by: Thomas D. Mooney
We caught up with Americana singer-songwriter Sean McConnell late last week to discuss his newest EP, The B Side Session, writing with artists such as Randy Rogers and William Clark Green, and what’s coming up for his next album.
He’s hot off playing Larry Joe Taylor’s Texas Music Festival and will be performing tonight (Saturday, April 26) at The Blue Light. The Roosevelts will opening the show.
New Slang: This week, you released The B Side Session (April 15th). How long of a time do these songs span?
Sean McConnell: A few of these songs, two of them, I’ve had maybe four or five years and just haven’t had the opportunity to include them on the right project. “Rock & Roll” is the most recently written. I wrote that in the past year. All of them, I’ve just not had the right project to release them on, but that I’ve been really itching to release. It’s a project to kind of find a home for those songs as well as to get some new music out. It’s been a while since Midland. I’ll be recording a new one here soon, but in the mean time, I wanted people to have some new music.
NS: Just by the name, I’m assuming they were all recorded together rather than taking old recordings of them and putting them together.
SM: Yeah, it was all one time. It really was a B-side session. One morning, the players came in and tracked all the stuff and then I sang afterwards. It all was really recorded in a day.
NS: I’ve always liked when bands and artists released B-side collections. Like you said, it gives all these songs a place to find them. How long had you been wanting to do something like this?
SM: I’d been wanting to record a lot of these songs for a while, but that actual project was a pretty new idea. Just a few months ago. It all happened really quickly. It’s one of the quickest projects I’ve ever worked on. It all came together seamlessly. I’d say from the day I had the idea to recording to it being finished was probably no more than two months.
NS: You mentioned you’ll be working on a new album soon. When do you think that’ll be?
SM: I don’t have a set date or plan yet, but I’d be hoping to make some new music in the next five or six months. At least be starting the project.
NS: When you’re starting a new record, how many songs do you like to have written for the record?
SM: The list of songs that could potentially be on a record can be really long. I’m always writing songs so the process of weeding through and finding which are the best or which fit together best can be long. But for instance, with Midland, there’s like 100 songs to choose from, but more like 20 to 30 that were actual contenders. Then you just keep whittling that down until you get your 10 or 11. With this new record, I’m currently writing for it, so it might be a shorter list since most of them are going to be brand new. It’s a little bit of a different story.
NS: It was a few months back when you went on that acoustic tour with Randy Rogers and William Clark Green. I had spoke with Will about a week after that had finished up and he mentioned all of you guys throwing song ideas around and working on a few different while together. Did anything come out of that for you?
SM: I don’t think we finished any songs during the tour, but William came to my house about a month ago. We really didn’t know each other before that tour, but have kept in touch since. But he came to my house about a month back and me, him, and Wade Bowen actually wrote a song or two together. He’s a really great songwriter and such a cool dude so it was really great to start writing together.
NS: You’ve wrote songs with a bunch of different people over the years. Who surprised you the most as far as how they wrote and developed a song?
SM: I don’t know if it’s surprising, but someone who sticks out to me is when I write with Randy Rogers. It’s surprisingly easy. There’s something that happens when we come together where we both don’t overthink the song. We don’t dissect or self-edit too much. That process, when you’re co-writing, sometimes it’s like wrestling a song and it’s a difficult task. When Randy and I write together though, it seems to come out pretty effortlessly.
NS: Do you approach the two differently? Like do you think differently when writing a song by yourself when you know you’ll be singing it versus when writing with someone else and maybe it’s for someone else?
SM: I try and write just the best song. Instead of thinking this is for me or this is for someone else, I really just try and write the best song possible. Sometimes you have to think in certain parameters, but for the most part, I like to just write the best possible. When you’re co-writing, that can be difficult since there’s more opinions than just your own and you need to take those into account.
NS: I’ve always been interested in the world of co-writing. I find the different factors involved really interesting. For you, has co-writing gotten easier as time has passed?
SM: Co-writing in the beginning, was a really new thing for me. I got my publishing deal eight years ago and I hadn’t done much if any co-writing before that at all. The concept was real new to me. There’s a learning curve of how to successfully co-write a song and balance that give and take and sharing with somebody. It’s like anything, you get better at it the more you do it. I don’t co-write as much–especially here in Nashville. Obviously a lot of people here co-write every day. I tend to co-write just a few days a month with certain people who I trust.
NS: This is one of those “desert island” kind of questions. You’re a big Michael Jackson fan. I’m a big Michael Jackson fan. So if you could only listen to one of his solo records for the rest of time, which would it be?
SM: Oh man. That’s really rough. Probably Thriller.
NS: That’s obviously a great choice.
SM: Yeah. It’s probably the expected choice.
NS: Yeah, but it’s also just an amazing record. Personally, I’d go with Off The Wall, but I seriously can’t see any wrong with choosing any of the three ’80s albums (Bad, despite having five Number 1 singles, is somehow the most underrated of the three albums) . They’re just all monster records.
SM: Yeah, definitely not.