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Ghost Canyon

Ari Hest Ari Hest

‘Someone To Tell: The Ari Hest Story'

The recent release of 'Sunset Over Hope Street' marks Ari Hest's first full-length album of new material in four years. 'Sunset Over Hope Street' follows Hest’s highly successful 2009 'Twelve Mondays,' an album one could say was “A&R’d” by his fans.

In 2008, Hest utilized all the current technology to launch the 52 project, an ambitious web-based subscription service that found the prolific singer-songwriter writing, recording and releasing a new song every Monday for an entire year.

At the end of the year, his fans voted for their top twelve choices resulting in 'Twelve Mondays,' which The Washington Post praised as “skillful, pretty and straightforward.”

'Sunset Over Hope Street,' is a slight departure from Hest’s previous work. Ari expressed his self-challenging nature by taking his guitar parts and seeing if another lead instrument, like a piano, could take the guitar's place. The album is also awash with a variety of string arrangements and unique percussion parts.

Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Ari Hest and discussed his latest CD, his work on the 52 Project, and, of course, ... Penguins!

Taking it from the top and why has it taken four years for this album of new material to finally come to the fore? "It's not really accurate to say this album took four years. I've been doing a ton between The Break-In and Sunset Over Hope Street. I did a songwriting project in 2008 called '52' where I put out a new song every week digitally for a year, and the top 12 songs as chosen by my fans were released as Twelve Mondays in 2009 to everyone."

"I also put out an ep called 'Little Apple' with my friend Rosi Golan under the name The Open Sea. Some of the songs on this new album have been brewing for four years but most were written since those other two projects."

Being that you broke from your last label in 2008, after the release of 'The Break-In,' to take more creative control of your music, please reveal a couple of ways you have subsequently managed to do just that for yourself? "The '52' project was the first thing I did when I broke away. I wanted to distance myself not only from the label but from other singer/songwriters, and to stand out I felt I needed to do something a little nuts. So I wrote like my life depended on it and it worked out really well for me. I have a lot of new material I'm proud of and a good story to tell my kids one day. When I actually have kids. First the wife!"

And with your '52' project, the subscribers to your website got to choose their top 12 favorite songs for the album, Twelve Mondays, but what happened to the other 40 tracks? Will they ever see the light of day? "Some of the other 40 may not, but others I play live, and a couple ended up on Sunset Over Hope Street. 'Until Next Time' and 'Swan Song'."

It's been said that since you moved on from your label you have been experimenting with new instrumentation ever onwards. So, here on your latest album, 'Sunset Over Hope Street,' what new instruments have been used that you have never worked with before? "The new album has a bunch of keyboard related instrumentation - piano, organ, mellotron, moog etc. It was fun to play around and see what works well with my voice. Alex Wong, the producer, brought a lot of these new sounds into the picture, and most of what we experimented with got on the album."

And just where does that title come from? Is it personal to you, perhaps? "The title is from the song on the album with the same name. I liked it because it evokes transition, growth, and to some extent, struggle. These are themes you hear throughout the record."

And, as seems to be a trait, there were fully-finished songs for this album that didn't make the final cut - what happens to those ones? "A couple of them wound up on the deluxe version of the album. One of them actually is in The Lincoln Lawyer, called 'Now.' I think we only cut one or two others completely off, and maybe those will be redone some other time, who knows?"

The politically-driven song, 'Business In America' stands out (for me) in this collection - are you a very politically-minded person at heart, in general? "I wouldn't go that far, but as it happens when you're on this earth for more time, you start to open your eyes to a lot of things outside yourself. In this case, I wrote about the sad idea that you won't help someone who is sick in this country because their don't have money to pay for medical expenses. Just makes no sense to me. I now there are good arguments both ways on this topic, but underneath it all is a fundamental question of human kindness."

Another ongoing vibe (on the album) is our unquenchable quest to grasp the passages of time - here and now, and those gone by. With that in mind, is there one still-lamented missed opportunity that continues to sit with you today, perhaps? "I think every now and then I struggle to be in the present. I look back on some things, some people, that I wish I'd done something different, and I tend to write in these moments. Totally guilty of being in my own head sometimes. I suppose the songs are my way back out."

Will your side project The Open Sea, a duo with fellow singer/songwriter Rosi Golan record an album and tour soon? "I sure hope so. I love Rosi musically but also we're really good friends now. She's got her own new album coming out soon, I'm sure it'll be great. Hopefully down the line we'll do more, I love singing with her!"

Do you have any tattoos and, if so, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what are they of and where are they located?! "I'm untatted. Never got the urge. Au natural. I do have a couple of awesome looking birthmarks though!"

Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love penguins ... do you, perhaps? "Who hates penguins? That's like saying you hate ice cream. Or air!"

Interview: Russell A. Trunk

So, if you would like to win a SIGNED copy of Ari Hest's latest CD, just answer this easy question: When Hest released 'Someone to Tell' in 2003, which producer helped him put it together?!

Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful signed items! Just send us an e:mail here before May 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: ARI HEST SIGNED CDs to:

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