Q&A: Novo Amor on his musical ‘Birthplace,’ an ocean away from home

Novo Amor, Ali Lacey

Welsh singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ali Lacey never expected to be selling out shows in 2018.

“I feel as though I could have stopped making music as Novo Amor after the release of the [2014] Woodgate, NY EP,” Lacey said this week from the road, in an email exchange. “I felt as though I’d achieved what I wanted; that I had written about things that I’d wanted and given myself a sense of closure on a part of my life—almost.”

Novo Amor

7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 4
Swedish American Hall
Tickets: $17-20 (Sold Out)

That “almost” lead to another Novo Amor EP and two albums, including October’s Birthplace—a stunning collection of his most grand and thematic music to date. Meredith-Lacey was completely comfortable in his skin singing about life, movement and change, which reverberate with authenticity. Songs like “State Lines” and “Utican” are at once sparse and grand, as he reflected on the places that shaped him. This is fitting material for an artist in the early stages of his first extensive tour across an ocean away from home.

“It’s crazy; a small-town Welsh boy, selling out a 15-date North American Tour,” Lacey said.

We spoke to Lacey ahead of Novo Amor’s show next week at the Swedish American Hall.

RIFF: Location and geography seem to be major themes on Birthplace. How did that manifest itself?  

Novo Amor: The entire process was invigorating and refreshing—not to sound too much like a face-scrub bottle. It’s been a long time coming and I’m happy to finally share this with the world and transfer it to a stage. And those themes came about naturally, I’d say. I see the birthplace of Novo Amor as Upstate New York; a place that I spent a lot of time prior to writing the first EP. Most of my music is inspired by changes of location over the past seven years. … I spent a summer in Woodgate, New York, back in 2011. This summer felt like a turning point for me in many ways. The place and my time spent there still inspire a lot of my writing to this day.

Given this emphasis on location, did the places where you wrote and recorded the music have a big impact on the finished album?

Pretty much all the music was written and recorded in Wales, U.K., where I live. It was self-produced in my own studio, which has probably had the biggest impact on the sound of the record, [while] being hindered by my own skills, instruments and gear. I recorded some parts on the album with the windows open to capture some of my local surroundings. Some of the songs include the cries of seagulls on my roof, the explosions of fireworks and a neighbor’s party that I clearly wasn’t invited to.

What was it like to see the direction for the video for “Birthplace?” Were you surprised at the environmentally conscious take on the song?

I love that video. The directors and production team did an incredible job. I unfortunately didn’t get to help make the video. The idea was pitched to me and essentially it was just too good not to say “yes” to. I think the environmental message is important and I was happy to have the issues raised within one of my music videos. I know that Sil [van der Woerd] and Jorik [Dozy], the directors, care an awful lot about world issues, such as the plastic in our oceans, so I wasn’t that surprised to see them approach this video with a video that hopes to suggest change.

With the reflective nature of this album in mind, what does Novo Amor mean as a project now, as opposed to when you started?

These days I care about music more than ever and I’m excited to to try new things, experiment more and collaborate. Novo Amor feels more broad than ever. When I started, I was stubborn about doing everything myself; all the recording, playing, writing, mixing, mastering and artwork, etc. I’ve now opened myself up to the idea that letting people into the project will lead to greater happiness and just better music.

Are there any cities or venues you are most looking forward to performing in?

Not particularly; most are new places for me. I’ll usually get most excited about the bigger shows, which in this case are Salt Lake City and Denver. I’m already looking forward to coming back and playing all the places that I’ve missed this time around.

Follow writer Matthew Eaton at Twitter.com/MattnSoCal.

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