In the first moments of Adam Whipple's new EP, out now on Apple Music and Spotify, listeners are invited into a more more intimate space than his previous full-length release The Broken Seasons. Whipple shows us that both he and his songwriting are at home in crowded venues as well as beside the fireplace at a house show. This pared down sound pairs well with storytelling nature of the EP.
John Palmer Gregg asked Whipple about the release and some background on putting out music during the tail end of a pandemic.
FOUNDLING HOUSE/GREGG: Tell us a bit about the EP, and why you decided to release it right now?
ADAM WHIPPLE: The last project I did was very orchestral and fully fledged, and my friend Ethan encouraged me to go for a different sound. These songs came out of a larger group of tunes I was working on that I was tentatively calling 'Watershed Saints'. They were just songs about people I knew who'd been moving through the circles of my life, or about situations that held weight for me. For the first two years of our marriage, Kat and I lived in a basement apartment in Jefferson City. There were centipedes on the walls at night, and we knew nothing about being wedded to one another, but it was all really good for us. I wanted to come out of the pandemic with something to show for it. I knew I had a few shows coming up, so Ethan and I put together a small team of folks and went into Pink Moon Sound in Knoxville and made a day of it.
I’m sure there are some good stories behind some of the tracks, do you have a favorite?
Well, there's the one about the aforementioned basement apartment, in which I might've set fire to a wok on an electric range, left said flaming wok in the parking lot, and taken my wife and the dog to Sonic. No one should ever trust anything that says "Betty Crocker: Asian Cookbook." With "The Walkway," there's a place I drive out into the county early in the morning sometimes. I'm enamored by the very Celtic idea of a thinness between worlds, and heading out that way at sunup, the landscape and its people feel very stark and luminous. When I get muddled up by life and busy-ness, it's good to remind myself how terrifyingly and wonderfully near the Lord is. That kind of meditative time has been very inspiring to me.
What were some of the challenges of crafting, creating, and producing during the pandemic?
In some ways, it feels like building everything from scratch, as far as getting songs and things to people. More than that, though, I think I process grief and trauma through art after the fact. When I'm in the middle of something, I don't tend to write all that well about it. It has to percolate awhile. I'll probably be writing about feelings from the pandemic in a year. That makes it a challenge to be relevant, I suppose, but it also encourages me to dig deeper into the meaning of whatever is transpiring in my life.
As a gig musician, I’m sure the pandemic has been a new challenge and growing strain in your life and career. How has that fed into, or distracted you from, your craft?
I've been very blessed to fall back on a church sound tech job and a few writing gigs here and there. The real problem is road-testing material. When you write songs, it helps to play them in front of people. Usually, you know instantly whether something is going to work or not. The pandemic has made that part difficult, but I've tried to learn to be more discerning at the outset, before I get the music to an audience, and to rely on the opinions of well-schooled friends more.
Have you started playing in public yet?
I have. The end of May is taken up with a few things, including a festival, which is nice. Then I'm booking for the late summer and fall. For June, I'm actually buckling down with Ethan Norman and working on a project called Birch & Brine. Ethan and I usually play cover gigs at a few bars around the area, but we've been known to mix in a handful of his originals and mine. He's a great writer who really leans into 90s alternative sensibilities in the best way.
Is there anybody you want to give a special shoutout to? Will Reagan at Pink Moon Sound played such a key role in this project. Tyler Anthony as well. They've got a great space over there. And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Wade Jenkins on drums, Tony Tortora on bass, and the inimitable Tomi Robb on harmonies. They really made everything happen.
You can find Basement Apartment out now at all major digital outlets.