Name: Eagle-Eye Cherry
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: Eagle-Eye Cherry's new full-length album is slated for release in 2022. Until then, check out his new single "I like it”.
If you enjoyed this interview with Eagle-Eye Cherry, visit his official website for more information and music. He is also on Facebook and Instagram.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Mostly life itself is my inspiration. A song can be about something I have experienced or felt. And sometimes it can be something I see or hear.
I have a song called ”Permanent Tears” which comes from an image I saw in a TV documentary about Africa. In it, there was a girl who had a birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a tear and I said ”she has a permanent tear”.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I would say that most of my songwriting is a process of chance.
Most of the time it starts with the guitar. I will play some chords and then the melody will come from there. The mood I’m in will often dictate what kind of song I write. And then it flows from there
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
When I started writing songs for my first album I would often want to create the right mood with incense, candle and maybe a glass of wine. But now I don’t need that. I just sit down and get to work.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Mostly I start with the music - either with the guitar or I’ll create a soundscape on the computer and then start with lyrics and melody. Then I’ll start focusing on what the song is about. It can often start with images in my mind, kind of like a little film. Once I see the story, the words begin to flow.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
The lyrics are very important to me. I try to write lyrics that people can relate to, it’s usually very clear what they are about.
When I wrote ”Comatose” my father was very ill and eventually he passed away. During that time, life was very heavy and I was depressed. All I wanted to do was escape by sleeping. Then I wrote a song about that feeling and I think a lot of people can understand that song.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
When I’ve written many of the songs I’m most proud of it has often felt like it starts writing itself. Once it starts flowing everything becomes very clear. The song starts telling you what it wants and what to do.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I find this is the hardest part. A big part of writing is making a series of decisions. You are constantly facing choices and you hope you make the right one.
I have some songs where the arrangement becomes much better when we start playing it live. ”Are You Still Having Fun” is one of those songs. There is a section after every chorus where we sing ”Oooh”. But when we started to play it live we changed it and only do that once after the second chorus. So now it works as a bridge and the song is much better that way.
I’ve also started writing more often with other song writers which I love because then you have someone to bounce ideas off of and then it’s easier to make the right choice.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
When you really get in to the zone, time and space disappears. It’s something that also happens when you’re jamming with a band … I love that feeling. Music is sound, something you can’t see or touch and that is magic. I could never live without music.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
It’s a challenge not to loose yourself in all the possibilities. Technology allows you to do pretty much anything but just because you can doesn’t mean you must.
My father Don Cherry who was a jazz musician always used to tell me: ”Don’t be afraid to keep it simple". It’s a great piece of advice that I often remind myself of. "Save Tonight" only has four chords from beginning to end. I love the simplicity of that song. I also always record my songs with a band live and that keeps it real.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Once a song is recorded it usually is very close to where I want it. Then when we start mixing we might hear things that don’t need to be there and we’ll take it away. Find the right balance.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I’m very involved with the production. If the recording and production is really good then the mix goes very smoothly and I don’t need to do or say very much.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I’m the opposite. When an album is released I feel a sense of freedom. I can move on. And I can go on tour which is what I love most of all … playing live.