New music: Pain, anxiety, and love, with old-school four-track mentality

By Jacob Church

After Christmas, I got my old cassette four-track from my parents’ house. I’d been writing songs during the pandemic, and I thought it would be an adventure to try to record a quick project on my old deck. It would be just like those late nights in high school. I’ve always loved recording with limitations. I think some of our best work comes out when we’re restricted in some way and limiting myself to just a few tracks would be a great way to do that. It was good enough for the Beatles!

That lasted about a day, when I realized that what I wanted to do with these songs was a little bigger than four tracks. I still kept that mentality as I worked, though. I decided not to lean too heavily on the technology, recording as if I were cutting to tape. No autotune, no letting the computer play for me. If a part wasn’t right, I would just do it again until it was – every part needed to add something to the track. It was all recorded at home, with help from some friends and family. Graham Winchester plays drums and Ben Church sings backing vocals on “Lines,” and Tammy Holt, Jana Misener, and Krista Wroten play strings on “Words and Music.”

“Lines” is about how real life is lived in the times between the birthdays and weddings and graduations; how the dark times shape us as much as the good, and it’s ok to talk about that. Co-written with my wife Sarah.

“Nineteen” is a song about my struggles with mental illness, which first appeared my sophomore year in college. Anxiety manifested in ways that made it seem like my mind was coming apart. Time and knowledge have healed a lot of that, but I can still recall what it was like in those early days.

“Wasted Pain” is based on an interview I read with Jeff Tweedy in 2020, about how pain ought not to be wasted. My typical response to a prompt like that is to go positive and talk about all the ways we can grow and learn from pain, so I decided to just let it be dark and see what that felt like. It was a bit cathartic to feel like I didn’t have to resolve it. Plus, it was fun to sing falsetto on a record for the first time.

My wife and I finally got married on New Year’s Eve 2020, after postponing our original date of March 21 twice. “Words and Music” is a song for Sarah, about how words are the hardest part for me, both in life and in songwriting. Hopefully my music can convey my love, since I don’t think my words do it justice.

Jacob Church’s new EP will drop March 12, and he will be performing a virtual show for B-Side on March 12. Jacob blends pop, rock, country and soul, bringing tunes from Memphis, Tenn. Find his work on his Jacob Church bandcamp site.

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