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In Words: Neal Morse

- Neal Morse - July 2007 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Neal Morse - May 2011 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Neal Morse
© Neal Morse

Neal Morse - May 12th 2011 (on the phone)

American multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse is releasing his second autobiographical album these days. With Testimony Two he continues to tell the story of his life. Time to talk to Mr. Morse about his latest piece of work.

For some people it's difficult to open up and talk about themselves, but it seems that Neal isn't one of the kind... "As long as I know where I want to go or what I want to say, it's no problem. For me it's harder to write, if I don't really know where I want to go to." Neal Morse explained. "The main problem was to figure out what I want to talk about." He also did a book about his life which "gave more room to write in detail." And even if the songs aren't the chart-compatible 3 minute tracks, it's limiting the writer. "It came natural, in a minute movie you have to tell the whole story in 3 minutes, I had more time but still... it was a challenge. Jayda has just few words / lyrics. But you have to make sure that everything comes across about what we were going through. I had to describe it in 5 words, syllables." What seems easy isn't always easy, but in music you have to make it sound easy. "One morning I woke up and I knew what to do, I got a lot of help. I knew that if I have faith in God, I will get guidance." Jayda is a beautiful tune and a very personal one, Neal Morse put in his heart and soul into it. When I asked him what have been the hardest part of doing Testimony Two, Neal Morse admitted that it's been Jayda. "I can hardly sing it without crying, I don't know how to do it live... Even when I did the percussion for this song I couldn't do it without crying." But there was another task which wasn't easy for the Californian... "It were musically difficulties, the hardest thing was to make the parts fit together. Mike and Randy had a lot of good ideas. They are good friends, they really helped me to put the pieces together. And I trust them."

Sometimes writing and recording an album takes a lot time, but it seems that Neal Morse is working quickly as he's presenting an album every year, even if some are live albums or part of his Worship Sessions. "I wrote it all in October, November and the early weeks of December. As soon as I knew where I wanted to go, it was no problem. The struggle was to demo the songs in time, to do it before Christmas. To have it recorded til February, so that it could be released in May. It all worked out with a little help, God's the planner."

For Time Changer he got a little help from his former band mates and this will spark the hope of some Spock's Beard fans for more. Neal confirms: "Die-hard fans probably hope for something like that, but to be honest, I never thought about it. I just thought how cool it would be, when I wrote about that time in my life. And to do some vocal arrangement the way we did it in Spock's Beard. I contacted them and they agreed, I sent them the track by email and they did their part wherever they were at the time. And I'm very happy about it, it's an honor to work with them again." And obviously there is no bad blood between Mr. Morse and the Beard's. Sometimes people have a problem with changes... "It's hard for some people to deal with changes." he confirmed "But you have to move on."

Neal Morse will play the first shows even before the album is in stores, but in my opinion the songs speak for themselves and tracks like Jayda and Jesus' Blood can enchant people right away. You don't need to know the lyrics, you can feel the emotions, the intensiveness will carry you away. But still, it's better to know the songs before going to a concert... "We made the songs available for fans who pre-ordered the album. And so die-hard fans will know what to expect live.
At the tour for Testimony Neal Morse recorded a show for a DVD, I was wondering, if there will be another live document? Perhaps a live album / DVD with songs of both Testimony albums? "We will film Testimony Two live in L.A. and Europe."

But Mr. Morse not just have a new album out, he also wrote a book - Testimony - The inspirational and spiritual journey of a prog rock musician. "Writing the book was a challenge, it's nothing like writing music. At some days it was flowing..." At a book you have more space to go into detail than on an album, but you can also get lost in details... Very often writers have a person close to them who reads it first, way before a lector takes a look at it. "My wife isn't much of a reader, so I gave my first draft to an editor, a friend of a friend who lives in Chicago and is also a fan. He was the first to read it. I was pretty much uncertain and I didn't really want to share it. But he was very encouraging and 80% of the book is the way I wrote it and 20% is overdone. He was reassuring me, his contribution was about ends of paragraphs, etc. He actually wrote some of these. We spent so many hours on the phone, I wrote a draft and sent it to him, then he sent the draft back. Writing wasn't a big joy, more labor. But I don't rule it out that I write another book, if the Lord wants me to do it, then I'll do it." For Neal it was important to tell about his experience and what his family have been through. And even at other releases where he talks about God and his faith he isn't doing it in a preachy way and so Neal Morse's work isn't just interesting for Christians... "If you trust in God, he will lead you. You can count on that, he'll bless it." Neal states and it's what made him do this album and book.

Claudia Ehrhardt


Neal Morse
© InsideOut Music

Neal Morse - July 2007 (by email)

I have to confess that I'm always a bit in doubt when someone all of the sudden starts to believe or put ones religious believe on the sleeve... Don't get me wrong, I don't say that I doubt Neal Morse believe - I never met him and so can't judge him. But with an album like Sola Scriptura some questions been raised and I'm glad to get the chance to send some questions over and to get some answers.

Why did you choose Martin Luther's life for this conceptual album?

I didn't really want to at first. It seemed like a crazy idea to me. And I surely didn't want to do another concept album. I mean, how many can one man do? But, the more I thought about it; prayed about it, the more I felt it was the right thing to do. You know, there is so much rich material to right about. What a story! One man causing so much havoc and change in the world. Amazing.

If I got it right, it's more about the true belief and to live by the words.. in the scriptures then about Luther. Even if you linked this to a part of Luther's life. Is that right?

Yes, really I don't think we should get hung up on Luther 'the man'. I don't think he would want that either. What's important is what God can do with one person who will take a strong stand for His word. What does God want to restore to us TODAY that may have been lost during that 1200-year period of darkness? Maybe he wants to bring light to the world through you!

Why didn't you cite contemporary music of Luther's days? Why not wove some sacral music recitations in your music?

I did have that thought and others suggested it, but I never wound up doing it. Perhaps for the live version...    ;)

In the liner notes you talk about the anti-Semitic remarks of Luther which you came across when the album was almost done... Shouldn't you have studied the life, thesis and belief of Luther before starting to write?

Well, yes, of course I did. But, apparently he didn't have those thoughts til later in his life. In my reading and research I read about mainly the earlier period when he wrote his thesis and made his most famous stand.

That the church is corrupt these days - and for a long time - isn't a secret. What can we do to change this? What do you think we should do?

Pray a lot. Read the word and ask God to help us. Can we bring in Leviathan with a fishing hook? Only God can wield such power. But he does use human instrumentation to bring about his will, so letís be open to whatever He is calling for.

Somewhere you said: "...but I wasn't there, and I don't want to pretend to be an expert on the Council of Nicaea." The born again Christians truly believe in the words of the Bible - and so are against Darwin's evolution theory. You haven't lived at that time, so you can only believe in books... and they tell different stories. What's your point of view? Why do you put the scripture above all? It's also written by humans and changed through the centuries....

Interesting point. Ultimately it comes down to faith. God has touched my life and my mind through his son Jesus Christ and his spirit and at one point I decided that I was going to be a disciple of Christ. He called and I finally said, "OK, I will go". So, then I do my best to live out of His teachings. Jesus says the scriptures are true and they 'testify of him'. And so do I.

As the world was created by God, we all should do everything to save it, right? Your president George W. Bush is also a born again Christian, but don't support the activities against climate change? Is the Bible telling us not to save the world? Or was it somewhere in the scripts that the humans have to destroy it - perhaps this way - to get saved?

Well, I can't judge Mr. Bush as I don't know his heart, but I donít see anywhere in Jesus teachings where he tells us to get involved in politics. Jesus says "Love your enemies, do good to them that hurt you." I don't see this in politics. As for Global warming, I think that we should do our best to care for the 'garden' God created for us. Remember, originally he gave man (Adam) a job. 'To dress and care for' the garden. So, I think God is pleased when we are good stewards of his creation. However, I think we should be careful of judging one another.

Through your belief I guess you are against abortion and against birth control... Can you really belief this when in many third world countries there is overpopulation and children died? Is this truly what God wants? That we let people suffer?

You assume much my friend. Just because I am American and I am Christian doesn't mean I go along with the things the Christian right says. Without going into detail, I'll just leave it at that. I'll just say that I think there are times when those things may be appropriate.

What are you personally doing to make this a better world? And what do you think people can do to make this a better world?

Well, I think making this world better starts with each of us asking God to send his spirit into our hearts and begin to change us from the inside out. That's what changed me. Not all the good works I did (I did some Ė fed the poor and other things - but was still angry and unsettled inside) but God brought something about that was impossible. He changed me. He made me to truly love people as he does. This is the only way to have real change. The only real change that can come to mankind must begin with our hearts being transformed into the image of his son.

How much can you live by the book?

You must have Christ in you. We can't live by the book. It is not possible for us to truly love our enemies and not covet and all that. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We cannot live the true Christian life, only Christ can. That's why we must die to ourselves, that He might live. "I must decrease and he must increase". This is all possible in God. OK, I'm done preaching now!! God bless you,

Neal Morse

I have to thank Mr. Morse big time for talking so openly about his believe! And I really appreciate it! I hope that one day there is the chance to talk in flesh about these things and get a better idea of this extraordinarily musician and the person behind the music.

Claudia Ehrhardt


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