2011 became a kind of new beginning for the hard rock act with the release of We All Bleed on the new label Eleven Seven Music. We spoke with Sloan while he was on the road supporting this first studio album since their 2006 release Falling Away.
Ed Sloan: Fantastic, man. That's great.
Songfacts: Let's talk about one of your new songs, "Prove You Wrong," which I believe is your latest single. Can you tell me about how you created that song?
Sloan: Yeah. Right when we got off the road about four years ago, I didn't know what direction to go writing-wise and I wrote this song that at first was a little upbeat and pop-y, and I presented it to Les (Hall), our new guitarist. He's not new any more, but at the time he was fairly new. And he was like, "Man, it's a great song. But we're a rock band. Let me turn this into something." So he put a lot of instrumentation in the background, turned it into musically what it is today.
But the song in general lyrically is about a tough time I went through a few years ago. And I finally got out of my funk and realized that I was bringing a lot of people down, so I decided I'd write a song about it and let everybody know that I was going to prove them wrong and that everything's going to be all right in the end.
Songfacts: Is that a big part of what inspires songs, that you have to put into a song what you're feeling?
Songfacts: Ed, when I listen to the song, I hear two different things going on. It sounds like there's some - dare I say it - dance music elements.
Songfacts: But then I hear the rock come in. So what I wonder is what did it sound like before you gave it to your guitarist?
Sloan: Well, it's gonna take me a second to get the melody in my head. But it was mostly piano driven. It was a little slower and a little more somber. Now the dance elements, which we like to call them electronica elements, that's all Les tinkering with all his toys and stuff and just making stuff kind of futuristic and exciting. Before it was more piano driven and more like a ballad, really. And so with his electronica stuff and then the stuff towards the end when the guitars get really heavy - which is obviously the whole band and everything - we wanted to take the emotion of the song, which was kind of ballad-esque, kind of turn it into an anthem and make it grow. Make it to where at the end of the song you're like, "Hell, yeah, this is gonna happen, this is what I'm gonna do in my life" and hope to portray that to other people as well so that when they listen to the song, they feel the power of what they could do in their own lives.
Songfacts: Well, let's switch gears and talk about another song. The song "Cold." Is that about a specific person?
Sloan: No, it's funny, man. "Cold" and "Prove You Wrong" both draw similar parallels. "Prove You Wrong" was written a couple of years ago. "Cold" was written back in like 2002, before we even got signed. Back then I was devoting all my time - I still devote all my time to it - but back then, I had a girlfriend, I saw my family every day. I love my mother and my father and that sort of thing. And I started really sinking my life into writing that first album of which "Cold" was one of the songs. And I noticed the distance starting to grow between my girlfriend and I and my family a little bit, as far as the time that I was able to spend.
Music is really the only way that I emote to people. I'm a hermit kind of guy. I spend my time alone. So I tend to write songs about my life to people that I love - "Cold" is just like that. I wrote that song after going through that period of time when I was neglecting a lot of my friends and my family and my loved ones because of my music. Which wound up paying off, but I lost some friends because of all the time that I devoted to that record. And so I think that was my song saying, "Listen, I'm sorry for the way that I am. I don't mean to be this cold to you. This is what I have to do." And just making my apologies via song. I never really thought about both of those songs and how similar they are, just from different times of my life.
Songfacts: How interesting. Did that begin as more of an acoustic song, and did it grow into a rock song?
Sloan: No, "Cold" is the reverse. "Cold" started when I was just really f-ing mad one day. That song took literally a couple of days to write. I just sat down with a drum kit and recorded a bit, and I immediately started out with that heavy riff. And I started singing at the top of my lungs (singing), "Looking back at me" - that one definitely started as heavy as I could get it, because I was trying to get out my emotions to them, like, "Look, it's not my fault, I can't help the way I am." And it just started off heavy. And then like a year after its success, the record label asked us to make an acoustic version of that song, which we did. And the acoustic version became almost as successful as the electronic version, which surprised me. So that one was kind of a flip-flop writing-wise.
Songfacts: I think it shows the power of a song if it can be successful both loud and soft. That shows there's quality there.
Sloan: Yeah. No doubt. There are a lot of songs that it's just impossible to take out of one realm into the other. It shows the nature of what the song is. So I think that's awesome.
Songfacts: Let's talk about the song "Colors." Can you explain what you're trying to say with the lyric of that song?
Sloan: Yeah, "Colors," that was less a song about me and more a song about a certain person that I was involved in a relationship with at that time. She was a great person, but she wouldn't ever use her best qualities in life. She would display her qualities to me, but then other times just completely go off the wagon, just be a completely different person, and be someone that people didn't like. And so I guess that was me being my usual non-being-able-to-talk-to-somebody-straight-in-the-face self, and I wrote a song about it. So it was kind of a song devoted to her, telling her, "Look, you've got friends and family that love you, and they've always helped you out. You can't just look them in the eye and say hey, thanks, and go on and keep doing what you're doing. You've got to take responsibility for your life and right now these aren't the best colors that you ever shine. You've got beautiful colors inside of you, just let 'em out and let people know who you are."
Songfacts: Just from the few minutes that we've been talking, I'll bet you would be a pretty messed up person if you didn't have music as an outlet.
Sloan: (laughing) Yes, that is definitely a fact. Four years ago we got off the road, and I kind of lost my way a little bit. Music turned its back on me a little bit, or I turned my back on music. I got tired, I didn't want to do it, because the industry was down and we left our label. I didn't know what we were going to do. So for like a year I didn't use music as my outlet. I just kind of stayed by myself and loathed my own misery. And that was the only year of my life that I've never written any music or listened to any music. I turned into something that I never knew I had the capacity to become. And I think you're exactly right. As soon as I started writing the music a year after that, the flood of emotions came out and I wrote about that experience. The clouds lifted and the sun started shining again. So I think you're exactly right.
Songfacts: Now that you've gone through that experience, do you feel like you have more perspective and that you have a healthier approach to making music and being in a band than you did when you had that first initial success?
Sloan: Oh, I absolutely do. Yeah, I think before I didn't realize what kind of person that I was. I didn't realize that it took music to get feelings and emotions out of me. I didn't realize what I kept locked inside of me. And now looking back, I realize that I don't necessarily have to use music as a way to talk to people and to talk to myself and to let people know how I'm feeling. It's been very therapeutic over the past 8 years of writing these records. Who knows what the next record will hold? But I know right now it's a lot easier for me to talk to people, to my friends and my family, I think a lot because they understand a lot more about me through my music. And they accept me and love me for that. And so I've learned a lot about me over the past 8 years and the whole process of writing. And I think the people that are in my life have, as well. So it's especially been very therapeutic and cathartic for me, very much so.
Songfacts: Somebody told me that faith is something where things in the future only make sense when looked at in retrospect. And in a sense, you could probably look at your experience where you stopped touring as a bad thing. But because you said that it's been therapeutic, it actually was a blessing in disguise, and it makes sense now that you look back on it.
Sloan: Absolutely. In so many more ways than just that, as well. Even the fact that we didn't have a label. It took us three years to write the record, so we didn't have any timeline, we didn't have a label breathing down our backs. So we could take our time with the record and we took our sweet time. We took three years to write a record instead of 6 months, like most bands have to. So that plus the ability to actually once again live in a hellhole in your own mind for a year, and then be able to look back and write upon it, and then come out and be successful again, or at least starting the road to success right now.
One of the best things that I'll ever remember about our careers growing up, I remember one day, right when "Cold" was coming out and it was just starting to reach the top 20 and we were touring with Seether. One of the guys in Seether looked at me and said, "Now, listen, Ed, I want you to always remember that these are some of the best days of your life. The growth of this music. Once it reaches its plateau, its pinnacle, it's gonna be very chill, but you're gonna look back on the three years of growth of this music, and you're gonna look back at that as some of the most fun times and the most fond memories you'll ever have will be of those times." And with our new resurrection that's just started to occur, I can already feel that again. And we're really lucky to be able to feel that through our music again. I already feel like we're just starting out again, we're starting out not at the bottom, because we've been a successful band before and I know we will be a very successful band coming here again soon. But we've got to work hard at it again, and it feels good to work hard at it again. So a lot of good things musically, career-wise and lyrically have come out of something that at first seemed devastating, to say the least.
September 15, 2011
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