Brian Walker, the songwriter behind indie/emo/punk band A Day Without Love, is a man who seems comfortable in his own skin. He speaks in modest tones that never once seems rehearsed or pretentious and he can discuss thoughtfully and honestly topics some would never dare breach with their closest friends — much less strangers requesting an interview.
But like any skill, and this is certainly a skill, it is not something that \Walker was born with but something that evolved from years of digging deep and not being afraid of what he might shovel up. His newest record Solace, out now and available for purchase here, is a study in how much one can grow by addressing things that are, by their very nature, difficult to tackle but worth it all the same.
“I think it was my most honest record for a couple reasons,” Walker says. “One being that I was drunk for most of the songs I wrote before Solace.” This is the kind of flourishing sincerity that comes to characterize the rest of our conversation. “I wrote all these songs with a completely clear mind, so physically and metaphysically it is definitely the most honest record I have written. When you stop drinking, your feelings begin to come out. You realize that you have been numbing yourself the whole time.”
Solace, which Walker began writing about a year ago, marks the first proper album the band will release with Sound and Tones Records. It is also the final album ever recorded at the old Fresh Produce Studios above The Fire, making it both a beginning and ending, a notion that makes sense when considering how much A Day Without Love has matured, becoming something almost entirely different from its origin. Not only is the band more of a collaborative effort and less of a solo moniker than on previous works, the record is without a doubt the most mature and insightful of anything in the band’s discography.
“All the stuff that I had before was really angry, screw-my-life type stuff,” says Walker of his pre-Solace songwriting. “In my younger years of writing songs I was more inclined to write about this person who hurt me or this person who screwed me over and it was about me, me, me. It was very outward and I didn’t really want to tell people how I felt.”
That kind of detached reclusiveness is something entirely shed from not only the lyrics but a man now willing to discuss things that many would finding daunting or just plain impossible. For years, Walker has been quite vocal about his ongoing battle with drinking and depression, including his trials in both his songs and countless interviews.
“I talk about why it is important that we as people look out for each other, be more social, more proactive, more empathetic,” Walker said of the inherent loneliness that evolves from depression. “I felt like no one really cared about me and I wasn’t really able to function socially or emotionally because of this feeling about myself. It crippled me to even be able to relate to others and in some music has pulled me out of that so I like to spread that message.”
Some of the music he credits come from confessional songwriters like Conor Oberst, Dallas Green of City and Colour and local singer-songwriter Bruno Catrambone of Former Belle — whose honesty helped him find camaraderie in the painful moments. Today, in a kind of perfect circular harmony, many find that same consolation within Walker’s own music. “I have had a lot of people I don’t know message me at random times saying ‘I listened to this song and this is how it makes me feel,’ ‘I am going through this and your song is helping me’”.
Not content to let his songwriting alone speak on behalf of those fighting depression, Walker has teamed up with Erika’s Lighthouse, a non-profit organization whose goal is to, “educate communities about teen depression, eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and empower teens to take charge of their mental health.”
“I thought that was a very beautiful thing,” said Walker of the organization. “As a person who has experience and still goes through major depression, I wanted to do something a little more.” What he did was a countdown to his record in which he recorded 90 covers in 90 days. Posting the videos to YouTube, he included in each post a link to a GoFundMe page devoted to raising money for the program. To continue this effort, Brian plans to promote and raise awareness about Erika’s Lighthouse by doing what he already does so well in his music; discuss his battle and make those who suffer feel less alone.
What makes both his work with Erika’s Lighthouse and his songwriting so effective is that Walker is not afraid to thrust himself, warts and all, fully into the narrative. This is especially poignant within Solace considering the tragic circumstances surrounding its creation. About three quarters into writing the album Walker learned that his grandfather, with whom he lived along with his grandmother, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, news that predictably shook the foundation of the already progressing Solace.
Throughout the album you can hear both of Walker’s grandparents sharing their thoughts on things like race, judgement and faith, all of which wrap tightly around the themes already present in Walker’s spellbinding lyrics. These clips, said Walker, come from long conversations he had with his grandfather very near the end of his life, conversations that remain incredibly important to him and the record.
“The last thing my grandfather said during those conversations was, ‘I hope I am alive to hear it’, and I almost lost it hearing that,” Walker says. “Being aware of the death of my grandfather definitely changed the tonality and the moods of the record.”
Another foundational moment comes in the middle of the album with consecutive tracks, “Constantly Ignored” and “I Hope It Ends One Day,” songs that mark a monumental moment for Walker as a songwriter in the way that they address, for the first time in his career, his experience as a black man in America. The latter directly references how he traverses a scene like emo-rock, a scene that, demographically, trends extremely white.
“I remember when I was 21 I was talking a fellow black person about how hard it is to have the confidence to talk about your own racial insecurities,” Walker says. “She told me that I should write about that feeling, it only took me about 4 or 5 years before I did.”
Part of Walker’s reticence in discussing his feelings on the issue was knowing the possible backlash he may face from those who disagree with his stance. “I don’t hate anyone for their race or ethnicity by any means but I also don’t want to not acknowledge the fact that I have had experiences and things happen to me where I really question the validity or the general integrity of someone’s understanding of what diversity means or how well they really appreciate people’s cultures and ideas.”
Walker also recognizes that those who don’t agree with his viewpoint are not wrong, but perhaps have simply had a different experience, “I think people are looking to generalize, which is very much human nature, but should realize that everyone is different on every single level.”
Whether it is alcoholism, depression or his feelings on race in America, Walker’s most endearing quality is his willingness to share his experience honestly and openly. The very nature of Solace is the idea of consolation or comfort in sadness or distress, something Walker provides in spades on his new record and promises to for years to come.
You can listen to the record in its entirety below and don’t miss the record release party happening this Saturday, October 15 at Ortlieb’s Lounge. Also, if you are interested in learning more about Erika’s Lighthouse or wish to donate or volunteer your time, head to their official website.
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