Albert Hammond Jr. on his latest solo album 'Melodies On Hiatus'
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
Albert Hammond Jr. wants you to know he's been going through some changes.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOME AGAIN")
ALBERT HAMMOND JR: (Singing) 'Cause if I had the keys to the man I used to be, I would see some good in me, and I swear I'd never leave, no.
RASCOE: The singer-songwriter recently released his fifth album, "Melodies On Hiatus." We're not sure what kind of hiatus he had because while Hammond Jr. balanced his role as lead guitarist for The Strokes with his solo work, he also dealt with a big move in the middle of the pandemic. Albert Hammond Jr. joins us now. Thank you for being here.
HAMMOND: Thanks for having me.
RASCOE: Can you tell us more about the changes that you've gone through while working on this album?
HAMMOND: (Laughter) It's always a fine line between the interview and therapy, you know? I never know how much to give of myself.
RASCOE: Look, I am here for therapy. So I'm...
HAMMOND: No, no, no. But it's not that...
RASCOE: ...Going to be the listening ear (laughter).
HAMMOND: I'm not the only one that exists in my life, though, you know? So it's...
RASCOE: Oh, yeah, I understand that.
HAMMOND: It affects other people. But yeah, I feel like if I really told everything that happened, then everything would make sense. But I don't know. I just don't feel like I can do that. But what I was trying to say is - they always want a bio or something. I don't - I'd rather not say anything. I don't really have any interest to explain anything or...
RASCOE: You don't like to define the work. You like people to take from it what they will.
HAMMOND: I don't know what you can define really. I feel like people want an answer, and there isn't one. I'm searching for it as much as they are.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOME AGAIN")
HAMMOND: (Singing) Then I knocked, and she said, hon, I used to know him, but he's gone. He's up above. It's sad stuff. He could have been someone I loved.
There's something about music that can really affect you, that can hit you and change your life and change how you see things and view things. And I think when you mix it with the right words, it could feel like, oh, man, this person's talking me. Or they must - they know something, or - I don't know. I mean, so much time has passed, and there's so many, like, moments when you're writing the song. It's not like I wrote everything in one day, and I can explain every thought that I was thinking, you know. Sometimes it's just a craft.
RASCOE: Well, I mean, when I was listening to it, and I do - I mean, it is very expansive. I felt like there was a theme of painful relationships in this album, like parent-children relationships or children-parent, you know, relationships, like with "Memo Of Hate."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMO OF HATE")
HAMMOND: (Singing) I had truly learned to hate by the time that I was 8. In my mind, what was true I made up or confused. The apologist...
RASCOE: This one, "Memo Of Hate," to me sounded like it came from a complicated relationship with a parent or a caretaker. Did you have that in mind, or were you - was it more you were just creative?
HAMMOND: I mean, "Memo Of Hate" - that was just the title of the voice memo. Like, I start - everything starts with a voice memo. I just liked - it seemed cool to talk about hate.
HAMMOND: It's just an interesting emotion. I think sometimes in writing anything it can feel relationship-esque (ph) because that's something very universal. So even if you're talking about other things, they can - people can understand them and relate to them in that dynamic. A lot of times I feel like I'm more talking about myself or things I've experienced with my own feelings. Just like "Old Man" wasn't, like - it's not, like, a song I wrote to my dad or something. It's just that it's a saying.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OLD MAN")
HAMMOND: (Singing) My old man, how you been? What do you make of world events? Do I regret the times I said that I can't stand my old man? That's right.
When you can describe a conversation with a father, people understand that. And when you describe that in the sense of like, wow, as you get older, you realize that you can't really point your finger because you end up doing similar things as things you didn't like, you know, or things you thought you'd be different. And so, like - but how do you just talk about that randomly? It seems more exciting to speak about it in a conversation.
RASCOE: Does being a parent yourself make you have more empathy? Because, you know, you could be very, like, judgmental about - like you said, whether you're thinking about your parents or not - like, I'm not going to be this way. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. But sometimes in general, life will humble you...
HAMMOND: Of course.
RASCOE: ...In certain things you thought you knew.
HAMMOND: Of course. That's the - you don't know until you do it. And then you have a deeper understanding. Whether you would do it differently or not doesn't matter. You're just, like, you understand...
HAMMOND: ...That people are really just doing the best with what they have or what they can or where they're at.
RASCOE: Yeah, yeah. I want to talk to you about "Alright Tomorrow." I mean, I feel like that song - it's the last track, and it's with Rainsford. And it's like - sonically, I feel like it sounds, I would say, almost softer.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALRIGHT TOMORROW")
ALBERT HAMMOND JR AND RAINSFORD: (Singing) Rain comes down. Your socks and shoes are wet right now. But don't you doubt - the sun is right behind them clouds.
RASCOE: I mean, to me it sounds almost a little bit like a lullaby, but it definitely sounds like, you know, almost something that you would say to a child. Like, it's going to be all right. Now, I know you just came to this creatively and wasn't necessarily thinking about that as the goal, but did you get a sense of that after it all came together?
HAMMOND: When I wrote the melody, I knew - I just - there's no way I was going to sing this. I saw it as, like, something cinematic. Like, I saw it as like "Rainbow Connection" at the - you know, like John Denver or like something in a movie. And so I was just like - I knew I wanted to find a female voice. And yeah, I just - Rainey's voice is beyond incredible.
RASCOE: Obviously you put the music out there and people can take from it what they will. But, like, now that this music is out there, like, what has the response that you've been receiving and - you know, do you feel like people are receiving the music the way you would like them to?
HAMMOND: I don't know how to gauge that, to be honest - I guess time. I think when it comes out, you can fully move on. There's a little bit - I handed it in a year ago, so I find it so funny that you end up - to people that you're putting stuff out, you're showing them a past version. Like, you're already someone else by the time people hear your music.
RASCOE: That is Albert Hammond Jr. His latest album, "Melodies On Hiatus," is out now. Thank you so much for being here.
HAMMOND: Thanks for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALBERT HAMMOND JR. SONG, "FALSE ALARM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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