DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie spoke to Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show about his upcoming solo album “Beautiful Shade Of Gray”, which is due on May 20, 2022 via InsideOut Music. Unlike previous LPs “Elements Of Persuasion” (2005), “Static Impulse” (2010) and “Impermanent Resonance” (2013), which were written and recorded as a collaboration with LaBrie‘s songwriting partner for over a dozen years, Matt Guillory, the new effort was tracked with Scottish musician Paul Logue, bassist and founding member of the multinational melodic metal band EDEN’S CURSE.
Speaking about how 1970s rock music influenced and inspired his new solo album, James said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I’m a huge [LED] ZEPPELIN fan. I’m a huge [fan of] PINK FLOYD and AEROSMITH and DEEP PURPLE and all that. These bands were so iconic back in the ’70s. So a lot of the inspiration, when I sat down with Paul Logue, who’s the other musician that I wrote the album with, and he’s from Scotland, I said, ‘Paul, I just want us to think more about…’ If you think about the acoustic end of ZEPPELIN and their organic approach to their songs, it was still beautiful, it was still powerful, extremely melodic, and it just kind of reached deep within, it resonated deep within each and every one of us that listened to any ZEPPELIN. So that was the catalyst to set things in motion. It became a full ensemble. I mean, I have keyboards, drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and then myself doing all the vocals. So it’s somewhat acoustic but it’s also a full ensemble as well. So it still has the full band kind of sound and orchestration.”
Regarding the lyrical themes covered on the LP, James said: “‘Beautiful Shade Of Gray’ has a lot to do with the lyrics that I wrote for this album. And a lot of my lyrics are dealing with the human condition and all the dynamics of life in itself that each and every one of us experience and, to a certain degree, it’s common for most of us to go through the same experiences. So I wanted to write a lot about that. So that’s kind of what inspired this whole venture.”
LaBrie went on to say that he was “really excited for everyone to hear” “Beautiful Shade Of Gray”. “It came out fantastic,” he said.
Two months ago, James told “The Everyman Podcast” about how his collaboration with Logue came about: “I sang on one of [EDEN’S CURSE‘s] songs back in 2010 called ‘No Holy Man’; so I guest on that. And I really liked Paul‘s writing. To me, Paul‘s writing was more from a classical era — like the ’70s; that classic rock approach. And I had a lot of ideas in that vein.
“Paul and I actually bumped into each other — you think fate isn’t there with you; holy shit… The day after we finished the show — DREAM THEATER in Glasgow [on] February 23rd . I’m waiting for my flight on the 24th to go to London and then Toronto, and Paul walks by me and he goes, ‘James!’ I’m, like, ‘Oh my God!’ He goes, ‘You know I was at the show last night.’ He kept trying to e-mail me on my old e-mail address. And he goes, ‘Listen, let me know. You wanna get together? You wanna do some writing?’ And I said, ‘I’d love to.’ At the time, I said, ‘I don’t know. Some freaky shit’s going on. You’re hearing about this virus?’ ‘Yeah. Yeah.’ [I said] ‘We’ve gotta go to Asia, then we’ve gotta go to freakin’ South America and North America and all that.’ I said, ‘So we’re probably not gonna be done till October, but why don’t we start writing then? Or why don’t we start throwing ideas back in the meantime, and I can even be on the road and working on it?’ And he goes, ‘Great.’ All of a sudden, the world closes down. So we got on it… It was probably… Everything closed down March 15th, I believe, and by March 20th, him and I were already passing ideas back and forth.”
Elaborating on the songwriting process for “Beautiful Shade Of Gray”, LaBrie said: “We started as, we said, ‘Let’s just keep it real raw and acoustic-based — that’ll be the fundamental of this album,’ and then it kind of morphed into more of an ensemble, so [with] keyboards… Marco Sfogli is playing lead guitar on all the tracks. Paul is playing all the rhythm acoustic guitars and bass. And then [my son] Chance [LaBrie] is doing drums. Christian Pulkkinen is the keyboard player, who’s a fantastic keyboard player, piano player. All the lyrics, except one, I penned.
“It was really interesting how it came together, whether I’d be throwing [Paul] a riff or I’d be throwing him a melody idea that became a chorus to one of the songs or verses,” he continued. “And then he’d throw me back his ideas musically. And we slowly but surely put it all together. We had everybody fully involved. And it came out fantastic. The label is really stoked about it. It has that kind of ZEPPELIN-esque feel to it, but still the modern-day aspects of it as well are there. So it’s great.”
“Impermanent Resonance” was released in August 2013 via InsideOut Music. The follow-up to “Static Impulse” saw Guillory not only taking the leading role in composing the material, but also handling all of the keyboards and background vocals. The album’s lineup was intact from the previous recording, featuring Marco Sfogli from Italy on guitar, Ray Riendeau (HALFORD, MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE) on bass and Swedish drummer Peter Wildoer (DARKANE, MAJESTIC), who was a finalist in the DREAM THEATER drum auditions. Additionally, former SOILWORK guitarist Peter Wichers came into the fold to contribute songwriting and studio guitars.
In 2014, LaBrie released a digital EP, “I Will Not Break”, via InsideOut Music. While the opening title track was the album version taken from the “Impermanent Resonance” release, two other songs were previously only released physically as digipak bonus tracks, one tune was an alternate mix version, and two other songs were special demo versions, all previously only released physically as bonus tracks on the digipak and the Japanese edition for the “Static Impulse” album in 2010. The last three tracks were special dub step / electronica remixes of “Static Impulse” songs, previously unreleased. The remixes were done by U.S.-based DJs Jason Miller, Mutrix and NeonGenesis. The cover artwork for the EP was once again designed by Gustavo Sazes of Abstrata.net (ARCH ENEMY, KAMELOT).