Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Photo credit: Julius Richardson
James LaBrie, famously known for being the vocalist for Dream Theater, will be releasing his fourth solo album, Beautiful Shade of Grey, on May 20th via InsideOut Music.
This release started to take shape with his friend and fellow collaborator, bassist Paul Logue of Eden’s Curse, shortly after the global pandemic. It’s inherently personal as it touches upon maturation, loss, complex relationships, and James’ burning passion for music.
All the songs solidify his roots in classic rock while adding a symphonic touch musically to create a broader and richer sounding album. There is a heartfelt quality to the compositions of “Wildflower” and “What I Missed,” while songs like “SuperNova Girl,” “Devil in Drag,” and “Hit Me Like a Brick” are lyrical cinematic, which nobody does better than him, whether in Dream Theater or on his solo albums. These tracks jump out of the speakers with their big melodies, memorable riffs, and intriguing lyrical messages. It’s a fresh, vibrant, and addictive album destined to be James’ best solo album yet! Beautiful Shade of Grey features Marco Sfogli [lead guitar], Paul Logue [rhythm guitar and bass], James’ son Chance LaBrie [drums], and Christian Pulkkinen [keyboards and piano].
I had the pleasure of speaking with James to discuss the creation of Beautiful Shade of Grey, the significance of the title, the musical connection between him and Paul Logue, the rationale for his musical departure from previous solo albums, and what it was like to win The Grammy with Dream Theater for Best Metal Performance on “The Alien!” Please be sure to follow My Global Mind on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to their YouTube channel.
The new endeavor sees him traverse personal maturation, loss, a myriad of complex relationships, and most importantly – LaBrie’s burning passion for music. On paper, the latest studio offering from the Canadian singer first took shape shortly after the global pandemic began to emerge. But in reality, LaBrie formed a bond with his fellow collaborator, bassist Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse), nearly a decade earlier.
The two first met in 2011, when James would lend his voice to a feature for Logue’s band, UK melodic metal outfit Eden’s Curse, on the song “No Holy Man”. As years went by the two remained in touch, occasionally kicking the tires on the idea of working together on another project. But when Dream Theater performed in Glasgow during the late winter of 2020, LaBrie and Logue would run into each other at the airport – once again asking the question. But this time, armed with the knowledge that a drastic change in the world was all but imminent, LaBrie made the decision to set things in motion.
On the album, Logue plays acoustic rhythm guitar (both six & twelve string) and acoustic bass, while guitarist Marco Sfogli, who’s contributed on all of LaBrie’s solo albums since 2005’s ‘Elements of Persuasion’, handled the leads and solos. Logue recruited Eden’s Curse keyboardist Christian Pulkkinen to lend his playing on the record, while the suggestion to recruit James’s son Chance to play drums would also come from Paul. ‘Beautiful Shade of Grey’, as LaBrie describes it, was a title that only came to him once he identified the record’s two core themes throughout its track list. “A lot of these lyrics are dealing with the beauty of human beings, and a lot are dealing with the grey areas of the in between. You’re not exactly happy, but you’re not exactly sad, either.”
The record starts off (and ends) with the track “Devil In Drag”, which emerges as a wall of synthesizers and acoustic strumming before exploding into a full-blown ensemble. LaBrie expresses that the song was written about “someone who started out as a decent human being, but along the way lost touch with their roots – overtime becoming self-serving, narcissistic and devoid of principles or values.” Going on to say, “’Devil In Drag’ is written from the perspective of someone who’s known them all their life and, seeing them now, asking ‘what happened?’”
‘Beautiful Shade of Grey’ will be released as a Limited CD Digipak, 180g LP + CD & as Digital Album, with artwork by Thomas Ewerhard. Pre-order now here: https://jameslabrie.lnk.to/BeautifulShadeOfGrey
The full track-listing is as follows:
1.Devil In Drag
3.Give And Take
5.Hit Me Like A Brick
8.What I Missed
9.Am I Right
11.Devil In Drag (Electric Version)
Look out for more information in the coming months!