April 14, 2014 11:33am PT by Roy Trakin
Ray LaMontagne's 'Supernova' Pays Tribute to 'Drive-In Movies' (Exclusive Audio)
"I spent all my childhood years wishin’ that I looked like a movie star/A cigarette behind my ear, leanin’ up against a muscle car,” sings Ray LaMontagne on “Drive-In Movies,” the track you can hear exclusively below from his new RCA Records album, Supernova.
The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach produced the new LaMontagne album, his fifth, whose release date has been moved up to April 29. Supernova is the much-anticipated follow-up to 2010’s God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts and won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, with “Beg Steal or Borrow” earning a Song of the Year nomination.
LaMontagne and the band assembled by Auerbach lay back into rustic rootsy territory for the song, a nostalgic look back at his childhood, growing up as a teenager in Morgan, Utah as one of six children raised by a single mom, even if the song places him in Nebraska. Joining Ray on the album are drummer Richard Swift, bassist Dave Roe, keyboardist Leon Michaels and multi-instrumentalists Seth Kaufman and Russ Pahl.
“It was a very quick learning curve,” he says. “I hadn’t met any of these guys before and didn’t know anything about them, so it took a little bit to get comfortable. But they were all really, really, really smart and everyone had ideas and was enthusiastic, and what really pleased me and kind of surprised me a little bit was how excited they were about the songs, which made me feel even better.”
“I wanna be Brando in The Wild One/I wanna be somethin’ to someone/Cause nothing ever happens in this town.” “Drive-In Movies”
LaMontagne returned to his home in the Berkshire foothills to work on the new album, arising early every morning, breaking for lunch and dinner, working into the night.
“I had a batch of songs that wasn’t calling at me strongly enough,” he says of the creative process. “It was all good stuff. I felt like everything had potential. There were good melodies, but the weren’t calling for my attention that strongly, so I just kept putting them down and not finishing them.”
Reaching out to Elvis Costello, a friend and personal hero, for counsel, the fellow singer-songwriter urged him to be himself and trust his voice, with LaMontagne turning to his pal’s second album, This Year’s Model, for inspiration. Hearing it again allowed LaMontagne to trust his instincts, opening him to outside influences that took him in completely new and unexpected directions.
“The whole record was written that way,” he explains. “It was playful and really wonderful. It felt like when you’re first writing songs. They’re not precious in any way. It’s just a joyful, emotional truth, not like anything that’s being dredged up. I felt like a kid trying to collect lightning bugs. I’d catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and run for it, but the light would go out just as I thought I’d gotten hold of one. But eventually, I caught on to their game. I stopped chasing them altogether. Instead, I just sat there as if I were completely disinterested. And wouldn’t you know it, one by one, they came to me! Flew right into my jar.“
LaMontagne has put together a new band to take out on the road, with a 42-city summer tour starting May 27 in Portland, ME, and lasting until August 13 in Seattle, WA. In addition, he plans, for the first time, to play some electric guitar.
“I’m really looking forward to setting down the acoustic for at least half the set, finally,” he says. “That will be a nice feeling.”