2017Sean Rowe w/ Faye Webster
MayDoors 8pm, Show 9pm - $10adv / $12
Though Rowe has often made his hometown of Troy, New York and its surrounding areas his creative base, New Lore brought a new environment, and a new producer. Appropriate to his love of folk-blues legends like Howlin' Wolf, he ventured to Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis to work with Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price). They tapped into the history of the legendary space to hone a sound that is at once rich and stark, putting Rowe's deep and dynamic rage at the forefront. Because if high notes can shatter windows, Rowe's low and guttural ones can meld sand into glass.
"I was looking for a specific sound and part of that was the rawness, the element of risk that Sam Phillips took with his artists," Rowe says. "Since I was a kid I was really drawn to that music. I wasn't really listening to music my peers were: I was really into old soul music, and music coming out of Memphis. It's been in my work maybe in more subtle ways than now, but it's always been in there."
The songs on New Lore were often built to let Rowe's voice come through in its most stirring capacity: from the wrenching ode to parenthood "I'll Follow Your Trail" to the naturalistic "The Very First Snow," instrumentals are layered carefully and artfully over the vocals, finding footing in Rowe's sly and idiosyncratic guitar style. Much of what came was a result of Rowe going into the studio with a more relaxed approach – no preproduction was done, no demos finished. Rowe and Ross-Spang embraced an organic style that is so representative of how the singer-songwriter leads his life, and that is one of always fighting to flow gently with the earth, not against it.
"We were looking for perfect imperfection," Rowe says. "If we fucked up and it was cool, then I wanted that in there. You let it happen and you don't polish it too much."
New Lore also ushered in a career shift – this time, after several years on Anti-, Rowe launched his own label, Three Rivers Records, and will release his LP as a collaboration with the Anti- family. He also embraced a new way of funding his work, using a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to make the Memphis dreams a reality, and embarked on a series of house shows to reconnect with his fans at the most basic, intimate level.
"I kept asking myself, 'What would be cool? What would be something different?,'" Rowe says. "That's what led me to house shows, and to the Kickstarter and to just take chances. Those chances are what led me to early rock and roll in the first place – that's all about taking chances. I had no idea what to expect, but I could tell as it got more momentum that people really wanted to see it happen."
Rowe also found himself on another unexpected wave – his unreleased song "To Leave Something Behind" found life in Ben Affleck's film The Accountant, exposing the mystique of his music to an even wider audience. Written five years ago in London, it echoes some of the themes that half a decade later surfaced again in New Lore: the things in life we pass down to our children, the ideas we learn from our elders, the shadows we leave behind when we are gone. The first single, "Gas Station Rose," is about two people trying to navigate that together. "That's the conflict to the story," Rowe says. "They want to stick it out, but they know it's incredibly hard to keep shit together. Conflict makes for a great song."
So does opening yourself up to vulnerability: New Lore is formed from that tenderness, exposed like an open wound but one asking for healing, not to linger in pain. Like "Promise of You," with a gospel swing inspired by Ketty Lester's classic "Love Letters" and the piano-driven "I Can't Make a Living From Holding You," Rowe speaks to the reality of loving and leaving, a constant dilemma for a man who builds half of himself on tour playing to strangers and half of himself tucking his children in at night. Home is process, not a destination, and New Lore is a roadmap there – perfectly imperfect, raw and real.
"My music isn’t glossy or shiny," Rowe says. "But it's true."
Faye began writing songs at 14 and continued crafting her method as she found her rhythm while attending Grady High School in the heart of Atlanta. During that time, Faye formed a close-knit group of creative friends called PSA; a rap/art group she still calls upon for inspiration and collaboration. At just 16 she released her first full-length album, Run & Tell. “That project was more folky country and the lyrics were more generic compared to my new album,” explains Faye.
With a career in music in sight, Faye set out for Nashville to pursue a degree in songwriting at Belmont University. After her first year of college, the diversity of people in both the music and creative scene drew her back to Atlanta. “I felt that this city was where I belonged. Atlanta will always be home.”
“When I knew I was going to drop out of Belmont, I loaded up on electives including art classes and film photography. I got a camera for Christmas and that’s where the photography began.” During trips back to Atlanta, she would hang out with her old high school friends, who now had musical careers of their own, and take portraits of them. “It just grew. I was inspired by Brooklyn, NY based artist, Kehinde Wiley’s work for my pattern photos. I incorporate the background into the subject matter which creates this monochromatic look that has become my signature style,” says Faye. She has since shot hip-hop heavy weights including D.R.A.M., Killer Mike, Father, and Lil Yachty among many others and her photos have been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard and many more.
Faye has grown creatively in her music pursuits with PSA. “Half of us make beats and the other half rap, that's sort of how it works. I'm more like the Aaliyah/Frank Ocean of the group,” she explains. The photographer/songwriter has also found a mentor in Atlanta-based rapper Ethereal who is also a part of the Awful Records family; a rap clique leading the charge in expanding the hip-hop genre and curating tracks with warped sounds. “He took me under his wing and introduced me to everyone else. I've since then done songs with Father, Keith Charles Spacebar, and Dexter.” These hip-hop tracks draw a sharp contrast to the Americana feel of her albums; which also shows her flexibility as an artist and songwriter.
“The photography and music don’t relate or inspire one another. I treat them as their own separate entities. My goal right now is to get my music heard more than getting my photography seen,” says Faye. During the one month transition from Nashville back to Atlanta, she was full of new ideas and experiences. “I began writing songs for a new album. I truly feel that this album encompasses the fact that I take influences from many different perspectives. Each song tells a story and goes through all of the emotions involved. I’ve developed a more specific and honest way of telling a story,” Faye explains. Drawing from artists she loves ranging from Aliyah to Dawes to Courtney Barnett to Chance the Rapper; this combination has become her new album set self-titled album set for release later this year. “The music displays heart break in the most sincere way possible.”
“She Won’t Go Away” is the lead single off the new album and will be released March 3 along with an alluring new video directed by the critically-acclaimed Joshua Shoemaker. Faye will also enchant audiences across the country as she sets on 12-city tour spring tour with Sean Pence.