SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
There are Top 40 hits that you hear on the radio and MTV hits you see on television. Then there are the Internet downloaded hits that you can overhear somebody else listening to, from walking down the street or sitting on the subway. Now for the longest time, Ray LaMontagne was a rising star on MP3 players on certain radio stations - some public, by the way - scattered around the country. Well, he's scattered no longer. Ray LaMontagne and his band are in our studio. He has a new CD out called Till the Sun Turns Black. This is his second recording.
Thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. RAY LAMONTAGNE (Musician): Thank you.
SIMON: And could I get you to introduce the band while we're here?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yes. This is Jennifer Condes on the bass, Jay Bellerose on drums, and Doug Pettibone on the banjo.
SIMON: Could we hear Till the Sun Turns Black?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Certainly. All right.
(Singing) Can you see the young and pretty, confident as cops, blooming, laughing in the (unintelligible) till sun turns black? Can you see the old and lonely walking through the park, pushing grocery carts till the sun turns black? Can you see the corporate man, he's winning on the telephone, his possessions are his own till the sun turns black? Can you see him in his lounge watching TV in the dark, waiting for his spark, till the sun turns black? Oh oh oh...
And can you see the broken glasses trudging through the days. Time goes slowly. We're no longer waiting till the sun turns black. Can you see the wise men simply living, loving quietly, every breathe he takes eternity till the sun turns black.
SIMON: It's just beautiful.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Thank you.
SIMON: Now, do I get this right, having read your publicity material: you grew up, incredibly, without music. No source of music in your house, didn't listen to the radio?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: There was not a lot of music in the house. We just didn't - you know, we traveled like, you know, it was my mom and four sisters, little brother and myself.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: You know, we didn't have you know possessions, really. We really had clothes and that's about it.
SIMON: You traveled all over.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah, all over the country.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah.
SIMON: When did music first begin to kind of put its hooks into you? Do you remember that?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Well, for real, the first time I heard Stephen Stills, really.
SIMON: What Stephen Stills did you hear first? I mean, can you even remember the first couple of songs?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Oh yeah, I heard - it was Treetop Flyer off a solo record that he had done, which really knocked me out. But then, you know, when I went to the record store to find his stuff I found the Manassas record, the first Manassas record. And that is really what clinched it. It's an absolutely stunning record.
SIMON: Does he know what a role he played in your life?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: I've met him a couple times. The first was at my very, very first show in Los Angeles. I played a show with his daughter, Jennifer...
SIMON: Oh my.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: ...and he was there. You know, a very small club. And he was sitting right there watching. When I finished my set he came out of the - out of his seat like a bull. I mean, I thought he was going to kill me. I thought he was going to rip me out of my seat and just throw me across the room. But he comes storming out, he grabs the guitar, he sits down and just starts ranting about who is this kid? Who does he think he is? He's sitting too far from the mike. I can't even hear a word he's saying, blah, blah, just on and on and on. And then he proceeds to sing two songs. There's not an intelligible word in them, you know, because he was really, really drunk.
SIMON: Boy, what a touching story...
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: It was great.
SIMON: ...Mr. LaMontagne. Yeah, this is just great, Mr. LaMontagne. Yeah.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: But I did, I did see him again. I met him again at a show at the Avalon Theater. I was headlining my own show at that theater in L.A. Anyway, after the show Stephen came back with his wife and it was a completely different experience. He was very...
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: ...complimentary. Yeah, he was sober for sure, very straight. And very complimentary about the songs and singing. And then he, you know, shook my hand and said I just finished a record. I want to give it to you and...
SIMON: It's always a bit of a risk when you meet your heroes, isn't it?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah, I prefer not to.
SIMON: They turn out to be like the rest of us sometimes.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah, I prefer not to.
SIMON: There's a real aspect, a thread, really, of quietness and darkness that's on this recording Till the Sun Turns Black. There is - we want to get you to sing another song, because not all of the songs here are quiet and dark and edgy. There's a real belter on here called Three More Days. Could you tell us about this song?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Well, it's - boy - driven by the lyrics, I guess. And sometimes you just need to say I miss you and that's enough. And you just pour your heart into saying I miss you and that's all you've got to say.
SIMON: Okay. We'd like to hear that, if we could.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: All right.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) Three more days, girl, you know I will be coming home to you, darling. Three more days, girl, you know I will be coming home to you, darling. I know it's wrong just before I come home. I know it's wrong to leave you so alone. I've just got to get to this good side done so I can bring her on home soon. So I can bring it on home too.
Yeah. Gonna bring it on home to you. Bring it home to you, darling. Home to you. I said listen, well listen, because I'm coming. Gonna bring it on home to you. I'm gonna bring it on home to you, baby. We'll bring it on home. Well good lord we're coming home. Gonna give it so you can't say no. Gonna give it so you can't say no. Gonna give it till you can't say no. That's right. That's right. Gonna give it so you can't say no. I'm gonna give it so you can't say no. Gonna give it so you can't no, no, no, no, no. Baby, no. La, la, la, la, la. Baby, no.
SIMON: Thank you.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: You're welcome.
SIMON: You live in Maine.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: I do.
SIMON: And married and have a family.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: I'd rather not talk about that, if that's all right.
SIMON: All right. Of course not. Could you leave this business as quickly as you entered it? I mean, could you wake up one morning and decide...
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Probably. Yeah, I think so.
SIMON: But you don't think of doing that now?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Not yet. In the same way as, you know, when I was 24 and didn't talk to anybody, I had this little, you know, this little voice saying, you know, it's in there, you just got to let it out. It's all in there. But in the same way I think I've got a couple more records in me.
SIMON: You didn't talk to anyone when you were 24?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: I didn't talk to people. This career has forced me to grow in a lot of ways, you know. And a lot of it good. You know, some of it not so good. But no, I had a very hard time talking to people. I didn't have close friends and I certainly wouldn't confide in anybody, because I didn't really trust people that much. But that's in the past, you know?
SIMON: Could you tell - your breakthrough song was Trouble.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah. Well, I - honestly - you say breakthrough song, I'm not...
SIMON: Well, the one that brought you to our attention. I'll put it that way.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: I guess. Yeah. I guess that was kind of the obvious choice for a single, I suppose, because it was up-tempo and radio likes things that are up-tempo.
SIMON: Can we hear it again?
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Yeah.
SIMON: Thank you.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: (Singing) Trouble. Trouble, trouble, trouble. Trouble been dogging my soul since the day I was born. Worry. Worry, worry, worry, worry. Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone. I've been saved by a woman. I've been saved by a woman. I've been saved by a woman. She won't let me go. She won't let me go now. She won't let me go. Oh she won't let me go, won't let me go home. Oh saved. So now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now. Oh now she just so good to me now. Give me love and affection. She good tell me now. Give me love and affection. Said although I know I love, I said I love, I you know I love affection. So good to me. Oh she good to me. She good to me baby. She's good for me. Oh she's so good to me. She good to me. She's so, oh...
SIMON: Mr. LaMontagne, thanks very much. We enjoyed it.
Mr. LAMONTAGNE: Well, thank you. It's nice to meet you.
SIMON: And to your band too. Ray LaMontagne and his band joining us here at NPR Studio 4A. His new album is called Till the Sun Turns Black. And it comes out August 29th. And there's more music from Ray LaMontagne at our web site, NPR.org.