An Interview With Angie Aparo

Angie Aparo is one amazing rock vocalist, and his album, The American, is one of my favorites. While he’s generally flown under mainstream radar, Aparo received some overdue attention for his songwriting talents in 2002, when Faith Hill won a Grammy for her recording of his song “Cry.” Angie Aparo’s got a new EP out, El Primero Del Tres, and he’ll be at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA this Saturday, August 19th.

So tell me a little bit about this three-part EP series you’ve got going…

It’s one of those things where I got into it, and I bit off more than I could chew (laughs). It’s gonna be good. We’re done with the second record, actually, but it won’t come out for another few months. I’m in the middle of the third one now.

Do you have certain themes that run throughout all three EPs?

I was writing the EP that’s out now [El Primero Del Tres], which is the first installment. I got into a couple of the songs…and one of them, “Spider Song,” has a line in it “We all need our enemies.” That sent me down this thought process on war and conflict, and [whether it’s] necessary to define us in some perverted way. So I wrote this whole record on conflict and war - and not just a war of nations, but spiritual war, interior wars, and relationships. Then there’s another song on this EP called “Only.” On it I started thinking in terms of resolution and love – and that ends up being the third part of the series. And in a weird way, that’s why the first one [EP] is almost the birth of the other two [EPs]. And I wrote so much on both topics that I figured it’d be more interesting to divide them than to put out some big rambling thing.

Is Dann Huff (Faith Hill, Keith Urban) going to produce the other two EPs in the series also?

I’ve done the second one myself, but I’m not going to mix it. The third one is up in the air, because I’m still writing it.

What are some of your favorite tracks on the new EPs?

I love “Spider Song” and “Coldhearted.”

After the highly-produced album The American, you went with a more stripped down sound on For Stars and Moon. Any particular reason for that?

I don’t really define myself by any particular sound. I never have. Your heart is in a certain place, and that leads to writing, which leads to certain kinds of words. And certain kinds of words inspire certain kinds of production. It’s a process that ends up being kind of obvious once you’re at the end of it. With the blue record [For Stars and Moon]…throughout the year I lost five people that I knew pretty well…and it kind of led to a softer record.

What was your first reaction when you found out Faith Hill wanted to record “Cry?” (from The American, produced by Matt Serletic)?

I was really surprised, because in my whole career I’ve never really “shopped” things. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it got to her through Matt [Serletic]. He produced a Willie Nelson record, and was at the CMAs with Willie in Nashville and met Faith backstage. So I actually got the call from Matt…It was great, and she’s [Faith Hill] been super to me.

Do you find it odd hearing other people sing songs that you’ve written?

It was kind of weird. I’d heard other people [regional artists] cover my stuff before, but I’d never heard it on the radio…It was good for me, because it [“Cry”] was the last single on the Arista record, and your songs are like your children. They almost feel orphaned when a record dies and never gets the attention you want it to. So, the first thing that hit me was that “Wow, people finally get to hear this – cool!”

I believe this brought you some new connections in the country world, like Big & Rich?

Yeah, we (Aparo and Big & Rich) wrote “Big Time.” Faith introduced me to all that world [Nashville]. You know what I love about Nashville? Well, I was writing with Joe Don from Rascal Flatts…and he asked me “Why would someone based mostly in rock be attracted to country?”…It really is a chance to get to know your parents, because country and blues are the parents of rock. I find it fascinating. And what I love about Nashville is that it’s a real community, which I think rock doesn’t have.

Did you find a sense of freedom after leaving Arista Records?

It was scary first, only because, for the sake of “joining a team,” you had abandoned your independent connections and networks…So it’s scary from the standpoint that you’ve got to get back to building things without this huge corporation around you. On the other side of it, you get to build things without this huge corporation around you (laughs).

I was really fortunate over there [at Arista] because I had Matt [Serletic] and Clive [Davis]. Matt protected me, artistically, when they wanted me to do other people’s songs. I never had that weird big label experience you hear about.

As an artist, you’ve really embraced the Internet as a vehicle for promoting your music – what have you got planned for your website?

We’ve been podcasting, doing one a week for a couple months now. I love that…I really think it’s about building your small community. I think the goal of the artist is to make it as real and immediate as possible. We sit sometimes and shoot a video of me singing, and it’s so odd that in this amazing world that ten minutes later it’s on the Internet. It’s approaching the immediacy of live performance. I would love to get into live Webcasting, too.

You’re pretty famous for your kick-ass voice – do you do anything special to keep it in shape?

I don’t really exercise it. I talked to this vocal coach once, and I asked, “Why do I come out of the box singing like that?” She knew that I wrote all day, and that when I wrote I would use this really soft head voice. And the funny thing is, she said that it’s [the head voice] probably a form of exercising, where you actually hum these high-pitched tones. And then of course, I have a beer (laughing). That’s my secret.

Who would you consider your biggest musical influences?

I would say Neil Young, in the totality of his work, and more as an influence as how to live an artistic life. And musically, too. I love the chances he takes. He’s probably at the top of my list.

What are a few of your “desert island CDs?”

I’d definitely take Harvest, by Neil Young. Probably Every Picture Tells a Story, by Rod Stewart. And my Nina Simone record. It’s an anthology.

Any final words of wisdom to pass on to the readers?

Good lord, I think I’ve said too much (chuckling)!

*MP3: Spider SongAngie Aparo
*Angie Aparo’s Official Site and MySpace