The world is full of singer/songwriters. Los Angeles has even more than that. Surprisingly, some of them are really good. One of them is a man who goes by the mysterious moniker AM. My first experience with his music was hearing an mp3 last year on the South by Southwest website. I enjoyed it very much, and the same can be said of his debut album, Troubled Times. Last year was a rather good one for him; not only did he release his debut album and tour the country, but he also received many year-end accolades and made appearances in several "best of 2006" lists. No surprise there. Chatting with him was nice; I have a feeling 2007 will be even bigger for him. Or, at least, that's my hope...2006 was a pretty productive year for you, wasn't it?
Yeah! It was full of great things. I can't complain at all. It all started with KCRW, who started playing my songs before the album was out, and that led to the LA Weekly music awards giving me a singer/songwriter award, and then KCRW brought me out to South by Southwest. That's when I got signed, and from there, that's where things started happening. I'd recorded the album on my own, and I'd wondered what I would do with it. Then KCRW got a hold of it, and they really liked it, and they started pushing it, then TV shows and movies started using my music in their soundtracks, and it all started to build momentum in a natural way.You're originally from New Orleans, and that's a rather musical city. What prompted you to leave there for LA?
I think I needed a change. At that point, I'd lived in Louisiana for a long time, and I got to thinking, "Well, I want to try something else." I've always had this fascination with the west coast, with the vibe and the weather. I didn't know how long I'd last out here, but I just wanted to see what was going on out here. So I knew LA was going to have a lot of musicians, and I knew I would be in good company, with lots of other people doing what I do, so I just packed up everything in my car and came out here. It was pretty naïve, to be honest with you. I didn't really have any dreams of grandeur; I just wanted to see what I could do, to see if I could make it making music.
Have you been successful so far?
It's been a gradual build. It hasn't been an overnight success; but then again, I don't think that exists for most people. What's good about it is it's happened in a true and natural way. I've put my music out there on the table; people have come to it, liked it, and have worked to help me get it out there more. It's been a real natural progression. But mostly, it's been about people liking my music, and because they like it, they want to share it with their friends, they want to come see me play, they want to put it on the radio or in their films or on their TV show. They just want to get the word out.When you go to LA, you're obviously entering into a sea of artists and talents, and I'd imagine there are a lot of singer/songwriters to be found there. Is it frustrating, knowing that you're operating in a city where there are hundreds--if not thousands--of other artists doing exactly what you're doing?
I think that's the case with everything in music today. I think there are more bands and musicians out there than ever before in the history of music! (Laughs) Seems like everywhere you look, there's another
band. So I don't think that's something specific to Los Angeles. One thing that made it--I won't say "easier," but it made things probably a bit more comfortable, but I found this place called the Hotel Café, which was, at the time, starting up a bit of a singer/songwriter scene. It was a nice little place to go where I could formulate my sound and get my music together, but also to get friendly support. It was good to have that. It was good to have a little place to go and have a central location, you know, a place to go and see people and say, "Hey, what are you workin' on today? How are you doin'? How do you do this? What do you think of this?" It's a nice meeting ground, a nice place to meet other musicians, as well as make friends. It kind of reminded me of what I think it must have been like during the Greenwich Village days. But yeah, I think anybody would feel overwhelmed when they move to a new city, and certainly I did. In terms of being one of the many singer/songwriters in LA, I think that's more of a worldwide problem! (Laughs)Were you surprised to find an earthy, homely, friendly community scene in LA?
Yeah! Community isn't something you necessarily think of when you think of Los Angeles. But I've received more advice from other musicians than anybody else, though. It's because we're all in it together, and, plus, I think it's the nature of where the music business is heading anyway. It's getting harder and harder to get paid in the music business these days. I think artists are banding together in every sense, because we all know how hard it is. It's not worth it to be so single-minded and competitive. It's too hard of a business to be like that. You help people out and they'll help you out, and that's the way it should be. It's a good way to be in general, though. It's the way we should all
be living.I understand you're about to do something with Greg Laswell. Is it something he's working on with you, is it something you're working on with him, or is it a secret project at this point?
Well, I don't want to say too
much about it at this point. We do plan on going in and recording a song together, just because we respect each other's work. There's been talk of doing a little tour together. We've started a mutual, respectful relationship! (Laughs) I don't want to go into too much detail, because it hasn't happened yet. But I really love Greg's work, and hopefully we will do some things together, and when we do, I'm really looking forward to it.Have you completed your next record?
I have, actually! I'm mastering it next week, and that'll be it! It'll be finished. We're looking to put it out this summer, and I'm really
looking forward to that. Meanwhile, I'm still touring and promoting Troubled Times
for the rest of the spring, and then I'm going to jump right in on the second record. I'm not even going to waste time by stopping to breathe. I've been working on it for the past year; I've practiced, recorded, and toured, all while working towards this record. Now it's finished, and I'm super excited about it!How would you describe the new material?
It's a lot more organic sounding. There are no synthesizers; it was recorded in a live setting, where the band played all together, and there are few overdubs. We did
record everything on two-inch tape, so the music has a nice, warm feel to it. I really wanted to harness the warmth of each instrument. There's a lot of raw piano, raw organ, and we wanted to keep it really spacious. It's sparse, raw, and warm. It's definitely going to sound a lot
different from the first record, and in a good way. I'm moving into a new phase. My first record was basically recorded in two apartments, and then we went and put drums on it later on. It was pretty much done just by me and Jamie. I played just about every instrument with the exception of a few things. This second album is much more communal. Wouldn't want it to sound any other way!AM's Troubled Times is available now on his website