Ames, who has made quite the career for himself at Apple and Adobe, has always had a focus outside of his office on music, music that’s he’s cultivated into a full-length record titled Oakville Ontology. Patrick told us all about it: “My fans expect lyrics like nothing else; lyrics with meaning and complexity and twists and turns. Lyrics that you don’t hear anywhere else unless you get down into the singer/songwriter sub-genres…The writing of these songs was difficult because I took about 18 songs into the sessions and only 9 came out. Some really good songs didn’t make the Ontology cut. That’s the hardest part about song writing. Songs become your children, and you get attached to them, but they go away.”
XXQs: Patrick Ames
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Patrick Ames (PA): As a singer/songwriter, my emphasis is always on the story. My songs tell a story that listeners want to hear played out, that they want to listen to, like a musical book. How’s it going to end? What twists in the song-plot are going to happen? So my sound is tied closely to the stories I am telling. As a musician, I am cut and clear, a rhythm guitarist. So the Patrick Ames sound is exquisite lyrics coupled with mixing and matching rhythms. While there are some lead instruments, and solo moments, they tend to be far and few between. I use solos like accents, where everyone else seems to make them into headlines.
PEV: What kind of music were you in to growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
PA: I grew up in Toledo which some call “Little Detroit”, so Motown was the unmovable king. But my mother sang in the local opera and I was raised on the great arias. To make things more interesting, I’m the youngest of four brothers…much younger. So when I was young, it was early rock and roll when most kids were into teeny-bop. So Motown, Opera, Rock and Roll, a little Folk. You can hear that on Oakville Ontology if you listen closely.
My first concerts were operas that my mother sang in. Weird, eh? I know Aida by heart in some deep memory compartment. The first really, really good concert I went to was in college: The Crusaders opening for Tower of Power. That had to be 1975.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music?
PA: Man, that’s a hard one. But I think I’m happiest when I have a guitar in my hands, the strap is over my shoulder, and I start singing my own lyrics. Music is a place I go to rather than putting a persona on – I know exactly what to do and how to do it. There’s no uncertainty. It’s a happy place.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
PA: I worked at Apple Computer during the exact time that Steve Jobs was gone. I joined after he got booted out and I left for Adobe just before he returned. I like to think I kept Apple going for him while he was gone ; ).
PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are your methods to get over it?
PA: I had this huge writing block when I came out of the studio sessions. You have to know that it took me three months to get all the tracks down for all the songs in Oakville Ontology, even though all the songs were “written”. Essentially, the entire summer and at the end of the studio sessions, I sounded terrible. I was rusty. And I hadn’t written anything for three months (I typically write 1-3 songs a month). I decided to go backwards, and visit some older songs, but in the process started playing some new vamp. That vamp became a new song, and in a matter of days, a song deluge came, with four new songs, complete with lyrics, and a dynamite sound different than Oakville Ontology. So already I’m working on the next album. I cannot, not write songs. I tried for a few decades and it just keeps coming back.
PA: My fans expect lyrics like nothing else; lyrics with meaning and complexity and twists and turns. Lyrics that you don’t hear anywhere else unless you get down into the singer/songwriter sub-genres. So Oakville Ontology started as a concept album, meaning that all the songs are about a common theme. In this case, it’s about being alive in a temporary world (Ontology). What do you give to someone with cancer? “Arm Yourself with this Song”. Life feels like a highway you jump on and off of? “The Current”. See time as a series of reliving memories? “Time Opens All Wounds”. Even the pop sounding, “Know Another Life”, is about wanting to “be” with another person, not sex love lust. And the two protest songs, “How to Kill a Protest Song”, and “I Could Be Mistaken”, are large societal indictments.
The writing of these songs was difficult because I took about 18 songs into the sessions and only 9 came out. Some really good songs didn’t make the Ontology cut. That’s the hardest part about song writing. Songs become your children, and you get attached to them, but they go away. After a while, songs are littering the practice floor, some thrown away, some reserved for a future time.
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
PA: Unlike most musicians, I have a full-time job (in high tech). My music is done in the off-time and that pretty much eats through my week. I do own a small vineyard in Napa, a little cottage on a couple of acres as the album cover shows. And I have a tractor and a garden and some olive trees and I think my third career will be as a farmer.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
PA: Interesting question. I’d liked to write a song for and then collaborate with Van Morrison, and many more: Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy, Amos Lee (just to hear him sing), Jim James. Going backward, I remember Glen Campbell and his “Wichita Lineman” song and would be in heaven to sit down with him in his living room, and do a duet. And wouldn’t it be great to go back in time to play with Duane Allman, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, all cut short in life. Funny thing is that I would enjoy writing a song for them as much as I would playing it with them.
PEV: So, what is next for Patrick Ames?
PA: I think I finally have some momentum after decades of learning the craft of writing lyrics + music together. I’m writing new songs that are really powerful, and working toward another album. I turned 60 this year (I’m shocked too), and I instinctively feel that I need to record this wave of songwriting. Next year I’ll be going on the songwriter circuit and fine-tuning my stage skills. Do I want to be a superstar? No. I want my fans to say, “Man, there’s this guy out in Palo Alto who’s doing some throw-down songs.” In short, I want to be about the buzz, but I’m not interested in being the bee.
For more information, click to http://www.patrickames.com/.