A Chat with Opus Orange (11.08.2020)

LA-based musician Paul Bessenbacher is the man behind the solo project Opus Orange. Over the course of 4 albums, he has drawn fans and airtime on various radio stations and playlists. He is here to continue this success with ‘The Lucky Ones’. We sat down with Bessenbacher to talk about his latest single, creative process, music and much more!

OSR: What drew you to the music industry?

Bessenbacher: Music has always been a significant part of my life. I was 7 when I started piano lessons, 8 when I started composing, in junior high when I started bass guitar, in high school when I dove deep into jazz and in college when I immersed myself into classical piano performance and composition. It was natural for me to try to make music a possible career.

OSR: Is there a backstory to your single ‘The Lucky Ones’?

Bessenbacher: ‘The Lucky Ones’ explores the need for intimacy, isolation and silence in a chaotic world. It’s a kind of love song about being completely alone with someone else, shutting out the world, finding contentment and growth in silence. In this chaotic and noisy world, I do feel lucky indeed to be with someone who resonates so deeply with me, but it’s not without the investment of hard work.

OSR: What is your creative process? Do you start with a melody or lyrics?

Bessenbacher: I often start with a musical feel, like a chord progression that resonates with me. Sometimes it’s on piano, sometimes on guitar. Then comes the colour and energy that comes from great musicians or instruments or electronic manipulation. Fragments of melodies and lyrics start to reveal themselves. Melodies and lyrics influence each other, I never try to force one into another. Colours continue to form in and around the melodies/lyrics. Then hopefully it’s done?

OSR: How did you decide on the overall look and feel of the official video for ‘The Lucky Ones’? What was it like working with XUAN to create the video?

Bessenbacher: For ‘The Lucky Ones’ video, we gave free creative reign to the amazing visual artist XUAN, so all visual credit goes to her. At the beginning of the process, we briefly and vaguely discussed the song and its meaning. She started the conception process at the beginning of the COVID lockdown in New York. Regarding the process, she writes:

…the sketches provide a genuine depiction of my inner world during quarantine, constantly oscillating between hopelessness and hopefulness from page to page. The creative process unfolded as an ongoing conversation with the lyrics.

A couple months in, she sent us some sketches and short snippets, which we absolutely loved. She asked me to record some video of myself singing some parts, which she then incorporated into the altered landscape. The final video absolutely resonates with the song, like a translation from auditory song to visual art.

OSR: How different is it to create your own music compared to composing for others?

Bessenbacher: Making music for myself is a kind of therapy or energy flow. I get to allow myself to process things or follow the energy wherever she might lead. Without tight deadlines and schedules, I can chisel away at the process at my own pace, whether it’s slow, fast, or some pace in between. I also get to allow this music to become whatever it may become. I don’t go into the process with a well-formed idea of how I want it to end up. I allow the creative process to flow and lead me.

When I compose for others, we often have a goal in mind for the final project, how it should feel, resonate, fit in with the visuals, dialogue, story. I am serving the project to make it the best it can be. While it’s important to make sure the person collaborating with me loves my music, it’s also just as important to make sure I love it too. It’s a really fun creative balance. A healthy creative collaboration can be very fertile ground for making new things neither of us expected.

OSR: How do you feel this song compares to the others you have released?

Bessenbacher: ‘The Lucky Ones’ has a kind of peace and calm to it, which perhaps is not quite as obviously present in others.

Paul Bessenbacher

OSR: What are your five favourite songs of all time and why these songs?

Bessenbacher: I rarely make top lists of anything for myself, as I tend to just love what’s happening in front of me, whether it be a song, or food, or place. I’ve heard this answer before when someone asked a whisky maker what his favourite whiskies are, he answered, “whatever is in my glass.” I resonated with that answer. Anyway, here are some songs I love.

A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
Pictures of You (The Cure)
Angeles (Elliott Smith)
Fade Into You (Mazzy Star)
Song of 27 (Richard Buckner)
Wildflowers (Tom Petty)

OSR: If you could have people remember one thing about you, what would it be and why?

Bessenbacher: I would hope to be remembered as kind. As Bob Dylan once wrote about his grandma, “[she] had also instructed me to be kind because everyone you’ll ever meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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

Bessenbacher: We have a remix EP for ‘The Lucky Ones’ releasing September 4, 2020 with four remixes that really add some creative perspectives to the song. Remixers include Steve Wilmot, Ryan Elder, Tired Circuits, and Kotomi.

We’ve also made some alternate versions of a handful of songs from our album Miles from Nowhere. They consist of pedal steel, acoustic guitar, synths, and vocals. No drums or percussion. Not sure if/when these will be released.

We are also in the throws of recording our next record. Making music and pretty much doing anything during this pandemic is a bit foreign. I’m letting the energy flow and seeing where she leads. These new tunes are exhibiting a bit of uneasiness and noise with a little edge. Not sure they’ll end up that way, but that’s where they are in this process. Perhaps these new tunes will release early 2021.

Thanks to Paul Bessenbacher for chatting with us! You can find more about Opus Orange on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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