RUSSELL SUERETH
Spiritual Odyssey
(Haven Tone Records)

 

The relationship between pop music and New Age music has existed for many years. Even rock bands like The Beatles and YES understood the value of contemplative music designed to both soothe and inspire their fans. Not surprisingly, many New Age artists have backgrounds in both instrumental and pop-rock music. A good example is New Jersey based artist Russell Suereth. Russell made great inroads into the instrumental New Age field with his 2015 album Spiritual Haven, and late in 2017 he released his follow-up album, Spiritual Odyssey. In a twist of fate, Russell goes back to his pop roots for the ten-track Spiritual Odyssey album. The mood of the Spiritual Odyssey album is very New Age in feel yet, the pop-like vocals and toe-tapping rhythms gives Spiritual Odyssey a very different kind of sound from Spiritual Haven. The feel of Spiritual Odyssey contains traces of late 1960s West Coast pop, ala Gary Usher and Brian Wilson, and a definite East Coast pop sound from mid ‘60s pop icons like Paul Simon and even the breezy pop trio The Cyrkle, albeit from a 21st century New Age / electronic perspective. Speaking about the New Age meets pop-like effect on Spiritual Odyssey, Russ tells mwe3.com, “I wanted to have the first couple of songs be more familiar to listeners, because some songs later in the album can be quite different. There are some hints of 1960s in these songs. For instance, “It’s All Around” has hints of popular love songs from back then, and the “Walls Are Tumbling” has some folk tones from the Kingston Trio.” If there is such a thing as New Age pop, it truly comes to life on Spiritual Odyssey. Although Spiritual Odyssey is very much Russell’s baby, several producers, mixers and programmers help give the album a most unique sonic sheen. Filled with uplifting lyrics, haunting melodies and electronic wizardry, Spiritual Odyssey is a momentous New Age pop album designed to recharge your karmic batteries.

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
RUSSELL SUERETH
The Spiritual Odyssey interview


mwe3
: The change of direction on Spiritual Odyssey came as a pleasant surprise, showing your side as a vocalist / pop composer. Is this new direction a clear change from your album Spiritual Haven and aside from your vocals, how would you compare the two albums?

Russell Suereth: When I started creating the Spiritual Odyssey album I wanted to make something that had a creative and spiritual feel to it. I also wanted to bring more of myself to the album and felt that adding my vocals would do that. You’re right, what came out of it was a result that’s much different from the Spiritual Haven album.

This new album is also different because of the electronic instrumentation in it. I created all the main electronic instruments for this album, and if you listen closely there’s a lot of cool subtle nuances and sounds in these instruments. I think these nuances add an interesting layer of detail to the songs.

mwe3: Speaking about all things “spiritual” how did you come to start the Spiritual Fizz podcast? When did you start it and what are your goals and purpose with the podcast and, as a follow up, are you planning to make other spiritual-based albums as a follow up to the Spiritual Odyssey album?

Russell Suereth: That’s a good question. I started an e-magazine about a year ago titled the Spiritual Fizz magazine. I had a lot of interesting guest columnists and it was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t going exactly where I wanted. So I had this idea of doing a podcast based on the magazine. The Spiritual Fizz podcast has been even more fun. In every episode we have a featured guest who discusses their spiritual experiences or insights, we hear about an important spiritual place in the world, and learn about some upcoming spiritual observances.

mwe3: On Spiritual Odyssey were you just as much concerned about getting the melodies to be at their most effective as you were about the getting the audio sound perfect? Seems like you gave a lot of thought to all the chords and key changes, so the whole album sounds elevated. Plus, the chord / key changes are very unique sounding. Did you have any other parameters in making the album?

Russell Suereth: I spent about a year working on the structure and lyrics of those songs. There were quite a few major changes along the way. They started with the same basic keys and chord structures that they have today. Keys and chords to me are always a game between my creativity and preferences, versus what I think listeners would enjoy. The result is a balance between those two, with each song having a different level on that balance.

As far as the lyrics go, these songs originally had a lot more lyrics to them. I kept paring them down until I wound up with a small amount. To me the lyrics in a song help provide imagery. Ironically, that imagery can work better when there are fewer lyrics. A small number of words can allow the listener to focus on a clear image from the song.

The audio sound was probably an additional year in the works. That year was spent creating instruments, fitting them together in the soundscape, and trying to make each song an immersive experience for the listener.

mwe3: You have an interesting team with the various audio / production consultants and contributors on the Spiritual Odyssey album. How did you meet up with Miklos Malek? What was done in the mixing and mastering process to get that amazing studio sound?

Russell Suereth: Thank you, I’m very proud of the team on this album. I had worked with another team prior to this one and I wasn’t happy with the results because we weren’t on the same page. But this production team of Jeff Silverman, Aeone, and with Byron Metcalf for percussion was unbelievable. They’re great to work with, and very insightful and detailed. I love that.

Once the main production was completed, I really wanted the album to have a particular tone that highlighted the creativity and spiritual quality I was looking for. I had known Miklos a little through the Recording Academy for the Grammy awards, and I asked him if he was available for the project. I’m so glad he was able to work on this album because I think that he helped create a layer in the soundscape that really puts a fantastic depth and polish on it.

Of course nothing is simple or easy, and the same goes with any audio project. Everyone has different ideas and tastes, and so there’s a lot of going back and forth about the details and the overall soundscape. It’s important to remember that, as the creator and producer of the project the main vision is yours, and it’s your responsibility to convey that to the other people in the project and get them to see your vision. In a way, you’re the orchestra conductor and the rest of the team are the players. The different nuances and energies in each part of each song are your responsibility to express and teach.

mwe3: What was your instrument set up this time? What synths and keyboards did you play on Spiritual Odyssey and did you use other instrumentation compared to your other album Spiritual Haven?

Russell Suereth: Probably the biggest difference in the instrumentation was that I used Omnisphere in Spiritual Odyssey. Omnisphere is a synth and instrument creation tool that has a lot a sound and layering capabilities. It takes a while to get used to it, but if you stick with it long enough you can create fantastic sounds. I think Einstein said that he didn’t regard himself to be smarter than his peers, he just worked longer on problems than they did. I’m certainly no Einstein but I think that sticking with a problem is an interesting perspective.

mwe3: The album sounds more like a pop painting in audio form. What else can you tell us about the recording process and how about the album graphics?

Russell Suereth: I’m very visually oriented, so when I create audio I’m really creating a painting in an audio form. I did the album graphics myself. All of the graphics are original or repurposed images that I completely recreated. Sometimes I think that I spend too much time doing these things by myself and that I should get someone to do them for me instead. But then I think, why should they have fun doing that when it’s something I want to do? I just love creating things.

mwe3: “Break The Chains” and “My Beating Heart” reminded me a lot of 1960s pop ala Nilsson or Simon & Garfunkel but played in a New Age electronic style. On Spiritual Odyssey, did you try to merge pop through the decades to come up with a kind of 21st century "Future Pop" or "Computer pop"?

Russell Suereth: I wanted to have the first couple of songs be more familiar to listeners, because some songs later in the album can be quite different. There are some hints of 1960s in these songs. For instance, “It’s All Around” has hints of popular love songs from back then, and the “Walls Are Tumbling” has some folk tones from the Kingston Trio.

mwe3: By playing and recording your music like this, did you set out to create a kind of ethereal or relaxing and therapeutic approach to pop, for example “Where Will I Go”… is that a positive song?

Russell Suereth: Well, I really wasn’t trying to create something for a specific genre. I was, though, trying to create songs that have a balance of thoughtfulness and creativity, mixed of course with tones that could help the listener get into a spiritual state of existence.

mwe3: The subject of sci-fi is brought to light on “A Ride To Virgo”. Did the whole Spiritual Odyssey album come to light like an interstellar music trip in your mind? The concept of an odyssey in a song is an intriguing idea.

Russell Suereth: To me, “A Ride to Virgo” is very visual and evokes images of space and stellar travel. The tone in some places can be soft to depict loneliness in space. This song is mainly about a trip, and trips can be filled with love and sometimes with heartache. No trip ever goes as planned, especially long ones. This song is no exception.

mwe3: Is “So Far Away” the most pop-conscious song on the album? Did you write it about someone in particular?

Russell Suereth: When I created this song, I envisioned a light song that I guess you could say has a pop-ish feel. I didn’t have any person in mind in this song, though I think that it conveys the feeling of losing someone. That person may still be out there, in some type of existence. But it’s a long way to where they are… if you could ever really get there.

mwe3: “The Hidden Dance” sounds like a Déjà vu experience. Is Déjà vu a real thing in your estimation or are things like ESP and Déjà vu more quirky parts of being human?

Russell Suereth: I agree. “The Hidden Dance” describes a part of the universe that’s hard to see, but that we feel exists in some degree. Whether we call it ESP or whatever words we use, it does seem like something that we all experience in various forms.

mwe3: Is “It’s All Around” a future pop love song? It’s a kind of universal love song.

Russell Suereth: This song has two forms. On one hand it’s a simple love song that you can apply to the lover in your life. On the other hand it describes the love and beauty of the spiritual existence that exists everywhere and always. For me, the song takes both forms, which makes it fun and interesting.

mwe3: “The Walls Are Tumbling” is another sci-fi song. I like the beat and rhythm of the track. It’s pretty accessible!

Russell Suereth: “The Walls Are Tumbling” is about shattering the constraints that let you see the world as it really exists. That message takes the form of a galactic journey in the song. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, maybe because I feel there are more contrasts in this song, and I love contrasts. I’m glad you enjoy the rhythm because Miklos Malek did the bass on this song and it really gives the song that extra push like a never-ending groove, which I love.

mwe3: “Seed Of Imagery” is kind of mantra-like so the sound is very key in that there are only five words in the song. The special effects on this song and, in fact all of them, are truly mind-boggling.

Russell Suereth: This song is quite different from the rest because it has more of an ambient feel to it. It was basically a regular song originally, but I never liked how it sounded no matter how much I changed it. So I removed all the main lyrics and only kept the chorus. I modified it to be very ambient and moved the chorus to the end. This song actually has far fewer instruments and fewer layers in it, and it has no percussion. I think that helps the effects and instrumentation be much more noticeable.

mwe3: Is “A Burning Rainbow” upbeat or not? The analogy of a rainbow burning is a bit startling or, is it just a different way to see things in our world of contrasts? Why did you close the album with “A Burning Rainbow”?

Russell Suereth: That’s a good question. “A Burning Rainbow” isn’t necessarily upbeat or happy, nor is it necessarily sad. It’s simply depicting the vision or creation that the listener is experiencing. I think that good and bad are words we use in our language to describe things, and we’re taught to view existence from that perspective. But there are certainly many other perspectives that can be used to experience the world around us.

The rainbow at the end of the album depicts the creativity that can arise from a spiritual journey. But it’s not an ordinary rainbow. Instead, it joins a multitude of different tones and shades that can blend and move together. In this song, I’m using the term “burning” to depict that blending, and also to signify an end to an ordinary way of looking at the world.

mwe3: In addition to getting the word out about Spiritual Odyssey what else are you planning and looking forward to in 2018 and how do you stay upbeat about the future?

Russell Suereth: Well, I plan on spending a lot of time working on the Spiritual Fizz podcast and getting the word out on it. I think that it provides important topics and discussions in a way that’s easily accessible to people. Each one of us, me included, can benefit by spending more time in a mindful and spiritual manner…




 

 
   
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