In January of 2014 I decided to sit down and write an album’s worth of songs all over the course of a few weeks, which is something I had never done before.
Some were done at home during an unseasonably cold Portland winter, some in Boonville, California (a town in the wine-and-weed producing part of Mendocino County where they also have their own language,‘Boontling’), and some in Joshua Tree, a place where people have always sought inspiration.
It had always taken a long time for me to write songs – and when one would finally come to me I’d put some broad concepts down on paper, find a nice melody, and then let the listener decide what they might be hearing.
Well, these new songs all mean something, from my life and from my brain. Even the lines that may be somewhat enigmatic or metaphorical sounding to you directly correlate to my life, and maybe yours, too.
The puzzle of existence on “Minor Miracles.” Rebuilding a life in “A West County Girl” and “Lose It All, All The Time.” A quite literal story in “For The Boy Who Moved Away” about moving away from L.A. to an uncertain future, the San Gabriel Mountains engulfed in flames in our rearview.
And that’s to name but a few.
These are not the “happy” songs that I’ve come to be associated with – no fully major chords, and lots of suspended chords and major sevenths to make things kind of emotionally ambiguous. There was no stylistic dogma in making this record, and I was ready to fold in every type of music I was into at the moment – Joni Mitchell, new age, early 80’s McCartney, Another Green World, film scores, Talk Talk, British folk, and modern stuff that’s got me excited.
I had a bunch of my favorite people come and join me on this. Sam Cohen, Brian Kantor, and Josh Kaufman (all of Yellowbirds and a million other bands) made up the backbone of the band in the early part of the tracking. And then there were appearances by people from all the different chapters of my musical life – Andy Cabic from Vetiver and Tim Rutili from Califone dropped by to add stuff. James Mercer from The Shins sang some gorgeous high harmonies, and Nathan Larson of Shudder to Think (also my sometime film score collaborator) laid down some drone-y guitar vibes. And of course Thom Monahan, my usual studio co-conspirator, was there to make everything come together.
These are simple stories, some about losses, a few about disappointment and regret, but also of hope and perseverance. I hope you like these melancholy grooves and existential make-out songs. These all mean something to me, I hope they will to you, too.
– Eric D. Johnson