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Smalltown Poets is a band that’s new to me but not new to the music scene. I got to talk with them a little through email in anticipation of their new album, Under the New Sun, that releases today. This is part one of that interview.
BibleDude: You say you feel you’ve gotten back to your roots with this new EP. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Danny: Its our first non-holiday release in quite a while. On the Christmas album, most of the songs were old carols that we rearranged. That was fun, but we really enjoyed writing several brand new pieces for Under the New Sun. Songwriting, and the art of turning a phrase, is what this band is built on. It’s why we’re called Smalltown Poets.
Michael: Well, the Christmas album was a bit of a departure with metallic percussion and other bits that you include to evoke the feeling of winter and the seasonal spirit, and then you’re starting with these well-loved songs that you don’t want to depart from too much. We wanted the standard Christmas songs we recorded to be recognizable and inviting to sing along with.
Recording Under the New Sun got us back to songwriting from the ground up leaning on the basics of honest, confessional lyrics backed by music from our collective point of view. We like pretty and accessible melodies and organic instrumentation (acoustic guitar, chiming electrics, piano, etc.), but we like to deliver it with some attitude when necessary.
BibleDude: What is your favorite song on this new album and why?
Danny: Our favorite song on this record is “Grace is A Song.” It’s hard to say why. I love the brooding yet somehow celebratory feel of the song. Michael wrote the lyrics, and they’re among his best ever. All the band guys had the same reaction to it as the first demos of the song came together. Everyone’s eyes lit up, and we felt like this one was going to be special.
Michael: “Grace is A Song” is a standout because it sort of lit the fire under writing and recording this project. Sometimes words and music just fit in a special way, and you feel something as well as hear it. After writing for twenty years, I just discovered that there is a word for it: prosody. It may not be the perfect word, but it’s the closest I’ve found to name that place where word, melody, rhythm, and meaning come together.
From the simple words and compelling piano to the key modulation on the bridge that fell in our lap, “Grace is A Song” says something that we want to say from our point of view as husbands, dads, brothers, friends, and musicians whose hearts have resonated with the song God’s grace has been singing through the decades and centuries as our kind has wrestled with what it means to know God and live with each other.
BibleDude: I think “Grace is A Song” is my favorite, too. It had me singing along. I also love the instrumental title track.
Byron adds: I also like “Charlie Brown” because it is something that we started 14 years ago. It proves to me that we haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel. We have just made it roll better.
BibleDude: What message do you want to convey to your listeners with this album?
Danny: Our Creator makes all things new. Trust Him, and follow wherever He leads.
Michael: I should leave the sports metaphors to Miguel or any of the other guys really. But when you talk about the outcome of the matchup of two teams, they say in any sport, “that’s why you play the game.” Making an album is sort of like that. Let the listener and the songs “play the game” so to speak. However, if I were a pre-game commentator, I might say that people are going to relate to songs about struggling to find a good life as well as hope for what eternity means in a way that can be useful and meaningful now.
BibleDude: How can we buy the album?
Danny: It’s available October 16 wherever you buy digital music. We’ll also release physical CDs soon which will be available through Amazon. There’s also a possibility we’ll have them in stores.
Michael: CDbaby.com, iTunes, smalltownpoets.bandcamp.com, amazon.com are all places anyone can download tracks or the full EP. We will manufacture CDs soon, and those will be available at CDbaby and Amazon.
BibleDude: Thanks so much, guys. Next week we’ll talk a little about how and where you see God and what inspires your creativity.
Be sure to check out their album and listen to previews of the tracks. And you might want to check out the video interviews Dan did last year prior to the release of their Christmas album.
"Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.