Progressive rocker, Neal Morse has been rocking the masses for over thirty years with his brand of tunes. The born again Christian and The Neal Morse band frontman, is now offering up his latest helping of music, entitled The Similitude of a Dream, a double concept album in which the California native hopes it will bring the listeners on a closer walk with God. In this exclusive interview, Neal Morse discusses his new album, spirituality, rock music and more.
You have the new album out, The Similitude of a Dream, can you give the listeners your thoughts on the new album? Morse: It’s a double concept album, it’s a two disc album that tells a story, so it’s not just isolated songs. For me, it is a whole one hundred minute piece, rather than separate songs, but, if you like to think of it as separate songs, you can think of it that way too. Does that make sense?
Oh yes, it does. I have listened to a few of the songs and I have to say that "The Long Day," to me, that song is an extremely powerful song. Can you talk about the message behind that song? Morse: Thank you. The album is based on an old book written in England in the 1600’s called, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the original title to the book was, The Pilgrim’s Progress From this World to the Next Given under the Similitude of a Dream. So that is where the title, The Similitude of a Dream comes from. Some people don’t know that so should spell that out. There was a guy visiting me from California and he just looked at the title and said, "Wow, Pilgrim’s Progress." Which was really surprising. It’s about a spiritual journey about a guy who doesn’t know why he was compelled to leave the city of destruction and he headed toward the city of God. It’s about all the things he encounters on the way, and it’s really a spiritual thing. So it’s an inner journey, not so much of a physical one. It came out much greater than what many of us expected.
I like the fact that it is a spiritual walk, and I would like to talk about spirituality, and rock music. Because some people look at the rock scene as evil. I am being serious, I was raised Southern Baptist as very young child, then moved over to the Pentecostal faith at twelve, and I was pretty much told I was going to hell for listening to Ozzy and Iron Maiden. And I remember years ago, and I am not going to mention his name, but there was a mainstream televangelist telling somebody, "Hey, you cannot mix your spirituality and faith in with secular sounding music." And I would like to know your thoughts on the spiritual side and rock and the mixture of it. Morse: Here’s what I have found, and God’s really dealt with me about it. I have found that music is communication, it's language, and people speak different languages and different languages speak to different people. And God, I have found, wants to use every language to reach all people. He loves us so much and He is so desperate to reach His lost children, He wants to speak to them however they will hear. One thing that really changed me, I was having a service at a youth prison years ago here in Tennessee. There was this special event, I really cannot remember what it was, but, it was me and a rapper, a Christian rapper, and at that time I thought, God can use anything, but I do not think he can use rap. But that guy really changed me, we prayed before the event and I really felt his heart, he was really sincere. I went out there and did my bit, and he did his bit, and what I got from it was, he was speaking their language. He put the Gospel in something they could hear, and they were looking at me like they could not relate to me, but, they could relate to him. And that really changed me.
Check out the song "City of Destruction"
It is funny you say that, I am in to really hard and heavy music, and a good Christian band I have always liked is Disciple, real heavy, real hard. Of course I remember Stryper back in the day. You have been doing this music deal for many years, with all of your experiences, what has been the hardest aspect of being in this music business? Morse: The hardest aspect, I think getting started was the hardest. I spent so many years having doors closed in my face, which was pretty hard, rejection letters are pretty hard. It is hard to keep going, it is hard to stay inspired, and you start to think what’s the point? When there’s no outlet, people get discouraged. Whatever it is that people love to do, when they don’t have the outlet, after a while they begin to dry up. So that’s one of the hardest things. One of the hardest things for me was following God and quitting Spock’s Beard, the band that I started in the progressive world. That was pretty tough, and not knowing what was going to happen, and how God was going to work it all out. But that was years ago now and He has worked it out wonderfully. Those mountains look a lot bigger when you are looking up at them and after God helps you climb it, it doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal.
Last question, what do you feel people will get most out of this new album? Morse: People are receiving amazing new things from this new album, I am reading the Tweets and Facebook posts and the response is way more I could have ever imagined. People are saying it is the best album they have heard in twenty years. It is really off the hook, it is already album of the year on people’s list. I am hoping that people will get a closer walk with God out of it. Maybe they will see whatever space they are in, in their journey, it is like we all goes through these journeys and passages in our walk where we feel we got a little bit off course, and we need to get back on course. There are some people who come along and give a guy real unsound advice. And I hope that people can kind of discern some of those things and realize that it is a walk and it is not a one time event. Salvation is not a one time event, it is an ongoing progressive thing. And that’s why the book was called Pilgrims Progress, and that’s why it is such a good progressive rock album.