Striking a careful balance that only comes with great intention, a place i knew before blends sonic experimentation with strong songwriting, but more deeply places grief and hope side by side.
A musician since his early teen years, Joel Ansett hit his songwriting stride in college, garnering enough momentum from shows at coffee shops and events around campus to fully crowdfund his first release, The Living Room EP. He spent a year touring in support of the release before settling in Denver and beginning work on his debut LP The Nature of Us (2015). The record found its way to #9 on the iTunes singer/songwriter charts, and in 2016 Ansett was named “a songwriter to watch” by The Huffington Post.
Over the next three years, Ansett started a family, changed jobs and settled into a life that didn’t have music as the focus. Though thrilled by the success of The Nature of Us, he had become disenchanted with the music industry and its various pitfalls. “Making music is a complete joy — but releasing and promoting it is a whole different animal,” he said. “Releasing that first full-length album felt like an accomplishment paired with a gut-punch.” The prospect of a life as an artist coupled with the pressures of the every day put music on the back burner until an evening of reading old fan mail with his wife inspired a return to his creative calling.
“We spent 4 hours just reading, and by the end it was overwhelmingly clear that I had lost my focus. There were too many beautiful stories that had come from the songs, better stories than we could have told, and after celebrating those it felt impossible to do anything other than to keep writing. My mindset changed entirely that night; the doubt and discouragement from previous years actually provided the momentum to double down on making a living as a songwriter/artist.” He started making plans for this second full-length album that night.
“Colorado is a very special place to me. I wrote almost all the lyrics to this album while sitting in Cheesman Park in Denver” explains Ansett. “If you go to the east side of the park, you can see the mountains kind of watching over the city skyline. That view always spoke to me and the contrast of it became a part of the album theme. Colorado artists have also always been a big influence – even before I lived here! That first OneRepublic album was my high school soundtrack. Gregory Alan Isakov made me try and start writing poetry. The Fray was one of my first ever concerts. Meese (RIP) wrote some of the catchiest melodies I have ever heard; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for all the great music happening here now that has continued to influence me. All that to say, it’s an honor to have a local publication premiere this album and I can’t wait to keep sharing it.”
Throughout a place i knew before structural decisions are informed by Ansett’s interest in chiastic structure – a literary technique in which events in the first half of the story are reflected in the second. Connections between tracks carry the narrative of nostalgic homesickness, giving the careful listener moments of understanding and clarity internally.
A fundamentally hopeful record, born out of introspection, a place i knew before stands as one man’s experience with the grieving process and the beauty that can come from that. “I don’t think we really know how to grieve in our culture,” explained Ansett. “And that’s really what this record is about for me: grieving what is broken in the world and what is broken in me. And part of the power of grieving is that it reveals at least a spark of hope that things could — and should — be different.”
Soiled Dove | August 23
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