Albums inspired by change
There is a beautiful thing we can tap into when we learn the context of the music we listen to. Understanding the reason why an artist writes a specific piece provides an entirely unique connection to that artist.
'Ashes & Fire' - Ryan Adams
After a decade-long career filled with successful albums, alt-country artist Ryan Adams was stopped in his tracks. He was diagnosed with Meniere's disease, a degenerative condition that severely affects hearing and balance. Around that time, he made a public statement that he was ending his career. He eventually; however, decided to address the disease by cutting out any sort of negativity from his life. This included kicking long-term habits, such as consuming alcohol, salty foods, cigarettes and severe drug usage.
The management of his disease was a huge component in the uniqueness of his 2011 comeback album, 'Ashes and Fire.' He toned his songs back from his normal distorted rock into a folkier collection of positivity. And with a parallel to Beethoven ' how he would take his piano's legs off so he could feel the vibration on the floor ' Adams' disease pushed him to focus more on feeling his guitar neck's vibrations rather than listening. The disease required him, essentially, to relearn the way he had written music for years.
'Southeastern' - Jason Isbell
When southern gentleman and songwriter Jason Isbell joined the Drive-by Truckers at the age of 20, he wasn't ready for the life of rock'n'roll. By his mid-20s, he had developed into an alcoholic and was known to consume an entire bottle of liquor on stage. At one point, his addiction drove the Truckers to pardon him from the group. After hitting rock bottom, his long-time friend and eventual wife gathered his closest friends and encouraged him to go to rehabilitation.??The album 'Southeastern' was written shortly after Isbell's rehabilitation. While using a unique sense of storytelling to capture pieces of culture in the Southeast, his best story is his own. The first track, 'Cover Me Up', is about his experience of falling in love with his wife and giving up his addiction for her.
'There's No Leaving Now' - Tallest Man On Earth
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Swedish songwriter Kristian Mattson ' a.k.a. 'Tallest Man On Earth' ' didn't deal with any sort of substance abuse before writing his third album, "There's No Leaving Now." No, it appears that his struggle was with himself. His first two albums ' "Shallow Grave" and "The Wild Hunt" ' expressed a lack of contentment and joy in his life. Sprinkled in both albums are lines like 'Well if I ever get to slumber, just like a mole deep in the ground, I won't be found' and 'I plan to be forgotten when I'm gone, yes, I'll be leaving in the fall.'
According to a recent interview with Mattson on NPR, he struggled with depression and anxiety issues for years. However, a lot of that changed when he met fellow Swedish songwriter Amanda Bergman and later married her. ??"There's No Leaving Now" contained new themes that seemed quite opposite from Mattson's previous work. That should be fairly clear with the title track, but I wish I could explain the full context of his lyrics. His lyrics have always talked a lot about nature and abstract ideas, but there's something in the power of his voice behind the lyrics to this song that truly show the change.