Langhorne Slim Lets Go Of Expectations & Dances With His Own Creative Magic On ‘Strawberry Mansion’ (INTERVIEW)

Sean Scolnick AKA Langhorne Slim is an artist who thrives on cultivating an open and honest creative release, an inspired dance built on vulnerability and candor. Many of you reading this may know, Slim has had his own struggles with addiction and though being an addict does not define a person, it can penetrate them. Substances can filter our perspective and permeate our being; many of us know this from personal experience. 

When this author got on the phone with Langhorne, he was feeling a bit anxious and feeling disconnected that morning. Within minutes of talking to Slim that anxiety was gone, released back into the ether and he felt accepted and okay. 

This is an interview devoted to the concept of being okay here and in this moment. An interview highlighting a creative force who is working on disassociation with the title itself. A Rumi verselet seems fitting, “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” 

Glide caught up with Slim to talk about his community, his new record Strawberry Mansion (out 1/29), what inspires him, and something that can be difficult for most of us: trusting ourselves. 

I saw you play in Portland. We were going to see our friend Twain (Mat Davidson) open for you. 

Mat’s become one of my best friends. Any friend of Mat’s is a friend of mine.

It’s so cool to hear him singing and playing on the record. His voice warms my heart. 

I’ve met a lot of wildly talented artists but once in and awhile you meet someone who is so unique and on a whole other level. Anything Mat touches is incredible. Not to sound corny, but the way he plays is such an extension of his soul. His ability to tune into the sounds of his spirit is remarkable. 

And you have Malachi DeLorenzo on the record. He plays and collaborates with Izaak Opatz, who is one of my favorite songwriters and I happen to book Izaak’s tours. Such a small world. 

Malachi has stuck with me from the very beginning. Our friend Chris Taylor was helping produce my first EP and Chris brought Mal in to help engineer and produce my ass. I couldn’t keep time with any drummer and Malachi offered to play some drums, even though he didn’t really have any aspiration to be a drummer. His dad was the original drummer for the Violent Femmes, one of my favorite bands of all time. As a lot of kids do, I think Malachi wanted something different, though he is super close with his dad. Like Mat Davidson, Malachi also has that connection to the source. It was a beautiful marriage musically and he’s been the drummer in my band all these years. And Paul Defiglia came in and produced and played bass on Strawberry Mansion.

Photo by Harvey Robinson

Such a small world. 

It’s wild to have lived long enough where there are several lives in one. Having bandmates that I toured all over the world and started out with and then lost touch with a bit. I know Izaak Opatz though Johnny Fritz and Izaak became really tight with Malachi. As you know, now they make records together, which are incredible. The world is small and only gets smaller. This is why I try to remind myself that being a good boy is a good idea. (Tommy laughs) 

Tell me about the new record Strawberry Mansion:18 songs plus some bonus tracks. Holy cow. Where did they all come from? 

They were all written within a couple of months at the very beginning of the pandemic. I had just returned from being out west for almost a year and I was going through a really dark time. I started to dance with some darkness in my own life and got myself hooked on prescription medication. I quit drinking and drugs about seven years ago and at this time I wasn’t seeking any connection with a community that works on remaining sober. The shit hit the fan for me and being honest about it, it was a textbook relapse. Looking for my identity in exterior forces i.e. romantic relationships, how well a tour was going, I put a lot of expectations into things outside of myself. I think for most of us when we do that it doesn’t lead to good things.

For me, it can be crushing. I didn’t understand why I was in that mess that I was. I started to experience a lot of bad feelings. I reached a point where I felt crushed by everything and I couldn’t figure out why. I ended up going to bearded professional and I don’t think that I was very forthright about my addiction issues. He went down the list of medications and I picked the one that I had taken recreationally and enjoyed in the past. I’m not putting blame on this guy, it was my own shit. I do have my issues with the pharmaceutical industry but that’s another story. 

 I can relate to that. It’s fucked up. 

Yeah. I’m a grown man and I knew that it was my own control issues. My ego wanted to hold on to this idea that I had quit drinking. I wasn’t going to drink again but I could take these pills that the doctor gave me. It quickly became an issue. I would lie to the doctor and tell him I went on tour and forgot my prescription so I could get more pills. I was back to where I had been before, being a sneaky motherfucker. Sneaking, lying, addicted.

I was in Norway of all places on a solo tour with my dear friend Alan and I ran out of medication and got very ill. I wound up finding a doctor out there and they told me I really had to get off this shit. It’s poison. But… they told me I could have a seizure if I quit on my own so the doctor gave me enough of the drug to get me back to America. When I got home I tried to quit but it didn’t take. I wound up in California and at that point, it was completely out of control. I was in bad shape. I couldn’t finish a record I’d been trying to finish for a year. When I got home to Nashville I thought I would wean myself off these pills. I was feeling so low and didn’t trust myself, didn’t recognize myself.

Things were bleak. I had to get clean. I called my Mom – I am super close with my Mom – and a couple of dear friends, and asked them for help. I started to try sobriety in a way I hadn’t before. Then we got hit with a big tornado and two weeks later the pandemic hit us all. There was a forced slowing down and confronting somethings in my life that I had been too scared to confront. I hadn’t written a song in almost a year.  At that point, I felt like my soul cracked back open. T

here’s a Rumi quote I love, “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” I’m in awe that creativity doesn’t go away even if you feel blocked. Perhaps at a time when I needed it the most the songs started to fly around me. I tried not to think about much and just play and not over analyze the songs. There was no outside pressure whatsoever. Although there are always options on how to distract oneself – and I use those a lot – without being able to tour, there was a forced sitting and confronting of some things. I’m not good at sitting still and I’m not good at being alone – unless I want to be –  so It was part of the journey of working through some shit and in that process, there were songs in there. It was just so lovely to have new music to play. 

 Just letting them out. 

 Just letting them out. I felt supported and felt life coming back into me. It felt like being a kid again. Just playing songs. 

Man, I appreciate you opening up and sharing. My dad is 30 years sober and I know the importance of open and honest communication in sobriety and life in general. It makes sense to me. I relate to what you said about being alone, I am great at being alone as long as it’s on my terms. 

I like a lot of things as long as they’re on my terms and I never really learned how to deal when there not on my terms. I have to be able to acknowledge that and embrace it as truth. What do I want to do about that as a forty-year-old dude? It’s a constant journey. I’m trying to learn how to make life not about what’s coming next. I’ve done a lot of that in my life. Thinking… I’ll be the man I want to be when all these shows are sold out or when that person is my girlfriend, shit like that. 

Yeah, it’s tough. On one hand your hussle has helped lead you to success. But for it to rule the day, everyday, you blink, and life just flies by.

For sure. It flies. Regardless of whether or not we’re having fun or not it turns out. You’re right. It’s what I let rule me or what I place my own self worth in. I’ll always be passionate but I’ve confused being a fucking maniac with passion. At the end of the day, I could get obsessed with how this record does instead of enjoying talking to you on the phone, enjoying whatever comes next, seeing it all as a part of a creative process.

Is there a songwriting process that weaves through this record?  How did you write 22 songs in two months? 

Well… what became a process without me fully knowing what we were doing was: I would write a song and take it to my dear friend Mike. Mike and I would go into his studio, shoot a little video and post it. I think it was sort of cathartic for me. A sort of catch and release and then move on. On the way home another melody would appear. They were just rolling. I’m pretty superstitious. Johnny Fritz actually said to me one time, “Sean, you know what’s really bad luck? Being superstitious.”

I definitely get superstitious with writing. Anytime I was writing a song I immediately felt like this was probably the last one that would come. So I wrote the song, recorded it with Mike, and posted it. I didn’t want to think of it in a tangible way or that I was making a record. Eventually, after there were twenty-something songs I started to fantasize about making a record. I didn’t want to call my manager or record label and tell them because I figured it might cut off the creative source. I continued to write and then one afternoon they called me. The label encouraged me to record the songs either at home or in a studio and make a record. I sent Paul (DeFiglia) and Mat (Davidson) demos of the tunes. We played the songs a few times and then we got to work. 

You have the right people around you. 

I’m very lucky with the company I keep. The musicianship is unbelievable and so are they as friends and brothers. It’s another level. Super loyal and loving. Just the best. I couldn’t say enough good things about them.

Through your songwriting, you’ve done a lot of investigating into mental health, self-empowerment, real shit that everyone deals with. You’ve done it through your own experience. Is it a trip to know how many people use your music to help themselves with their own hard times? 

Sometimes people tell me how the songs affect them. I know that it helps me the more that I reveal and the more honest than I am. People have said to me that it’s very brave to sing about these things. I appreciate that but I don’t feel brave about it. Maybe it’s just how I dance with my own creativity. 

That’s beautiful. It really resonates with me. I have a lot of respect for what you’ve shared with me. Growing up with a dad in recovery I know the power of sharing with each other and being honest and vulnerable. 

What’s in your tapedeck? 

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Pogs. Oh! Definitely love to shout out Mississippi Records (Portland, Oregon). Your hometown record store. I’m on a  subscription deal with Mississippi where they send me records and they’ve been turning out to be some of my favorite records and songs that I’ve never heard before. I think Eric (Isaacson) is doing something for music that is unbelievable. He’s brought me so much inspiration and new music that I’ve never heard.

B & W photo by Joel Sadler

Color photos by Harvey Robinson

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