I would argue that another theme is how melodic the music is; how there are lyrical implications throughout much of it. Consciously, did you think about the pieces lyrically as you composed them?
I never did. That’s what came out. Probably because I think, in my heart, I’m a pop music guy. If I use The Beatles as an archetype, as I get older I go towards McCartney. When I was younger I thought of myself more Lennon. I think I identified with the piss-and-vinegar of Lennon. And now it’s with McCartney, more in a melodic sense. And maybe, it’s something else. Like, as a singer I know that I have a limited skill-set with my voice. As a musician, those melodies can go anywhere I want. I’ve never thought of this but maybe, subconsciously or unconsciously, I was able to explore my fantasies more melodically rather than being limited in range with my voice as the instrument.
I also got a strong sense that what I was hearing was the musical translation of what you were seeing out the window or feeling at a given moment.
One-hundred percent. No to be all hippie-dippy about it; I was feeling the shortness of days. I live in Nashville now and one thing I noticed is that we get the four seasons but it’s different from how I grew up in the Northeast. In January and February down here there’s this pink and purple sky that happens at the gloaming, twilight, pre-dusk hours- that magic hour- that kicks in. I could feel the slow upward climb of daylight. It was full of hope.
Is Imbolc reactionary to or a continuation of your preceding work?
I put out a record in 2018 called Connection. That was the last full LP I came out with. I remember when I was working on it I was really pleased with the lyrical element of it. A lot of it was about the deeper communication that happens when you really connect. My wife and I were doing imago therapy, and we learned so much about language, non-violent communication, and all these different techniques. It was such an inspirational uplift; a deep level of how to connect with other human beings. When you put out something vulnerable that means a lot to you personally, and it doesn’t connect with people, it’s painful; a pain I’ve become used to over the course of my life, for better or worse. So there was something very liberating in creating a record that could be used specifically for background purposes. I would not be hurt if someone doesn’t pick up a nuance. It was liberating not to care how a person hears this stuff. With an instrumental record it’s like, have at it. Let this stuff be in the ether. It was nice to have something like that. It felt healing to the unmet needs of my ego.
I’m always curious about titles of instrumentals; the stories behind them.
Honestly, the titles were the hardest part, and may have held (the release of) the record up by maybe four months or more. (Laughs) I had no idea what to call anything. You have to do that painful thing and listen to your music over and over to see what it’s telling you, even after you’re done working on it and past liking it for pleasure; it’s back to work-mode but in a different way. I’d let the song play in the background and then think about how it made me feel or what I noticed. I thought about experiences in my life, like for “Casarza Ligure” I thought about being in Italy and being totally lost. And how it’s okay to be lost as long as you’re having fun. That song reminded me of that because it was such a shit-show to put together. I love the shambolic way it all sounded in the end; just like the experience in Italy had a beauty and a charm to it as I was trying to find my Airbnb at 11 o’clock at night.
Anything that surprised you that you’ll take from the experience of making this record?
Part of the surprise didn’t occur to me until later: that it felt very effortless to make. I have a ton of instrumental music on hand but it always feels like my private sketchbook. I’m thankful for how quickly and effortlessly it came together. It’s a potential, but it’s also a conspiracy of grace, too. It feels good to be pleased with what you’re doing and to know it’s both effortless and rare.
What about when songwriting for you is difficult? Does that now signal a problem to you, given how satisfied you are with music that came relatively easy to make?
That’s a valid concern. I’m, right now, trying to write a song about the environment without sounding didactic, and that seems like an impossible task. Everything is so weird right now. There’s so much intellectualization, and with that comes curiosity, and feeling unresolved as to the sincerity of the individual putting forth the thought. We’re not prepared for where we’re headed after all this fakery. Where do you find the balance between being sincere, trying to say something important and not coming off as some kind of know-it-all or arbiter? I admire those who can do that with grace and dignity. It’s rare terrain. It’s heroic.