The Wide Awake Tour
Jon McLaughlin, Brynn Elliot
Mon, March 28, 2016
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm
$21.00 - $23.00
This event is all ages
"Special Offer!" A digital download of Parachute’s forthcoming album Wide Awake (available March 11) is included with every ticket you order for this show. You will receive an email with instructions on how to receive your download following your purchase. Please note this does not apply to tickets purchased in person at our box office; online orders only. We're not sure why! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯https://www.utphilly.com/event/1009753/
With a sound that’s impassioned but sunny, fresh but timelessly organic, Wide Awake centers on songs both gracefully arranged and brimming with the boundless energy of Parachute’s live show. Newly pared down from a five-piece to a trio, the Charlottesville, Virginia-bred band forged that sound in part by shaking off all creative inhibitions. “We felt like we had no limitations to chase this sound that the three of us have wanted to build for so long,” says Anderson. “It was as if we were woken up from some sort of slumber, revitalized and rejuvenated with this new awareness of who we are as a band.” Reuniting with John Fields (the producer behind 2011’s The Way It Was and their 2009 debut Losing Sleep), Parachute were also guided by the purest of instincts in the studio. “We knew a song was working when we were all dancing and having a blast with it,” says Anderson. “And if something didn’t feel good, we just let it go.”
Though that commitment to intuition is beyond palpable on Wide Awake, the album was also born from two and a half years of dedicated writing and exploration. “I don’t know if I’ve ever written more for an album, or worked so much on any specific song.” says Anderson, who came up with nearly 100 songs during that time. “It was just very important to me that we got each song exactly to where it needed to be.”
With every track on Wide Awake, Parachute matches their sublime melodies with a refined sense of songcraft. Showing a complex sensitivity shaped in part by lifelong love of artists like Paul Simon and Billy Joel, Anderson also infuses the album with both carefree warmth and emotional depth. The album’s epic opener “Without You,” for instance, captures what Anderson calls “the feeling of meeting someone and knowing that it’s going to happen,” and harnesses that lovestruck feeling with the help of gorgeous gospel harmonies and soulful horns. The gently devastating “Jennie” wraps its cascading rhythms and wistful vocals around a story of broken opportunity and love lost. “Sometimes you catch a glimpse of they way things could be but end up taking a detour,” Anderson says, “only to realize you’ve lost your chance and can’t ever get it back.”
Shifting from joy to heartache and back again Wide Awake, offers everything from the stomping, fired-up swagger of “Crave” to the sorrowful piano ballad “What Breaks My Heart” to the hushed acoustic reverie of “When You Move.” And in certain moments Parachute brilliantly embodies both bright and dark, such as on the swinging and summery anthem “Lonely with Me” (as in: “Baby if you’re gonna be lonely/Be lonely with me”) and on the moody but pop-infused “Love Me Anyway,” an ode to “knowing you’re inevitably going to mess up, but having somebody who’s willing to forgive you and move on,” according to Anderson.
In bringing Wide Awake to life, Parachute made a point of “dialing back our thought process and just doing whatever we could to best serve the songs,” as Anderson explains. To fulfill that ambition, the trio returned to the same sense of wonder they felt upon launching their first musical project back in 2002. Starting out while they were still in high school, the band quickly began landing gigs locally and soon gained a following at the nearby University of Virginia. As their inaugural release under the name Parachute, Losing Sleep debuted at #2 on the Billboard Digital Albums Chart and climbed to #40 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Over the next few years, along with releasing The Way It Was and Overnight (which shot to the #3 spot on iTunes), Parachute toured with such artists as Kelly Clarkson and Gavin DeGraw, in addition to three sold out headlining tours. “One of the biggest highlights over the years is definitely playing all these venues that we dreamed about growing up,” says Anderson. “Anytime we play a show like that, it’s just mind-blowing for us.”
While Parachute’s indelibly melodic sound packs more than enough power to electrify an arena- filled crowd, each song on Wide Awake comes from much more intimate origins. “Most of my writing process for this album was very solitary.” says Anderson. “I’ve written with other people in the past, but it was fun to go back to the way I used to write when I was a teenager.” And when combined with Parachute’s renewed passion as a band, that approach ultimately allowed for an honesty and heartfeltness that makes Wide Awake their most thrilling authentic album yet.
But the affable McLaughlin was never quite comfortable with the artistic compromises he made along the way. Largely inspired by an extraordinarily close relationship with his fans, he left Island to create an album like he had never done before; one that was filled with lyrics that were a part of him. Careful to note that he genuinely loved working with other songwriters and found great meaning in their collaborative work, McLaughlin nonetheless couldn't shake his need to be completely responsible for the songs he delivered to his extremely loyal fans. An ardent social media aficionado, his interaction with his audience influenced him to release this album on his own for the first time.
"A lot of songs over the past few years, there's nothing wrong with them," Jon explains, "but there was no weight or significance with me. I felt like I was in a way not being completely fair." "It feels really good to have a record that I'm working on that I can really deliver wholeheartedly knowing that the fans are getting a piece of me," he continues. "There isn't a note on the record that I didn't spend hours scrutinizing over, or at the very least sitting with and playing over and over again. I feel like it's a real connection to me."
Once Jon began writing the new songs that would ultimately fill Forever if Ever, the rest fell into place just as quickly as his career took off. He began producing for the first time, drawing from hours spent with brilliant producers he'd worked with throughout the years. He experimented with equipment, including some a former tour manager had sagely told him to explore. He wrote exactly what he wanted to, spending weeks upon weeks making sure every lyric, every note was just where he needed it to be. And perhaps most importantly, he recorded with the musicians he'd been touring with not only his entire career, but his entire musical life.
Convinced to use studio musicians by his former record label, McLaughlin was finally able to make an album with his longtime bandmates. And it resulting sound plays just like that – warm, familiar, comfortable and seamless. They finish each others' musical sentences. "It's the first time that I've listened to something at the end of each day in the studio and I loved it," Jon says excitedly, "every single day, from beginning to end."
But McLaughlin's liberating euphoria surprisingly isn't the theme for Forever if Ever. Ironically, the album is filled with powerful, agonizing, gut-wrenching songs about love and loss thereof. "I guess I would call myself a bit of a romantic," he starts, "but at the same time I've always loved those painful break-up songs. There's something about the agony of love at any level that I am obsessed with, whether it's that overwhelming love or heartbreaking break up end-of-love. There's nothing more universal than that."
The galvanizing pain of lost love is particularly poignant on "These Crazy Times," written after the cataclysmic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Jon's lyrics are graceful and angry, despondent and incredulous as he struggles to find meaning in the death of his cousin Adam who was on the oilrig when it exploded. "It turned into this kind of a song about the state of the economy, the country right now," he says quietly, "and I'm not Neil Young. I don't typically write songs like that a lot. But it came out of a real place." "I think I haven't written like that before because if it's not genuine it sounds pretentious and fake," evoking those earnest, Midwestern ideals again. "But it became the most therapeutic, thing I've ever done," he reflects solemnly. "I needed to write about it or I would have been a different person if I hadn't."
"If Only I" bears a different take on loss, cleverly written from the perspective of a person deeply, madly in love with someone they've never worked up the courage to talk to. Mirroring Jon's chutzpah behind Forever if Ever, "I feel like that song was the song where I said, 'I'm really just going to do everything that I would want to do in a song.'" And armed with his newly earned creative freedom, McLaughlin did just that.
He returns to a more traditional view of heartbreak with the wistful "Summer is Over," written for a friend in the throes of a crushing break-up, but lest fans begin to think he is about to drown in the depths of love's despair, McLaughlin throws in "Without You Now." "The word 'pop' is a polarizing word sometimes, especially for songwriters who want their lyrics to be felt as much as heard," he admits, "but when it comes down to it, everybody just likes a good pop song. And that song is this song on the record." "Windows down, driving in the country on a great summer day…that kind of song…and of course, there's some agonizing heartbreaking in there," he adds with a smile.
"Making Forever if Ever reminded me that music is a personal thing," McLaughlin reveals. "It's not a corporate business. It's just music. On my previous albums, I was tied up in a lot of red tape and meetings and actually heard myself say 'fourth quarter budgets' at one point." "And now I get to be a musician again!"
From a young age, she was captivated by art and music; taking part in local musicals for children and playing the young Cosette of Les Miserables in the private stage of her bedroom. In late 2010, to get away from the stress of high school, Brynn decided to pick up her dad's old guitar. With the aid of YouTube, she learned how to play the guitar and eventually taught herself to play piano. Although at the time she loved to write stories and essays, she never considered writing music.
It wasn't until 2012, after the death of a loved one, that Brynn found her voice and rhythm as a songwriter. In the midst of sorrow, she found she needed a catalyst for understanding, a way to honor and mourn her dear friend. She locked herself in her bathroom and began to pick away at her guitar. Oddly, it was not a sad melody she composed but a joyful one, and her compulsion for songwriting was born. Throughout the rest of that year, Brynn continued to sneak into the bathroom, where no one could hear her, and write music.
During the following summer, Brynn played a cover of Brooke Fraser's song "Flags" for Harvard Summer School's student talent show. It was then, when she saw the receptive response to her gift from several hundred of her peers, that she realized that writing and playing music was central to her calling.
After Brynn recorded a few of her songs in Atlanta, a family friend sent them to Clif Magness, a music producer who has worked with Quincy Jones, Wilson Philips, Avril Lavigne, and Kelly Clarkson. Two weeks before heading off to college, Brynn was invited by Magness to spend a year in Portland, Oregon writing and recording with him. She decided to postpone her education to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thus, the EP and soon to be released album "Notions of Love" started to take shape.
In the fall of 2014, Brynn will attend Harvard College as a member of the class of 2018 and will be concentrating in Philosophy and Literature.
When asked how she will continue her music career while attending college she replies, "For me, school and my music are inseparable. They are the two sides of the same coin. The majority of the songs on "Notions of Love" were written in the throes of an intense high school career. The academic environment pushes me to think about my art. What do I want to say to the world I am studying? That question is what drives me to write. And it's why I feel the combination of arts and academics is powerful and beautiful."
Brynn believes art should no longer be viewed as a side dish of western culture, but as an entrée, the way medicine, technology, law, and business are.
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