Ray LaMontagne on Supernova: "I Just Allowed Myself to Write a Different Kind of Song"
Photo by Samantha Casolari
Don't try to pigeonhole Ray LaMontagne.
While critics have been quick to compare him to any number of rarified and rootsy icons -- the Band, Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, and Steven Stills among them -- his only muse is the inspiration that strikes from within.
"I always let the songs lead the way," the soft-spoken, sometimes testy singer-songwriter maintains. "If something catches me, then I say to myself, 'Wow, I've really got to pursue this further.'"
The dusty patina this New England native preferred on his first four albums -- 2004's Troubled, 2006's Till the Sun Turns Black, 2008's Gossip in the Grain, and 2010's Grammy-winning God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise -- has been somewhat blown away for his latest effort, Supernova, a set of songs that finds him connecting with producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and taking more of a psychedelic spin.
"It's always kind of the same process," LaMontagne says of his songwriting. "A lot of times when I'm just walking around, I hear all these melodies. I'll think, that's a weird little change, where did that go? It just has to be interesting for me to want to pick up the guitar and define it."
Even with Supernova, the singer-songwriter followed his usual routine, despite the record being a slight departure from previous work.
"I really don't know anything about music or music theory or anything like that," LaMontagne insists. "I was hearing stuff that was really speaking to me. This batch grabbed my attention. I just really allowed myself to write a different kind of song. Something very concise.
"When I heard [the Supernova songs] in my head, I just really heard them. If I hear it in my head and it works, then I go with it. And that's where all these songs come from. I heard it and I trusted it. I've been writing songs now for fifteen years and so I think I can trust my gut at this point."
See also: Ray LaMontagne Talks Supernova: "I Can Trust My Gut at This Point"