Musician Ted Leo moves from punk and a collaboration with Aimee Mann to the personal in his new album, The Hanged Man.
Ted Leo has always been a bit of a traveling troubadour—musically and literally. He’s lived everywhere from Indiana to New Jersey, New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. before landing in Rhode Island. And his music has ranged from punk to a recent duo he formed with Aimee Mann called The Both. Now, in Leo’s new album, The Hanged Man—his 10th—he takes his music on a more personal journey. Recorded in his home studio in South County Rhode Island, he self-released the album September 8th.
Leo talks about the personal focus of the album. “I’ve always written about personal stuff, but this one happens to deal with some stuff that’s maybe more personal other things,” Leo says on the making of the album. “The body of songs that I had to choose from was from after the last seven years, and it was a massive amount. The album I would end up with was the album that I felt right to me. It felt like the album I needed to make.”
Tracks like “Moon Out Of Phase” and “You’re Like Me” are electrifyingly fuzzy, while others like “Can’t Go Back” and “The Nazarene” highlight Leo’s piano skills. He’s joined on some of the tracks by drummer Chris Wilson and Rhode Island saxophonist Adrienne Berry.
“At least the last three or four records that I’ve put out under my own name were largely made within the context of being an artist who is on tour with a band all the time,” he says on the incorporation of different elements with the new album. “They were sort of written in short bursts and recorded in a one-week studio session. While I don’t think I’ve ever stifled myself in my desire to bring other elements into the recordings, the nature of them was such that they reflected the live version of the band at the time. Not really having that happening very much at all for the last seven or eight years, in retrospect, helped me take off a seatbelt that I didn’t really know I was strapped into.”
Leo’s relationship with the Ocean State started over two decades ago. “I love it here and I’ve spent a lot of time here over the last 20 years,” Leo says. “Because I’m out and working a lot when I am home, and because I don’t actually live in the city, I think we do tend to stay home a lot.
“I’ve literally not been to the beach at all this summer,” Leo continues. “I have not been in the water. I love the beach and I love swimming in the ocean, but I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t forced myself to go down and take a walk by there every now and then. It’s a mile from where I’m at, and I almost never get there.”
Leo’s lack of beach time will likely continue as he travels New England in support of The Hanged Man. He and his backing band The Pharmacists will be at Brighton Music Hall in Allston, Massachusetts on September 17th, and at the Columbus Theatre in Providence on December 2nd with Bill Janovitz from Boston alternative rock stalwarts Buffalo Tom opening up. In between, he’ll have a solo performance at the Dr. Martens store on Newbury Street in Boston on October 5th.
Want to hear what‘s on Leo‘s playlist when he‘s not performing or writing tunes himself? Check out our Take a Listen Spotify channel. While you‘re there, check out what other musicians we’ve profiled are listening to as well.