Ray LaMontagne Stars In Supernova Summer Tour
Astronomers define a “supernova” as a stellar explosion. Rock fans define “Supernova” as Ray LaMontagne’s latest single. It dropped Feb. 25. The album of the same name will be released May 6. Three weeks later, on May 27, LaMontagne launches his “Supernova Summer Tour” in Portland, Maine.
“Supernova” is an appropriate title. Not only is LaMontagne “super” but his upcoming album is sort of a “new” (as in “nova”) beginning. On the verge of quitting music, or at least enduring a bad case of writer’s block, LaMontagne experienced an explosion of personal and artistic growth. The remnants of his private detonation will be heard in every track of his new opus and seen every time he takes the stage during his upcoming tour.
The 40-year-old singer-songwriter has 45 performances plotted this spring and summer from the aforementioned kickoff date all the way to his gig at Marymoor Park in Seattle, Washington on Aug. 13. Four of his pending dates are at summer music festivals.
Boston hosts consecutive Ray LaMontagne shows at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on May 30 and May 31. The other lucky city getting a pair of Ray LaMontagne shows is Toronto—June 8 and June 9 at Massey Hall. The artist also has highly anticipated stops in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Miami, Nashville, and Houston.
"I was in a really bad place. I only knew how to use one form of fuel, which is, 'Nobody likes me,' 'I'm not good enough,' 'People don't like what I'm doing.' Not to be dramatic, but it was killing me. It was making me deeply, deeply unhappy." – Ray LaMontagne
Have you ever participated in a project or created something that garnered near unanimous praise. Yet, the dozen of positive remarks were overshadowed by one negative critique. Well, that describes Ray Lamontagne.
On some level, it makes sense. Hearing “you’re great” or “I love your latest album” doesn’t really help. Don’t get LaMontagne wrong, it’s great to hear praise, but the creative process doesn’t really benefit from superlatives.
As LaMontagne recently explained during a rare interview (he’s extremely private), when someone criticized his work it used to stay with him, piss him off, and inspire him to work harder. These disparaging remarks resonated with LaMontagne. They did so because they contained a granule of truth. A truth only LaMontagne recognized. Furthermore, it was a truth he was probably hiding from himself.
LaMontagne realized that he couldn’t keep using negativity as artistic fuel. It was making him feel uncomfortable both mentally and physically. It was also affecting his relationships. His friends had seen it for years and they tried to get him to see it too. It was during the build-up to Supernova that LaMontagne finally experienced an epiphany and saw the error of his ways.
Elvis To The Rescue
“There’s only one way. You just have to trust that inner voice.” – Elvis Costello
LaMontagne admits that he knows little about music theory. When a melody pops into his head, he picks up a guitar and finds the right chord. While writing material for Supernova, the radio in his head was spinning crap. LaMontagne was hearing stuff he had already written before or tunes he didn’t like. In his words “it was like the well had run dry.”
At a personal and artistic crossroads, LaMontagne opened up to friend and mentor Elvis Costello. Mr. Declan MacManus told our hero to believe in himself and his abilities. It doesn’t sound very profound but it worked. LaMontagne trusted his gut and believed in the melodies playing in his head. The result was a batch of great songs that sounded different from his previous works. That’s to be expected. You can’t go through a personal “supernova” and emerge writing the same old tunes.
“I was always a fan of early Pink Floyd. I like the Kinks, the Troggs. I loved all that stuff. Captain Beefheart too.” – Ray LaMontagne
As you’ve probably gleaned from the above quote, or from listening to his latest single “Supernova,” LaMontagne’s “new sound” is a little bit on the psychedelic side. That means it’s a departure from his last offering, 2010’s God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise. That opus won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and peaked at number three on the Billboard 200.
So this summer, while you’re at… say a Ray LaMontagne concert in Dallas or his show in Santa Fe, expect a new and improved Ray LaMontagne and a batch of groovy Sixities-esque, pop-infused, Black Keys-sounding songs.
“I’ve wanted to work with Dan on some level for years now. This had been a long time coming but actually, it’s perfect timing.” – Ray LaMontagne
Dan Auerbach, of the previously mentioned Akron, Ohio rock band, produced Supernova. After LaMontagne had finished the writing process he cut some demos and sent them to Auerbach. The Black Keys vocalist went about assembling a group of musicians he thought suited the material. LaMontagne later said he appreciated the way everyone worked together and shared ideas.
LaMontagne and company gathered in Auerbach’s Nashville studio and recorded the album in three weeks. Urgency was part of the process. From all indications, Auerbach’s musical proclivities can be heard all through Supernova.
Rolling Stone magazine says the album’s highpoint is “Pick Up a Gun.” They like it because it’s a waltz with four key changes. To translate Rolling Stone speak into English that means “Pick Up A Gun” is the album’s most banal track. “Supernova” is such a great track that it should quickly become LaMontagne’s most popular song behind his seminal “Trouble.”
“To me, it's like she can see within a song some hidden fourth dimension, a dimension that you didn't even know existed until she pulls aside the curtain and invites you in.” – Ray LaMontagne
Lucy Dyson animated the music video to “Supernova.” Her treatment contains bright colors, simple animations, and go-go boots. She also uses feet in a way that will remind you of the cartoons from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Terry Gilliam). The most interesting aspect of this music video is it’s the first of LaMontagne’s career. And no, he’s not in the video.
Mixed in with the “Supernova Tour” schedule are four music festivals. Ray LaMontagne will be at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado on June 22. Three days later, he’ll perform at the world famous Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On July 20, LaMontagne rolls into Louisville, Kentucky to appear at the Forecastle Festival. Lastly, on July 27, Floyd, Virginia welcomes LaMontagne to the Floyd Fest.
Back Up Bands
A bevy of stellar artists will be opening for LaMontagne, but the only constant name on the marquee is the brother and sister act The Belle Brigade. The duo consists of Barbara and Ethan Gruska. Their grandfather is legendary movie composer John Williams.
Also warming up audiences, at select dates, are Jason Isbell (May and early June) and Jenny Lewis (July). Interestingly, Barbara Gruska used to play drums for Lewis.
There are several dates where a warm-up act has yet to be announced.
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