ASCAP Audio Portraits - November 4, 2021 - Hem, Eveningland

Clip One - Bigger Sounds - Dan Messe says Hem's second CD explores the countrypolitan sounds of the 1970s, unlike their first CD, Rabbit Songs.

"Rabbit Songs" was really based on, in, traditional Americana, Appalachian Civil War songs, that sort of thing. This was really based on 70s AM pop music, or country pop music.

We've been in love with people like Ray Charles. For me, that's the tops. I mean, for me, it doesn't really get any better than that sound. And a lot of the Muscle Scoals Studio, they would bring in these great orchestral sounds. Or like Glen Campbell's another one, when Al Delory would write these great string arrangements for like Wichita Lineman, for example.

The songs themselves are just these well-crafted country songs, or folk songs, or tin pan alley songs, or whatever. But, you know, you could just...if you could have a bigger palette to paint from they just take on all these dimensions that they didn't necessarily otherwise have. It gives the songs an emotional weight or emotional complexity that they just don't have without it.

And so that was sort of like the idea, and then as we've grown we went with Dreamworks and that allowed us to have a little more resources so we decided to sort of up the ante and try this sort of 70s AM or some of countrypolitan production techniques and to see how that fit around our songs and we just fell in love with it.

To hear an orchestra play those arrangements on those songs was...I can't tell you what it was like. It was a dream come true.

Clip Two - "The Fire Thief" - Dan Messe says a major theme of the CD is finding comfort.

This whole album to me is about comfort and just like the need for comfort, and I certainly feel that need in my own life, and I'm constantly searching for it in both healthy and unhealthy ways. So a lot of these songs are about that. They're about finding comfort, in my case, my wife and my son.

"The Fire Thief" in particular was the first song I wrote for my son. Just the thought that anything bad could happen to someone that you love so much was terrifying, and I never, I don't want him to feel any terror.

This was a time in my life when all sorts of wonderful things were happening in terms of like finding my voice as a songwriter and as a band, Hem, and falling in love and getting married and having a child. At the same time there's constant trouble. There's Dreamworks, imploded basically, and we were sort of cast adrift, and my father's been terribly sick, and there's just life. Life is always hard no matter how good it is. It's a hard thing.

I write songs to comfort myself more than anything, so there's nothing more comforting than to have Sally sing these words of hope, teaching me how to take comfort. And basically that's why "Fire Thief" is the first song, I really wanted this album...I really made this album so I could listen to it and feel okay about things.

Clip Three - Songwriting - Dan Messe compares bandmate Steve Curtis' songwriting style to his own.

Steve and I, and Gary, we bounce off one another songwriting wise, and we play off one another. I mean, I think that Steve's songs are very much his own.

He's one of the most happy and happy-go-lucky people that I've ever met. He manages to write these songs about feeling good without it sounding trite or sounding shallow.

His songs actually seem to have a carry, a weight and a depth of feeling good, whereas I tend to write much more miserable songs. My muse is much more based in the misery. I kind of write these very sort of dark songs, but I feel like I get away with more because Sally has this voice that no matter what she's singing about, it sounds hopeful, or it sounds comforting.

There's just this duality there that, you can just get away with so much more when these dark, dark lyrics, in some cases, are being sung by this, this light as air voice.

The fact that she's sort of a little emotionally removed in the songs, like she never really gets overemotional in the songs, and that allows us as writers to sort of write more emotionally without it sounding maudlin.

Clip Four: "Carry Me Home" - Dan Messe on the mysterious roots of the CD

"Carry Me Home" is interesting because I don't usually write in other people's voices. I'm not a confessional songwriter by any means.

In that song I actually try to write in someone else's voice. It's about this person who had this very horrifying thing happen to them as a child, sort of undescribed, and the need to go back there and fix things.

Even before we got together as Hem I wrote a group of songs that I never even released it as an album, but it was called "Burying Songs," and it was just a bunch of burying songs, and I don't even know what that means. They were sort of Appalachian flavored, sort of gothic, I guess, little vignettes. "Carry Me Home" started out as one of those songs. It was a different sort of form.

That song was sort of my attempt at writing a murder ballad because I was interested in that song form at the time. So that was the original intent, but I was less interested in the murder than I was in just sort of getting past, you know, how you do heal from something like that. And in that case it's someone you'll bury them, you'll take care of all this for me, and of course, you can't do it, you always have to bury your own dead.

I transcribed these clips, but the copyright for them is not mine. If you notice any errors in the transcription, please let me know.

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