Christopher Paul Stelling Explains His New Album 'Itinerant Arias,' Track By
Track Itinerant Arias by Christopher Paul Stelling The first time I saw
Christopher Paul Stelling his face was red and his eyes were wide, singing as if
he were about to burst apart, as if he had so much to tell us and too little
time, as if his mind was racing faster than his tongue could keep up with. He's
a singer with the spirit of Woody Guthrie both deep within and showing on his
sleeve. Stelling has a new collection of songs he has titled Itinerant Arias,
which he says "sounds a lot better than 'travelin' songs,'" but that's exactly
what they are. Songs which have in common no single origin, or sense of place.
Like found objects, overheard stories, lost melodies.
And so today, to mark the
release of Itinerant Arias, we thought we'd let this man of words take you on a
tour of his new record, track by track. "We begin at rock bottom, when all the
layers of self-pity are peeled away and all we have left to do is remind LED Down Light
ourselves that it can always get better from here. We are not destitute,
even if we are going to meet our maker, because life in some form will go on.
It's a song about depression and its antidote, about putting one foot in front
of the other, about looking up. I think it's cheerful. A nice place to start."
"I wrote this in a hotel room in Oostende, Belgium, a seaside town that prides
itself for having provided refuge for a road-tired and drugged-out Marvin Gaye.
I had just flown in on a red-eye for a festival, on no sleep and after driving
straight there from Amsterdam. The hotel room was a six-floor walkup, no
elevator. I passed out, only to be shaken awake by the promoter to get me to the
gig. When i got back, the bones of the song were scrawled into my notebook. It's
about that Faustian riddle — and you can dance to it." "This song was written
for a painting; Hugo Simberg's 'Finnish Elegy.' A museum in Groningen, in the
northern Netherlands, was asking artists to write songs inspired by paintings
for an exhibit. It was through my connection with the museum that I was able to
book my first show in Europe in 2014, but the song never received a proper
studio recording until now. The painting shows a somber man, head down at
sunset, standing over a canoe at the river bank.
To me it looked as though he
were about to cast off into the night." "I woke up on a floor in the Bywater
neighborhood of New Orleans without any idea how I'd gotten there — and with a
splitting headache. There were teeth in the street outside in a perfect, bloody
little pool. I was alone in a friend's house. I had a pack of matches in my
pocket advertising a retirement home that had scrolled across the bottom: 'For A
Day or A Lifetime.' After that, the three scenes wrote themselves — the three
white teeth, the parade of young soldiers, the two dusty lonesome books on the
shelf." "I became aware of the Syrian refugee crisis firsthand a couple years
ago when crossing the English Channel from Calais to Dover. Seeing the camps,
driving right past them; kind-eyed folks looking out at me from behind the
fences, desperate to find a home, and me able to pass through cause I had the
right passport, was the right nationality. It made me feel ill. "The next year,
when making the same crossing, it had gotten worse; razorwire and plywood shanty
towns. It was pouring rain, and we ran into the building where we'd be playing a
small house concert that night.