I made this record mostly myself. It’s kind of why I make art or make music. I love making a song and having so much life and weight and experience, both personal and share in 1 short amount of time and expression.
When thinking creatively about making India, Seattle, I focused a lot on the songs. In the studio it’s hard to polish a turd. When people listen to your music, they love cool sounding songs, but also what really matters is the emotional quality of the song. I think production and style and genre are important, but my focus was more on the songs at first.
It was December 2013. I remember having my studio time booked, and having a list of about 12 songs that I could record, but I didn’t feel like they were quite good enough. I wrote for about 2 and a half weeks at the beginning of December, hoping I would come up with a good song or two and get to include it on the record. I booked a spur of the moment trip to California to go write with Tyson and Ethan and try and get them to help me finish these songs.
These were the songs:
When The Good Goes Wrong
All The Morning
Tacking In The Dark
After finishing a few of these songs, I really felt as though the record as a whole was there. I think I had a few older songs that didn’t fit the record quite as well and I didn’t feel as strongly about them.
We wrote in Ethan’s garage of his house in Orange County, we wrote on Tysons deck in San Diego, and at a Younglife Camp inland in Ramona. I had a list of 17 songs and I felt confident and felt as though I had the songs for a the record.
I think most of these songs have a good poetic aspect to them, or a literary function in them. They aren’t just lyrical, they are poetic. I feel as though The Closer is one of the best songs I will ever write. It has a brilliant story and the poetic nature of the verses really unravel a universal story of lament. This is the kind of song that years down the road someone will listen to and think it’s brilliant.
It’s kind of like my experience of Ryan Adams’ ‘In My Time Of Need.’ I had listened to Heartbreaker lots of times but it’s the 14th track on this record. I remember driving through the night past Mount Shasta in northern California once and realizing that this song was so brilliant. And I bet it was about 6 years old at least at the time. It’s timeless I guess.
My goal for these songs were to be timeless, but since the record is so personal, I think this is an interested juxtaposition. Experience so entrenched in time, but also experience so timeless.
I think because of the songs that I had, and the type of songs they were, I was leaning toward a record like some of Gregory Alan Isakov’s. Really song focused, with great playing, but also a sonic landscape. Instead of big hooks and crazy sounds and weird songs intended to ‘be different.’ I wanted to sonically illuminate the song. I felt as though the performances had to be good, and not contrived. It needed to be rootsy and personal, but also sound-scapey.
People make fun of me for caring about minute details, and I think after the songs on this record, there are so many minute details. I spent hours layering like 12 melodies on top of each other. I spent tedious moments tweaking ambient sounds in the background, so I ‘felt’ they were right at the time. I obsessed over the amounts of reverb and really wanted to play with things very dry and very wet. I think I made a record that is rootsy and Americana, but also that is a bit indie at heart as well.
Even thinking about this just makes me want to make another record, do it all over again. I still think it all starts with songs.