with MOLLY BURCH
“A friend told me it was Saturn returns and that may be true. I was about to turn thirty and I knew that if I didn’t change direction I was going to end up exactly where I was headed.”
At the end of Leif Vollebekk’s twenties, his own songs didn’t sound right. He had spent an entire year on the road, playing almost 100 shows, but every night his favourite moment came only right at the end, covering a song by Ray Charles or Townes Van Zandt. Every time he got home from tour he took a hot shower and lay still under a window, listening to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, feeling saved, wondering why his own music didn’t give him that. Why the songs he had written himself always felt like so much work.
He booked himself a secret show. One night only at a Montreal dive bar – not to play his own songs but other people’s. Leif found a rhythm section and they rehearsed once. Then midnight unspooled. Leif called it the most fun he had ever had playing music: Ray Charles and Tom Waits over a locked groove; Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar over a slow pulse. The light was dark blue and purple.
It was time, Leif understood, to make a dark blue and purple record. An album of locked groove and slow pulse, heavy as a fever. And the lesson he learned from singing all those other people’s songs was that none of those other artists seemed worried about anything except laying down their own souls, flat out. “I used to think, ‘This will be kinda like a Neil Young song,’ ‘This will be kinda like a Bob Dylan song,’” he recalled. “I kinda ran out of people to imitate. And then there was just me.”
His first new song came to him on his bicycle. He wasn’t thinking, wasn’t trying, but the rhythm, the chords, the melody – it all just fluttered up. He tried at first to let it go: the song was wasn’t meticulous enough, it wasn’t studied or conceived. The next morning it still came back to him, incontestable. “I told myself, ‘You’re never saying ‘no’ to a song ever again,’” Leif said. “I realized I had been saying ‘no’ to a lot of songs, over the years.” Twin Solitude is what happened when Leif stopped saying no. The songs started coming so fast: fully formed, impossible. “Vancouver Time” took 15 minutes; “Telluride” took less. It was as if the songs were waiting for him. Instead of obsessing about the details of recording, “I just showed up to the studio and went, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”
What happened was, they got it: “Big Sky Country” and its patient, coasting tranquility, “Into the Ether”, which rides to reverie with the Brooklyn string duo Chargaux. There’s “East of Eden”, an interpolation of Gillian Welch, which doesn’t seem like it ever ought to end. For a beautiful album, Twin Solitude is deceptively brave, filled with unexpected refrains. “When the cards get stuck together / so hard to pull them apart,” Leif sings, “I think your face is showing.” Then: “Ain’t the first time that it’s snowing.”
Yet in its heart, above all, Twin Solitude is a gesture back to Leif’s long nights under a pink moon, when a record was the only thing that could keep him company. Besides a wink to Hugh MacLennan’s novel Two Solitudes, this is the unlonely loneliness of the album’s title. “It isn’t a record I made for other people – it’s the one I made for myself,” Leif said. “It’s the album I wish I could have put on.”
Listen to it in a rental car in cold weather, with the windows all rolled up. Listen to it laying by an open window. Listen to it all the way through, alone. “By the time the last notes die away, all that’s left should be you,” Leif told me. “And I’ll be somewhere else. And that’s Twin Solitude.”
Molly Burch was exposed to the arts at an early age. Growing up in Los Angeles with a writer/producer father and a casting director mother, Burch’s childhood was filled with old Hollywood musicals and the sounds of Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. After finding her voice in adolescence, Burch packed up for the University of North Carolina in Asheville to study Jazz Vocal Performance.
“I was always really interested in singing before songwriting. I didn’t have the confidence to write,” Molly says, “Initially it was more about finding the right songs to complement my voice.” And that voice is the first thing you’ll notice on Burch’s debut album, Please Be Mine. It’s smoky, with an incredible range, effortlessly evocative of her early influences. It was in Asheville where Burch would meet guitarist Dailey Toliver, who plays on her debut, and who inspired much of its music.
Searching for a bigger pond, Burch moved to Austin, Texas in an effort to stand on her own two feet. There, Burch began to write her own music in earnest, with the lovelorn Everly Brothers and Sam Cooke as her songwriting guides. Joined by Toliver in Austin a year later, the two connected with Dan Duszynski of Cross Record, and they recorded all the songs on Please Be Mine at his idyllic studio in Dripping Springs, Texas. Motivated by the hourly rate, Burch and her band recorded all the basic tracks and vocals live in one room and in one day, with minimal overdubs for keys and back-up vocals happening a day later. A difficult task for any talented musician, it becomes more mind-blowing when you hear her belt it on tracks like “Downhearted” and “I Love You Still.”
We’re all lucky Molly started writing music simply to complement her voice, as we’ve discovered a great new American songwriter in the process. Captured Tracks is proud to present this debut album of ten beautiful, wistful love songs of loss, loneliness and reconnecting.