One reason I love reviewing fresh artists is to see the quality of work they bring to the table. Without reading anything about them, I let their music be their bio, CV and see if I’m hiring them for my playlist. Band names can be superficially judged, but not a solo artists name. Sean Grinsell was a blank page, and R is for Redemption is the first line in his professional CV.
Bored, utterly disgusted and irritated-this is what my mood was before listening to his album. I apologize for the confusion you might have had Sean, that poor sentence composition is on me. R is for Redemption is truly redemption for someone who really didn’t need it, but can get it for whatever quantity he desires. The album is a masterclass in debut work, production, and track strength, to evaluate greatness before others recognize it.
In conversation with Sean Grinsell
1) As an amateur synth player, I have to tell you that you blew my mind to bits. Why the name R is for Redemption?
Thank you! I will openly admit that the solos on “Rogue” and “Refraction” are way above my skill level! Those solos took extensive amounts of time in editing and programming to achieve the sound and feeling that I wanted to convey in those moments. The rest of the music however, is much more akin to my playing ability. I’ve become familiar with the idea that my creative process involves a lot of “spur of the moment” ideas in random ways! I came up with the melody for “Refraction” at 6:00 AM while getting ready for class!
The “redemption” motif came while I was doing yard work last summer! I knew I wanted this EP to be associated with redemption in some way, because I thought that the way all of these songs connected together resembled a redemption arc. Also, I’ve taken moments from life where I have felt a feeling of finality and redemption and applied it to these songs, which solidified my decision to go with the “redemption” idea. I had been planning all of these songs to begin with the letter “R” since the beginning, and I thought that “R is for Redemption” would be an awesome application of the musical ideas!
Let’s begin with Rogue. Yeah alright, that Good Times, Bad Times style intro- is there anything special here? Turns out that was a nod to the legends, for gradually we flow into a Deep Purple-Led Zeppelin supergroup jam that shreds my mind and writer’s pomp to pieces. Sean Grinsell goes on to deliver one of the best synth solos I’ve heard since Cory Henry’s opus in Lingus that would make Deep Purple’s Jon Lord swell with pride. Oh, must I also mention, this is the opening track?
2) Other than the obvious inspirations you mentioned, any other synth lords we should know about?
I have 4 synth players that I derive a lot of inspiration from! Jon Lord from Deep Purple, Cory Henry, Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Ray Manzarek from the Doors. While the playing style is very different among these 4 incredibly talented musicians, I’ve found great interest in taking their musical styles and placing my own personality and ideas into them, creating my own sound!
Starting a song named Rush with bass? Is that a hats off to Geddy Lee or am I getting ahead of myself here? Sean proceeds to create an Emerson, Lake and Palmer kind of Karn Evil 9 1st impression, Pt. 2 jam. I know I didn’t mention it earlier but, the drum work has been metronome level perfect for these tracks. The song is an insane groove with plenty of flourishes and melodic salutes to the greats of synth- Sean’s obvious primary instrument. Two tracks and nothing to whine about yet.
Playing synths and musicality
3) Was the natural inclination towards synth, or forced and you just mastered it to this level?
In high school, I started to become more interested in learning piano. I found some piano play-along books and started building up the left and right hand independence techniques required to play simple piano music, which took a lot of time! This took me to the end of my senior year in high school. In college, I took 2 classes called Musicianship Lab, where I learned more about the fundamentals of piano music: chord voicings and scales!
Building up finger dexterity and speed in the scales, while experimenting with different chord progressions, was like a new world for me that was just waiting to be explored. In particular, I started experimenting with the C Blues scale, which became the scale I utilized in “Rift”. Also, a large part of my Music Performance curriculum at my University is private lessons. These courses also greatly expanded my knowledge of jazz scales, voicings, and progressions. Practicing these jazz fundamentals at the keyboard was like a rush of creativity which aided in developing my musical ideas!
Remember how good Deep Purple’s song Mistreated was? In lieu of the skill shown in the track with the balance of synths in Reflection, Sean gives a great mix-match vibe with the guitar work and synths in this song. Ritchie Blackmore’s magical digits and Jon Lord’s flying fingers in the 70’s glory of Deep Purple? Yes please. Three tracks and I’ve been searching for something to criticize, but everything has been worked to perfection. Great mastering work by Anthony Gravino.
Artists and creativity-Sean’s take
4) Advice for other rock lovers who want to create explosive music like this?
The best advice I can give is to do it! Listen to artists that you want to emulate, internalize their styles, and add your own story and voice to it. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks in creating the music. I still remember vividly feeling unsure of writing the double time organ solo, thinking that it might sound really bad because it was incredibly fast and it may not come out right. After the programming and editing was done, I listened back to it and I just laughed with joy, I loved it. You have a unique voice that the world is waiting to hear.
So if you have been considering writing music, I suggest doing it! It’s been an incredible experience for me and I’m so glad that I can share my musical voice and ideas with others. Above all, make sure that you love what you are creating first, because that makes the musical exploration process much more fun! Exploring the different avenues of music genres and melodic possibilities is a beautiful process, and making music that is personal to you is a powerful tool of self-expression and freedom.
Switching the styles to an opening with acoustic guitar and synths-Sean Grinsell gives listeners the complete tour with Refraction. Though the solos are being rocked out on the synth, the guitars and drums are so well placed, its difficult to imagine any of them separately. So much to unpack layer by layer, so little time. Also, it has been noted Reflection and this track, Refraction shares the same track length. Subtle yet brilliant touch. And please stop with the fantabulous solos, most of my mind has melted away Sean.
Genres and future projects
5) Would you like to shift between genres, or is prog-rock going to be your base point?
I think that prog-rock is going to be a general base point for me! However, I would like to expand into different musical areas such as funk and acoustic music! Recently, I’ve become enthralled with late 1990’s breakbeat music, so I may try to incorporate those styles into my musical ideas as well. I also want to keep using technological effects in the music to mix genres together to create my own sounds and ideas that are authentic to me!
6) What’s next for Sean Grinsell and his traveling band?
I have some upcoming projects that I’ve been starting to explore! I’m currently preparing ideas for my own album, so I’ve been very excited for that! I’ve also been preparing ideas for an R&B album with my friend David Szczepanik. In my personal music, for right now, I’m a one-man band looking to share his music with the world! The ideas I’m bringing to this next personal album brings me a lot of excitement and I hope that others will join me on this musical journey! I’m doing what I love every day and I cannot wait to share more of myself in my music! I’m greatly looking forward to the musical possibilities of the future and I cannot wait to see what avenues are still waiting to be explored!
In case you haven’t noticed, not a word of criticism. There is nothing to crib about in the track, it gives you more than what you need in the age of content. From a superb opener to crushing closer, it has everything. If redemption was what you wanted Mr. Grinsell, you’ve got it.