Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Will Wright, Knoxville TN musician/composer who just released In the Garden of Forking Paths – a collaboration with another local artist (Laith Kelany) inspired by Charles Eisenstein’s coronavirus essay “The Coronation.”
Laith Keilany has been a fixture on the Knoxville music scene since the 90s. He’s not only a true multi-instrumentalist, he’s also a great singer and songwriter. He’s performed with several other musicians in the Knoxville area, notably Jodie Manross and Jack Rentfro. – Famous London Recording
Wil Wright is a brilliant composer, equally comfortable with a rock band (Senryu) or fronting a wizard hip-hop group (Lil Iffy). He wiped me out with his classical piano on the recent webcast for the Second Bell Soiree. He’s a producer, composer and musician, but that doesn’t cover the expanse of his talent, which is on full display when his music is layered with his often brilliantly witty or simply brilliant lyrics. In the same show he can make you laugh out loud at one line and evoke a tear with another. You’ll also sometimes find his excellent essay writing in Blank Newspaper. – Inside of Knoxville
This was the first piece that came together. I’ve known Laith Keilany for about 20 years, and have admired the way he brought the life out of the Oud. Around the time we broke ground on the album, the Quarantine was really starting to feel…normal? I guess that’s the word. At least, the old normal felt like an alien dream and sitting in the house hoping to stay well was starting to feel routine. I read this essay called “The Coronation” by Charles Eisenstein, about all the possible roads forward, and that’s where a lot of the tone of this album, and particularly this first track, stem from.
This track is one of my favorite. I felt like Laith and I really met somewhere between southern blues feelings and something more ancient. Obviously, in the end it gives way to heartbreak. But what doesn’t?
This is one where I had a really fun time chasing Laith around the idea. It’s just so optimistic and, though it’s fairly steady, there was no set bpm, so I’m really just trying my best to run along side him and open up a landscape for all that sunshine to land on.
This is the first track where Laith pivots to a bowed instrument called the Cumbus (“joomboosh”). I don’t know how this one ended up feeling so much like a Led Zepplin moment, but I really love how much ground we cross in the 4min duration.
I do a lot of film scoring, and this one felt particularly cinematic to me. Like, when the bottom falls out from under us in act 3.
I really wanted this track to sound like a showdown. The Eisenstein essay talks about the “war on death” and how cruel having to choose either surviving in solitude/loneliness or risking our lives for warmth and connection. So this track, to me, was our sort of showdown, between surviving in miserable isolation and “dying well.”
A particularly thought-provoking part of the essay was about Germ Theory vs Terrain theory. The example was: If you’ve got a sick fish, you can either treat the fish (germ theory) or clean the tank (terrain theory). The larger scope, of course, is that battling the coronavirus is fine and good, but facing all of our systemic weaknesses and failures that made us so vulnerable in the first place is the big reveal in this pandemic. We can now see that solving one virus is like sweeping sand off of the beach. Until we “clean the tank,” by addressing the flaws in our health systems, in our economy, our relationship with the environment, in our empathy and humanity, we’ll always just be waiting for the next novel virus to come and kick our teeth out again. The arrangement was meant to reflect that, so hopefully it does.
Working with Laith on this record was so inspirational and mind-expanding for me. He’s an exceptional human, inside and out, and it radiates through his playing. Trying to accentuate that light without getting in the way was an endless puzzle on every track, but especially this one. He sent me his idea in 2 pieces and I was just so stunned by it that I couldn’t bring myself to add much, besides just giving it a landscape. I think this last piece could’ve come out on its own and would’ve been just as powerful, reflecting this concept that, should we choose it, that there is a better world to be built out of the devastation of this virus. We can honor those we’re losing every day by choosing a world of amplified empathy and humanity. No promises, but it’s there if we want it. I want it.