Artist Interviews

An Interview with Al Oomens
Jan 31, 2011
Al Oomens Interviews
Al Oomens, Songwriter/Guitarist
from Chicago, IL
Al Oomens is a songwriter, guitarist and Lilac Writer user. We recently took the opportunity to talk to Al about his music and his approach to songwriting.

Lilac Writer (LW): How did you get started with music and songwriting?

Al Oomens (Al): My mother got me started playing guitar. When I was about 10 or 12, she suddenly announced that she was going to learn to play guitar, and bought an acoustic guitar. Now that I think of it, I don't remember her ever actually playing it though. She left it around the house in conspicuous places, and eventually I picked it up and started playing with it and then started taking lessons. She never said so, and passed away several years ago, but looking back I'm pretty sure that's what she had in mind all along.

LW: What is your primary instrument?

Al: I play guitar. I play both acoustic and electric. I played saxophone many years ago, and have lately been playing some bass (mostly for recording) but the guitar is my instrument.

LW: You have done several songs featuring vocals by Emi Jarvi. How did that collaboration come about?

Al: I had written several songs, about 6 or 8 songs, in a fairly short period of time and wanted to record them. Since, I don't really consider myself a singer, I started looking for someone to do the vocals. I first came in contact with Emi through an online music collaboration site (Indaba Music). She was doing session vocals for a number of projects at the time, and had several demos online. One song in particular, that she and her husband had written and recorded, called Modern Times, really caught my ear. Since Emi is in the UK and I'm in the US, we sent tracks back and forth using YouSendIt. I sent the rhythm tracks, and a track with my demo vocals to her. When she had finished the vocals and harmony parts, she sent me the finished tracks, which I then mixed here. Due to time and budget constraints, only three of those songs have been recorded so far, two with vocals and one instrumental. Emi was a joy to work with, and I am very happy with the results.

LW: Tell me about your songwriting process. How does a song go from the idea stage to become a finished recording?

Al: For songs with lyrics, I almost always complete the lyrics before even thinking about any music. To me the lyrics are the most important part of the song. I want the lyrics to be able to stand on their own. If I can create lyrics that have a "rhythm" and "melody" in themselves, then it will be that much stronger when put to music. I am also always writing pieces of music. When I have completed lyrics, sometimes I find that they work well with some music that I have already written. Other times I write the music to fit the lyrics. Once I'm satisfied with the song and the arrangement, I start recording.

LW: Do you record rough demos during the writing process?

Al: I really don't record rough demos while writing. I have the lyrics, the music and a basic arrangement settled before I start recording. I write all my songs on guitar (usually acoustic). Sometimes, during the recording process, when I start to add drums or bass or other instrumentation, it may suggest a different direction for a particular song. I may change the style of the song slightly, or rearrange it somewhat. So, in that sense the recording process can be an extension of the writing process, but I'm not really using recording specifically for writing.

LW: How do you record your songs? I mean, what software do you use?

Al: I use PreSonus Studio One. I used to use one of the other major DAW programs. I got a copy of Studio One Artist with a PreSonus firewire audio interface that I purchased. I like it so much that I ended up purchasing Studio One Pro. It has really streamlined the way I record. I spend less time thinking about the mechanics of recording, and instead can concentrate on the art.

LW: How does Lilac Writer fit into your songwriting process?

Al: I have bits and pieces of lyrics and ideas around all the time. With Lilac Writer I can just jot down an idea or part of a lyric wherever I am. I can log in anywhere I can get an internet connection. I don't have to worry about copying files, or syncing or anything like that. Everything is in one place. I find myself doing things online (in the cloud, so to speak) more and more these days, and have been using a Google ChromeOS Laptop (which is completely web based) which allows me to access the internet from anywhere. Lilac Writer is perfect for this, being a web based app.

LW: Do you tend to write using acoustic guitar?

Al: For songs with lyrics, yes. When a song lyric is complete, I put it to music using an acoustic guitar. I generally work out the arrangement and finalize my ideas for the song using just the acoustic. At this point, I'm really writing for acoustic guitar and vocals, wanting the song to stand on it's own without requiring other instrumentation. During the recording process I start to look at adding other instruments and perhaps instrumental parts.

LW: Are there any instruments you own that seem to inspire your creativity when working on songs?

Al: For electric guitar parts, I have a custom built electric. I worked along with the luthier (Yuriy Shishkov) in designing the instrument, so it is a very special instrument to me. Even though it is an electric guitar, it has a distinct acoustic quality to the sound that suits my taste perfectly. I also have a Gibson acoustic that I use for most of my writing. It's not an old Gibson, and not an overly expensive model, but playing just feels right.

LW: How important is rhyme to your approach to lyrics? Do you favor perfect rhymes do you work with the various forms of near rhyme that are available on Lilac Writer?

Al: I feel that the word that would best express what you are trying to say, that will paint the best picture of the emotions you are trying to express, is the best word to use, even if it's not a perfect rhyme. Lilac Writer has probably the best rhyming dictionary that I have seen, including many different types of rhymes. And, it's right there, in the same program, if you need it.

LW: So what's next for your music? Do you have any projects or performances coming up?

Al: I have a number of songs, both instrumental and with vocals, that are complete. I plan on recording those over the next few months. Several people have also asked me (during the holidays) about an instrumental Christmas album with maybe one or two guest vocals. So I am starting to think about songs for that and will hopefully have something by the next holiday season.

To get a flavor of Al Oomens' music check out his website:

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