Backstage: Transcendence's Ed Hale on Iranian Diplomacy and Why D.I.Y. Works
Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions and observations about the local scene. This week: Ed Hale talks music, mobility and his attempts to save the world...
Formed in Miami at the start of the millennium, the members of
Transcendence are scattered across various locales, but three of its
chief mainstays remain the same -- singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboard
player Ed Hale, guitarist Fernando Perdomo, bassist Roger Houdaille and
drummer Ricky Mazzi.
Each boast their own back story. Hale was formerly with the South Florida outfit Broken Spectacles, Perdomo helms his band Dreaming in Stereo and his own Forward Motion Records roster, Houdaille fronts the group Ex Norwegian and Mazzi is an in-demand session player. Nevertheless, they find a common bond in Transcendence, which Hale directs from his home turf in New York and Seattle, and which, along with Miami, serve as headquarters for his record label, Dying Van Gogh. "It's a crazy way to live," Hale says. "But it's a blast."
What's not going on since last we spoke? The last six to twelve months have been incredible. The short quick answer -- I got married. That was big. I still can't believe it most of the time. I converted to Islam to be able to marry my wife in a "traditional Persian Ceremony" which was beautiful, as she converted to Christianity in order to marry me in a "traditional Christian Ceremony"... so it was a wild experience. I released a solo album, Ballad On Third Avenue, and watched it climb to the Top 100 at college radio for a few months. I toured the U.S. coast to coast and shot a bunch of music videos. I signed a major distribution deal for our record label and watched it take off bolstered by the success of the solo album and Ex Norwegian's Standby album.
Somehow we managed to turn into "a national act" at some point along the way. We did a ton of TV and radio interviews in the U.S. and Canada and got picked up by one of the largest music PR firms in the U.K. The album's second single "New Orleans Dreams" made an impact on the charts and broke into the Top 40 in adult contemporary where it now sits at #30. That's a brand new radio format for us. We've always been an alt-rock or modern rock act. Now the song is in rotation in 21 different countries around the world. I sincerely hope to see it hit number 1 by Christmas. We've never had a national number 1 before so that would be a blast.
I became a "Civilian Diplomat" and travelled to Colombia, Africa, and Iran where I met with former president Khatami and all the major Ayatollahs to discuss US/Iran relations and peace. I also attended a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the United Nations to talk about the same thing. Talk about a trip! I helped build a three-story Community Center in a very poor and remote village in Colombia, and two brick houses in an even poorer village in Ghana. They were amazing experiences, all of them.
The last time we spoke we were discussing the new solo album Ballad On Third Avenue, which was a big shift in direction for me and the guys in Transcendence, with me putting out a softer more acoustic adult contemporary album. That was a touchstone for us. We weren't quite sure where things were gonna go, but we were happy as hell and excited about the possibilities. As a label, we had just gotten major distribution again, which meant we were free to be able to start releasing our music again. That was a big coup. It took a lot of pavement pounding and phone calls, but we nailed it. The three of us released solo albums as a kind of "prelude" to the release of the new Transcendence album. That was the plan, but who knew? Roger's solo project Ex Norwegian blew up and kicked some serious butt on college radio and with the critics and in the touring department. Ballad On Third Avenue, which at the time we thought was a risky venture -- me going "singer/songwriter" -- exploded. It was like a whole new world opened up for us. A Top 20 Most Added album at College Radio and the highest CMJ charting we'd ever had up to that point.
The phone's started ringing. Billboard, Mediabase, MediaGuide and all these commercial radio promoters and PR firms started calling. Right now as we speak, the album's second single "New Orleans Dreams" is spinning on radio stations in 20 countries around the world. And now it's climbing up the Adult Alternative Album Charts. PR Firms that never used to take our calls started calling us. I signed five endorsement deals in six months; all for products that I love. I get free guitar strings for life, and I sing through the best microphones in the world.
Someone leaked a few tracks from the album and then we get this call from a guy in the U.K. who said he heard the songs on his phone over the internet at 3 o'clock in the morning at a club and "just had to contact us." It turns out it was James Parish of Prescription PR. These guys are huge in the UK. They represent Beck and the Kinks and Rufus Wainwright... they're way big. And now they've added Transcendence to their roster, which is great for us, because we've been trying to get into the British music market for a long time. Radio and TV interviews keep coming in. We're in glossy print mags now! It seems we've taken it to just a whole different level.
For me and the guys, it just goes to show that D.I.Y. works... if you work it. We're all very happy and the album hasn't even come out yet. But the reviews are starting to come in and they look good, and the fans seem to be really digging it so far. We're all very aware that any success we experience with our solo projects can only help Transcendence, which is "our group project." We're also in the process of recording three new Ed Hale solo albums. So yeah, we are working 24 hours a day and seven days a week. But it's fun. As hard as it is, the payoff makes it worth it.
Running a real record label is a mammoth undertaking. It's 24/7 and then some. To be able to operate at the level where we currently are, we can't hire enough people fast enough. We're trying, but we keep realizing that we need more and more people working at the label to handle the momentum. And truth be told, running a record label does get in the way of being your best as an artist. But we're" in" now, at least a little bit more than before.
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