Levi Lowrey released his third album, and first independent release, My Crazy Head, on May 12th. The album contains ten extremely personal, detailed and honest songs that find Lowrey in a good place; one filled with family, dreams and a happiness with being able to do what he loves. Lowrey graciously took the time to speak about the album, the importance of family and more.
For a few months over the past year, you went back and were framing houses.
I needed to get away from music for a while. I went back to framing, which is something that I did before I did music full time, and worked with my old crew again. I did it for several months basically taking a break, and clearing my head.
You returned to music and released what could be described as your best album yet. With it, you did something very unique, you partnered with the fans to promote and distribute the album. What inspired you to take that route?
I had a long drive from the job site back home every day and I would watch Shark Tank on the way home. Rather, I would listen to it as I was driving. It got me thinking about offering profit sharing to fans and having a global distribution of the music through the fan base as opposed to a company. Instead of everybody in a company getting a piece of the pie, I thought about giving it to the people who will actually promote the music. The fans do that, so why not give them what they deserve.
How has the process been working so far?
The process has been incredible. The fans are making money for the first time in history. We have well over 200 partners and their support keeps me on road. Since the beginning, we’ve always tried to keep music a community and cultivate that family feeling in our fan base. To me, music belongs to the community and the community belongs in it. I played bluegrass growing up and you didn’t go to a jam session to hear how awesome you were; you went to catch up, talk about life and then play and listen to others play. I believe in that wholeheartedly, and believe that music needs to be experienced that way as much as possible.
That’s something that you have successfully cultivated, as you have a growing and very devoted fan base.
Circling back to the record, what sort of things did you do differently on it, if anything?
I did this one all on my own. I basically locked myself in the basement for a couple months, played all of the instruments, mixed and engineered it. It was very freeing; extremely freeing to do it that way and have that responsibility. When you are in the studio you are typically working on someone else’s dollar and you have a time frame, which doesn’t lend itself to creativity. You usually have to go in with a general idea of what everything is going to sound like, but with this record I got to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck.
I am hard on myself and somewhat of a perfectionist, but I didn’t allow that to take over. I have always felt, and still do, that every time you re-do a song, you lose a little something. I don’t punch in two notes here and there to make it sound better, I just use the best of whole takes, which is something I believe in. Someone once said something to the effect that “it’s our faults that make up our style, our distance from perfection that make us what we are.” I believe that. I guess I’m a pure as I can be in a digital world.
The album was released to Americana radio. How has the response been to the music?
It’s been great. We are getting spins right now both here and in Europe as well. And it’s all due to my wife. She has become my radio team, and at this point we are performing better than the last record when we had a label and a radio team behind us.
We didn’t push any particular song or make any suggestions, we told them to just play whatever they wanted. The DJs there [at Americana radio] have free reign, it's like the way radio used to be. DJs had a personality and it would come across in their playlists. Nothing against country DJs because their hands are tied. When you have two companies that control everything, they’re looking out for their investors and advertisers. That’s the nature of beast. but Americana radio, as of right now, doesn’t have to deal with all of that, and that’s a very beautiful thing. It’s the truest form of radio that we have left and the fact that we are getting spins is just awesome.
Why did you choose My Crazy Head as the title of the record?
Well, it isn’t as deep as you might think (laughing). The reason I went with that title was because it enabled me to do whatever I wanted to do musically. I felt like I could go in any direction genre wise that I wanted. It’s like what Zac did with Jekyll and Hide; that title gave him creative license to do whatever he wanted to do. I was thinking along same lines, but didn’t go as extreme as he did. I did get back to sounds I like a little bit more as opposed to a pure country sound.
A lot of the sounds I heard when I wrote the material for the previous records wasn’t what came across on the actual record because it was a team of people making those records, but this time, I did whatever I wanted. Like the violin in “Old Family Tree,” I love the way it sounds almost like a harmonica. I think melody should help a story just as much as the lyrics do and that melody is just so haunting. I like experimenting, trying different things in the studio and working with that empty canvas--no pun intended.
All of the tracks were written or co-written by you and there truly is a personal, intimate feel to the songs, especially “Empty Canvas” & “Dreamer’s Pedigree.”
They are personal songs for sure. I wrote “Dreamer’s Pedigree” with Wyatt [Durrette] and that song captures both of us really well. We were on the road together and had a lot of fun. We drank way too much whiskey, made bad decisions and stayed up too late. The song is about having that urge for leaving, but it’s told from the point of view where maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We thought maybe we’ve been looking at it wrong this entire time; maybe we need to redefine it. So, rather than being seen as negative, we looked at it as an urge to see new things, and chase new dreams.
It definitely changes the perspective to a more positive one. The entire album to me, as opposed to your previous, seems to have an overall optimistic tone. Do you think that’s a correct assessment?
Yeah it is. Compared to the previous album, it is a lot more optimistic, a lot more positive. I write from true experiences directly from my life, well except for “Maritime Son;” I was never a whaler in 1800's New England, but the sentiment of chasing riches and losing sight of what’s important is still there. The previous records were from dark times and horrible situations and with this one, things are looking up. I could have come back extremely jaded on this record, complaining about the music industry and everyone involved in it, but I chose to focus on what I can do to better myself. I can’t be bitter or be “that guy.” I can’t carry that torch, that’s just not me and I think that swinging a hammer really put that in perspective. I’m not going to be the guy with an album full of excuses of why he’s never made it. I want to be the guy that comes out with just, this is how I feel right now. I’m pretty happy I can play music and do it for a living. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
Those sentiments definitely come through on the record. There’s also a real sense of family on My Crazy Head.
Family is very, very important to me; they’re my world. I was at home when I wrote and recorded this record. Both my wife and the boys sing on the last track on the record, “Young and Free.” They all come out on tour with me and the boys help sell merch and haul equipment.
My wife is the hardest working person I know. We wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for her, literally. She is the force behind it all. There would be nothing to talk about if it wasn’t for her. She always says Sharon Osborne is one of her heroes, but I tell her Ozzy was pretty established when they got together, and she [his wife, Stephanie] is making me out of nothing. She definitely has her beat.
What are your professional plans for the summer? Will you be touring?
Oh yeah. We are heading to New Hampshire, then will play our way to the Midwest and on the fall we are working on doing a run down the Intracoastal Waterway. We drive everywhere [to all of his shows] and recently drove across country to California. It was something I have always wanted to do and it was really an amazing time. The long drives can wear on you, especially with kids who can get bored really easily, but we took them to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree. We also stopped in Oklahoma and looked for the Sasquatch. It was really fun.
It sounds like fun! So as you take those long drives, what types of music do you listen to?
I am always listening to music, but it changes all the time. This last trip I guess I was feeling nostalgic; I was listening to a lot of Blink-182 and Bleu, who is a monster singer of power pop and arena rock. I went a little bit off of the beaten path this time around, but if it was a desert island type of thing it would be Darrell Scott, Mac McAnally and Kris Kristofferson.
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