Macon singer, songwriter, and producer Sean Solo is primed to release Morning Stars and Angel Sings, a new collection of folky, Americana-flavored pop tunes that echo across the human condition. The album, recorded in Solo’s (aka Sean Williams) Williams Music Production studio, features guest shots from several Central Georgia artsist as well partner and Hello Again collaborator Paige Horton. Sean Solo will mark the official release with a full-band performance at JBA on Friday, March 28th. You can preorder Morning Stars and Angels Sing here!
AI- Let’s talk about this new record you got comin’ out, Morning Stars and Angels Sing— a very overt biblical, celestial fall kind of imagery right off the bat. Is that what you were considering when you were writin’ these songs?
SS- Yeah. I’ve always included a lot of biblical references here and there. That one’s the last song on the album, and it’s the title track of the album. That song is about people who don’t do what they can with their talents or with their money. A lot of people have so much more opportunity to do good things and a lot of times they get focused and caught up with money or themselves and put others to the side. That’s what that song was about. But yeah, the whole album is sprinkled with references like that.
There is a great deal of focus placed on the idea of memory, the fragility of that, the passing of time… What’s been on your mind? I’m guessing that some of these songs were written during this last year? Is that what has been on your mind during a year of the pandemic?
The whole album revolves around different aspects of life– memory, love, children, death, the whole thing. The first song is called “Memories”. Actually, I wrote that a long time ago. That was probably the oldest song. It was a song that just came to me and I was just humming it one day. It was one of those songs where I was like, “Um, I don’t know if this is a song already, but I’m gonna write it anyway and hope it’s not!” My grandmother, which there’s another reference to her on this album, had Alzheimer’s and it was around that time, I think, right after she died, that I wrote that song.
I’d wondered about that– if that had been a more personal song to you. You have that great line, “I live for the memories I’ll soon forget,” which I also think falls in line with that unused potential that you talked about earlier.
Right. That song was, again, inspired by her. And then the fifth song on the album is one that actually, literally came to me in a dream! In the dream, my grandmother was singin’ this melody. That’s the title of that song, “The Melody For Your Song”. Sometimes you’ll dream a melody or something, and you never know if it’s something else until you hum it for other people– and they’re like, “No, I don’t think I know that.” But you never know! Sometimes, it’s just something else and you’re like, “Oh!” I immediately recorded it on my phone when I woke up. I thought that was just cool. I had to include that one. That was the last one I wrote for this album.
You brought up other focuses in certain songs, and you brought up children. “Find My Love”… That one sounds like a father or a parent talking to their child. How much of that is coming from your own experience?
That one I actually wrote for my baby sister. I was 14 when she was born. So there’s a big age gap! I don’t have any children of my own, but I did write that song for people who have their own children or just any child in their life, really. We have a big enough age gap that it’s a kind of different relationship than most brothers and sisters. In some ways, she’s as close to me as a child. That one, in particular, was written about her, but it’s just a general song for parents and their kids.
As I was listenin’, lots of things jumped out at me. There’s a great deal of pedal steel throughout the album and some strings. Tell me about some of the players on this record– or did you in fact teach yourself to play the pedal steel and did all of that stuff this time around?
On two of the tracks, it’s my friend Jeremy King. He’s a great guy! I love him and he is a great pedal steel player! He’s only been playin’ a few years, I think. He’s just a super nice guy and talented musician, He plays with Matt McMillan who also plays mandolin on a couple of the songs. The direction for the feel of the lyrics of this album just felt like it was going in that Americana approach. There’s a couple songs where I did faux pedal steel. I faked it (laughs) through studio trickery! But most of that is him. And if it sounds a little off then it’s probably me! As far as the strings go, violin was the first instrument I played, but I hadn’t played it much in recent years. I usually just do it for studio stuff, but yeah, I played strings on a couple of the tracks as well.
I wanna talk about your listening habits. You mentioned dreaming melodies, waking up, having one in your head, singin’ it for other people to see if it’s something that they’ve heard before. I talked to Brandy Clark the other day, and she mentioned the fact that while she may read a lot, she doesn’t listen to a lot of music because she stays so busy. She doesn’t want anything she’s listening to get on top of her mind, so she [doesn’t] end up piggybacking or whatnot. Is that a concern that you have? ‘Cause you stay busy doin’ Hello Again, your production work, and then your own music. What are your listening habits? Or do you forego any of them when you’re tryin’ to put somethin’ together?
Man, it’s funny you say that because, actually, for a musician, someone who does music for a living, I don’t listen to music like a lot of people do. There’s a lot of non-musicians who are finding way more music than I am! I don’t know if it’s an intentional or conscious decision. It’s mostly, I play music for a living, I record music, so by the end of the day, I want some peace and quiet! I’ll drive home and not listen to music, [whereas] a lot of people will always have to have some songs on in the car. It’s just a matter of how much music I’ve done that day and the mood I’m in.
But as far as like not letting it affect what I’m writing, I think, normally, I intend to write a song. A lot of people have a hard time sitting down and doing it– it has to come naturally. And that’s true as well! But usually, if I’m gonna write a song, I’m gonna sit down and write a song. Sometimes it fails. Occasionally, I will get a melody in my head and then I’ll write it down, but since this album’s been out, I haven’t written anything at all. Usually, when I write a song, I get an inspiration from a specific song. Some songwriting advice I got a long time ago was just to take a song you like and change it a little bit and into something that’s different. You change it here and there, and it becomes your own song. So a lot of those songs were direct inspirations from individual songs.
Did you record everything in your studio this time around? Or did you go anyplace else?
No, everything was at my home studio. Jeremy and Matt did their parts at their own studio. I actually had a guy from Taiwan, I believe, play upright bass on the track. He recorded that over there. We just met through the internet [when] I was just looking for an upright bass player.
[Morning Stars and Angels Sing] is coming out on May 28th, and you’ll be doing a show at JBA that night, too, with the full band. Have you been playing any of these songs out already?
A couple of ’em were released as singles last year, so we’ve played a couple of ’em before, but no, most of them haven’t been played live yet. We’re gonna debut a few of ’em, but there’ll be a mix of older songs and some from new album and covers as well. So it should be a pretty eclectic mix that night!
Is there gonna be a physical release? Are you gonna have CDs or vinyl or… I was about to say cassettes because I keep noticin’ people are startin’ to release cassettes again (laughs)!
Hey, if people buy it, I’ll get some cassettes!
Honestly, Sean, don’t do that. Don’t get cassettes (laughs)!
I have CDs. I have the link on my social media and website, but I’m actually trying to get vinyl released. I ordered a test copy, and I’m supposed to get it on Wednesday. So if that test copy looks good and everything…
Yeah! I’m really excited! A little nervous. I wanna make sure everything comes through and everything looks good and works properly. I’m supposed to get it on Wednesday. So if that goes through and everything looks good, I’m gonna get it on vinyl as well. So, yeah, I’m excited about that. That’ll be my first one to have on vinyl!