Release Year: 
November is typically a busy time for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but this year it's even more so. Not only is a new show centered around the made-for-TV-movie, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, being premiered on their annual November-December winter tour, but they are releasing their first new album in six years, Letters From the Labyrinth.

Rather than being a rock opera as previous TSO releases have been, Letters From the Labyrinth is a collection of songs written around a series of letters sent between characters in their 2009 release Night Castle covering such topics as bullying, the banking crisis, the struggle in Ukraine, and the fall of the Berlin wall among others.

As the band convened on their rehearsal space near Omaha, Nebraska to prepare for their upcoming winter tour I spoke with creator, composer, producer and would be history professor, Paul O'Neill. I very briefly checked in for his reaction to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Savatage joint venture performance at Wacken Open Air this past summer, but primarily stayed focused on the new album for an in-depth discussion on its themes and dove head-first into the inspiration and details of the new songs.

On Lzzy Hale:
I also wanted to bring back something more from my youth. George Harrison's most famous song is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," the guitar solo on that is Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton's most famous song is "Layla" and the guitar player is Duane Allman. There was just this intermingling of talent. So we decided somewhere on this album I wanted to try to bring in an outsider to have artists collaborating again. It happens in the rap world, but not as much in the rock world...So "Forget About the Blame" just kept pounding itself into me. But I needed somebody who had that passion and Lzzy Hale is a passionate singer. I've been a fan and so we made a phone call. She was so sweet. They were in the middle of a tour and there was a small window, but we got together and she even had a show the next day after we'd done the first day. I said, "I'm really sorry, Lzzy, but I need you back for another day." She came and she nailed the song. And I didn't know this before, but she was a TSO fan. She had her jeans signed by the band from 2007 when she saw the band in Hershey. She was a sweetheart and her band was so kind. Here they are with very little time off and here she is doing this. We are all fans of Halestorm and we didn't know they were aware of TSO and it was one of those things where the stars lined up. So in America we're going to radio with Lzzy Hale's version. Classic Rock magazine in Europe reached out and wanted to put the Robin version in the sampler CD on their cover.

On bullying:
I wrote "Not the Same" because the fact that Amanda Todd had moved three times and kids had watched her get beat up and nobody moved. It's amazing how bullying has gotten so out of control. All these songs have a purpose and as we've discussed before, Brad, the arts have an unbelievable power. I hate bullying. There is no need for it. The guy who bullied Amanda Todd had a mental illness, but the fact that fifty kids could stand around and watch as they see this girl who they know is hurting and see kids beat her into a pulp and leave her in a ditch. And no one stood up for her and no one went back for her blows my mind...The arts can drag attention to things that are so wrong. With "Not the Same" Kayla really brought that song to life. All it would have taken was one person to have gone up to Amanda Todd in that ditch, "Hey, come home with me. Let me clean you up. You want to know something Amanda, high school, junior high school's not the end of the world. Your life won't start until you're twenty-one. Your whole life is in front of you. Just hang in there." And that girl would have been okay. She just needed one person. There's millions of people in this world who would have loved to have been that one person. Evander Holyfield, the boxer, said that video hit him harder than anyone ever hit him in the ring. If that video doesn't bother you then there's something mentally wrong with you.