Amos Lee is one day away from releasing Spirit – his first studio album in three years – but PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the official music video for his new track, “Vaporize.”
The funky song marks a departure from Lee’s more intimate acoustic fare. “I was really interested in trying to combine elements of alternative R&B,” he tells PEOPLE. “I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff like Schoolboy Q and early Weeknd, and I was just really digging how tracks were built. I grew up listening to mostly R&B music, so I was never a stranger to anything of that nature. I mean, I’m from Philly! But to be able to play that stuff in a live setting with a live drummer is a lot more challenging.”
Lee credits the many hours logged on the concert stage with inspiring a more collaborative approach in the studio. Melodies that had previously been heard on a lone acoustic guitar or as a delicate piano figure are now enhanced by multi-hued accompaniment, bringing the songs to life in vibrant Technicolor. “I think playing in a live setting with my band over the last couple years has really helped me to develop a sense of arrangement and how to make things dynamic.”
In addition to longtime members of his road-tested band, Lee called upon the talents of drummer Mark Colenburg and bassist Adam Blackstone – the latter a veteran of dates with Jay Z, Justin Timberlake and Al Green. “I really wanted to work with those two guys for a long time, and making records gives you an opportunity.”
With his new supercharged rhythm section in place, the musical interplay kicked into high gear. “Some of the arrangements were improvised and some of it was set forth before, but ultimately it was a really organic experience. It just came about listening to what was happening at the time in the room with each other.”
Though Lee receives a producer credit for the very first time on Sprit, he is quick to acknowledge the input from his colleagues. “You can’t really produce a record alone,” he maintains. “You produce a record by giving direction, but so much of the musicality and incredible sound you’re getting is through other people. The beauty of music is that it’s such an interactive thing. It’s almost like painting a picture with other people.”
But before the band enters the picture, the raw musical ideas come from more personal moments. Case in point: “Vaporize” had its genesis while Lee was in the shower!
“I can’t speak for other writers, but sometimes it can be extremely haphazard the way you write songs. You hear about stuff like ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ that was written in [Keith Richards]’ sleep or something. Sometimes you just have an idea where you have ’em. You’re walking down the street or you’re in a cab, or wherever.”
Spirit is available for download Aug. 19 on iTunes.