Indie-Folk singer-songwriter CJ Stranger has released Outlaw, another single to give us another taste of what we can expect from his new album out later in the year. Catching up with the Hi-Fi Way for a chat about songwriting and how he’s coping with isolation and the impact of social distancing on his creative process.
Outlaw is your new single, what is the song about?
It’s half imaginary and half real. It’s about wrestling between the idea of being an outlaw in my mind and then the reality of my real life. I was wondering and thinking through why we often fantasise these fictitious characters that are outlaws and what draws us to them. Then I was comparing that to my reality of life which is nothing like that at all. Which is a good thing!
What is so appealing about an outlaw opposed to our normal way of life?
Yeah, that’s right! Why do we love movies and books about dubious characters? So, I wanted to have a light hearted look at that. Perhaps there’s a deeper underlying thing as well.
What was your thought process when writing this song?
Some of my songs take a long time. This one was fairly quick from memory. I came up with that opening guitar chord progression which to me sounded a little bit Beatle-sy. So, I was like “that’s cool.” Then I came up with that first line “I am an outlaw in my mind” and then I thought that was an interesting idea to explore. I wrote the verses pretty quick and then added that last section t the back which is like a raucous jam which was fun to record with the boys.
How is your songwriting process, do you write alone or do you collaborate with others?
Most of it I just do it myself. I really like writing lyrics and I often fill a lot of different books with lyrics and a lot of them don’t become songs. I’ve really worked on lyric writing the last few years. I went through a phase of obsessing over Bob Dylan and those great lyricists an so I really like to write a clever and honest verse that engages people.
Listening to your music I hear a bit of country, some folk and indie rock thrown in the mix. How would you describe your sound?
I would describe it as Indie-Folk. As you mentioned I definitely have influence from country and folk songwriting but I also recently toured as a guitarist for an Indie-Rock band. There’s definitely some influence of rocking out a bit which is really fun for live. I like having a few rock out moments. On my album there’s quite a few folk moments and then there’s a bunch of rocking out moments because they’re really fun to play.
Who are your musical influences? What artists or music do you listen to?
Growing up and getting into guitar it was Jimi Hendrix. My Dad had a big collection of Blues records and that also influenced me in the guitar. When I really got serious about songwriting obviously it was Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, those kind of old school guys. I really like some more recent artist like Courtney Barnett, she’s awesome. A guy called Kurt Vile and a band I really like called The War on Drugs. Those artists do influence my writing.
How is the current situation with social distancing affecting you creatively? Is it a good thing or a creative roadblock?
Its interesting! Obviously, it’s a bummer not being able to play shows. However, I’ve enjoyed setting stuff up in my studio and trying to figure out how to be self-contained. So, I have been doing some live streams from my balcony which was fun. I’m trying to finish off mixing my album. I have plenty to keep me occupied.
You mentioned an album, was that supposed to be released this year?
Yeah, it would be a bit of a shame to put an album out when you can’t gig. I think I will put out another single out soon. I have a third single which is pretty much ready to go. I might just hold off on the album until we know when this thing will end so I can do a tour towards the end of the year.
Do you miss doing live shows?
Yeah! I definitely miss playing music live. I work a bit as a session guitarist as well in my friend’s bands and sometimes in theatre shows so I spend a lot of my time playing music live. It is kind of weird not to be doing that.
What are the plans for CJ Stranger in the future?
My personal journey over the last few years has been trying to figured write good songs. That’s been a big part of my journey so I’m pretty content to continue that pursuit. I really appreciate if people enjoy it and can relate to the songs and they like them. That seems to be happening with these new songs I’ve put out. People seem to be connecting with them and they’re getting a lot of radio play which is really encouraging. If I can keep doing that and keep doing shows and tour wider with my own music that would be really cool!
Interview by Anastasia Lambis