There comes a time in life-- often, it happens in your 20s-- when real life suddenly seems to kick in.
Relationships deepen, flounder, or break apart irreparably. Friends marry, have children, and sometimes divorce. Adolescent cares are left behind as expectations of how things will work out are met, and possibly even surpassed. Or maybe dreams of the future far exceed what reality is capable of delivering.
Whatever happens, life develops layers of complexity that can be unfolded and examined in a thousand ways.
That unfolding and the rich, emotional stories that arise from it are evident on the self-titled Outlook Records debut from singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Larson.
"I'm at an age now where all these things are starting to happen in the lives of people I know," he says. "More often than not I find myself writing about these circumstances in their lives, situations surrounding those relationships and how they've worked out. In the end, so much of it comes down to family."
Larson's deep, often philosophical narratives are anything but glorified journal entries, however. "I'm rarely writing about anything that directly has to do with my own life," he says. "I find it far more interesting to get inside the mind of someone else. I try to avoid those songs that say, 'This is how I feel,' because I'm changing all the time. Songs like that become hard to sing later on, because maybe I won't feel that way anymore, or even agree with the way I was thinking at the time. I try to write more open-ended songs so listeners can make them more personal for themselves."
Thanks to Larson's lush, inviting soundscapes, laid down in the studio entirely by himself (Tessa Huckaba and Jayme Benton), it's possible to find your own story intertwining with the urgent imprecations of "Swim," and to place your own meanings atop the sweeping orchestrations, cool melancholy and naked vulnerability of "The Thief," "Frozen Lake" and "Today," respectively.
Larson grew up in Lindsborg, Kansas, a small town in the center of the state. He later moved with his family to nearby Salina, and then to Springfield, Missouri, where he studied piano performance at Missouri State University. As it turned out, however, he found he much preferred the friendly confines of his own studio to the rigors of academia.
"I wasn't their ideal classical performance major," he says with a laugh. "My favorite part of being involved in music is all about writing and recording. That's always the part that I could spend hours and hours on without ever getting bored or tired of it."
Having secured a building in downtown Springfield to use as a studio, Larson regularly spent most of his time there, tinkering with tracks that would result in a self released EP and an album, "Cold," which he sold online and at live shows. He did the basic tracks for the album there, finishing them in Nashville with co-producers Paul Meany (of Mutemath) and in Chapel Hill, NC with Chris Stamey (of the dB's).
"Working with those guys was great," Larson says. "They really made the music come alive. Paul and I met through mutual friends and we've been dreaming of working on something together for a long time. And Chris is a genius. He's actually that good. And probably one of the nicest people I've ever met. For me, who had never really worked in the studio with anyone before, it was amazing."
Beyond the depth of Larson's songwriting and the intensity of his desire for making music, Larson showed some discipline in finding ways to play all of the instruments on the album himself. He had studied piano in grade school and college, and played upright bass in his high school orchestra. But by the time he recorded the album, he had added drums, guitar, cello, trumpet, mandolin and various keyboards to his repertoire.
"Music is probably the only part of my life where I'm able to be disciplined," he says. "Although that seems like too strong a word. Playing music is just what I do. I mean, I have friends that I hang out with and we go bowling and stuff, but I'm not working on other stuff on the side. This is my life."
For Larson, one of the most enjoyable aspects of creating music has been the reactions he's gotten from fans. "Since I put my stuff online, I get emails from people, and it's always amazing how they interpret my songs," he says. "They'll listen to it and make it relate to their own life and their own situation. It could be anything.
"People interpret it however they want, and that makes it personal for them. It's great."
Jeremy Larson: Guitar, Piano, Cello, Vocals