Oliver Hartmann: Out As A Solo Artist
Oliver Hartmann steps out in the cold, under a solo spotlight...and delivers a monster album.
First off - I have to say how impressed with the album I was! I had no expectations of it, which I think was a good thing, as I was really blown away by it.
When did you start out to write a solo album?
Thanks a lot first. I started to work on songs for a solo album after I left AT VANCE in mid of 2002. It took more than 2 years to have enough material cause during that time I was still involved in some other projects like Genius and Empty Tremor. I didn´t know what the reactions on this album will be so I´m very happy about the result now and I didn´t expect the reviews to be so good.
Your time in At Vance and also as part of Empty Tremor has been more focused on melodic metal and progressive hard rock.
Out In The Cold is far more refined - a melodic rock album, albeit one with as much power and emotion as anything else I have heard you sing. What prompted your move to a more melodic canvas?
I had the idea of writing just good songs without the limitation of a certain style. Most people know my work from AT VANCE, GENIUS, AVANTASIA and EMPTY TREMOR which are all metal bands and projects. But Out In The Cold is more into the direction of melodic radio oriented rock/hardrock, even if I didn't make up my mind too much about the style it would be in the end. I just tried to combine modern elements with the influences I have from the 70s and 80s, cause these were the decades of all these great rockbands like Rainbow, Whitesnake, Journey, Free any many others. But I also a big fan of nowadays songwriters like Roachford, David Gray or Billy Joel, which are totally different. But they all have one thing in common: Good music. So hopefully the people will have the same opinion about mine, too ;-)
Speaking of emotion, the album is super intense. The energy and emotion wrapped up in the songs is amazing. I hope I am not getting too personal, but the lyrics and the angst in the songs seem to come from a very real place - can you tell us the background behind the songs?
If you say that it´s very emotional and intense than it´s exactly what I wanted to achieve. There are definitely a lot of lyrics talking about my own experiences there Out In The Cold but hopefully people don´t think that I´m a depressive guy ;-)
But real feelings are the most intense thing so it can be either love and trust or hate and disappointment. Normally I´m inspired by everything that happens in my life or around me. So some songs are personal experiences the same as just the things I´m thinking about. So it can be a real story and also fictional thing. But you should always to stay true with what you´re saying o you will reach the people best.
Was the process of writing and recording this album a draining experience, or a cleansing experience? Or perhaps both?
Yeah, it´s both. It´s maybe like a fight against yourself all the time to get it done in the end. Even if I had lots of ideas for songs it was a difficult situation being all in one: Songwriter, musician, producer and engineer. So in the end I was happy to have some great musicians at my side and to work together with Sascha Paeth in the mix.
Does the album say everything you wanted it to say?
Yes, hopefully but just for this moment. If there was nothing to say anymore after the first album most great bands wouldn´t have done more than one record ;-)
Life goes on and you won´t stop to make experiences and you will be influenced by music every day. So this record is definitely not the last one :-)
Do you think folks like myself will be genuinely surprised and the quality and style the album?
Lots of people will be surprised, for sure but hopefully they won´t be disappointed about the little change in style. But as far as I can see most listeners can feel that it´s not just a solo album or a side project to try something different but a 100% me. So the reactions on this album were really great more than I could expect.
The production quality is first rate - sensational! How difficult was it to get everything right in the studio?
Like I said is was some kind of difficult to take care of everything during the recordings and the production. Most parts like the basic tracks, vocals, keys, some guitars, arrangements and other things were produced in my studio over a period of 2 years. Then we started to record the drums and basses in Bodo Schopf´s studio in October last year and finally finished the mix and mastering in Sascha Paeth´s studio in Wolfsburg during January this year. We know each other since the recording and mix of AT VANCE´s Only Human and I always liked what he was doing. Besides that he´s a great guy and very trustable friend cause it´s not easy to involve somebody else when you´ve been working on your material for such a long time. So in the end I´m very happy with the sound and that he was my first choice.
There appears many layers within the music, especially with the addition of some lush string arrangements. Whose idea was that, as it adds a whole other feel to the emotion of the music?
I´m a big fan of orchestral arrangements and I worked a lot on that for this production to hopefully add a little more own style. It was also a great choice to have Miro in this production cause he´s very experienced in stuff like this so we worked over some of my orchestral arrangements cause I wasn´t always happy with some sounds and voicings. So he was a real bargain for that.
Do you have any favourite tracks? I'll recall a couple of mine - the uptemo Would I is a real stomper as is the opening track Alive Again.
But there is a couple of amazing ballads in I Will Carry On and the utterly brilliant Into The Light.
Thanks again for your compliments. It´s hard to judge your own music or to find a favourite tune but I like Out In The Cold very much because of it´s hookline the same as I like I Will Carry On or The Same Again what is very intense and Brazen, too. But I the end I will leave up to the listeners choice what´s best.
The emotion of such tracks as Into The Light is amazing...do you consider this album to feature your best ever vocal performances?
Yes, hopefully. It was the first time I had the total freedom to do whatever I want and it took me a long time fulfill my own expectations. I wasn´t limited by a bands or musics style or by the ideas of others. Another main reason is the lyrical side cause all lyrics are written by me so the personal relation to the songs are much stronger than it was before in other projects.
Your time in At Vance saw the band rise to be one of Europe's most popular melodic hard rock acts. What prompted you to leave the band?
After the Only Human - European tour in 2002 I decided to leave the band cause the internal situation had become really bad and it was clear for me that I won´t have any real influence on the bands´ musical and personal situation. Even if AT VANCE had started once as a 2-man project by Olaf and me it wasn´t possible to make a real collaboration cause it was always more than difficult working with him. That´s why there are maybe just some single tracks written by me and there is not even one written by both of us. Afterwards I participated in some other projects like Daniele Liverani´s Genius and Empty Tremor where I had much more space to add my ideas. Besides that I started to concentrate on the songwriting for my solo album.
Of all your other work as a singer on various projects and with others, what do you rate as your best work and why?
I´m most satisfied with my solo album which is maybe the best work so far cause beside other projects and bands it´s the most personal album I did. And that´s maybe what people can hear, too even if they didn´t expect an album like this.
Any chance of some solo live dates to promote this solo record?
Yes, hopefully. There isn´t anything confirmed for touring yet but first of all there will be some single shows here in Germany starting on the 26th of May with the release party here in Aschaffenburg where we will present the album live for the first time. But I hope that a tour will follow soon.
And will this be the start of a solo career that will see more albums follow?
Yes, absolutely. Besides all the work with promotion and other things at the moment I´m already writing on some new material so this album will definitely not be the last ;-)
What's next Oliver, anything you are currently working on you can tell us about?
There´s a lot do concerning the promotion at the moment so besides I´m working on new songs I sometimes perform with a Pink Floyd-Tribute called ECHOES here in Germany, cause I love live playing and it´s a balance for me to do that aside of my solo work.
Anything you would like to add Oliver?
Yes, I want to say hello to all your readers and I hope you will appreciate this album and that you will have the chance to see me live on tour during this year.
Many thanks for taking the time out to talk about the Out In The Cold album.
Thanks, too ;)