O.A.R. has been purposefully “taking our time” on its next album, The Mighty, according to frontman Marc Roberge. But he says the 2019 set — expected in March and previewed this year by the tracks “Just Like Paradise” and “Miss You All the Time” — benefits from that, and from the input of collaborators both familiar and fresh.
“It’s been a very stretched-out pace,” Roberge tells Billboard about the follow-up to 2016’s XX, celebrating O.A.R.’s 20th anniversary. “I started the project a few months ago and have been chipping away at it here at my studio (in New York), as opposed to renting a house somewhere and finishing the whole thing in a month or two. That’s made it easier. It’s better stretching out over the course of the year — writing, recording, releasing a single, taking time with every single aspect of it and not being rushed ’cause of budgetary restraints. It’s been much more relaxed.”
O.A.R. is working on The Mighty with old friend Gregg Wattenberg and newcomer Pom-Pom (Helen Pomerantz), with the latter doing the bulk of the work according to Roberge. “She’s a very young producer and just incredible, in my eyes,” he says. “We’re enjoying having a new perspective. We’ve not had a female producer up to this point, so that’s great; I don’t know what it brings to the party versus a man, but the combination of that and of someone young who grew up listening to us a little bit, and has had a different experience than us, is interesting. She’s putting a spin on what O.A.R. could be in 2018. She’s expressing her own art and utilizing our songs to do that, marrying some of the organic and digital sounds. Programing and producing from her perspective has really brought out different dynamics in these songs. That’s pretty exciting for us, to have someone saying, ‘This is what I think you guys could do.'”
Roberge is pleased with the reception so far to “Miss You All the Time,” a song that was inspired by an old friend’s attempts to get back in touch with him after a number of years. “We just could never connect, and I don’t know that I was making the ultimate effort to connect,” Roberge acknowledges. “And then one night, tragically, he was (killed) defending a stranger from being harassed by somebody. I realized that when people are reaching out like that, trying to connect, you need to call them back ’cause you never know when you won’t be able to talk to them anymore.
“And during the process of writing the song another friend who was very, very close was taken away. It solidified for me that you can sit and wallow and be completely crushed and sad about these tragic losses or I could try to find some sort of bright side and meaning and share that, which is what O.A.R. songs have always been about.”
While it wraps up The Mighty — whose title was inspired by a stage introduction from former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora three years ago — O.A.R. is on the road for a late-year tour, which wraps up Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C. O.A.R. is also planning major road work for 2019 to promote the album, and Roberge reports that “there are a couple options on the table, trying to figure out what’s the best way to get this to the most cities.” He predicts a package with “two or three additional arts on the bill” but O.A.R. is still determining who that will be, and what format the tour will take. “I’m just excited people still want to come out and see us,” he says. “That’s still what drives us the most.”