HERE AND THERE THE ALBUM STORY BY DYLAN P. LAURION
I begin this edition with an apology. HERE AND THERE was promised to be a consistent and regular voice to follow. And, I missed the mark in June. I swerved off a path of diligence. I can assure you I was not gallivanting in fields or ferreting away in pursuit of lesser goals. Since my last submission, while on the road, headed to Southern America in May, I submerged myself below the surface and into the murky depths of finishing my third album. There will come a time when there are not so many projects barking and howling for my attention. When that time arrives it will be simpler deciding what and how and when to work on something. Today, I'm one step closer to settling my outstanding creative debt. I am one step closer to streamlining this venture I have begun. And, I am privy to another lesson as I navigate unknown and never before seen experiences. Just another run through the border-lands. So, reader, my sincere apology for abandoning my post as editor and writer of this column. Consider it admission to a front row gallery, spectating and experiencing creation on many levels. Remember, the front-row, whether it is Blue Man Group or a boxing match, can be messy: Paint will be flung, sweat will fly, and maybe blood will spatter.
For this edition, in lieu of the impending album release, I shall type for you the origin story of DANGER HILL. As a matter of principle, I do not typically speak for a body of work. The words, the emotion, the messages, the concepts, energy, and displayed artistry are to stand on their own. They are created to bare the brunt of inspection, consideration, and interpretation without a sturdy hand of explanation and defense. But, for this occasion, in response to several e-mails inquiring about the album, I will sketch a brief introduction.
DANGER HILL received its namesake while I was staying in my old-pal-Rudy's garage in Silverton, Oregon for a couple of weeks in the late summer of 2014. I had just returned to the USA after many months in Western China, a mind-warping week in Indonesia, and a brief visit with my brother in San Francisco. I was in Oregon to document and write about Rudy's training leading up to the Eugene Marathon. Rudy was going for a faster time, another step closer to his goal of nearing the Olympic qualifying mark. As a part of documenting Rudy's efforts I would join him for runs, which coupled with my own physical fitness regiment. On most of our legged excursions, when we returned to the house, our final ascent was a sharp incline marked by a traffic sign: DANGER HILL. I had seen the sign many times before, but it became, in one instant, a striking stimulus for the arching concept of the album. After showering, I sat down with my guitar and began working on the words for the title track and the anchor of an album that took nearly a year to write, record, and deliver packaged and ready for the ears and minds of anyone hoping to take a ride.
People often ask, "Do you write the music or the words first?" or "Do you come up with an idea for the album or just collect songs?" They are good questions. I will say this, sometimes the music leads the words and sometimes the words draw out the music. It is a dance in tandem and not a conscience, forced decision. Regarding the second question, I am a true believer in albums as a cohesive story-telling device, not merely a collection of songs taped together to be quickly dissected as singles. The current trend within the music industry seems to be plummeting away from the artistry of the album, which makes my creative intention a marketing challenge. Maybe I am late to the game and the album is truly threatened, but I can not subscribe to any other way. I work to shape songs that have been written autonomously and combine them with songs I write specifically for the theme I am confronting. It is like having a core group of friends and bringing in a few new people that share common qualities and will compliment and enhance the swelled collection of personalities. DANGER HILL is such a blend. There are songs that have been sitting and only performed live and fresh songs never heard before. Together they have been built to ride like any hill possessing a slopping upside and a screaming, plunging descent.
Creating an album requires tremendous patience and a gentle feel of both the creator and the created. Honesty is a strong collaborator. Because only Honesty will whisper when to dig in and defend a position or to compromise. Honestly will illuminate the path of songs that will bring a listener through a complete story. Honesty will let you know that a song is simply not ready and should be left behind, hoping to catch the next train to somewhere. The concern in that moment is the song you are momentarily affected by will lose its relevance and will never be heard. Thus far, I find that songs, even if unheard, have their place and that place may only to be to fill a backlog of lyrics and chords: A pile of ideas shaved off like sawdust. Do not be mistaken, to write a song that I connect with, that I feel deeply and honestly, and then hold it back from being released is difficult. In this matter I trust my instincts and hope to remember the stark difference between fully-realized and in-progress. It is a pulley of love and lust. The former is often the richer.
DANGER HILL was percolating in my head, it was growing in shape and size when I drove to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to play a short set for a NGO's benefit concert last winter. While tuning my guitar and going through my set-list another musician began unpacking. Ryan Ordway and I began talking and in this brief introduction we made plans for my visit to the studio he had recently opened with his business partner Franz Haase in Gilford, New Hampshire. After my first visit to The Recording Co-Op, I knew I had found the space I would bring DANGER HILL to fruition. The sound in the former horse-barn and the atmosphere was unmistakable. It was a work-shop where music reigned supreme. In February I began the recording process, a process that spanned four and half months. Part of the delay was my return to Germany in March. But, even while abroad, Ryan and I corresponded, I wrote new songs, polished old ones, and returned to the Granite State rearing and ready to roll. I learned a hell of a lot about music and the process of creating albums. It was not always smooth and at times it became momentarily contentious as I tempered expectations, spoke my mind, tried to maintain a firm grasp on artistic principles and what I was striving to create. But, it is all part of the process. Music is a strenuous form. It requires a willingness to concede certain responsibilities to others and a un-distracted vigilance protecting the vision, the quality, and what is at the core a honest creation you began with. Wonderful surprises come from collaboration and experimentation, but the excitement of newness should not drown the intention that is at the heart of a work. A balance between yes and no is paramount. And, after the last back-up was complete and guitars were packed, when I walked out of the work-shop, DANGER HILL finished and ready for production and mastering, I knew I had found a safe harbor of creativity with Franz and Ryan and within the walls of The Recording Co-Op.
After a period of dormancy and obsession with this project, the album is finished now. It is being packaged and polished and it will soon arrive for sale and dispersal among you. It is an honest album. It is a complete album. Like most of my work, I gave to it a large part of myself. I am told that, that can become taxing. But, I do not know any other way. The words and sounds come from within me and if I am going to create them I can not withhold. What would be the point? When I get caught up in obsessing about meter and the boundaries I falter. I am at my best when I am trusting instincts and my ability to persevere. DANGER HILL was created with the intentions of a craftsman and not that of factory production. It is a blend of the folk-rock tradition, intricate lyrics, and a wide variety of instrumental interplay. It is a testament to a period of time and I encourage you to ride the lines between the beginning and end of DANGER HILL.
Now that the album is in production, there is little left to do but wait and listen. There is little time to relish in the culmination of an intense project. I am sure when the physical copy arrives in the mail I will have a moment of reflection, but until then and immediately after, there is much work to be finished. I missed the mark in June, but I hope this unveiled offering of my latest album's development will soothe the breach of contract between columnist and reader. Until next time.