With the launch of the new site and the impending global release of the new album, Elegy, I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about the album and what it meant to me.
I grew up in a small prairie town, and if anyone’s every spent a great deal of time there, it’s very much like it’s own little world, with it’s own set of almost archetypal characters. More than anything I wanted to tell their stories.
Right around the time I was piecing together the material for the album, I happened to take a little trip back home (or was pulled back, depending on your view of fate). As I made my way from one old haunt to another, it became painfully apparent that hard times had come down hard, and that thought more than any colored every aspect of the album, from the writing to the recording, and everything in between.
I deliberately set out seeking to make the album as raw as possible, with the story presented at the very forefront, with extremely sparse musical arrangements falling into place around it to paint the very specific musical picture I saw in my mind. Likewise, I wanted the actual sound and feel of the album as a whole to be as lofi as possible. I was very concerned with capturing the honesty of the songs, with as little production as possible to get in the way. The world these characters live in is dirty, rough and breaking, and that’s what I wanted the music to be.
I wanted to be able to pick up my guitar and play, no frills, no studio, just music, and that’s how I wanted it to sound. I wanted the listener to see what I saw. An empty room somewhere, maybe a bar, with a handful of guys sitting down to play. Dust on the guitars, beer-rings on the piano, and a single hazy spot to light the way. It’s a feel and an image I’ve always experienced listening to recordings such as Wait’s Bone Machine, Dylan’s Basement Tapes or the recent work of Kristofferson (The brilliant This Old Road and Closer to the Bone especially), and it’s something I wanted desperately to capture.
The one thing that’s divided listeners more than any other is my voice. I’m not a singer, I’m a storyteller, and I wanted to tell these stories the best way I knew how, with raw feeling and plenty of grit. No pretty harmonies, no melodic voicing, just the truth of the song as I saw it and my heart on my sleeve. I wanted to create something unique, and I think I’ve done that, ”operatic pretensions be damned” as a good friend had said.
Listening to: Bone Machine by Tom Waits. Absolutely Brilliant.
Reading: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The folk singer’s bible, I swear to God. ”Ghost of Tom Joad” by Springsteen, ”Here Comes that Rainbow” by Kristofferson, ”Tom Joad” by Guthrie, “Broken Plow by Knight…the list goes on.
Watching: Boardwalk Empire. Hooked me from the start. Great set pieces, great music, intriguing characters and a superb multi-prong story. Also, Steve Buscemi is such a charming bastard in this show.