Idiot Soul, the Anti Records debut EP from So Much Light (aka Damien Verrett) is as introspective as it is broad and relatable. Only five tracks in length, Idiot Soul serves as a snapshot into Verrett's mind and his life, as the personal EP was recorded in his bedroom. We had the chance to chat with Verrett recently about the new release, his songwriting and the importance of emotional music. Read the entire interview and listen to "Soap Box" below. Idiot Soul is available now on Anti Records!
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for any readers who may not be familiar?
I feel like I’m going to do a bad job at this, so I’m just going to give you a very thin slice of what’s up with me lately. A few weeks ago I put out an EP I recorded with ANTI- Records (one of my favorite labels from growing up). Shortly after that, I was bitten on the finger by a bat while rock climbing (he was living inside one of the holds on the cliff) and now I have to spend the next two weeks going into the doctor’s office for my rabies vaccine. Later today, I’m picking up a pair of black corduroy overalls (something I’ve wanted a while now) from a friend who I met at the renaissance faire. So there you go! One really weird bad experience sandwiched between two good ones. That’s me.
You just recently released your first EP on Anti Records, called Idiot Soul - can you talk about this EP a little bit? What did you want to accomplish with these songs?
The folks at ANTI- and I wanted to announce my signing with an EP that could serve as a sort of synopsis of what So Much Light is about. There’s some pop in there, some R&B, some fingerstyle guitar. I think of the music on this EP as having a sort of mixtape feel. It was fun to jump around between styles and moods over such a short runtime.
Were there any subjects you wanted to touch on or any stories that you wanted to tell with Idiot Soul?
I’m interested in how social media has warped the way we think about our relationships and our self-worth. Out of all the songs on the EP, “Soap Box” deals the most directly with those concepts. “Let it Absorb You” is less to the point. I wanted to write a song about achieving nirvana, but from the perspective of somebody who presumes too much of their enlightenment and, ultimately, faces the prospect of their ego death with dread. It makes me happy that things like meditation and yoga are becoming popular in western culture, but I can’t help but feel there’s an incongruity between the way we consume these practices and the core values they teach. I can’t think of anything less Zen than posting about one’s private meditation practices on Twitter.
I read that you self-recorded much of Idiot Soul in your bedroom. What kind of freedom do you find in recording your own music that you may not find in a studio?
Most of the benefits of recording at home are logistical, but there’s also something to be said of how comfortable it is to record in a familiar space. On this EP in particular, I found the familiar setting benefited my vocal delivery. It took less time getting settled into my performances in the intimate space (I recorded all of my vocals in the closet). I set the closet up with a little lamp and some dark blankets on the wall. It was very womb-like.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from Idiot Soul or any of your music in general?
I think as an artist I have an obligation to try and make the world better in whatever marginal way I can. It’s my responsibility to contribute as best I can by being mindful about what I create sonically and lyrically. As long as my music is making people happy and making people think there isn’t much more I can ask for.
What do you think makes good songwriting? How do you strive to make yourself better when working on new music?
It sounds like such a canned response, but I think honesty makes for the best songwriting. That means honesty to the listener and honesty to myself. I constantly worry about self-awareness in my writing. I worry about how certain lines come across or the overall impression people have of me while listening to my music. I have to back off and accept that that’s just life. As an artist you have to get comfortable with going out on a limb and showing the world what’s inside you.
Having been involved in other projects before So Much Light, how do you feel your songwriting has changed or evolved over the years or even just with this new EP?
I’ve gravitated towards a “less is more” aesthetic in my songwriting. I grew up playing really technical music that didn’t leave much room for connecting with people. Sure, I was connecting with other musicians and there’s something cool about that, but that’s like the difference between writing a book about the history of belt buckles and writing a novel. I felt like I was limited by the scope of the genre I was playing.
Idiot Soul also features your rendition of Drake’s “Connect.” What does this song mean to you and why did you feel it was an important track to cover?
The fact that Drake is the biggest name in music right now says a lot about where we’re at culturally. It’s awesome that a man who’s writing emotional and vulnerable songs can be the biggest rapper alive. I think the popularity of “Nothing Was the Same” was a big step forward for pop music. The tone of that record and of “Connect” is intimate in this way that hip hop music isn’t known for. I wanted to strip a Drake song down to its bones and let it breathe without any distractions. While I enjoy Drake’s newer stuff, “Connect” seemed best suited for an acoustic arrangement.
Now that Idiot Soul is out, do you have any other big plans for 2015 or the beginning of 2016?
I’m in the early stages of putting a band together. I’d love to get on the road soon. Other than that I’m hoping to put out a full length before too long. Stay tuned!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think everybody should check out the music of Natalie Evans. She has an absolutely bewitching voice and was nice enough to lend it to a spoken word part in the middle of “Let it Absorb You”. Check her out at soundcloud.com/natalieevansmusic.