Consistent with the saying, “In order to be interesting; have interests,” (sage wisdom from the folks at eHarmony) coming up with interview questions for Neal Casal is a breeze – easier in fact than any artist I’ve ever interviewed. He just does so many different things. He’s cranked out 12 solo albums to date, played with Ryan Adams as a Cardinal, joined Chris Robinson as a sibling in the Brotherhood, coached Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson on their vocals for Starsky & Hutch, become an avid photographer and taken pictures for a number of well-known album covers as well as Rolling Stone and Spin, and collaborated on albums with everyone from Willie Nelson to Minnie Driver. The list just goes on. The questions ask themselves.
Casal embodies the true spirit of the collaboration and approaches music in the best possible way – playing with people because you like each another. In discussing his latest solo effort Sweeten the Distance and all the other elements of his career, Neal Casal said something about his lifestyle as a hard working session musician that resonated, “The whole thing just becomes one big band.” Seems like the way it should be.
Hidden Track: So, obviously you do a lot of different things and work with a lot of different people; I was curious with regard to the solo material, do you approach it any differently and also any voids it might fill in terms of creative outlets you might not get to explore with your other projects?
Neal Casal: Well, I’m a little bit better known for playing with other people than I am for my own work, but the fact is that my solo work is really the truest sign of what what I do, and I’ve done way more solo records than I have other things. You know, I’ve been doing these solo albums for 15 years, so it will always be the foundation of what I do. It’s the well stream of inspiration and ideas. Working with other people has really been from making friends in the world of music over all the years I’ve been in it.
Playing with other people is really just a bonus and these are offers that are too good to turn down. The solo stuff has really always been my home, you know? I just try with every record to do something different, work with a different producer or work in a different place to try to bring something new to it.
It differs quite a bit from when I work with other people, because when I work with other bands, I try to become the guitar player that I would want in my own band. You know what I mean? Since I know what it’s like to to be the lead singer, and the lead guy, I know what makes a good second guitarist. So, when I work with other people, I try to be that person I’ve been looking for myself. I think I bring an interesting perspective on it, which is partly why it’s worked out so well for me. One thing feeds the other and they both work really well together.