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After two years of relentless touring, Colter Wall wanted to make an album about home. Drawing on the stories of Saskatchewan, Canada, the young songwriter’s corner of the world takes shape throughout his second full-length album, Songs of the Plains. Produced by Dave Cobb in Nashville’s Studio A, the project combines striking original folk songs, well-chosen outside cuts, and a couple of traditional songs that reflect his roots growing up in the small city of Swift Current.
“One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years, in the United States and playing in Europe, is that people all over the world really don’t know much about Canada at all,” he says. “When you talk about Saskatchewan, people really have no idea. Part of it is because there are so few people there. It’s an empty place—it makes sense that people don’t know much about it. But that’s my home, so naturally I’m passionate about it. With this record, I really wanted people to look at our Western heritage and our culture.”
Indeed, Wall captures the spaciousness of the Canadian plains by relying on minimal production and his resonant baritone, which he’s strengthened into a mighty instrument in its own right. It’s a deep and knowing voice you wouldn’t expect of a man who’s not yet 24 years old.
As a folk singer, Wall places equal importance on crafting songs as well as carrying older songs into the present day. “To me, a folk singer is somebody who sings folk songs—and it’s also someone who is writing their own music, while taking something from traditional folk songs. It’s somebody who sings those songs and is aware of passing down the traditions, whether it’s from their own version of the song or taking those old tunes and reinventing them.”
Wall says he spent the last three or four years trying to get better as a singer. By putting in the work, his range is now far more dynamic and expressive. He describes the vocal development as “less gravel, without losing the baritone that I’ve developed over the years.”
“I went into the studio and knew exactly the story I wanted to tell,” Colter says of Songs of the Plains. “That made it easier on a sonic level and a musical level, to be able to tell Dave that it’s a record about my home. That changes it at the roots level because it’s like having a mission statement, saying, ‘All right, let’s make a Western album.’”