Tuesday, August 14, 2012
INTERVIEW: Heath McNease discusses his free C.S. Lewis-inspired album
I recently caught up with rapper/singer Heath McNease via e-mail to discuss his new album, the Disney “Narnia” movies, and whether or not we’ll ever see another C.S. Lewis.
Sketch: Which of C.S. Lewis’ books was the most challenging for you to write a song about? Why?
Heath: Definitely The Problem of Pain. I wrote “A Grief Observed” early on…and I was really conscience of trying to make clear distinctions between the two songs lyrically, because they deal with some overlapping themes.
I was just going about “Problem of Pain” all wrong sonically at first. I wanted it to have too much of a serious vibe musically. So I actually ended up writing it on the ukulele and then recording it on the piano. Musically it sounded far more upbeat. Once the sonic palette was brighter…it made the lyrics stand in stark contrast. I love how it turned out.
Sketch: What was your take on the recent film adaptations of the “Narnia” series?
Heath: I saw the first one and loved it. I thought it was great. I saw Prince Caspian once, and I thought it was fun. I haven’t seen Dawn Treader yet, but I’m sure I will at some point.
I think I was kinda upset at Disney letting go of the product. Disney handled the franchise so well. But I’m sure I’ll see it eventually. Obviously it’s hard to capture every detail from the books, so you hope to capture the spirit of the work which is what I tried to do with my songs.
Sketch: This album showcases more of your acoustic singer/songwriter side. Did you attempt any of these songs in hip hop first? Why or why not?
Heath: Well it’s not totally acoustic. I actually made a concerted effort for it to not be an acoustic album. It’s definitely more of an indie/folk rock record. I actually thought in the beginning about what it might sound like if it was a hip hop record. But I just feel like people try to capture the lyrical nature of Lewis all the time. I wanted to approach it from more of a “vibe” perspective. And it just came down to what style could best capture that. And for me…it lent itself to songwriting instead of rapping.
Sketch: Since I’m from Houston, I have to ask, are there any “chopped and screwed” sounds to be heard on your version of “The Screwtape Letters?” I’ve always thought that would be a natural take on the story from a hip hop perspective.
Heath: Haha. That’s actually a great idea. That was definitely not my interpretation of it. But I’d love to hear someone take that idea and run with it.
Sketch: Will our faith ever have another C.S. Lewis? Why or why not?
Heath: I don’t know, man. That’s an awesome question. I tend to think we will if we have another catastrophic war – which I certainly hope we don’t. But Lewis and Tolkein were both severely affected by the World Wars. It existed in the way they interpreted so many things. Just being soldiers, that informed so much. It did the same with Kurt Vonnegut.
And faith took a dramatic shift in England following World War II. I always thought Lewis fought against the current of the hatred and disbelief that ran rampant at the time. And he did it with depth, warmth, and humor. Sadly the best writers, thinkers, creators, etc. are usually products of terrible tragedies. So as much as I hope we get another C.S. Lewis…I hope we don’t need one.
The Weight of Glory: Songs Inspired by the Works of C.S. Lewis can be streamed and downloaded on a pay-what-you-want-basis (including FREE) at the artist’s Bandamp site.
Listeners can also choose from a variety of financial support options that offer rewards of signed CDs, personalized thank-you videos, and house concerts.