Marc Enfroy and I did an interview shortly after he released his debut album, Unbounded
, in 2009. He recently released his fifth album, Crossroads
, which blew me away. I was curious about how Marc went from his more “new-agey” piano music to this big, bold, intense album with strong rock and symphonic influences (yes, both genres are very much a part of this album!) and impassioned vocal tracks. Some of his answers surprised me, but in a good way. Enjoy learning more about how this incredible album came about and how Marc Enfroy created it.
KP: Hey Marc! It’s been awhile! It looks like we did our original interview back in early 2009. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, including four albums, one that was just released - Crossroads -and is getting a lot of well-deserved attention.
ME: Thanks Kathy. it’s really nice chatting with you again!
Let’s jump right into talking about the new album. Where does the title come from?
Click on album cover to go to Kathy's review.
2014 and 2015 were really difficult years for me personally and I reached a point where I had to make a gut wrenching decision. It was a personal crossroads. I’ve had two times like that in my life. One when I was 19 and this recent one. I thought it would be a relatable concept for most people because we all hit points where we have to make a tough choice that will impact our path in life. Maybe we choose to leave. Maybe we choose to stay. Maybe we choose to start over. Whatever the case, when we reach a point like that it’s super hard because everything feels so unsettled and unclear.
Because of that, I imagined a backstory for the album, where I’m walking down a lonely road in a quiet, empty town and come to a crossroads. I stand there, mentally drained, not sure which way to go and then suddenly all these scenes of my life appear, swirling around in a frenzy before me; flashes from the past that bring up so many feelings all at once: regret, disbelief, loneliness, uncertainty, courage, nostalgia, resentment, anger, shame, disappointment, resolve, passion. I fall in a heap, paralyzed. In my mind, that’s what’s happening during the opening track, Crossroads. Every other song that follows is either a flashback scene from before the crossroads or a glimpse into the future.
Ultimately, through reliving all these struggles and imagining a new future path, I reach a moment where I finally find home, a place to belong, a place where I’m loved unconditionally. That’s the story of track 13, "In That Moment." It’s the turning point where I know everything’s changed and for the better.
So now, I’ve come full circle and I’m back at the crossroads, but this time, I’m no longer paralyzed and confused. I know exactly which way to go. I dust myself off, get back on my feet and take a new road full of hope and determination. Cue the music for the closing track, "Unbounded Reprise," which is a remake of my song "Unbounded" from my debut album. Fade to black.
In the end, Crossroads
is an album about leaving, seeking, and finding what you really want.
I learned very recently that some of the music on the album came from a rock opera you and your brother, Paul, were writing a few years ago. Let’s talk about that.
Back in 2012, after I’d released Dreams of the Forest
, I was talking to my brother, Paul, who’s been a huge supporter of my music. I told him I was trying to figure out what sort of music to write next and he said, “You should write a rock opera.” I’ve always loved drama rock, in the vein of Evanescence or Within Temptation so the idea was really appealing to me. I then asked Paul if he’d write the lyrics since he’s always been great with words and he was excited to do that. The idea was to write songs that told a story loosely based on some of the events in our lives. Paul nicknamed it the Phoenix Project since it was going to be a story of reinvention, and he wrote the lyrics for three songs to start: "Shed My Skin," "Fading White" and "Wildfire Rising." I went to work on the music and we roped in Lila Ives to sing. By the late Fall of 2012 we had those three songs recorded with Lila on lead vocals.
Then we hit a bump in the road when Lila and her family moved rather far away and she and her husband had a baby. Understandably, she just wasn’t at a place where she had any time for the project. So, over the next year I hunted for another singer and auditioned several. Paul even co-wrote lyrics with one of the singers for some new songs but it never really panned out. Creating music is like any other project where the team has to gel and it’s a bit of a crapshoot as far as that goes. So by the Fall of 2013, I gave up on the idea. I figured it was easier to just do instrumental music on my own. On the plus side, I’d written more music and started thinking maybe I could use them as instrumentals on a Marc Enfroy album.
Then, in a twist of fate, one of the singers I’d briefly contacted in 2013, Aili Laine, emailed me in the Fall of 2015 to see if I wanted to work together. I had her listen to some of the rock opera material I’d previously recorded. When I saw her enthusiasm for the music, it inspired me to include it on a Marc Enfroy album, even though I’d never released an album with any vocals. Aili ended up singing "Your Silence is a Razor" and did an amazing job.
So as a result of that side project and seeing Aili’s reaction to Lila’s vocal tracks, I decided not to pigeon hole myself into one genre and instead, release an album of music that I like and let the chips fall where they may. It seems to have paid off. I’m sure I alienated some listeners with this album but there seems to be plenty of new fans that are into it. I’d like to think after this, my 5th studio album, I’ve finally found my sound - a pop blend of classical, rock, cinematic and vocals. Remember - I’m self taught so it’s been a long process of trial and error and figuring out who I am as an artist. Going forward, rather than trying to write what I think a specific audience wants to hear, I’m just going to write what resonates with me, whatever that is, and not worry about fitting into some narrow genre.
KP: Above all, unless you’re creating commercial music, I think an artist needs to be true to himself or herself. Otherwise, it’s just kind of a guessing game of what will resonate with an audience.
Some of the music on this album is extremely intense and even more “cinematic” than your previous albums. Obviously the emotions expressed are emotions that you understand and yet you had female singers (Lila Ives and Aili Laine) perform them. Why did you decide to do that? I’m sure there are plenty of guys who have been given the silent treatment and felt like they had to shed their skin to get a point across. ;)
Right. I guess there’s always been something about the female voice that I find more appealing. And remember we were going to make this like a rock opera. So if I was going to watch a rock opera, personally, I’d rather listen to a woman than some dude.
Click on album covers to go to Kathy's reviews. Click on links to go to Michael's reviews. click here.
KP: Fair enough! Again, the emotions expressed in the music are so vivid that they cannot be faked. How much of that raw emotion comes from the text of the opera you and Paul were writing and how much is autobiographical - or even fictional?
ME: Paul wrote the lyrics from his own experience so it’s autobiographical. Some of the instrumental songs on the album were originally going to be vocal songs and had lyrics. So when I wrote the music, I had those stories and words in mind as I tried to express those emotions musically.
I think it’s an accepted fact, and I’ve certainly witnessed it, that an artist’s finest and most powerful work is often created in the darkest times of their lives. How do you feel about that?
ME: Well, this will go completely against your theory. I went through a lot of personal turmoil in 2014 and 2015. The tracks "Crossroads" and "Betrayed" were the only two songs I wrote during that timeframe, and even then, I wrote them before going to a film music conference because I wanted to have a couple of cinematic pieces to share in a demo reel, not because I was trying to write about my dark period. They didn’t even have titles at the time. "Betrayed" was my attempt at writing a short piece like a movie trailer. I don’t even remember what inspired "Crossroads" other than trying to somewhat follow the form of some movie music I liked. In early 2016, after my struggles resolved, Paul re-wrote lyrics for Your Silence is a Razor and I changed up the music a bit. I also wrote "In That Moment." Then the final track on the album Unbounded Reprise is a remake of the title track from my 2008 debut album.
So what am I trying to say? None of the music you hear on Crossroads was specifically written about my “dark” period. None of it. What I did though, was theme the backstory, track titles and cover art around my personal struggles and the crossroads I faced because it put a nice wrapper around the music. Pretty boring and undramatic vs. imagining me in the throes of pain and darkness composing all those songs, right?
KP: Oh wow! Actually, I’m relieved! You sure had me convinced this was a very personal journey and you had been at the absolute end of your rope! I’m glad that wasn’t the case. Great job!
Your debut album, Unbounded (2008), was born out of the tragic loss of your sister. What was the inspiration for the next three albums?
ME: On Awakening I was in a big Tim Janis phase and wanted to write pretty music in that style. Then in 2011, I took advice from Medwyn Goodall to write a very new age sounding album and lucked into working with 2002 as producers. I themed that album around new age ideas of consciousness, presence, self-love, so I called it Unconditional. After that I wanted to swing the pendulum back more toward my original sound on my debut album. I was spending a lot of time in northern Michigan during that time and it’s very woodsy up there. People also tell me my music has a dreamlike quality so I combined dreaming and woods into the album title Dreams of the Forest.
KP: I really liked that album, too!
Had you and Paul collaborated on music before Crossroads?
ME: When we were kids we’d play our electric guitars together for fun. In the late 1990’s we wrote a few pop rock songs together, but it never went any farther than just doing it as a creative outlet.
KP: His lyrics are so poetic. Does he write poetry as well as song lyrics?
ME: Not that I know of. If he does it’s a big secret. ☺
KP: What made you decide to include “Moonlight Sonata” on the album? It’s such a refreshing surprise since you retitled it “Moonlight Obsession.” I wasn’t expecting that at all.
ME: I’ve always loved that piece of music. I felt that there was so much loud, instrumented music on the album that I wanted a pure solo piano piece to insert at the right moment. Like a reflective pause in the action. And I think it’s angsty and beautiful which is what most of the album sounds like so it was a good fit.
KP: It was and is! You also created a new version of “Unbounded” from your first album.
ME: Ya, that’s been one of my most popular tracks on Pandora radio for years and I wanted to redo it with higher production value so it sounded the way I originally intended. I mixed that first album myself and didn’t know what I was doing so this was a way to redeem a good song and close out the album on a positive note.
I thought it was interesting that you included instrumental versions of the three vocal songs. I imagine that a lot of people would be surprised at how much emotion is expressed in those songs without the use of lyrics.
ME: I get too bored writing a song that doesn’t have swells of emotion. Everything I write is expressive. Even if I start off trying to write something very calm and quiet, I unconsciously start jacking up the emotion. It’s a curse. ☺ It’s probably because I’m an emotional person. On the outside I’m cool and composed but when I feel something I really feel it…deep…even if you can’t tell on the outside.
KP: There’s nothing wrong with that! Do you have any idea of what you’ll be working on next? (I’m not trying to be pushy!)
ME: Aili and I have been talking about doing something together. Some covers and a few originals on a 4-6 song EP. I’ve thought about maybe producing someone else’s album…more of a passing thought than a focus. I recently moved and I’m in the process of building my studio so once that’s done I’ll be ready to rock and roll.