Ray LaMontagne says his fifth album, "Supernova," was "an experience unlike any other I've had making a record."
In a good way, mind you.
"Fun is a trite word; I kind of hate to use it but at the same time I don't know how else to say it," the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter says of the 10-song set, which marks 10 years since the release of his first album and is also the most direct and rocking of his career so far. "It was just an enjoyable process. These songs reflect just my joy of songwriting, what I enjoy about writing songs. they feel free to me.
"I didn't have to go searching around through cupboards to find the missing pieces; all the puzzle bits would just sort of burst to life in front of me. I just grabbed them and pieced them together and then would be surprised at what was in front of me -- like, 'Wow, that's cool!'
But the "Supernova" we hear, which came out in early May and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, is not the album LaMontagne, 40, started off making. After touring to support 2010's Grammy Award-winning "God Willin' & the Creek Won't Rise," he started working on "a batch of songs that wasn't calling at me strongly enough." Troubled, he reached out for counsel from to friend and personal hero Elvis Costello, who promptly responded with a note of encouragement.
"He sent me back a really lovely letter that said, 'There have been times I've felt the same way, too,' and he just sort of said, 'You're the only Ray LaMontagne there is, so just trust that voice,' and that was really enough," recalls LaMontagne, who subsequently used Costello's second album, "This Year's Model," for further motivation.
"That record is just unapologetic. It's so...Elvis, y'know. He's just so unapologetically himself, and there was something about that that really struck me, and it was like a light bulb came on, like, 'Oh yeah, that's it! You've just got to be yourself.'
"I think that was sort of a turning point. I just kind of turned off the inner critic and got out of my own way and started making music that became ('Saupernova')."
Ray LaMontagne and the Belle Brigade perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 15, at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $29.50-$59.50 pavilion, $25 lawn. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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