Ray LaMontagne makes music to make sense of the world
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On the title track of his seventh release, singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne begins by wondering “Why so many people always runnin’ ’round / Looking for a happiness that can’t be found?” before concluding “I choose to be part of the light.”
It’s a noble calling. And most songs on “Part of the Light” feel like LaMontagne striving to do just that: become part of the light in response to the darkness he sees in the world around him.
Ray LaMontagne; Neko Case
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island,1300 S. Linn White
There’s a soothing, almost meditative quality to the overall tone of the album — the way those first George Harrison solo albums were soothing — at a time when most of us could really use a little peace on earth.
The singer is on a tour with Neko Case, a “wonderful, truly great artist,” that comes to Northerly Island on Saturday.
Q: Did you have any goals as to what kind of record you wanted to make?
A: I guess you always go into it just wanting to get the most out of the material. There’s never really an intention. It’s more reacting to the material and trying to let it tell you what it wants and what it needs.
Q: Is the tone of the album a reaction on some level to the state of our culture?
A: It’s a direct reaction to that. And just trying to remind myself on one hand of what is really important and precious and beautiful about life and on the other hand trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
How did the pendulum swing so far to this spot? How did this happen? As everyone knows if you have any empathy at all, our culture is in a very unhealthy place and has been getting more so over the past decade for sure. I don’t have any answers. I just hope that it’s going to swing back in the other direction sometime soon.
It seems like people just feel so alone and social media was created to bring people together and make everyone feel connected. But no one’s connected. Everyone’s alone. And It makes them feel more isolated. You can be so cruel to people when you don’t have to look at them in the eyes and see that you’re really hurting them. It’s just this platform for meanness and ugliness. And it’s really sad.
Q: Did the creative process put you in a better place at all?
A: Maybe. I guess it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself what a gift it is to be able to sit with your friends and just have a real conversation and enjoy their company. Everything we need within us to be content in this life, I think, from conception, it’s there — all the tools you need to be content with your existence. But unfortunately, there are all these things that pull you away from that. So it’s good to remind yourself of that every day.
Q: You’ve talked about making yourself available to receive inspiration for songs.
A: I never sit down to write unless something is clawing at me. I can go six, seven months without picking up a guitar. But if I feel that pull and some melody starts to pull at me out of nowhere while I’m doing something else, I make time for it. I put down what I’m doing and whatever little piece of it is making itself known, I give it my attention. And that’s really it.
Then at a certain point, again, I feel that pull. And then I’ll end up spending days and days where I do nothing but pace in my study and play guitar and sort of observe these little pieces of melody and see what they want to be. But I never force myself to do it or even worry about it if I’m not doing it.
Q: Does the feel of the new album have an impact on the way you fill out the setlist for your tour?
A: The new record is always the core. You want to get these songs out there. But there’s so many different things. I spent a lot of time working with this fellow, Jeremy Roth, on the lighting design. It’s an analog set. It’s beautiful. Very warm and brilliant. So we spent a lot of time on that. And then the guys in the band, that kind of shapes the muse as well. But I think it’s going to be a beautiful show to look at as well as listen to.