Just a couple years ago, Van William thought he had life figured out. Having toured the world from age twenty – first with his band Port O’Brien, followed by his second group WATERS – he had met and cultivated a tight knit community of fellow musicians, embarked on a serious, years-long romantic relationship, even found time to spend his summers on Kodiak Island, Alaska working on his father’s commercial fishing boat, as he’d done all his life.
When, in short order, his musical projects and romantic relationship dissolved, and his father announced his retirement after 49 summers at sea, Van reached an inflection point. “I was freaked out,” the songwriter recalls, looking back on the most tumultuous year of his life. “But with that freak-out came a renewed sense of purpose.”
And a new musical direction, heralded by the arrival of Countries, Van’s vivid and open-hearted solo debut full length album, set for January 19th, 2018 release on Fantasy Records. BuzzBands.LA premiered new track and album centerpiece “The Country” today, calling it ‘…. the sound of a man turning the page, classic songwriting ferrying yesterday’s melancholy and tomorrow’s hopes on vessels of indelible melodies and poignant lyrics.’ Listen here.
Anchored in Van’s love of melodic song craft and infused with melancholy, the eleven new, original songs on Countries don’t belong to any specific style. Call them American Heartache, music that stirs up forgotten memories and feels eternal and fresh, pulling the past into the present as a way of navigating loss.
Van wrote the songs that would become Countries in a secluded part of the Sierra Nevada, then enlisted a group of musical confidants – including his co-producer Brian Phillips, Dawes drummer Griffin Goldsmith, POP ETC bassist Chris Chu and keyboardist Tam Visher – to bring the album to life in a studio in Marin County. Special vocal guests on the album include the Soderberg sisters of First Aid Kit.
“These songs sound exactly like I feel,” says Van, “restless, reeling, heartbroken and ready to burst. I grew up on Fugazi and Plastic Ono Band; The Lonesome Crowded West and On the Beach. I wanted to make a record that unambiguous, that digs its hooks in deep and doesn’t let go.”
Countries follows Van’s critically acclaimed The Revolution EP, released in September, which earned praise from NPR, Wild Honey Pie (“therapeutic and celebratory”) and others. The EP’s title track and video both feature Van’s longtime friends and collaborators First Aid Kit, who he’s set to support on an international tour starting January 26. Before that Van will play a three-week residency at LA’s Moroccan Lounge, with special guests to be announced day-of-show each week. See below for a full list of upcoming Van William dates.