Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie is set to release his fourth solo album called Beautiful Shade of Grey on May 20th via Inside Out Music. We had the honor of talking to James about Dream Theater’s latest Grammy win as well as getting his thoughts on his upcoming album. We finished off with a dash of fun controversy.
Three times is the charm for Dream Theater as they recently captured the Grammy for best metal performance with the song “The Alien”. I asked James how winning a grammy has impacted him as an artist.
James responded “There are a couple of things that go through my mind immediately, it’s great to get the acknowledgment and recognition from the Grammy academy, there’s that part of it. And then at the same time, the Grammy is recognizing and acknowledging this kind of music; this kind of musicianship. Not that they haven’t. I mean, you know, there’s jazz artists, blues artists, fusion, and everything you can think of; folk. That’s all going on as well where those bands rightfully and those artists rightfully are being awarded this type of an award; recognition. So I think it’s great for a band like Dream Theater to have this because it not only speaks for this kind of band or who and what we are and our entity, it speaks volumes for many many other similar bands.”
In preparation for talking with James, I listened to an interview he did on The Everyman Podcast and loved the story about how he and Paul bumped into each other just before the world shut down due to the pandemic. In a weird way, the pandemic seems to have been fortuitous in giving James and Paul the time to focus on the songwriting.
James responded “The fact that while I was at home and I record; well you know I had Chance (LaBrie) play drums in the other room there (pointing over his shoulder) he record drums and then I recorded all my vocals here and Chance actually engineered and recorded my vocals as well as being the drum; but I said to my wife, I said that to a certain degree this has been therapy for me. Because it’s kept my sanity, it’s kept me engaged, and away from the inundation, of being inundated, of frickin pandemic news.”
James added “One of the things I said to Paul that I thought was crucial, especially when you’re doing something in these times, I said none of my lyrics are going to reflect what’s going on in the world right now, primarily the pandemic, no. There are a lot of other things to talk about, about simply being a human being and that’s why I came up with the title “Beautiful Shade of Grey’.”
I noted a theme of resilience in songs such as “Sunset Ruin” and “Hit Me Like A Brick”. I asked James how he stays resilient in a career that can be so challenging. He responded with a hint of a laugh “Well, I’ve got reptilian skin.” James added, “To know one’s self prepares you better as you said the adversities in life, I think that if, the better understanding you have of yourself, the stronger you are, the more resilient you are, the more confident you are and calm.”
The new solo album has a great cover of the classic Led Zeppelin song “Ramble On”. I was curious if James would share what his favorite Zeppelin album is and why. He scoffed and said “No, I can’t do that. It’s cruel for you to put me there.” before quickly adding “It’s one, two, three. But seriously, Zeppelin one, two, three.”
We continued to talk about the genius of Led Zeppelin and James shared some great stories of meeting Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. We wrapped our talk with a bit of controversy. Check out the interview for all the details and be on the lookout for Beautiful Shade of Grey which is available on May 20th via Inside Out Music.