Harsh Winters - heading west with Luke Joyce
It’s an unconventional way to promote your new album, but for Luke Joyce, getting away from it all was a necessary step.
That’s why the man behind Harsh Winters is, rather than his Edinburgh home, in Nashville, taking a break following the recording of his new long player.
“In previous efforts my album writing and recording process has been rapid – often only taking a couple of weeks,” the singer-songwriter reveals.”
“With Collapsible Mountains especially I went in with no songs written or ideas scribbled down,” he admits.
That singer-songwriter guise marked a fairly prolific period for Joyce, producing four albums and EPs following the breakup of his band The Gothenburg Address,
However, the evolution of his latest release has been, for him, a longer process.
“It has taken me over a year to write and record this record,” he reveals. “It has been a constant focus during that time and I needed to step away from it for a moment to appreciate what I had spent a year of my life creating.”
“My life has changed so much over the last few years – for better and for worse – and there is a lot of that in this record…”
“Dwelling on those subjects day after day and trying to put them to paper and music made me begin to resent the work,” he admits.
“That is why I am 4,000 miles away from home. I needed a temporary separation.”
Happily, a good friend who lives in Nashville – the “home of music” – offered Joyce the chance to visit and recharge his emotional batteries.
And what better place? “Country music is for the most part steeped in heartache and tales of emotional turmoil,” he says with a wry smile.
The album’s ten tracks are, for a solo effort, surprising in their production – again the recordings undertaken by Joyce in his farmhouse home studio before being mixed by the go-to guy for post-recording work, Robin Sutherland. But with Joyce playing a full consignment of instruments it’s in the main more musically redolent of former band
The Gothenburg Address, the post-rock act formed with various ex-members of Arab Strap, Zephyrs and Degrassi.
However, beneath the sheen of instrumentation and soundscapes is a set of darker lyrical themes.
“Happiness has never been a driver for me, so there is always a darker reason for deciding to put my words to music”.
Indeed, Joyce chooses not to discuss the words to his songs at all, although the lyrics are published for anyone to dissect. “I think if you draw your own conclusions that’s OK,” he says. “Art and music are there to inspire, affect and challenge.”
However, this album is dedicated to the memory of a friend, Maiju, who once recorded some spoken word in her native Finnish for a Gothenburg Address song. "It was haunting then and even more so now," Joyce reflects. "Maiju was my friend and I miss her dearly”.
The new album's closing track takes her name as its title with the lyric: "There is a bruise around my heart, it's black and blue... I force the wound to never heal so Iremember you.”
It's understandable then that the singer’s absence from the country in what should be album launch week is no real coincidence. “There are songs on there that I can’t listen to because they were such a therapy for me," Joyce confesses. "So there are no live shows planned for now. I guess I didn't think about the fact I would need to perform them!"
The 10 tracks are available online for now, but, he says, live shows and a vinyl release will have to wait.
“If the record is a slow burner, then so be it."
‘The Marriage of a Killer and a Bird Song’ is out now. More at www.harshwinters.com