Today marks the release of Damaged Goods, and the culmination of a decade of work. Damaged Goods collects all 11 single-a-month songs originally released in 2015, with 3 additional tracks. These songs come from various points throughout the last 10 years of writing and releasing other albums. So Hard to Make An Easy Getaway was written in early 2008 (before the release of Hey Lazarus!), The Basement in Nashville was recorded on my first trip to Nashville in June 2008, and 5 of these (I Know I Should Know Better, What is This Love?, Southern Pines, When You Found Me, and Easy Getaway) were originally made available on a very short-lived EP, released in December 2010. The other half of the tunes were written and recorded after the Borrowed Trouble sessions between 2014 all the way up to the title-track, Damaged Goods, recorded earlier this year (although written back in 2012). So how do all these songs fit together? Is this a “collection” of songs, or an “album”? Damaged Goods was released by In Music We Trust, based out of Portland, OR, and the head of the label Alex Steininger sent me a list of questions to answer which were used for press releases relating to the album. Here is the full interview, where I attempt to shed a light on the writing and recording process, and how I see this album fitting in with the rest of my catalog. And at the end of the interview you’ll find links to stream and download. Enjoy! – Shane Tutmarc
1. What does the album’s title mean as a representation of the album as a whole?
Damaged Goods is a band of misfits and loners. Songs that refused to play nice with other songs. And the title “Damaged Goods” seemed to sum up this batch of songs perfectly.
2. How is it similar and then how is it different from your previous records, both solo and with other bands?
With most of my previous albums I’ve tried to reign in the variety of songs I include. I’m usually aiming at a theme lyrically and musically that feels like an “album statement.” But that is not the case with Damaged Goods whatsoever. If I were to compare this album to anything I’ve done in the past, I think the closest would be Dolour‘s third album, New Old Friends (2004). They both have a wide variety of songs that all stand on their own, and there’s no production tone or theme that any of the songs are forced to adhere to. They both feel like a killer playlist of songs on shuffle, as opposed to an album where there is a set mood that carries through the whole thing.
3. What is the most significant lyric on this album to you?
I’m never good with choosing favorites. There’s special lines in every song for me. And it doesn’t show much humility on my part, but if I had to choose something, I might say “why’s everything bad taste better than it should” from Poison Apple, or “I’d rather live in my head, sometimes I’d rather be dead than faking it” from the title-track, or “it’s a secret passed lip to lip, it’s a mystery I never could get, the answer must be deeper than blood, what is this love” from What is This Love? But if you asked me tomorrow, I’d have three different answers for you.
4. Did you go about this one differently than you did your last album?
Yeah, most albums I’ve gone into the studio with a batch of songs and recorded them all within a short period of time. With this album, the songs are from various different periods throughout the last decade, and they were recorded at a number of different places, with different players and collaborators. It’s the only album I’ve done this way, except for Dolour’s New Old Friends – but even that record was done over the course of maybe 2 years – versus 10 years.
5. What did you do differently on this record that you haven’t done on previous records?
Everything. When the idea of doing a single-a-month came up, I knew I had a ton of songs that could work for a series like this, but I really didn’t know what songs I would include, and had no idea of what songs I’d end up writing during the series as well. It was very much a choose-your-own-adventure approach every month. So I think there is an immediacy to this album, that would be impossible to match doing a more traditional album recording.
6. Did the record come out how you heard it in your head?
Yes and no. Going into this project, I wasn’t even sure it would end up being an album. It was essentially one-song-at-a-time. Whether it was an old song or a new one, each month I decided what song I wanted to work on. I guess I knew with that approach, it would lead to a lot of variety. I like to think of it as more of a collection of “short stories” versus a “novel.”
7. What surprised you about the record that you didn’t envision?
I guess the biggest left-turn for me during the process was songs like Out of the Dark and I Never Said Anything. I started experimenting with more midi and electronic sounds on those songs, and they directly influenced me to start a new project, Solar Twin – which I now have a few singles out, and I’m almost done with my first full-length for.
8. What are the highlights of the record for you?
Again, I don’t usually like to pick favorites. They all ended up on this album because I love these songs. But to pick a few, Out of the Dark, Suicide Weather, I Know I Should Know Better, and the title-track are songs I’m really glad to have out there.
9. How do you think this record fits in in the musical landscape of today?
That’s a tough question, because it implies I have an understanding of the musical landscape. Haha. But I suppose it fits in with other artists that follow their muse and don’t try to get pigeonholed into a sound to fit a certain demographic. I don’t know many artists who are as free spirited, musically, as I am. But I’m sure there are some kindred spirits out there, and I hope we can connect with this album.
10. Is there a theme or message running throughout this album?
This album is a bouquet of wild flowers. They are all individuals, but maybe it’s their loner status that make them all relate.
11. How do you think the lyrics and the music work together on this album?
Really well!! Haha. I suppose because they didn’t have the constraints of trying to fit a production mold, they were all able to be more free to be themselves. The music and lyrics of each song were able to go wherever they wanted, so maybe that makes them all a bit more honest.
12. How would you describe the sound of the album?
I would say there’s a little bit of everything. Not a lot of artists are willing to offer this kind of variety. I’m a big Beatles fan, and albums like Revolver or the White Album have such massive variety and I’ve always admired that. You can’t pinpoint “the sound” of those albums. If you like what I do at all, you’ll never get bored, I can promise you that!
13. Being a collection of singles, how did you get the album tied together, to come through as an album, not just individual songs?
Well, when it came time to sequence the album – I decided to not put them in chronological order. That would have felt a lot more like just a “collection.” i spent time putting them in an order that I hope takes you on a cool journey. Plus with the 3 bonus tracks, I didn’t want them to just feel tacked on at the end. I put them where they felt right. Opening with Damaged Goods felt like a good statement to kick off the album, and closing with Goin’ Goin’ Gone felt like a good way to sign off.
14. What bands do you think people will compare you to?
Well, I guess I’ve already compared myself to The Beatles! Haha. I have no idea. That’s a thought that maybe should cross my mind more often, but I never think about that. Who do you think?
15. What are your goals with this record?
The single-a-month series was an experiment to give people a chance to follow my music in a more intimate way. But now with this expanded album release, I hope this exposes the scope of my musical output, and maybe lead folks to explore all the different directions I’ve gone over the nearly two decades I’ve been recording. There are ties to my early Dolour years with songs like Suicide Weather or the title-track, there’s bits of the Traveling Mercies vibe with The Basement in Nashville or Til Daddy Gets Paid, and there’s songs that foreshadowed my latest project Solar Twin, like Out of the Dark and I Never Said Anything.
16. Anything you want to point out/discuss that I left out?
I think we covered it!