It was mid-December, and the wind had finally calmed down. The day before, hurricane-force gales made driving along the Front Range a dubious proposition at best, whipped up snow squalls in the mountains and sparked grass fires on the plains.
The planet at this point is telling us to get off, says singer-songwriter David Lawrence. “Shaking us off like a bad habit,” he continues.
Lawrence had been running a holiday-season music event at the Cherry Creek Holiday Market, and the wind had blown all of his decorative trees down the day before. He was thanking his lucky stars that the wind had ceased — a band was playing that night, and he needed calm.
The bad weather made him think of “The Seeds We Sow,” the debut single from his band David Lawrence and the Spoonful that will be released Wednesday, December 29. The song was born of the apocalyptic wildfires that have plagued Colorado so much recently. Lawrence remembers driving home to Longmont from a gig in Denver in the summer of 2020 and seeing fires burning from Boulder to Fort Collins, blotting out much of the sky with acrid smoke.
“There was this distinct line in the sky where there were blue skies and then there was this huge gray — just a smoke cloud of death that was rolling over,” he says. “The next day it was snowing and ashing at the same time, just this apocalyptic nature that mixed with the pandemic.”
The unpleasant sight made him think of all the trees perishing in the flames, but also about the uncertainty of his own future as a musician after all the work he’d put into it. Uncertainty, he says, and the fear and anxiety that spring from it, usually make good fodder for music and art.
“Maybe things are going to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes and be better for us,” he says. “Or maybe they're going to be worse, and we're really not in that much control of the outcomes that are happening.”
He adds that people try to be in control — even if it’s a futile endeavor — and can at least learn and grow from a bad hand. At the end of the day, all one can do is learn some form of acceptance.
“I think that’s the only real moral of the song: We can’t control what’s going to happen,” he says. “We can accept what’s going to happen to us, whether it’s good or bad. That’s the gist of what I was trying to capture.”
Lawrence, who is also a member of LAPOMPE, a band that plays hot jazz in the spirit of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, has taken a more roots-oriented direction with his new music. He says he's going for a sound in the neighborhood of bluesman Taj Mahal.
“I want to play music that has a feeling that you’ve heard before,” he says. “It feels nostalgic or vintage in a way and rooted in something, but at the same time fresh and not just trying to copy something.”
“The Seeds We Sow” is the band's first single for its debut album, and Lawrence says he’s tried to let go of pursuing a specific genre or sound. The tracks comprise keys, electric guitar, drums, trumpet, saxophone, violin — all in service of letting the music stretch out. The songs swing from folk to blues to rock, and sometimes take on orchestral arrangements. Lawrence notes that when adding numerous elements to songs, a fine line exists between making something good and fresh and making an ugly mess.
Whatever genre it might fall under, he says, the album is testing the bounds of his prior work.
“I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what ‘Seeds We Sow’ sounds like to me,” he says. “To me it’s kind of folksy. It has almost like a folk-pop kind of aesthetic to it. Then there’s songs on the album where I pull out my harmonica and it’s pretty much a blues song.”
Lawrence hopes to have an entire album completed before spring, when he and his wife are expecting their first child.
“I think my time might get a little more stretched at that point,” he jokes. “It’s pretty much solidified in my head that the album will be done by spring.”
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