Author: Cole Wenzel
3/24/11 | Madison Daily Cardinal | www.dailycardinal.com | Live Show Preview
At 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the ever warm and welcoming High Noon Saloon will host three acts, each distinctive in their own right. The soulful Irish soul singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow and eclectic Midwesterner Erik Hall's solo "band," In Tall Buildings, will open on the bill for prairie rocking Canadians, The Rural Alberta Advantage.I had the privilege of speaking with Hall via conference call to discuss In Tall Buildings, side project His Name Is Alive and the self-titled album. In Tall Buildings manifests as a project and album that is completely esoteric and different from, for instance, Hall's afro-beat band NOMO."There wasn't really a specific plan for this album, it was really just kind of a natural output as solo musician. This is actually the kind of music that I end up coming up with when it's my thing entirely," Hall said of In Tall Buildings. "It's just a more honest output for me because I play drums as well as the guitar and whatever other instruments end up on the album. That's the music I want to create. For this album I didn't want to have a big, giant cast of different personalities. I really wanted this particular album to be a reflection of me as a musician. As a writer, a recorder, and a recording engineer," Hall said.Hall recorded the album when he had a break and returned to Chicago. Roots play a significant role in the way Hall sees life and formulates his music. Continuing on notes of inspiration, we moved to lyrics and I asked him of one song in particular, "Good Fences," in which he alludes to Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" and sings in near whisper that "Good fences make good neighbors /So misunderstood"."I'm not really trying to say anything more than what I think Robert Frost is saying," Hall said, "What I'm talking about or specifically thinking about when I was writing the lyrics was how segregated the city of Chicago can feel, sometimes, with regard to the neighborhoods and the people who live in those neighborhoods."I also had the privilege of speaking with keyboardist Amy Cole from Rural Alberta Advantage to discuss the story behind the band and their new album, Departing. Cole moved from a small town to a big city, a mutiny to mirror the transitive period of growing up."It was, for me, a daunting experience. I moved to Toronto for university and for me it was a bit of culture shock. It made me nervous moving to the big city for school. In terms of music, I wasn't really exposed to 'cool' music growing up. You could find it but you really had to seek it out," Cole said. For her, as for many of us, college was training for the better things to come."Of course, coming to Toronto, I made all these friends who were in bands, who were the coolest people, and I always had something to do, to go out and watch my friends play music. Eventually, to myself, I said 'why not play music' and that's how I got into playing in a band and in The RAA," Cole said.From a small town girl who played and sung classical numbers to a big-city music admirer, Cole landed in a highly successful band that is touring worldwide."We've all been in bands and have tried to make things happen, but sometimes they just don't," she said, "With us, it's been connecting from almost the start and we've been extremely lucky." Connection and trust is a verity of the band's success. The RAA signed to Saddle Creek Records following the release of their debut, Hometowns."[Saddle Creek is] very supportive and really cool and have given us the freedom to really do what we wanted. They released Hometowns without editing anything from our initial self-release and with Departing, it was the same thing. We would send them demos and they're not the kind of label that is going to give you a lot of notes," Cole said. What The RAA does so well is connect emotionally, which is the essence of quality art."Nils always said that when he's writing a song he has to feel it emotionally because, if he doesn't, if we don't, then no one else is going to," Cole said, "So I guess it's just trying to evoke these emotions and these sentiments through our music, hopefully the way it makes us feel when we're playing it."