Bilal Details Inspiration for Five Songs on ‘A Love Surreal’
Bilal appears to be reserved at the start of a conversation, but the singer opens up once a topic is thrown his way that he's well-educated about: his music.
Earlier this month, Bilal released his fourth studio album, 'A Love Surreal.' When speaking about the project's culmination, while inside TheDrop.fm's New York City office, he has a twinkle in his eye -- the album came to be unexpectedly.
"This album happened by accident," he admits. "Me and my manager talked about going in the studio to do an EP, like five songs and put it out. I brought in my band and we started jammin' around on other tunes and wrote five more songs."
Replete with odes centered on romance and inspiration, intricate production, genuine instrumentation and smooth, emotional vocals, Bilal crafts an LP worthy of a dozen listens.
''A Love Surreal' has a lot of growth in my production," the Philadelphia native shares. "I've been working pretty much with the same production team -- Steve McKie, Conley Whitfield. These are all cats that play in my band, you know. Even Robert Glasper, he played with me early on; we went to college together. So all the people that worked on this album is kinda the people that I've known for a really long time.
"It's really cool to listen to when we first met and the music we used to do."
To give fans an inside look at his body of work, the 33-year-old details the inspiration behind five of the 14 tracks featured on the sensual opus. Find out which song he wrote on his friend's couch and another that was born from his experience with "wild girls."
"It was just a made-up story. I used to do a lot of shows in Chicago with this promoter. He had this thing where he used to call pretty girls 'room-changers.' I always kept that in the back of my mind. Like, 'Oh man, she changed the room when she came in.' I tried to switch it around to a card game kind of thing. I produced it. The guitar riff, it's kinda inspired by this group Steely Dan.
"I like them a lot so the groove kinda reminded me of something Donald Fagen would do."
'Longing & Waiting'
"It's just like a long distance relationship kind of thing. You know, where you can't be with the person you want to be with so you talk a lot of crazy talk over the phone. That's pretty much what it was. I find myself away a lot and not with my wife. We actually wrote that song together kind of. I wrote that song in Atlanta. I went to Atlanta to do a tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire. I brought my wife with me. I always bring my guitar.
"So we were just in the hotel and I was playing around with the guitar and I was like, 'Yeah, you know I want to write a long distance relationship song.' She always helps me with lyrics or tells me if a lyric sucks or not. She's a writer and she's written for magazines. She's actually helped me on my last album, 'Airtight's Revenge;' she wrote a song with me called 'Robots.'"
'Born to Fly'
"That was a personal experience. I think I was really talking to myself on the record, just really speaking about my journey in this music business. There's been a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes I write songs to inspire me, inspire myself. I produced that too, had Robert Glasper playing piano. I really wanted to have an outside feel to it. So I had the engineer put a microphone in his book bag and walk around the neighborhood.
"I like to come up with little weird, quirky stuff that might work."
"I guess that song's a halfway personal, halfway made-up. It kinda reminds me of my early hopeless romantic days. I used to fall in love with wild girls. They used to all show up to see me late at night, drunk and s---. It kinda reminds me of that. Chicks that could drink me under the table. I used to think that was hot."
'Never Be the Same'
"I wrote that song almost like a journal entry pretty much. I haven't kept a journal in the last three years. I used to write in a journal like every day. That's like the oldest song on the album. It was an old song I never really did anything with. It just kinda went with the project. It's really old, maybe like 2004. That was around the time I had recorded an album for Interscope. It was supposed to be my second album and it got shelved.
They kicked me out the label. I didn't know what I was doing. I wrote that song on my friend's couch."
Watch Bilal's 'Back to Love' Video