you?
Ed Hale: (laughs) Man I can’t honestly say this is the ideal profession for me. I still question that. I mean, I’m ten or eleven albums in now and I still feel like our best albums are in front of us, not behind us. I still don’t feel like we’ve delivered our best work yet. But you know, it all depends on what your goals are. Some people base their entire career on how many hits they have, and that’s their whole focus, especially now. In this age of celebrity where there’re no actual accomplishments with it…. It becomes your rap sheet, or your calling card. Counting your hits or your awards. And I went through that too. We all do. But there has to be more to it than that. Because if your whole career is based on your hits, then you’re fucked once someone else starts hitting big. So there has to be a bigger picture going on in your mind. So pretty early on, and I mean early on, like junior high school probably, I started looking at my career in terms of accomplishments, like what did I CREATE, not what did I win. It all comes down to that classic album. Did you make it? Or did you come real close and not quite get it? Or did you forget to even try?
4. So do you feel like you made that classic album?
Ed Hale: (laughs) I knew you were going to ask that. I feel like we did with the Rise and Shine album. I had taken some time off from doing music… I needed that time to reflect on things, because I started in the business at such a young age. So once I got back into it after a year, I was very determined to create the best album of my career, to put everything into it. I looked at that album like it was literally going to be my last album, because I already felt so old by that point, and I was only 26! (laughs) But that’s how I approached it. The producer, this guy named Cliff Rawnsley, I have to give a LOT of credit to him. Because he believed in the project, and I don’t think he had any idea how dedicated I was to creating something epic and fantastic. We lived in his recording studio for two solid years! Nobody else could come in or work there. He was so selfless in his generosity with us. And I just kept going and going… And in the end, yeah I feel like that was the first time I delivered a truly great classic album.
Same thing with Nothing Is Cohesive. Similar circumstances. Fernando Perdomo, our guitarist, produced that one and we recorded it in his garage. It was his baby. He just let us all play on it. LOL! But in that case we were all committed to creating something truly stellar. Because we could hear that we had something really special going on in that moment as a band…. And we did it. That might be my favorite album of ours still.
I could say the same thing about All Your Heroes Become Villains too… Because that too was one of those epic sessions that went on forever, where I just absolutely refused to give up or concede until I heard what I wanted to. Talk about a labor of love. Again two solid years living in the recording studio… And now we look at that one like more of a Broadway show than an album. It’s a mammoth work musically and thematically. You have to prepare to listen to that album. So yeah…
5. It’s funny that you’re not naming your biggest selling albums though…
Ed Hale: Huh… Yeah, I guess. I never thought about that. I mean, Sleep With You was really popular in terms of hits on the radio. That’s true. But that was just circumstantial. We had garnered a name for ourselves after Rise and Shine. So we were bound to hit big at that moment. But that album is a mess. Hard for me to listen to it honestly. And I know you’re referring to Ballad On Third Avenue. Just because of the hits again… And I know a lot of people really dig it, and maybe it is great. But right now I’m just trying to get away from it, because it’s all anyone talks about and it’s in the past. So all I can think about now are the new albums… I think we may have come close with this new one.
6. You’re referring to the So For Real album that comes out this month… [So For Real will be officially released on August 24th]
Ed Hale: Yep. Hopefully it’ll be another Ballad On third. In terms of its success. We worked hard enough on it, that’s for sure. But regardless, right now I’m too close to it to be able to tell if it’s great or not. Some of that is going to come down to how well it does, if it resonates with the fans… And what it sounds like as a whole once it’s released. One thing I can say is this, it might be the most professional and polished sounding album we’ve ever released. Maybe there’s something to be said about that. I don’t know yet. I hope it does well. I hope people dig it.
7. Let’s change subjects. How do you like to be managed? What sort of management style gets the best out of you professionally?
Ed Hale: (Laughs). Oh man! Talk about a buzz kill. I don’t knowman. I mean, let’s be honest, some of us are almost impossible to manage. So any kind of management helps. I know what you’re going for, and I want to help you get there…. I guess what it comes down to is that as artists we tend to not be aware of much outside of our dreams and visions…. We have a very myopic and limited view of the world around us. So just having people around you who have awareness of what’s going on in the world helps a lot. And also someone who understands time and timing and dates… which are things that I tend not to think about. The team around me is vital for that kind of stuff. They remind me where we are in the process, or I’d never meet a deadline, never release anything. So yeah, people who are grounded and organized and don’t have their head in the clouds like we do. That’s essential to the process, for it to work.
8. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Ed Hale: Accept it. Of course you’re nervous! You’re attempting the impossible! If you weren’t nervous you’d be a fool. Because this business is brutal. But after you accept that, start stepping outside of it and recognizing that others have come before you and done what you want to do. So KNOW that it’s possible. You CAN do it if you set your mind to it. It’s not magic or rocket science. It’s commitment and dedication. You have to be fucking militant about achieving your goals. Because in the end, they’re yours. No one cares if you’re successful in your career or not. All other people care about is whether you move them or not. So work on that. That’s your goal. Touch other people with your work and with your life.
9. So what’s the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
Ed Hale: Well that’s tough, obviously. But I do try. I tend to prefer real, honest and intelligent dialogue about interesting things. So I hang out on Facebook and Instagram when I can. Not much of a Twitter fan. It’s just way too hostile and gross. And that’s the thing, you have to guard your peace of mind like a peaceful warrior. There’s just absolutely no need to immerse yourself in ugliness or negativity. So tell people to connect with me on Facebook. I’m real. I’ll respond. Facebook.com/edhale