Glide recently caught up with Strand of Oaks frontman, Timothy Showalter after his recent appearance at the highly-acclaimed Boston Calling music festival. Riding the buzz of his 2017 release Hard Love, Showalter’s sound has grown bigger and grander and his songwriting continues to radiate with a dark intensity few can emulate. Showalter writes candidly about taking mind-altering substances and seeing the world in a new way and finds his own voice in large psych/singer-songwriter world. Showalter happily sat down to discuss his music, his influences and the story behind one of Hard Love’s most dramatic songs exclaiming, “Talking and connecting is what I do.”
How has your experience been since you arrived in Boston and how do you feel about your set?
Oh, it was great, two of my band members are from New England. I did some of my first shows ever in this area about ten or fifteen years ago and I have a special place in my heart for Boston and western Massachusetts, like Palmer and Northampton.
There are some great spots out there, like Pearl Street.
Yup! And one of my favorite places to play is up along Salisbury Beach near the Newburyport area.
And your set?
Really good. All you can walk away with is hoping that you connected and I think that we did. People miss the guitar!
I think it was nice to have a few rock bands one the bill today.
This recent idea that rock is over is just stupid. I’m usually open to people’s opinions, but c’mon!
I mean you hear the drum machine going on for forty-five minutes. I’m left wondering, is the guy checking his email? What’s going on here? There’s geniuses at every level, but did you just push play on your Mac?
You’ve just wrapped up your set on one of the main stages, but what type of venues do you prefer to play in?
Well, with Boston, I’ve had the chance to play at some great, classic clubs like the Middle East, T.T.’s, Lily Pad way back in the day and P.A.’s Lounge. That’s is where we used to do our New Year’s shows. Our guitarist Jason Anderson is kind of a Boston legend and I would always play shows with him. Oh, one of the best shows was when I got to play the Orpheum Theater with My Morning Jacket.
Hard Love sounds like you took a bit of a departure from your earlier work. What was your mind set, when you were writing this album? Did you feel like you were in a different headspace compared to your previous experiences writing and recording?
Well, chemically and psychologically, I rode some wonderful waves there! I had some great times. But, I also just wanted to stop looking inward. A lot of albums, including some of mine, feel like your staring into the mirror and too much into yourself and it creates that feedback loop of narcissism which is unnecessary in music. I wanted to remove that feedback loop and look outwards towards the people I love. I just wanted to push out more and be more extroverted. I wanted to be more accepting to all of the people in our lives. It’s not just ourselves that keep us going. There’s a lot of people holding us together. I wanted to understand my fans and my audiences because I felt like I owed them a good time. I’ve put out some heavy records in the past.
Comparing your previous work to Hard Love, had your writing process changed at all?
Yeah. I think that I just started to care less, in a good way. Sometimes when you start writing, you sound like your influences. I started to care less about what was going to be the right moves for other people and caring more about what was right for me. I’ve been fortunate enough that our fans are happy with the band as they watch it grow and they want us to do our thing. They don’t want to us to put on a costume, play another kind of music and ride that slippery slope to the top. It’s just us. That’s the long-term plan.
That’s how the album comes across. And it’s how you came across up on stage, very genuine.
Yeah. Thank you, Marc. Nothing else, Just me. I would feel sick to my stomach if I conveyed any B.S. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.
On a couple of the songs on the new album, I felt that I heard some influences from the Clash, Bruce Springsteen and even a little of the cosmic side of Jane’s Addiction. Am I off base?
No. Not at all. I feel like Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and the whole band really, truly was the only band that matters. It was people like them, Patti Smith, the Boss, and some of the greats, people who were adventurous, they created their careers to evolve and not stay stagnant. Even if it’s easier to do what people want you to do, they understood how to grow and how to follow their passion. Those are the powerhouses and a lot of bands from my generation got to stand on the shoulders of these giants.
You mentioned that you wanted to be less introspective, but the song “Taking Acid with My Brother” walks a fine line between being introspective. Would you mind talking a little about that song?
Well, that songs surprisingly not about taking drugs. It’s about when my little brother got sick and I love him very much. It was a dicey situation. And, we almost lost him.
I’m sorry to hear that.
But, he got better. And that’s the most psychedelic thing in the world to have something like that happen and have it be out of your control, without knowing what part of the universe to ask to help make it better. And then, it got better.
What is the age difference between you and your younger brother?
He’s almost seven years younger than me. But, we got him back. And that’s why I ended the album with that song because hard love is not negative. Hard love is positive. It’s what happens with all of our relationships.
Thank you for sharing. And, one last question. Will we see Strand of Oaks on tour back in Boston?
Oh yeah. It’ll be in the fall. It’s been way too long since we played in Boston. We’ve played here more than my own hometown in Philadelphia in the past ten years. So, we gotta come back. It’s that kind of city for us.