swear to god

August 4, 2023

One afternoon in May 2022 I decided to sit down and listen through all the voice memos on my phone. I record things all the time, but it had been years since I cataloged anything and I had been avoiding the job for how daunting it felt. On that day I had a hammock and nowhere to be, so I finally listened.

Among clips of my daughter, field recordings, and musical sketches were about 10 complete, thematically-unified demos. Each song had been written as I processed a sea change in my life: the loss of my Christian faith, which happened about a decade ago. I was struck that there were so many and decided it was worthwhile to produce them together as a record.

As I began engaging with the songs/themes, my vision for what the project could be started to expand. I wrote a few new songs in the same vein. I imagined producing them far beyond the restrained voice & guitar demos. I wanted to exceed my own creative limitations and release something at a higher level than I ever had before.

While my vision expanded, so too did the scope of the work. I needed more time than was available to me, given the priorities of job, marriage, and parenting. I began to feel frustrated at what felt like “obstacles” to realizing my vision. Additionally, a renewed focus on my spiritual journey was surfacing deep emotional issues I hadn’t yet tried to process.

It eventually became overwhelming. I got depressed and felt more and more stuck, and it was costing my family. I started going to therapy again. At the counsel of my wife and friends, I decided to stop adding to the songs and move on to mixing them, at whatever stage they were in. For my own mental health, I needed to move it toward the door.

I think the choice to “give up” on my vision freed me to discover an alternate vision, and I think I prefer this one. While I stopped adding things to the songs, I started thinking more about how they could be presented, in themselves and in sequence. I played with the relationship between sound and memory; I explored place and distance and age. There’s an interesting cohesion to the end result and I’m proud of the way it sounds.

It’s ultimately an album about grief and each song is a window into some distinct experience of it. I’ve journeyed through my grief in making these songs and while I’m less present with their pain now, I’m sure they’ll find me near again someday. None of us hopes to stay in the depths forever, but it is a balm for the soul to find music waiting for us there.