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Published: 2012/05/25
by Philip Eil

Neal Evans’ Big BANG

PE: Tell me about how this album came to be.

This album started years ago. We had been touring as Soulive quite a bit and that was like the focus of our music lives. However, all of us – Krasno and myself – we all record music outside of Soulive, produce music, engineer. And it almost seemed like it was a time like two years when no one ever knew about that music, you know? And we were just starting Royal Family Records at that time and, for me, it really came down to, “I just needed to express myself musically and creatively outside of Soulive.” And, I remember, it was kind of challenging at first because there was so many different genres of music and things that I do.

I’m just not like a funk or soul keyboardist; I write all different types of music. So, I remember it being kind of hard in beginning to think about what I really wanted to focus on. You don’t want to alienate the Soulive audience and come out with like a polka album or something. I think there was a certain point where I was able to focus and it became a concept album. I’m really into film scores and I had the idea that we’re going to do this soundtrack-to-a-movie-that-never-existed type of thing.

PE: What would that film look like?

I’m a huge fan– sonically, aesthetically – of the Sixties. It’s hands-down my favorite era in music. So, a lot of it would translate to this kind of Sixties, mod thing. La Dolce Vita. That’s probably what it would more be like: some espionage, political thriller from the Sixties that was super-hip, super-stylish and just had some great music to it. And a lot of sunglasses.

PE: The list of people you’ve played with onstage – both at Bowlive and elsewhere – is astonishing. Derek Trucks. John Scofield. ?uestlove. Maceo Parker. Is there anybody that you haven’t yet played or recorded with that you would really love to work with?

NE: Oh my gosh. There are so many people. We can sit here and shoot names and say, “Oh yeah it would be great to, you know, work with Prince.” And it’s kinda funny, because we used to say names like that, years ago. “Oh, John Scofield.” “It would be kinda cool to do something with the Roots or ?uestlove.” And then these things happen over the years and you realize that it’s kind of a small world. I would love to work with Cee Lo. Of course, Amy Winehouse is not around anymore, but that was someone out there that blows your mind and they have this incredible gift and you say, “You know what? I want to be a part of that.” I think these are the kind of moments I look for more and more. I call them my “Yes moments.” You just hear it and you go, “YES!” Brad Barr – I’ve been trying to chase him down. He’s out with the Barr Brothers. Hopefully very soon you will hear a collaboration of the two of us.

PE: Can you tell me the story behind Royal Family Records? Was that a reaction against the music industry where you said, “Screw this. We’re going to make our own,” or was it just kind of time for you guys to do your own thing?

NE: Any decision that someone makes, you can always kind of add, “Well, screw this.” So maybe there was a little bit of that. But it wasn’t like something against the record labels. It always kind of amicably worked out with labels. It was never a thing where, “You owe us this.” And, “You have to do this. You have to do this.” [Royal Family Records started] right around our ten-year anniversary. All these things seemed to be falling into place and we were like, “Wow. Let’s kind of take it back to how we started this.”

More than anything, it just seemed to make sense at the time. It was always our choosing, “Hey, we want to do this. Let’s try this. Let’s bring this player in. Let’s have this singer sing with us.” That was actually a cool thing. A lot of people who dug what we did just because we were Soulive, So that kind of gave us the freedom and I guess some sense of security, knowing that you have people that supported what you did. And I think that’s showing with Royal Family Records and how it’s all grown over the years.

Really, it is a family. We’ve been friends since we were teenagers. Obviously, there are new people that have come into the mix like Nigel Hall and Alecia Chakour. But when you’re talking about Lettuce and Soulive – I mean that goes back to high school days. I think that having your own label just kind of gave us the freedom and ability. And it’s so great for me to just say, “Wow, I can put out an album under it. People are gonna dig this.” Alan – gosh, he’s on his second album that he’s putting out. I just talked with Nigel Hall; he’s wrapping up his album. Kras put out an album. It’s just motivating to know that you have this infrastructure set up. There’s kind of this common goal, that common thread, between us all. We want to put good music out there.

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