I love postcards. I have ever since I was a kid. I love the way the edges crinkle and bend as they travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to their destinations. I love deciphering a new postmark from a city I’ve never visited. I love the kitschy photos of tourist landmarks. I love how postcards are the medium of a passing era.
It’s impossible not to be brief on a postcard, you’ve only got a few lines to say hello, express your feelings, or convey your information. But with a postcard, you always know the sender had to write those few lines down, pen in hand. And somehow, I believe there’s something special in that simple act.
I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have a fascination with mail when you consider my upbringing. My father has been a postmaster for as far as I can remember, and my mother is a letter carrier. So, the subject of mail was frequently at the dinner table. I have fond memories of tagging along with my father to our small local post office and being fascinated by the seemingly endless bags of mail. Every letter, every doorstep, every day - it seemed like an inconceivable task. I also remember being especially interested in the the vintage postmarking hand-crank machine. At the time it was a symbol of a bygone era, as the digital revolution had mechanized the postal system. It’s ironic today that the same digital revolution that made processing letters so much easier is now the main contributor to it’s demise. Who still places pen to paper when it’s so much easier to e-mail, e-bill, or send an e-card?
I realize it may be easier to write lyrics down on the computer, but I still do it by hand. I’ve kept many remnants of songs written years ago to this day. There’s something special in being able to look back at the growth of a song, the arrows indicating where I wanted to move a line, the scribbles where I wanted to change a word. The paper now tattered from moving from pocket to pocket as I worked out changes during lunch breaks, between classes, or sneaking a look when I was on the clock and really should’ve been paying attention to the job at hand.
As the record is nearing completion, I’ve been asked by several people to describe where my new music is coming from. I’ve never been good at genres, and prefer to leave it to listeners who can enjoy the songs without having so much of themselves intimately invested in them. I’ve always been better with analyzing my approach to the music itself.
I think my past work reflected an all-inclusive approach. The music in it’s simplest form, one guitar - one voice, contained all the information. Bass cues were in the riffs on the guitar, the beat was in the inherent percussive characteristics of an acoustic, the vocal melodies would inflect the instrument solos. The writing was linear, the songs were (to my instincts, anyway) little stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. They were like little symphonies to me, with every change, every word, every pattern worked out in a way that felt in sync with the message I was trying to get across.
Now, this was successful in many respects and musically satisfying, but over time I’ve felt the urge to more immediately express my ideas. Feelings, like inspiration, are fleeting and sometimes only present themselves to you for a brief moment. And I started to realize it was in these brief moments that I started to truly find myself. That I was able to write from a more honest, less self-conscious place. I felt like I was able to express something different than I had in the past. The songs were simpler with more room to breath, lyrics looser. Words and melody working together in a way that was more concerned with feeling than form.
I suppose then, I can say that Kingdom On A Thread is like a collection of postcards. Each song written by hand, attempting to convey a moment of feeling. I wanted to write the songs from a specific place in my head, trying to focus on that moment, doing my best not to over-think. Let the words tell the story they want to tell.
I’ve found that songs usually have a way they’d like to be told, and long as I’m open to new possibilities, I feel like now I’m in a place to really listen.