Welcome to our new Pro Member Spotlight.
We are featuring Norm Strauss with a special interview with Songsalive! below and a review of his new album "12 Track Mind."
Reach out to Norm through his Songsalive! Profile (click album cover) and enjoy our interview and review below.
CD REVIEW: 12 Track Mind, the new album by Songsalive! Pro Member Norm Strauss, is a rootsy, organic and mesmerizing body of work. This Canadian artist is someone to be watching, and I’ll tell you why…
The featured song that was brought to our attention first, “Play God”, is a masterful musical production that captivated me within the first 20 seconds with its music and magical voice. The guitar playing, the male vocal, the lyrics, the mysterious flute, all entranced me. I was mesmerized. Strauss is one talented artist! This song is so well produced and the story entrancing. But most of all, I fell in love with his voice. “Looks like the devil trying to play god”… the main hook line, tells of an eerie tale lyrically and through the music, using touches of middle-eastern nuances and implying trouble in the middle east, all that we know too well. I think he told the story eloquently, and gives us more emotion than hard core facts, letting our imagine run with our own interpretation of the issues. Well done.
The first track “Easily Satisfied” out does any Lady Antebellum song, with a touching duet which includes a female vocal (Kim McMechan?). It has a twinge of country, but with universal appeal.
But Norm doesn’t fit in one box. Straight after, “In Stereo” hops into your ears with this Paul Simon circus instrumentation mixed with a Tim McGraw vocal that makes me fall in love with his voice all over again.
What’s fitting to say is that Norm, while a master at beautiful recording quality, has a lot to say. He talks of love, losing friends, and personal strength. It’s touching and unusually sensitive, where so many male dominated records don’t capture the delicate and sensitive subjects that Dave does well.
This is more than just an independent record. This is a record that deserves mainstream attention, by an artist that has a fall-in-love with voice, and masterful musicianship and songwriting. I look forward to watching Norm Strauss’ musical evolution.
Question 1: Where are you from, originally and what brought you to your current city (please write the city here: ?:
I am originally from northern British Columbia. I grew up in mostly remote towns like Williams Lake and Vanderhoof. When I was 19 I took a job as a lumberjack working in the logging camps of central and northern BC. That's where I learned to play guitar and write songs. I had nothing to do in the evenings and we were 100 miles from the nearest town so I bought a guitar and started learning James Taylor and Paul Simon songs. Eventually I decided that this was no place for a musician to ply his trade so I headed south. I got as far Kelowna, British Columbia and have been here more or less for almost 30 years now. I don't think I even know how to run a chainsaw anymore. I have also lived for awhile in Boston, Vancouver and near Frankfurt in Germany.
Question 2. What style of music would you say you do?:
That's always a hard question to answer but i would say that these days the closest I can come to describing what I do is Americana. It's a close cousin to country music but usually with more attitude and it comes without the 'Nashville' parameters of songwriting. My CD's that I recorded throughout the 90's was more rock and roll.
Question 3. What do you enjoy best - songwriting or performing and why?:
When the song is coming easily its fun, but more often its a bit more of a grind than that. I still enjoy it though. It's thrilling when you know you have a good one on the line. Performing for me though will always feed the songwriting. If I ever were to stop performing I am sure my writing would stop pretty quickly. So I guess I am saying I enjoy performing more. My preference is small, intimate concerts like house concerts and small 'listening rooms'. I thoroughly enjoy telling stories and making a strong connection to an audience. You start the evening off as strangers but soon you feel like old friends as the evening progresses. I love that feeling. I never will get tired of it. I also love that I can push myself to a new boundary of playing and singing while performing. After a 20 date tour I am usually a better singer and player then when I started.. if only just a little bit.
Question 4. Who are your musical influences?:
Okay, another hard question to answer but here goes; James Taylor, Paul Simon, Mark Heard, Bruce Cockburn, Stevie Ray Vaughn (sometimes), Blue Rodeo, Queen (I know that's a weird name on this list) Beach Boys, Steve Miller and maybe just a touch of the Beatles.
Question 5. Describe your favorite song you have written and why is it so special to you:
I wrote a song with Andrew Smith called 'Kerry Anne'. It was written soon after I had two friends of mine in two different cities get ill and die around the same time. I remember going to visit each of them shortly before they passed away and I felt incredibly awkward and scared while they both were so brave and eloquent. I was shaken by my inability to process it all at the time. I started writing Kerry Anne as a way to try and figure out how I felt about this huge loss and to try to come to grips with it all. I wanted a way to remind myself of both of them long after. Singing that song does just that.
Question 6. What are your goals for the next 5 years musically speaking?:
They are perhaps a bit vague but real nonetheless. I want to get better at what I do. I want to record at least two more albums during that time. (I currently have 14). I want to stay healthy and strong.
Question 7. Tell us about your recordings and what's in store next for you:
I started recording songs soon after when I moved down to Kelowna to explore the 'big city'. I was amazed when people would actually sit through the songs. Eventually I recorded my first project (for the tidy sum of $150.00 on Malcolm Petch's home stereo system). Malcolm had figured out how to bounce tracks between two cassettes and thereby create multi-tracking. I sold 500 copies that summer and was introduced into the world of making music to pay rent. I have been doing more or less the same thing since then.
I have been doing this a long time and have seen a lot of changes in the studio. These days I record mostly digital and then run it through an analog to get the warmth. My earlier recordings were also really band based. These days the arrangements are more centered around the acoustic guitar and to me are more holistic sounding. It sounds weird but here I am, still trying to find my 'sound'. The latest CD sounds to me the most honest and organically grown CD I have ever done.
I am starting to do a lot of touring in Europe and I am trying to build a bigger network there and I am also involved in an artistic project called Tribehouse. www.tribehouse.org. This is an artist collective based here and also in Dresden Germany that is trying to encourage and promote conversations about faith, justice and art. That is, how do you as an artist intersect your faith (whatever it is)with your art and does that ever intersect with helping those less fortunate? Check out the site when you get a chance.
Question 8. Where can we buy your music?:
At my concerts or on my website www.normstrauss.com or you can find me on itunes.
Question 9. What are your views about where the music industry is heading in your community, or on a global level?:
Less competition, more collaboration. Less corporation, more indie. The 'small time' musician is rapidly becoming more powerful and the labels are struggling to adapt. Better music is being made because the Internet has afforded more artists to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and get their music into the hearts of an audience that wants to hear it. People are finally getting tired of the plastic and want to hear the real thing again. The singer/songwriter is making a comeback.
Question 10. Anything pertinent you'd like to say about Songsalive!:
I am brand new to Songsalive but I am looking forward to getting to know some of the other songwriters. One thing I love is hanging out with other writers. I think it’s a cool idea to have a place that facilitates this online.
Songsalive! Profile Page: http://www.songsalive.org/profile/norm-strauss
Focus website: http://www.normstrauss.com/songs.cfm
Buy music website: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/normstrauss3