BTD Interviews Kenny Selcer
Written by Matt Zin on January 2, 2024
Can you share the inspiration behind the title “Tears From Stone” for your new album?
I needed the title to the album to be something that wasn’t so obvious about what it means. I had just written that song. And it seemed to fit my mood: a little heavy, dark, and mostly ambiguous.
Your song, “Tears From Stone” is such a great track. Can you share with our listeners what that song is about?
I was trying to capture my thoughts and feelings about aging, isolation, and being alone and trying to break that cycle, while at the same time, trying to make sure that I feel what is going on rather then being only trapped by my circumstances.
How did the creative process differ for this album compared to your previous works?
On this album I did all of the production and mixing, with some input by Chris and Steve, delving into music production and mixing. I had no deadline, so I worked on everything until there was really nothing left to do. I approached it as a learning process: what do these songs need to have an emotional impact on me and whomever was listening? And I learned how to technically do this in the process, over time. That’s what mattered – how do I use my tools to present the song so I felt the song, so to speak. The tools didn’t matter, but the feeling of the song was what was important.
With 16 songs on the album, I am always curious on how artists approach structuring of their tracklists. How did you create such a cohesive listening experience?
On this album it really wasn’t that hard. Each song has a life of its own. As I was working on the songs and the list became clear, I knew what was going to be where in the order. I didn’t over think it – I felt it. I knew the first song would be NSNG – immediately draws you in with that riff. Great upbeat tune. I know that On a Ride would be the last tune. I love that tune, and it seemed that it would be a good place to leave the listener at the end of the album. Then I listened to the tracks from beginning to end, and if I felt restless, I changed the order. If it felt good, I had it. It just happened to fall into place easily. The songs told me what to do in a way.
Can you elaborate on any recurring themes or messages that run through the songs on “Tears From Stone”?
The message is that it is alright to feel and know what you are going through as a human. It’s important to experience and be aware of your feelings and behavior, and hopefully transcend the feelings loneliness and despair, if that is what you are going through in your life.
Can you share some of the musical influences that inspired the sound of “Tears From Stone”?
I don’t particularly have musical influences these days per se. I generally let the song tell me what it is and what to do. And, what I feel in the song is very important to me. I have no musical or commercial agenda really. I like music that moves me and that’s what I go for in my recordings. I look to write a song that conveys what I am going through, or what we are all going through and I work on the craft of whatever style I happen to be working on at the moment.
Are there any particular tracks on the album that hold special significance to you, either in terms of lyrics or musical composition?
I know this might sound deflective, but if the song makes the album, they all have special significance to me. I’ve been doing this so long that I finally see myself as a good songwriter – good at my craft. My lyrics seem to work conveying a clear vision of what is or was going on for me at the time.
I see you’ll be playing gigs from January 23 to September 2024. Wow! You are going to be busy! How do you envision translating the studio recordings into a live performance?
Well, I don’t have as many gigs as you think. I had a lot in 2023. I will fill up my schedule as the winter goes on and moves towards the end. I play in a duo. We play the songs as arranged on the album, just not as big sounding. I do miss the many instruments that are on each song, but I just play the songs as a soloist and as a duo(with Steve Gilligan) and they work stripped down because they are good songs. And, I have developed a playing style where I can solo within the song without the backing chord harmony and it works! These days it’s hard to find the context to play with a band anyway. So while I sometimes wish I had a bigger sound, I still love playing as a soloist and with Steve on bass and vocals.
Are there any particular songs from the album that you are particularly excited to perform live?
Nothing Started and Nothing Gained, It’s All Around You, Walked On by, and Candle, are very fun songs to play. It makes me feel fine playing them!
As the producer, engineer, and mixer for the album, what challenges did you face during the production process?
I was putting myself through “school” learning how to mix and learning advanced production during the whole process. The technical side of things can easily get in the way of presenting the music the way you want it. I had to be very careful about making sure that the focus was on the music and what I wanted to convey in the songs and not let the tech part be in the forefront. In any production you want the music to be in the forefront and not the tools. I had to keep on coming back to the song and what the song “is” and if the performance worked or not. The kind of reverb or the particular mic and plug-in is basically irrelevant. The important thing is the song and the performance. If I did a production trick, I had to make sure that it added to the song, and not take away from it. I had to constantly get back to that as I learned new technical skills. I’ve learned that in music, or any art, that if one notices the production then it is too much, and maybe you should back it off, or do something different.
How did the collaboration with Chris Billias on the additional production enhance the overall sound of the album?
Chris is a master musician, producer and engineer. I was fortunate to be able to work with him. He helped glue the songs together by making suggestions on both the arrangements, instrumentation (sometimes) and what wasn’t working on the sounds. Extremely helpful, more then I can say.
Looking back at the entire process, what would you consider to be the most rewarding or memorable moment during the creation of “Tears From Stone”?
Nothing specific. Just a general feeling of contentment when I realized that I did have the skills to mix and produce the album on a level that I never thought I be able to get to. I knew this in the middle of the whole process. I knew that I could play guitar and sing well, but production and mixing skills are a whole other thing. Putting it all together so it makes an impact on the listener(inc, me) is extremely elusive and takes a lot work, focus, skill, and for me, lots of emotional ups and downs to the work – so I guess add perseverance in to the mix(pun intended).
How do you hope the listeners will connect with this album on a personal or emotional level?
I hope that the listeners can get into the music on a multitude of levels. I want the listener to resonate with the human experiences that I wrote about – I hope it parallels things in their own lives. For some people, I hope that they can see the good musicianship of myself and everyone else. And for some, maybe they can relate and hear the production values that I used: the movement in the the instruments(panning ,etc), the string arrangements that I put together to support and develop the songs, backing vocals. I used many things that I’ve developed over the years that some may recognize. But I really hope that people enjoy the album and that it has some relevance in their lives.
With the release of “Tears From Stone,” what are your plans for the future? Are there any upcoming projects or musical directions you’re excited to explore?
I do have 8-11 songs that I’d like to record in 2024 – a whole other album! Maybe write some more. I’d like to continue to perform live – that’s what I really love to do. I’d like to continue to refine my playing, singing, and performing skills, and expand my listening and fan base.
So many questions, right? Well, we are just about done, I promise. I have one last question. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans or potential new listeners about the album or your musical journey with this project?
Just that I hope you like it, and I appreciate that with so much music out there, that you chose to check out my music. Let me know what you think about it! And, Go to www.kennyselcer.com This will lead you to my music on Bandcamp, you tube, facebook, etc.