Q: Where did your love and passion for music come from?
Lesser Sparrow: I was a bit of a loner as a kid. My social anxiety, even now, can get the best of me in certain situations, so I’ve always felt a bit on the outside, especially growing up. When I look back, I do feel some sadness for younger me but I also feel really grateful and proud of myself back then too. I’m proud of what I was able to cultivate and hone in that time alone. It was in those quiet spaces where I first started devouring my parent’s record collection, where I started curating the perfectly timed mixtape, where I first started to teach myself guitar listening to Abbey Road and Nevermind. It’s where I discovered the books they weren’t teaching us in school, where I started fiddling with a four-track recorder, and where I figured out how I could copy my favorite artists until I could make something unique of my own. Music allowed me to understand myself and honestly to love myself in ways I couldn’t in most other places.
Q: You were in bands before pursuing a solo project. What made you decide to pursue a solo project instead of starting a new band?
Lesser Sparrow: Playing in bands and being able to create music in those collaborative spaces has led to some of the greatest moments I’ve had on this planet. But there was both a challenge and a freedom in making Lesser Sparrow a solo project that I just couldn’t resist and that I finally felt ready to take on. For the first time, I had a really clear vision of what I wanted and a newfound confidence in my abilities to execute this vision. I was ready to drop a lot of the arbitrary creative boundaries I usually put up around myself. As I started to learn production and the recording process, I realized I could create fully formed songs without the aid of a backing band. It was a revelatory moment and it basically serves as the thesis statement of this record. What’s cool is that, in a way, this project has allowed me to return back to that same place I was growing up: alone, in a room, discovering my love for music for the very first time.
Q: How did this song come to be? What was the writing process like?
Lesser Sparrow: “Fade Away” had been a song I’d been tinkering with for years, mostly on my acoustic guitar. I knew I had something, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it come to life. It was only when I started to round the learning curve of working in Abelton (a music recording and production program), where I finally found its home. It started with an arpeggiated bass line and an 80’s inspired drum loop. I then added some washed out guitar strums and layer upon layer of vocal harmony. I put the first minute of the song together in what felt like a fever dream. And the rest came tumbling after. I think I chose “Fade Away: for the first single in part because of how defining a moment its creation was for the rest of the album.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the concept of the music video. It goes so well with the song and I’m curious where the idea came from and what it means to you.
Lesser Sparrow: I think some of the best art comes from limitations, and the video for “Fade Away” was definitely a product of clearly defined limits. I had very little time and very little resources to put this video together. But what I did have – an idea, a very talented friend, and a projector – turned out to be all I needed. I wanted to make something that was reminiscent of the videos I grew up watching on MTV in it’s heyday. Videos like R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion”, Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” were all swirling around in my head as touchstones. And it was at a little dive bar in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where me and my good friend and super talented film director AJ Hurley started to play around with ideas. We set up shop in AJ’s apartment, fired up the projector, made ourselves some Negronis, and just went for it. I think there is just something undeniably and universally compelling about watching a singer sing their song. At the end of the day, that’s what the video is: me pouring my guts out for your viewing pleasure.
Q: How has taking a break from music changed your process or how you view music?
Lesser Sparrow: I wouldn’t say I took a break from music, I more just took a break from the rat race. When I moved to Brooklyn in 2012, I started a band called Modern Merchant with a group of truly talented friends. We made incredible dream pop music together and we followed the Brooklyn indie band playbook pretty faithfully. Shows all over the city, working odd service industry jobs, scraping money together to record an EP, sleeping on bean bags in dorm rooms as we toured the eastern seaboard, and basically putting all of our emotional capital into the dream of ‘making it’, whatever that even means. We held on for about seven years of that before I think we all collectively realized just how burnt out and drained we were. We had all grown as people, but our band hadn’t grown along with us. So I think stepping away from all of that has allowed me to reconnect with the process of making music as the ultimate goal. “Making it” to me now is simply just that – making the art. Instead of obsessing about the external stuff, this time around I’m channeling that same emotional capital now into only what I have control over. The whole experience feels better and healthier because I recognize that I’m already exactly where I want to be. Anything more is gravy, baby.
Q: What do you hope for your music?
Lesser Sparrow: I just hope that as many people who might dig this album get a chance to hear it. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by just how much music is being made these days and how many options the average listener has to choose from. But from another angle it’s also such a tremendous opportunity. There are so many channels and routes to connect with new listeners and fans, it’s been encouraging to see what happens just by simply putting my music into these. So I’m putting faith in the idea that my music will find its way to anyone and everyone who wants to hear it.
Q: How does this song compare to the rest of your self-titled album?
Lesser Sparrow: It was important for me to have each of the ten songs on this album feel connected to each other both in theme and in sound. I don’t know, I’m still a bit old school in my desire to make the songs of an album chapters of a larger story. And so Fade Away is for sure an important chapter, and I think a great introduction to what I’m trying to express to listeners. Lyrically, it centers on some of the themes I’m working with throughout the record; self-doubt, the search for meaning, and the attempt to stay present in the moment. And sonically, I think it does what I’ve tried to do on every song: marry my two loves of great pop songwriting with more experimental, electronic soundscapes. It’s a beautiful thing.
Interviewed by Kat Rendon