An Interview With The Musician, CONOR MULROY on his Latest Music and The Skiing Accident That Inspired It And More!
Posted On 06 Nov 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Boston Conservatory, Conor Mulroy, Damien Lewis, Dan Sonenberg, Dave Easley, Erykah Badu, Foxfire, James Hetfield, Justice For All, Lake Arrowhead, Leonard Cohen, Lindsay Paige Garfield, Melmac Records, Metallica, Michael Feingold, Montana, Nick Drake, Patrick Warren, Prince, Ride The Lightning, The Last Circus Act, The Roots, The University of Maine, Tom Arey
Meet the singer-songwriter, CONOR MULROY! He is an accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalist whose style covers a wide range of musical influences. He owns his own record label, through which he has published and released 5 records in genres that include bluegrass, classical, metal, jazz, and singer/songwriter. He also has a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Southern Maine. Throughout his career he has worked with other labels and media companies to promote his music and has toured throughout the US with other artists as well as a solo act. In addition to performing he has also spent a lot of time writing music that ranges from pieces for solo instruments to music arranged for symphony orchestras.
His latest record – The Last Circus Act – was recorded in the mountains of Lake Arrowhead, California. The session took place over 10 days in a cabin whose living room was converted into a studio with gear rented from a studio in LA. Along with producer and arranger Michael Feingold and engineer Damien Lewis, the 3 musicians laid down the basic tracks for the record, having little idea of where the music was headed. After the session Feingold went back to his studio and arranged the music which Damien then mixed. Vocalist Lindsay Paige Garfield, piano and keyboard player Patrick Warren, pedal steel and dobro player Dave Easley, and drummer Tom Arey all contribute to this unique singer/songwriter record.
Learn more about recording his latest album, his biggest inspirations and more in the following All Access interview with Conor:
Thanks for your time today! What else do you have going on besides this interview? What’s a typical day like for you lately?
No problem! A typical day starts with a cup a coffee and songwriting. I’m disciplined like that! (Laughter)
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician?
I picked up my first guitar at 8 years old. I taught myself to play by listening and imitating James Hetfield’s solos on classic Metallica records like Ride the Lightning and … And Justice for All. I also took classical piano lessons around the same time. I continued to learn more instruments as I progressed through high school and college. I began writing songs as a pre-teen. I picked up mandolin, 5-string banjo, bass, and xylophone (experimentally speaking, lol) while studying at Boston Conservatory. Then I studied under Dan Sonenberg at The University of Maine. I received a Master’s Degree in Music Composition there. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world for my work. I’ve composed for film, orchestra, ensembles, and across all genres, everything from acoustic to even a metal-classical hybrid sound that is truly mine. I also have my own record label, Melmac Records. I self-release all of my records. Does that answer your question sufficiently, lol?
It sounds like you have experimented with all kinds of genres of music. Why do you think you’ve continued to do that?
Because I approach songwriting from a composing/composition point of view versus that of being a band member or bandleader. I’ve acted in both aforementioned capacities before, but neither are my truest expression. That’s the foremost reason, I believe. My new album The Last Circus focuses on “the song,” even more so than any prior record I’ve released. My inspiration came great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake.
Let’s talk about your very scary skiing accident. What was it like spending almost a week in intensive care after it? How is your hip now? How did that time help you create the music that would become “The Last Circus Act”?
I could have died. I almost died. I was skiing in Montana’s Beartooth mountains and took a dangerous dive. The rest is too miserable to recount. I survived and came out of ICU. I didn’t have the typical existential questioning that follows a near death experience though. I became much more interested in the concept of time, time in general, and time in respect to daily life. My body took time to heal and is still healing.
As I said before I’m a composer foremost, so most of music isn’t lyrical. Almost dying forced this expression out of me. In the simplest way to say, writing and singing words instead of hearing notes in my head, helped me to process what happened really, and it opened up a new creative process for me.
“The Last Circus” is very different from last release, a mandolin-driven album called “Foxfire” that I released in 2012. What this new process taught me was that it was okay to start creating something without knowing where it was going or how it should turn out. This concept gave me, my producer
Michael Feingold and our engineer Damien Lewis, a lot of freedom during the recording process.
I have spent a few days up in Lake Arrowhead and it was beautiful and it really did feel so far from LA and quite the escape. Why did you want to record this new collection there?
I love nature. I feel most inspired and happiest in nature. That love, ironically almost took me out for good! Also Lake Arrowhead was a practical meeting point for my producer Michael Feingold and our engineer Damien Lewis. They both live Los Angeles.
What was it like working with the producer Michael Feingold who has worked with The Roots, Erykah Badu and Prince?
We’ve been friends since my Ride the Lightning days. There’s a certain trust and chemistry between us that I don’t have with anyone else. He was the only choice in my mind when the album concept was coming together.
Inspite of/despite your accident, how do you think you have grown and changed as a musician since you started putting out music?
I’m always creating and evolving. I’m currently composing for a short film and I already have a new album of songs in pre-production that aren’t so lyrically driven. Being honest and true to myself is always my foremost goal.
What was it like finally singing on this record? I’ve read that singer-songwriter, Nick Drake has been a big inspiration to you. Why is that exactly?
He didn’t achieve much recognition during his life, but his music lived on and became almost even more important after he was gone. The music Drake made was a little different. It stands out to me. He died so young, at only 26, yet his short life was shrouded in mystery. After all these years, his songs are still pretty much all we know about him, and I think that’s a powerful statement for what he left behind.
What other musicians have continued to inspire you through the years? Who would you love to work with in the future?
I would like to work with Michael again. I likely will.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music?
I don’t create for that reason. The listener will either like the music I make or they won’t buy it. Either way is fine with me.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Please become my friend on Twitter @conormulroy.