Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Local Music Spotlight: War Jacket

Birmingham-based photographer Caleb Chancey discovered two vital elements for the songs that would eventually make up his musical project, War Jacket.

The first was the collaborations and friendships he had made through Grey Haven Community, a local music collective that he helped found back in 2008.

The second was the discovery of a baritone ukelele at Homewood Music.

“As soon as I picked it up, it was like one of those things where you find what you’re supposed to be doing and how you’re supposed to be doing it, and something just clicked and the songs started coming after that. It didn’t take very long to write these songs that were on the record,” Chancey said.

The recording project, engineered by Corey Scogin, began as a casual venture between musically inclined friends, but soon began to take shape as a full album.

Chancey’s major influences, which include songwriters such as Damien Jurado and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden and bands such as Fleet Foxes, helped him develop a mixture of ukelele-driven folk and what he calls an “ambient room sound.” He also says he has found inspiration from the musicians featured on the record, which include Birmingham’s Joel Madison Blount, Seattle’s Dan Phelps, and New York’s Brian T. Murphy.

The lyrics showcase a blend of personal emotions and thematic storytelling, exploring the “dark beauties” of life, with song titles like “Remember You Used to Love Me,” “White Picket Cross,” “Part of the World That I Like,” and “You Were My Sunshine.”

The title of the full-length record, Live Like You’re Going Home, comes from the final song, “The Core” (which was also featured on a tornado relief album Chancey produced a few months back).

“After listening to the songs, there was a kind of nostalgia feeling to the record, where the idea is a lively purpose. A bunch of these songs are kind of sad things, but they’re worth it in the end. The idea is walking from this sadness to this inspiration of living very purposefully,” Chancey said.”To me, ‘live like you’re going home’ is this goal. Everybody knows what it feels like to go home and for a lot of people, there’s a sadness in that. Like if you come from a broken home. But you know what the idea of home and this sense of belonging is, no matter where you are.”

Chancey began a Kickstarter campaign in June to help fund the pressing of the record. The digital release has already been scheduled, but he wanted to give listeners (as the aptly titled campaign states) “something you can hold.”

“The idea is that I love handmade and tangible things. I’m fine with mp3 releases, but to me, I love vinyl. I love special things that you can put into people’s hands,” he said.

The campaign offers a wide variety of pledge packages, including the vinyl record, lyric art, limited edition photography, videos of live performances shot by Birmingham’s Stephen DeVries, and the chance to book house shows. Only three days remain for the Kickstarter campaign and it will only be funded if all $6,000 is raised by July 22.

Through this project, Chancey has said he has grown “immensely” as an artist.

“I’m getting to the point where because of the collaborations and the friendships that I’ve been experiencing through the project, they have lifted me up to where I can say I’m a musician because I’m standing on their shoulders. I am extremely moved by that and very proud to call myself a musician now, but the only way I got there was through other people’s help. That’s the way I want to stay there,” he said.

You can see War Jacket, The Clay States, and Lauren Michael Sellers play at Bottletree Cafe this Thursday, July 21 for $7. For more details, click here.

For more information on War Jacket, visit www.warjacket.com.

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