>> The highly acclaimed drummer Kyle Crane has toured with notable acts such as Neko Case and M. Ward-- but the unforgivingly intimate debut album for his solo-project Crane Like The Bird may be his greatest accomplishment to date. Crane Like The Bird’s debut album features musicians including Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), James Mercer (The Shins), and many more phenomenal artists, and it cannot go unlistened! Take a look at our interview with Crane about his highly autobiographical LP which will be released on January 18th and stream his singles “Wishing Cap” and “Nicole” at the links below!
Crane Like The Bird's debut LP is heavily autobiographical-- could you tell us a bit about the narrative surrounding the album and the stories that helped bring it to life?
The album centers around the death of my father and the impact it had on my family. My lyrics shaped the flow of the record as well as how I chose to produce each track. For example, I warped the key and EQ at the start of the album to give the effect of climbing through a photo on the wall and traveling back in time. The last song on the record is about my mom raising us on her own after my dad passed. It’s intentionally the most triumphant part of the record to represent us making it through hard times. It’s M. Ward, Avi Buffalo, Johnny Hanson and I all singing together for that family sound.
Did you feel that you rediscovered things about your own past through the process of writing this album? If so-- what were some of the most meaningful things that you uncovered?
The most meaningful thing for me was documenting what I’ve been carrying around inside my whole life. I had never talked about these things with anyone unless someone went out of there way to ask me. But there is something about writing songs in solitude that just pulls it out of you.
What inspired you to start publicly releasing your own material and kick-off your career as a solo artist?
I love playing but I wanted to create something permanent. It’s like that feeling when you’re a kid and you build a tree fort and then when it’s finished you go up there and bask.
There are a number of artists collaborating with you on this album including Conor Oberst, James Mercer, and Daniel Lanois. Could you explain the process of choosing the artists that you wanted to work with and picking which song you wanted them to be featured on?
I thought about these songs like a director making an anthology film with an ensemble cast. I wanted each song to have strong leads and supporting actors. All these artists are folks I’ve looked up to since the first time I heard them. It really feels like a dream they were willing to be a part of it. I wrote all the songs first then thought about who’s style and vocal range would work with each song. Then I sent them the song/script to see if they would like to sing the part.
Could you explain the process of writing this album-- and did you collaborate with other musicians during the initial stages in the songwriting process?
I wrote all the songs on my own with a midi keyboard in logic so that I could listen back and adjust arrangements as an outside listener. Once I had the form and arrangement I would play a vocal melody with a harp sound and record it. Once I was happy with everything I would start writing lyrics to the melody and tweak the rhythms of the melody based on the syllables I ended up with. Then once everything was finished as midi I went into the studio to replace all the temp sounds with real instruments. Depending on the part I would play it myself or I’d have a friend play it. I hope people will check out the liner notes for the album because there are a bunch of guests and an assortment of interesting instruments like hurdy-gurdy, harp, and french horn. I feel my friends who joined me on this represent some of the worlds most tasteful musicians. People like Brian Green, Sam Wilkes, James Pratley, and Kurt Rosenwinkel just to name a couple.
Do you feel that having the drums as your main instrument brings you a different perspective when songwriting than other musicians?
When I played all the drums on the record I didn’t get too heady with the drum parts because I was thinking more about the songs as a whole. I just played what came natural and what stayed out of the way of the vocals. But I think the fact that I play drums heavily influenced the rhythms in the melodies I write. James Mercer told me he really liked the rhythms in the chorus of Wishing Cap and when I stopped and thought about it I realized there is a part that is 5 over 4. I wasn’t really conscious of that when I wrote it but that’s an example of something that might have just come out if I were drumming with a jazz group or something.
What does the term "family" mean to you-- and how do you find your definition of family steeping through the album?
Family to me is everyone you are blood-related to as well as anyone who is dear to you. I have so much love for these folks on the record I consider them all family.
"Nicole," one of the singles from the LP is said to be an homage to your sister. Could you explain the story behind the song to us?
Nicole is about my sister’s life up to this point. Us living on a military base in Cape Cod in first grade playing Nintendo at the neighbors, 6th grade in Humbolt, California, and her getting pregnant in high school and raising my niece.
What feelings are rolling through you as you prepare to share this album with the world?
Total relief! This record has haunted me since I started it. Every day the second I woke up I’d be like “I gotta change that one lyric, that verse needs a different keyboard part I don’t like what I played, what’s that weird scrap sound at 2:13 is that something I forgot to crossfade or is it just a guitar slide combined with a hi-hat?” I went mad making it. Once it’s mastered though you can finally tell all the voices in your head to shut up because it’s done! I’m not on a label so I have no expectations that people will hear it but I’m really just so happy that it’s finished.
What plans do you have to support the album in 2019?
I won’t be doing much touring for the album this year because I am on the road with Neko Case but I hope to squeeze in some one-offs if schedules align.