Edward Fletcher first struck onto the scene in James Cameron’s Titanic as Sixth Officer James Moody, and now is one of the most sought after songwriters and accomplished guitarists in Hollywood. I recently got to interview him about his journey from actor to songwriter along with the exclusive opportunity to premiere his new single and music video “Sounds like You” from his band StuntPlane. If you are curious as to what I had the pleasure of learning, please keep reading!
What are the differences and similarities between acting and being a musician?
In general, I think of myself as an artist, expressing myself in whatever medium I am working. It doesn’t matter if that medium is acting, visual art or music. Acting and performing music have a lot of similarities. It accesses the extroverted portion of my personality with the one task of storytelling. The major difference for me is, in acting, I am living inside a collection of different parts of me, and with music, I try to be the most me I can be and act as the person I believe I am. If I am just my playing guitar and not singing, then mostly I am my introverted self, and it’s a lot more like painting… living inside my hands and not my voice, pulls from deep inside myself, it’s my “private self” completely on view on stage.
What inspired you to make this music video, and the way you filmed it?
“Sounds Like You” words could be described as biting, adult version of a nursery rhyme. The video is that in complete opposite. It’s the children who are telling the stories of adults. I had this idea that a kid lip-synching the song with harsh acidic words, would be more impactful though a child’s mouth. Luckily living in Los Angeles, I have a wealth of talented friends. My longtime friend and director Delila Vellot then fleshed out a storyline based on the song and put together a team. We audition and got some very talented kids, and our friends all helped us with video. I’m also grateful Mimi Chica helped us with clothes and some background actor/models.
How did you and/or your band decide on the sound and album title?
StuntPlane is a musical experiment of mine, where I get to bring my musical ideas into reality. It doesn’t rely on particular musicians. I think of the StuntPlane sound to be a warm but melancholy: an ever evolving, tragic group of odd meter love songs. Songs with personal lyrics are laced with a cool irony. Each song is a play or story unto itself. These songs structures were built around the rhythm guitars that were doubled for each song. One single-coil guitar and one hum-bucker guitar play the same chord voicing to emphasize different harmonic qualities of the chords being. The album “Dyslexic Tango” is appropriately named despite the fact there isn’t a tango or any Latin music on the album. The album is extremely syncopated and often has an odd meter rhythm dancing underneath the surface.
What about having a career in music attracted you more than continuing on with your acting?
In acting, unless you have a part, you’re working on getting a part. With painting and music, yes, to make a business of it, you need to be putting yourself out there, but you are also very much control of your own work. I have always loved acting. I love being in front of a camera; I love playing a part and expressing someone else words. It is something I will always be happy to do.
But music is different. My music is very, very different, and it is unique to me, it is (more than anything I can think of) a “calling” for me. I hear something that I feel compelled to share my ideas about how rhythmic and harmonic ideas could work. They are not easy ideas to express to others prior to being created; it took years of working and reworking of ideas to come up with what is now the “Dyslexic Tango” album.
While working on Titanic, did you ever get to meet or spend time with James Cameron? Was he an inspiration to your music career in any way?
Before everybody and his brother had a good “Chris Walken” impression, back before it was trendy, I was doing my impression for James Cameron in between takes while shooting Titanic, and making him laugh at the idea that CW was trying to get people on the life books orderly. Very smart guy, and got to chat with him here and there, he always had something very smart to say. He seemed to know more about the sequence of events of the sinking better than the historians hired for accuracy. Very impressive.
Out of all the guitars you own and have played with what’s your favorite kind to “rock” out on?
I hung out in and then worked at the now defunct Cambridge Music, where I learned so much of what I know today about amps and guitars. It was then that I in love with PRS guitars, which was the cause of some teasing for the young Edward in that shop. A shop deeply rooted in the guitars and amps of the 1950’s and 60’s. However, that didn’t stop me. I have a bunch of PRS guitars now, they all sound great and different from one another. I spend a lot of time jumping form guitar to guitar, they all play like a dream and react to every nuance of my playing.
However, overall, I was influenced by that guitar shop. I want to hear the tones on those albums I grew up with, and so in my heart I am a strict traditionalist with tone, and more times than not, when I’m out on the town playing music, I play a Telecaster (or TMG variation thereof), Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul Standard through a loud, but clean-ish tube amp (depending on the style of music). I have a wonderful green Stratocaster, that sounds good in every room, an actual 1957 TV yellow Gibson Les Paul Jr. who is too fragile and valuable to perform with (but sounds out of this world and is on the album many times)… but if I am really rocking out (as one does), I want to go with a huge sound; I turn to my Les Paul Standard.
Is there anything about painting and your art work that influences your music?
My painting and drawing life is very similar to my writing music and improvising of music. I never approached guitar playing as athletics. I try to play like I’m painting, swatches of color, different approaches, space, breaths, repetition or no repetition. I think of sounds like colors and use it to create an effect and movement, not just notes in the same key. Paintings/drawings are built on structures, as are songs, and though there are no hard rules; yet, some things just work better than others. Improving in painting and on the guitar go to the exact same place in my brain, way back there in the deepest, most introverted part and yet it’s the most open and personal part of myself.
What or who have been your biggest musical and career influences?
Though my mother had a lot of kind words for Little Richard, but there wasn’t a lot of music in the house growing up, other than mother’s family playing quartets together. I living in Egypt as kid for a year and half and am certain that some of those sounds are in my ears… but when I first fell in love with music, I was standing in my cousin’s room and I heard the tail end of “suffragette city” on the radio. My world was changed, and shortly after I heard was “modern love” and I found out they were both David Bowie; I knew I had found the pied piper I’d be leaving town with. I wore out changes-one-bowie, spent hours staring at the cover, singing the songs with a hairbrush in the mirror. When my father fell ill and eventually lost his battle to cancer, I hid inside Bowie. Early teens we all bands like Bauhaus/Tones on Tail, and other post-punk new wave bands. I spend my afternoons after school Harvard Square area records shops and looking through album bins and learned everything I could about the world of pop and rock music. The day David Sylvian’s “Gone to Earth” (double album, half songs, half instrumentals) came out, a record shop worker told me to buy it sight unseen. It’s beautiful ambient music, filled with talented instrumentalists that weave in and out of the songs.
That was a corner stone album for me as is “Laughing stock” by Talk Talk, (another pearl I bought on the day it was released), it is such personal and tragic music. As far live influences go, Ronnie Earl was a pretty great showman. I find really enjoy live music in smaller places, but I recently saw D’Angelo and the New Vanguard, and that was the most intimate performance I’ve seen in a larger audience and the feel of the band was jaw dropping. Other people who had a major effect on how I hear music and would be criminal not to at least mention James Brown, Chet Baker, Muddy Waters, Chris Whitely, Tom Waits and Al Green… and many, many more. I believe my own music is very much my own, and I’m not sure if you can hear the many influences I have in my music. As far as wordsmiths are concerned, I think I’m most influenced by early Elvis Costello, and Joni Mitchell’s Don Juan’s reckless daughter and Hejira. As a guitar player, I’m influenced by Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix (who is the very definition of electric guitar), my first guitar hero David Torn and of course “Discipline era” Robert Fripp.
Do you like that you got to play an officer in the Titanic movie, now one of the most well-known and popular movies in the world?
I have to say I really enjoyed being 6th officer James Moody in Titanic. It was such a huge movie, and it affected a lot of people. I was a little shy about it at the time, but now if find myself bringing it up without anyone having to ask (kidding, a little). I was in Mexico shooting for several months, and the friends I made down there remain some of my favorite people I ever met. It was an amazing experience, that set itself was a character unto itself.
What makes you nerd out?
(laughs) I’m not crazy about small talk, but usually, I am pretty interested in learning from people who are deeply passionate about knowledge. I like people who are excited about ideas and living. I even like listening to bands that I don’t particularly like with people who love those bands. I love wildlife and am deeply concerned about wildlife and habit loss. I really like new information, and I like talking about ideas that matter, and am curious about what others think. I can often found blah blah blahing about “big picture” ideas.
However, if you want me to bore you really, let’s talk about guitars. I love tone woods, the various types of pickups or the history of electric guitars and amps; happy to put you to sleep with my endless commentary on the matter. It’s no accident that I ended up using 22 different guitars on “Dyslexic Tango.” I am fascinated by world History, not any particular period, but the whole ever expanding story. The more I learn, the more I understand today and our common story, I also love Wildlife, went to Kenya as kid and it changed my life (it breaks my heart that in the last 40 years, half of all wildlife has vanished from the planet.)