“It has to be the sheer love of expression” | An Interview with Marko Saaresto

potf43_origPoets of the Fall is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated bands of our time.  After making music for 13 years–and becoming one of my personal favorites along the way–Poets of the Fall just released their seventh studio album, Clearview on Spotify and iTunes.

As the band prepares to head out on tour in Russia this month, I had a chance to ask lead singer Marko Saaresto a few questions. Check them out below, and also on Art On The Edge.

Adam McPartlan:  Of your extensive catalog, do you have a favorite song, or a song that you think is the band’s best?

Marko Saaresto: The favourites seem to change depending on moods, seasons, what’s new, what we’ve “played too much” etc. But we think every song is unique in its own way and deserves it’s place in our repertoire, so for us, being the authors, if you will, no one song is somehow ultimately better than the others, just maybe better suited for a certain occasion or mood. 

AM: Can you walk us through the process of how you write (and compose) your songs?

MS: There is the initial spark. Whether it’s bits of lyrics or some bit of music you hear in your head or a jumble of both at the same time, I can’t really define. There’s no one way to go about it. Which is a blessing in a way. Then it’s a real mess from there on, trying to wean out the gist of it all and make it work. But we keep at it and then somehow, in the end, the song emerges. Art, with all its myriad facets, is a formless raw energy, and we are but Valkyries, or rather, horse thieves, trying to harness it for a ride. But back to earth, sometimes it’s twenty minutes and, poof, you have a song. Of course, there’s still the production and mixing to add layers of hours on that…

AM: The band honestly has some of the most unique lyrics I’ve ever heard.  What inspires you to write such lyrically creative songs?

MS: I would say it has to be the sheer love of expression. The will to go beyond just words to create sensations and visions through lyrical imagery.

AM: Was there any song you had a particularly difficult time putting together?

MS: With the new album, the toughest nut was “The Labyrinth”, it really was a labyrinth, nearly gave up on it, but glad we didn’t. “Crystalline” also gave us a particularly hard time, but we’re best buddies now.

AM: What’s the most challenging aspect of songwriting?

MS: Ha, oddly enough it’s got nothing to do with songwriting. It’s keeping to schedules.

AM: Marko, you have sung ballads, rock, in a fantastic falsetto, and even brushed against hip-hop in “Choice Millionaire.”  What is the most challenging thing for you vocally?

MS: Live shows when my hearing conditions are chaos incarnate and there I am trying to pick a pitch to keep adjusting my technique every few seconds while interacting with the audience. Those times I really have my work cut out for me.

AM: To get specific about one song from Jealous Gods, why did you choose to have “Rogue” be entirely instrumental?

MS: Because at the right time silence can be valuable.

AM: Your new album, Clearview, was just released.  Can you take us through how the album was thought of, composed, and eventually came to pass?

MS: I could, but I fear the internet would run out of ink. In short, once the idea of Clearview, the importance of a clarity of the mind, was decided, we chose songs that would fit the bill, and wrote some more until we were satisfied. We then went to the studio to record them and usually there during production, and finally in the mix, some songs get a pretty thorough overhaul until we are satisfied with how they work and sound. In between we had lots of laid back lunches and dinner parties, laughed our asses off and argued and had moments of sheer inspiration and Zen.

AM: “Children of the Sun,” my personal favorite from Clearview.  Is there a story or special significance to this song?

MS: Children of the Sun is right at the heart of understanding that no matter who you are and where and what you are going through we all have an innate ability to experience and return to a state joy and peace, even after the hardships our lives throw at us. So I think it bears an essential message.

I remember I was in Salzburg, Austria and talking to someone about this age-old proverb: “This too shall pass,” and I thought, wow, that’s something most people kind of know, but continually seem to forget, when something more pressing and stressful happens, and they get carried away into inner turmoil. I should know. I’ve been right there with the best of them.

Sometimes it can lead to disputes between people, driving wedges between loved ones etc. But if only there were more reminders in the world, that we are all the same, literally made of the same particles as our sun, and that we all have these experiences. If we just remembered that just like we can and will experience distress we can and will experience joy and peace, then maybe the stressful thoughts lose their edge. At least some of it, becoming more dulled over time as we are quicker to return to a more calm state of mind, simply by understanding that it is possible for us, it is in fact in our nature to do so, whether we did anything about it or not. That’s why I decided to write “Children of the Sun.”

AM: Any concerts in the United States in the near future?

MS: We’ll do our best to come to the US next year. Surely, it always has to work with the schedules and other particulars, but we’ll do our best.

AM: Is there anything else you would like your fans and the readers to know about each of you, the band, its music, etc.?

MS: Well, if you’re already a fan, thank you for your support. If you’re new to us, take a listen, I’m sure you may rediscover yourself again. Thanks and take care!

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