Tears For Fears star branches out
Tears are not enough for Curt Smith.
The co-founder of British pop-rock duo Tears for Fears says there’s much more to his life than singing Everybody Wants to Rule the World with bandmate Roland Orzabal.
“I would go crazy if that was all I did,” the 49-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist says from his Los Angeles home. “Besides, we don’t tour nonstop. We know our limitations.
“There’s only a certain amount of time that Roland and I really want to be on the same bus together. We’ve worked together for 35 years and we’re quite open and honest about that fact that if we were on tour all year, we’d probably kill each other. Our limit is about four to six weeks. Then we do not see each other or talk to each other for a while, so when we come back it’s fresh.”
During his Roland-free days, Smith has several projects on the go: A new series of songs created with musicians he found through MySpace and Twitter; an online music series titled Stripped Down that’s just getting off the ground; and even the occasional acting job. A few days before getting back on the bus with Roland for their latest trek — which stops at Casino Rama north of Toronto on Saturday night — Smith filled us on the state of Tears, his fresh approach to collaboration, and more:
Is Tears For Fears still a vehicle for new material, or are you just celebrating the legacy?
Right now, and this is not necessarily through choice, it’s just celebrating our legacy. And when I say not through choice, I mean there really isn’t a forum for people like us to make new music. People don’t really buy records anymore, so record companies won’t invest in bands like us. They want cookie-cutter acts. For us, making a record would be a money-losing proposition.
That must be frustrating.
Yeah, it is. But luckily, touring is not something you can copy. And if music comes out of that, we’ll still include it live — and at some point we may end up doing something. But it’s a slower process, because we’re only together when we’re touring. When we’re not touring, I’m in Los Angeles and Roland is in England. If he were living in Los Angeles, there might be more music.
Speaking of collaboration, you’ve been working with people you find over the Internet. How did that come about?
I came upon the idea initially by chance. We did a track called All is Love and I felt it required cello. So I went online. I found this woman named Zo’ Keating via Twitter. Then I went to YouTube to watch and listen to her and she was fantastic. So I just tweeted ‘Would love to work with @zoecello.’ And about eight or 12 minutes later she tweeted back, ‘Anytime.’ We just took it from there. she did all the work on the song before we even met. And I just did another song called Perfectly … Still that required a female vocalist. Again, I went to Twitter. I asked for suggestions. A bunch of fans tweeted, and there was a suggestion about Melissa Kaplan, who has a band called Universal Hall Pass. I went to her MySpace page and listened and thought she was fantastic. So I sent her an email and she didn’t respond — she thought it was a joke. But once she was assured it was me, she said she would love to do it. So I recorded the basis of the track and sent it off to her. She added vocals, keyboards, strings and a harp and sent it back. We still haven’t met.
How does working this way change collaborative process?
It’s a bit of a delayed back and forth, though weirdly enough, it’s actually a lot more gratifying. Here’s why: When you’re in the studio, whether you call it a collaboration or not, you know who’s record it is. So you’re sitting there trying to please another party, with the artist or producer sitting behind you saying, ‘I’m not sure about that bit.’ But with Zo’ and Melissa, when they asked for direction, I said, ‘There is none. I want you to do it because I love what you do. If I don’t like anything you’ve done, I won’t include it. But I want you to be free to do whatever you feel like doing. Just go off and have fun with it.’
Are you going to keep working this way?
I want to continue doing this for this project, and because I’m still a big fan of albums, I would like to see it come together as a cogent piece of work. Even though I’ll release it online a track at a time, at the end, my intention is to make a limited-edition album of these collaborations with people I found through social media.
How do you feel about singing Rule the World after all these years?
I don’t have a problem with that song. It was the perfect recording of that song. So it’s actually kind of gratifying. I have no issues with it. Once you hit the beginning bars and that little guitar break, it’s quite joyous. I still get a buzz from it. There are issues I have with other songs like Shout, because I’m not an angry 22-year-old anymore. So that, we’ve changed the arrangement. Basically, if you have an issue with something, you just try and change it and update so that emotionally it works for you now. But Rule the World doesn’t need changing.
Tears For Fears star branches out