Interview: BoDeans Founder Sam Llanas Discusses His New Solo Album, '4 A.M. (The Way Home)'
Sam Llanas, the former lead singer and guitarist of The BoDeans, takes listeners deep into the night on his new solo album, 4 A.M. (The Way Home), which was released October 25 via Inner Knot Records.
The album, an intimate, mostly acoustic collection, was produced by Gary Tanin and features 10 new Llanas originals and a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night.”
Work on 4 A.M. (The Way Home) began four years ago, when The BoDeans were between projects.
“I had time on my hands, and I had some songs I wanted to record," Llanas said. "I started working with Terry Vittone — I just said, ‘Hey, let’s make some recordings.’ There was no real thought that it was going to be an album or anything like that. It just sort of escalated from there.”
Llans left The BoDeans in August, and the new album is an understated complement to The BoDeans’ just-released 10th studio album, Indigo Dreams, and is markedly different from his 1998 solo release, A Good Day to Die, which was a eulogy for Llanas’ brother recorded under the group rubric Absinthe.
“Before I ever had The BoDeans, I was a solo performer in Waukesha,” Llanas said. “I would go and play at these open-mic shows, and I learned my craft and honed my stage skills that way. I think this record really reflects that part of my career, that part of my personality. It goes back to before I ever performed with the BoDeans. It was just me — one man and one guitar.”
GUITAR WORLD: How did you go about putting this record together?
The songs have accumulated over the years. I felt like I had a collection of songs that worked together and felt right. I am a very nocturnal person, I always have been. I think in this album the quiet nature in the songs, late at night, how you can’t crank it up to 10; that affects the songs quite a bit. It’s a quiet record, but I think it’s worthwhile if people give it a chance. Sometimes you want a quiet record if it’s late at night or a Sunday, if you want to put on something that’s just sort of gentle. People who are fans of The BoDeans will like this music.
You’ve been in the music industry for about 30 years. I know you founded The BoDeans in 1983 and you left them in August. Was that a hard move for you? Did you just feel it was the time to move on?
Well, sure it was hard. But I don’t really want to talk about that so much. It’s hard to leave anything, really. It’s kind of like leaving your family in a way. It was very hard, but it was necessary. Let’s just leave it at that.
Did some of your emotion from leaving the band go into your new album, 4 A.M. (The Way Home)?
No. This album was recorded long before any of that happened.
In 1993 you guys had the theme to Party of Five song. Was that a highlight for your career?
A big hit song is great for anybody’s career. We had been together for so long before that it didn’t really change us. With that type of record, you can’t count on that, you can’t predict that, if it doesn’t happen. It was great hearing our song on the radio, but I don’t know if that was a highlight or if that was the greatest moment of my life. I really, really like performing before crowds. That’s a highlight for me.
You play a lot of acoustic guitar. What gear do you mostly rely on?
I don’t really consider myself a guitar player. I pick up the guitar just for a way to write and accompany myself. I always wanted to be a singer and songwriter. I play a Taylor on stage -- they work well. You plug it in and it sounds good. So I struggled for years and years to get a good acoustic guitar, but it’s very hard playing acoustic guitar with a loud rock band. Taylor makes a fine product. They’re very road-worthy. The Taylor is a good stage guitar, because it's very reliable and simple. But when I’m not on stage, I play the Guild.
Have you been picking up the Guild since the beginning of your career?
I’ve had it for 15 years or so. I rarely go to guitar stores, but I just picked it up. Sometimes when you pick a guitar you just know, it kind of speaks to you in a way. Everybody’s different, of course, but this one was perfect for me.
Going back to 4 A.M. (The Way Home), can you elaborate on who helped you produce and record?
My friend Terry Vittone -- he’s really the producer of the record. He’s got the technical know-how to really, really do recording. Gary Tanin helped me produce my first project as well. I’ve known him for quite a while. He’s someone who’s very, very dedicated and diligent at his craft. He’s never satisfied which is a good quality to have. He’s really the main guy. Gary Tanin did the initial recording with Terry. And at a certain point, Terry and I felt we had gone as far as we could and felt we needed someone else to come in and take off. So Gary did the bulk of the recording.
The album came out October 25. Do you have any tour dates planned?
Not as of yet. Hopefully there will be some sort of tour behind this record, but I don’t really know when that will be. I’ve told people to go to my Facebook page or SamLlanas.com for that sort of information.
The new album by Sam Llanas, 4 A.M. (The Way Home), came out October 25 via Inner Knot Records.