Behind The Album

BEHIND THE ALBUM: TWIN SOLITUDE – LEIF VOLLEBEKK

February 28, 2017

Twin Solitude | Leif Vollebekk | Secret City Records

Released on February 24th through Secret City Records, Leif Vollebekk’s third album is the sound of an artist’s awakening. Twin Solitude was born out of a newly discovered songwriting method for Vollebekk: exploring spontaneous ideas and letting songs shape themselves. Mostly written in one sitting and recorded in one take, the songs that form Twin Solitude are the products of channelling and trusting the creative spirit.

Within the first bars of the opening track, the precious, transcendent connection between music and human emotion is ignited, stimulating the senses and suggesting a lifelong love affair between the listener and the album. Something deeply raw and genuine is being communicated in this record; a dark place made warm. It’s a record for empty spaces: both wide open air and softly lit rooms. The beautiful melancholy of Vollebekk’s piano and the raw poetic rhythm of his voice is soul-stirring. As much as Vollebekk’s voice is impossible to resist, the record is bigger than him. “By the time the last notes die away, all that’s left should be you,” Leif says. “And I’ll be somewhere else.”

Leif Vollebekk | Photo: Joseph Yarmush

Leif Vollebekk recently shared the story behind the creation of Twin Solitude with Stories Behind The Songs:

Before writing Twin Solitude, I was listening a lot to the use of space on Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, the ballads on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. I knew I wanted a lot of breathing room on my next record and I wanted it to sound as different as those records did from one another. I knew I wanted the drums and piano to be recorded with ribbon mics, and I wanted the voice to sit just above them. Deep, dark green and blue low end with some golden shimmering strings way up top. David Smith at Breakglass was with me the whole way, helping me get the sounds I was hearing in my head onto the tape. There was a window of a few months where the songs came easily and often. When that window shut, I booked the studio. We’d record the first run through, and almost all of the record is those first takes. I took the whole thing to Oz Fritz, who had mixed, among many other things, Tom Waits’ Mule Variations. Oz mentioned to me that when he mixes, he looks for the instrument that tells the story. I can’t imagine it any other way. In the end, we ended up with these ten.

Now Leif Vollebekk dives further into the album and shares the stories behind each song on Twin Solitude with Stories Behind The Songs. Here is an inside look Behind The Album, Track by Track:

“Vancouver Time”

This is the first song that came to me in one piece. I started sketching around the time I wrote this and I started noticing things I hadn’t before. It had a profound effect on me. All the lines of “Vancouver Time came one after the other, and carried with them the feeling of Springsteen’s “Dry Lightning“, which I had just learnt on tour with Gregory Alan Isakov. The song has a rhyming scheme that I only noticed afterwards. It’s not unlike Bob Dylan’s “Billy“, which piles on the rhymes and then releases you by the fourth line. I almost changed, “That’s when you thought you just might / Settle for the best, but a good friend convinced me otherwise.

“All Night Sedans”

I did a lot of touring solo. I still do. Sometimes I find it meditative, sometimes less so. You get to feel an odd kinship to those in the truck driving business in the wee small hours. When I was down in Florida, I saw a sign in a back window of a black car that read All Night Sedans. I wrote this song not long after. The way the drums come in double-time at the end became something of an obsession in the studio. I ended up getting Phil to overdub a second set of hi-hats to get them to sound just right. I was trying to get them to speak the word sedans the way it sounds in English. The “d” should be warm and percussive, but the “s” sounds need to swing effortlessly.

“Elegy”

This song is an unknown entity. It was all written by the time it got to me. A lot of people seem to think this song is about a lost love. I can see how one might hear that. I read later on that the key of Ab deals with eternity and death, which made perfect sense to me. Queen’s “Somebody to Love” is in the same key, so is “Every Breath You Take“. The night it was recorded, I had a last-minute ticket to see Prince before he passed away. We got this take and I went straight to Théâtre Maisonneuve.

“Into The Ether”

This song took ages to record and yet it was so quick to write. I still don’t really understand this song. It came from a place similar to “Elegy. High above and free. I suppose this song is about not lying to yourself. The little harmony in the vocals came about when I was singing to myself on the way to Casa Del Popolo. This was the very last thing we recorded in the studio.

 “Big Sky Country”

When my family drove through Montana in 1997, my dad kept saying “Big Sky Country,” which it was. When I was out that way again a few years ago, I saw a red-winged blackbird on a cattail, perfectly in balance. It was around that time that I met someone that was just like that.

“Michigan”

One day just before going to bed, it felt as if something was pulling on my sleeve. The guitar was only half-tuned at the time and so I can never remember what tuning it was in. This song came out all at once, every line in tact.

“Road To Venus”

When I was driving from Colorado to Los Angeles, every night Venus would show up and lead the way. When we recorded the song, I couldn’t believe how beautifully Phil played the snare drum on it. I asked Chargaux to put strings on this song and they said they didn’t want to ruin the space. So we just left it like that with that big, cold desert sky.

“East of Eden”

I must have listened to Gillian Welch’s “I Dream a Highway a thousand times. I would go to sleep singing it and I’d wake up with it in my head. Then I started singing verses that weren’t even there. Then I started writing a melody that wasn’t even there. And suddenly, there was a completely different song.

“Telluride”

I fell in love with Colorado when I was there. The people, the landscape, the air. One night, I overheard these beautiful girls in cowboy boots talking about Telluride. I didn’t think much of it until one day I woke up singing “Telluride, Telluride, Telluride.” The first time I ever played that song for anyone is the time you hear it on the record. In fact, I think you can hear me miss a “Telluride” when I moved off the mic to tell the band we’re gonna change chords.

“Rest”

I don’t remember when I wrote this one. In my mind, this is as close to the Beatles’s “Good Night” as I’ll ever come. This song sounds like a beautiful mechanical flower to me with saxophones and harp strings interweaved like brass petals. The classic Icelandic joke, “What do you do when you’re lost in an Icelandic forest?” somehow found its way into this song.

Leif Vollebekk | Photo: Kyla Gilbert

Follow Leif Vollebekk:

Twitter: @leifvollebekk    Instagram: @leifvollebekk

 

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