RAISE THE QUESTION: JEREMY SQUIRES
Known for his haunting melodies and evocative lyrics, North Carolina-raised alternative/folk artist JEREMY SQUIRES returns with his 10th album overall, MANY MOONS, released August 28, 2020 via Blackbird Record Label. The album explores new depths as JEREMY blends his traditional folk roots with alternative-leaning sounds–an unexpected result which came about by having written the album on his analog keyboard which he amplified by self-recording and producing the music between his home studio and an old abandoned church in New Bern, NC. MANY MOONS’ lyrics cover profound life experiences he’s endured–from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the feeling of guilt for passing it on to his son to memories of his mother, who he lost due to opioid addiction—which can be felt throughout the album’s instrumentation, all recorded by JEREMY (including vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, piano and synth) along with friend/fellow musician Whit Wright (American Aquarium, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves) on pedal steel guitar.
Here’s what some critics are saying about MANY MOONS:
“…artistically and musically speaking, [the album] is nothing short of breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Possessing a soundscape that owes as much to the alternative rock of the ’80s and ’90s as it does to contemporary folk, the record serves not only as a testament to Squires’ prodigious songwriting skills but also to his amazing natural musicality as well. Except for his friend and fellow musician Whit Wright effectively adding pedal steel guitar on a couple of songs, Squires gloriously performs the vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, piano, and synth all by himself on the album. Highlights of the record include the mesmerizing and synth-driven ‘Hazy,’ the sobering and cathartic ‘Glass House,’ the hypnotic and ethereal ‘Hummingbird,’ the thought-provoking titular track ‘Many Moons’ and the haunting and heart-wrenching “Swan Dive.’”
— Americana Highways, 8/31/2020
“Many Moons lands well amongst the current state of things. Although the inspiration is more intimate, each of the ten-tracks covers relatable topics such as grief, loss, stress, mental illness, and change.”
—American Songwriter, 8/13/20
“On Many Moons, Squires continues spinning yarns from the heart, and the earth, adding a touch of electronics to an array of sonic textures. The work remains drawn to heavier realms, led by a bipolar existence—surrounded by perils of addiction and loss—grounded by music as a way of dealing and turning things around. The 10th studio release from the alternative-folk artist spans new realms in old territory. Imagery of darkness and dreams weave through timeless (and timely) topics surrounding grief, stress, mental illness, and change.”
–Katei Cranford, YES! Weekly, 8/25/2020
Q&A for ‘MANY MOONS’
—Congratulations on your Many Moons album. You’re known as a folk singer-songwriter, but you opted to write these songs on your analog keyboard, and the experimentation leads to some unexpected sounds on the album. What inspired this different approach?
JEREMY SQUIRES: Thanks! Well, to be completely honest I felt bored and I was feeling burnt out. I wanted to expand beyond the “folk/America/singer-songwriter” borders. I wanted to write something special, emotional and dreamy. Many Moons is what came out of that. I don’t ever write with a concept in mind. Sometimes it comes out (lyrically) in pieces and I have to figure out what and where certain things are coming from. It’s like therapy or a puzzle…I like the listener to create their own narratives and take what they will from what I have written. I use a lot of metaphor in my lyrics but yet I still try to express a reality to the listener. I write purposely in a way that the listener can get their own deeper meaning from the songs and still relate.
—“Cast Spells” reels in the listener with intense lyrics like, “You’ve been breathing dark magic to me/When I’m singing sad songs/You can’t pick me up but you drag me along.” And you sing these lines very softly, which creates a really haunting effect. Can you talk about this dichotomy?
SQUIRES: “Cast Spells” reflects the dichotomy of emotions. You can feel both pain and love simultaneously; you can feel intense emotions and still be soft spoken. Human feelings are complex and I like to convey that in my poetry or songs.
—In a song like “Swan Dive,” you contrast the personal anguish in the lyrics with the sweet and faraway-sounding pedal steel guitar work of Whit Wright. As the album’s producer, can you talk about making choices like this?
SQUIRES: I have never really thought about it like that. I think that I’m just drawn to the darker, more melancholy side of things. I feel like when I finish recording certain songs like “Swan Dive” it needs pedal steel on it to enhance the emotion in the music. It not only sounds dark, but it sounds beautiful. As a producer I can hear things in my head that I want to come to life and I try to bring it out and make it resonate.
—Many Moons is built around imagery of darkness and dreams, and it has some of the slow-burning moodiness of say, The Cure’s Disintegration album. Did that album influence you in any way and if so, how?
SQUIRES: Yes. The Cure is one of my favorite bands and their music has influenced me in many ways. Disintegration made a huge impact on me as a musician and my life growing up. It’s moody, poetic and dark and it helped me and still does to this day. The mood and sound of that album helped shape me as a songwriter.
—Any other artists light you up and which albums of theirs and why?
SQUIRES: I’ve been listening to DIIV a lot and their new album Deceiver has been on repeat lately. I love The Delines’ album The Imperial. It’s so good. The Replacements’ album Let it Be is one of my favorite albums ever. Same for Husker Du’s New Day Rising. I absolutely love Anna Tivel’s album The Question. Her voice is entrancing and the way she writes is just beautiful. My friend Shane Leonard played on that record. He has played on a few of my albums as well. I love The Tallest Man On Earth. His album Shallow Grave still gets played a lot around my house.
—What inspired you to call the album Many Moons after a song on the album?
SQUIRES: I actually named the album Many Moons before that song was even thought about. I felt like the album was finished and then I wrote that song one day and it felt like it would flow with Many Moons and the lyrics reflected the title of the album so well that I just named the song after the album.
—You recorded the album in your home studio and in an abandoned church where you live. Can you talk about the atmosphere of the church and the acoustics there? Does the church have any significant meaning to you or was it just a random location you discovered?
SQUIRES: Yes I did. The church felt lonely and haunted. The acoustics were really amazing–every sound was enhanced in there and every single movement amplified. The church was one that my Granny went to many years ago. Places like that always creep me out when no one is there. Especially at night. It was pretty weird.
—What do you want listeners to take away from Many Moons?
SQUIRES: I want the listener to take something positive away from this album and paint their own picture of what the songs are about and hopefully relate to it. I hope that by sharing my personal experiences and by attempting to make something beautiful from them that the listener can find peace in their own personal struggles.
—How do you feel living in North Carolina influences your songs and the music?
SQUIRES: I think it’s just a part of who I am. How I write changes from time to time and I’m sure that the scenery and my experiences here have had some sort of impact on my writing on a deeper level.
—If you were to record a duet with a current artist outside the genre of music for which you’re known, who might that be–and which song would you cover and why?
SQUIRES: If I could record a duet with anyone right now, it would be with Amanda Shires or Lera Lynn. I consider them genre-bending and so I think we would sound nice together and I’d like to cover Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out.” It’s one of my favorite songs ever and it has resonated with me like no other song has done.
—Can you describe your best gig ever—and your worst one?
SQUIRES: Oh wow, lol. I think my best gig was when I played with Lillie Mae at Motorco in Durham, NC. It was a lot of fun and it was one of those shows that just felt special. The crowd was big and so into the music and all the bands that played were not only there to play but to support each other as fans and friends.
Now the worst gig… probably when I drove all the way to Lexington, KY to play for nobody. I played for the band that opened for me. I’ll leave it at that.
—Which famous historical event would you like to have witnessed and why?
SQUIRES: Hmmm, good one. I would have to say the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast or the solar storm of 1859. I think it would have been pretty incredible and a little scary to have been there for either of these. I would’ve loved to have seen the auroras pulsating through the sky. I love just about anything sci-fi or star/space related.
—Is there a song (by another artist) you crank up on Friday night to kick off the weekend—and a song (by another artist) you kick back with on a Sunday morning?
SQUIRES: Haha, yes! I love the new Choir Boy album Gathering Swans. So pretty much any song off that but especially “Nites like This.” It’s pure gold. I love to relax and chill out with Mazzy Star early in the morning sometimes. I mostly listen to the Still EP from 2018. My favorite Mazzy Star song off of that EP is “Quiet, the Winter Harbor.” It is also my favorite song by them. It’s so beautiful and calming.
—What is your biggest guilty pleasure (film, album, or other)?
SQUIRES: I can’t really answer this question since I don’t believe in the term “guilty pleasure.” You either like something or you don’t, and if you like it then you should never feel ashamed of it. That’s how I live my life and it’s how I’ve always felt.
—What advice would you give now to your younger self?
SQUIRES: I would tell my younger self that time goes by way too fast and to live and love every day and others to the fullest because you never know how quickly the ones you love can be taken away from you.