At a time when other people his age might be changing majors in college or getting ready to celebrate their first legal beer or cocktail, twenty-year-old Ben Pisano, who played music solo and in various groups throughout his teens, is showing his ability to grow and evolve as an artist.
On his latest record, Perennial, released under the name Corsicana, the Denver musician focused on making music that was both challenging and engaging for listeners and himself, opting for larger, fuller-sounding songs than he'd created previously on his debut full-length, Haven.
“I really wanted to move things in the direction of having a more organic, warmer kind of live-ish sound,” says Pisano. “But I still have this love for electronic music and production in whatever form it may take."
Looking back on his creative process, Pisano says making a record he is proud of wasn't exactly a cakewalk.
“The writing itself was challenging at points. I’m a pretty slow writer. It usually takes a couple months to crank out even an instrumental; lyrics can take even longer. Some of the songs on this record I started writing before the first record even came out," he says. "I think it was really difficult for me to look at my writing objectively. I had to, for the first time, tackle these fears of, like, I already have a full-length out; how do I make this one better – or at the very least, truer to myself?
“That froze me up at several points with several songs, where I was completely unsure when it came to making the right decisions about lyrics and chord progressions and thinking, 'Well, is it a copout if I use this same chord progression twice on the record?'" he recalls. "I decided no, not if it’s this intentional repeating chord progression going on throughout the record.”
Perennial marks a departure from Pisano’s DIY electronic singer-songwriter sound, as he uses the instrumentation a full-band would provide throughout — though it's still primarily just him laying down tracks in his home studio.
“A pretty big percentage of the record was played by me, and it was all written by me," he says. "But I definitely made a concerted effort to include more people in this one compared to the last one. The last one was 100 percent me, and I knew I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to collaborate more with this one and really craft this sound that was a lot more consistent."
Pisano's record is filled with variations on musical themes, repeated over the course of nine tracks, leaving the subject matter open to the listener's interpretation.
“The first record was this concept album very focused on me homing in on this relationship arc, and I knew with this one, I wanted to pull back from that and not necessarily focus on any singular relationship or romantic encounter," he says. "With the new record, I really wanted to touch on repeating patterns that I noticed just in the way people interacted and relate to one another or are unable to relate to one another. That was important for me in regard to the lyrics; I wanted to write about a feeling but also write about living in that feeling."
As Pisano has evolved musically, he’s developed a commitment to thematic consistency in each new project.
“I wanted to translate that consistency to the instrumentation, so I also recorded the majority of the record," he explains. "I wanted to have this consistent sound. That meant picking one guitar tone to use for the whole record, one bass tone to stick with, then diversifying the production, the gloss to it, as opposed to the core instrumentation. I got really deep into records that were very thematically consistent, like The Strokes, Glass Animals — even the first Coldplay record; The Antlers.... They have consistent repeating themes, and I really wanted to dig into that with this one.
“[Perennial] been sort of a lesson in patience, acceptance, and trust in myself and in those around me," he explains, noting that he's ready to begin a new project. "I think that is probably the reason why I’m so motivated to move forward and start on a new one now, potentially. I want to continue learning about that process and how that plays a role in my life and how it may help me grow as an artist.”
Corsicana, with the Milk Blossoms, These Bashful Claws and John Lensing, 8:30 p.m. Friday, January 18, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street.