A Chat with Aaron Rizzo (28.09.2021)

With his album Mirror Talk Blue, Aaron Rizzo is departing from the blues-rock sound that we became used to with his debut. While different from what we are used to, the EP will hook both new listeners and those familiar with his sound. Combining his musicality with that of a star-studded cast of musicians, Rizzo showcases an amazing maturity in his sound while delving into rather sophisticated concepts. We had the chance to chat with Aaron Rizzo about the album, musical contrasts, creative processes and changes in sounds.

OSR: Was there a moment or experience that made you realise you wanted to make music?

Rizzo: I had an uncle in my family that I didn’t see very often, but when I did, music was always on his mind. It was the visceral experience of seeing the way music aided him in getting through the day that solidified my desire to take part in that process.

OSR: Over the years, you have released solo music and played a role in the production of other artists. Which do you find more satisfying?

Rizzo: These two endeavours are incredibly hard to compare because each one of these informs decisions that I make in the other. I tend to lean towards an introverted life of releasing solo music because of the deep self-discovery that comes from that. I’ve recently let go of restricting myself from genre-hopping between albums, and that has been an experience of intense creative liberation.

OSR: You have recently released your second full-length album Mirror Talk Blue, can you tell us a little more about the theme or backstory?

Rizzo: Mirror Talk Blue is my personal lens of the human experience. This album is a deep, visceral dive into the person I was in the four-year gap that followed my debut album. There is a focus on symmetry with this record, each song having a sister song, as well as the turn of the record signifying the changing of focus from external to internal struggle. It’s really just a super zoomed-in view of the feelings we often don’t know we have, but end up being some of the strongest emotions we have ever felt.

OSR: There are a lot of contrasts in the album in both sound and theme, is this something you actively tried to achieve?

Rizzo: These contrasts are absolutely something we tried to achieve during the production and recording of this record. We wanted the listener to feel the intense ups and downs of the thematic and textural changes of this record while keeping a common sonic aesthetic present throughout the entire listening experience. That common thread is a sound that can only be described by the colour blue, hence the title of the record.

OSR: The album has a heavy shoegaze vibe that merges with other genres including rock, pop and folk. How easy was it to create this blend of sound?

Rizzo: This blend of sound wasn’t very intentional until the latter half of the recording process. I wanted to have guitars on this record, but I wanted them to sound unlike anything I’ve ever tracked in the past. Pairing these reverb-soaked guitars with huge drum sounds became the sonic focus of the record once we realized that a sound was being created. Coming from a blues guitar playing background, this change was pretty jarring for me, but an exciting venture into new territories on an instrument I thought I knew really well.

OSR: What made you decide to take a step back from the sound of your previous album?

Rizzo: The sounds of my first album felt really safe to me. It’s a collection of songs that is an absolute joy to play live but didn’t really push any boundaries for me on an artistic level. This isn’t to say that every piece of work you do needs to be a deep artistic exploration, that’s just where I was at the time of creating Blck Tee Shrt. As a songwriter, I never want to do the same thing twice. I think that trying to top your previous work is a silly effort, just step to the side and do something different. That’s where I was with Mirror Talk Blue. I wasn’t interested in writing songs that would do well in a live setting, that became more of a by-product of some of the songs.

Aaron Rizzo Portrait
Photo Credit: Devin Kasparian

OSR: The album really pushes the boundaries of genre but also emotions. How hard or easy did you find pushing these boundaries to be?

Rizzo: I think it’s rare that someone is aware that they are pushing boundaries when they are truly doing so. This came from the confusion and growing pains I was experiencing during the recording of the record. I didn’t know who I was, so I was throwing all different kinds of genres together in ways that probably shouldn’t have worked. I wanted these instrumentals to be paired with lyrics that spoke of obscure human emotion and experience that we may not always think of, but we all feel. I think this can be heard vividly in ‘Home Weeps’. The song talks about how the concept of “home” is not necessarily a geographical location, but rather a north star that can aid the decisions you make throughout life. This song took me over a year to write because of how difficult it was to figure out what that feeling really meant.

OSR: How do you feel this album compares to your past releases?

Rizzo: Compared to my past releases, this album definitely puts a much heavier focus on lyrical content and storytelling. I felt it necessary to step away from the blues guitar for a moment and focus simply on telling a story in the most effective way possible while maintaining the sonic aesthetic that I fell in love with during the recording process. All things considered, I think it’s difficult to compare works of music, but Mirror Talk Blue undoubtedly feels the closest to home right now.

OSR: What was your creative process when writing and recording the album?

Rizzo: This album was created in spurts over a four-year span. I would grow a little, then write a little, then record a little, and the process would repeat. Much of this album’s creation was done without an instrument in hand, but rather through the acquisition of flat out harsh life experiences. It was also recorded in a bunch of different locations, which I really love. Some of it was done in a professional studio, and some of it was done in my living room. If that doesn’t sum up the vibe of this record, I don’t really know what does.

OSR: There are performances on the album by a number of musicians. How do you feel their musical sense impacts the overall sound of the album?

Rizzo:  I consider myself infinitely lucky to have worked with all the musicians that played on Mirror Talk Blue. They inspired me throughout the entire process with what they brought to the table. I cannot stress enough how crucial they were in the creation of this album. Mirror Talk Blue was a textbook lesson in how it truly does take a village, and to think that it can be done any other way is completely silly. The recording process with these musicians made me really take stock and appreciate the absolute assassins of musical ventures that exist in my immediate vicinity.

OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you recommend?

Rizzo: ‘How Beautiful It Is (To Feel)’. I can’t pick a favourite, but this song means a whole lot to me. No further explanation needed.

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

Rizzo: In the next year I intend on playing some one-off shows to support the album, as well as creating tons of visual content for it. I’m also getting started on my next project, which I couldn’t be more excited for. It’s time to step to the side again and do something completely different.

Thanks to Aaron Rizzo for chatting with us! You can find more about him on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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