Album Premiere: Corey Kilgannon’s ‘As Above, So Below’ Is an Intimate American Protest

As Above, So Below - Corey Kilgannon
Seattle singer/songwriter Corey Kilgannon’s new album ‘As Above, So Below’ is an intimate American protest record full of raw power, philosophical depth, and spiritual exploration.
Oh give me a home where we aren’t so alone
Where the black and the white children play
Where seldom is heard an offhand racial slur
And my Muslim sisters feel safe
Home of the estranged
Where the white and the black children play
Some peace is preferred let the county lines blur
And the preachers hold hands with the gays
– “Home of the Estranged,” Corey Kilgannon
Stream: ‘As Above, So Below’ – Corey Kilgannon

This album felt like a turning point from deconstructing what I don’t believe, to the beginning foundations of putting together what I DO believe.

Corey Kilgannon can’t help but dive into the depths of philosophy, emotion, and existential thought: It’s how he’s hardwired, and it’s embedded into the core of his music. The Seattle singer/songwriter’s new album As Above, So Below is an intimate American protest record full of raw power and spiritual exploration.

As Above, So Below - Corey Kilgannon

As Above, So Below – Corey Kilgannon

The past and the future are
swirling around in my head

If belief is emotion and trust
is a choice were all dead

I’m not sure how we’ll fight
world war three miss president

But the fourth will be with sticks
and stones if we’re not blown to bits
I can’t recall what the child
astrophysicist said

But I’ve read the books and
the papers and the internet

More human consciousness than
one man should try to collect

For progress and freedom too much
beautiful blood has been bled

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Corey Kilgannon’s sophomore album As Above, So Below, independently out August 23, 2019. A passionate folk journey through the heart of American love, struggle, and pain, Kilgannon’s follow-up to 2017’s emotionally heavy, acclaimed debut The Hollow II finds him (and ourselves) at the crossroads of American life in 2019: A time where so many of the nation’s endemic societal issues – from racism, to socioeconomic inequity, to gun violence – have been brought to light, yet it still feels as though little has been done to actually curb any of these problems. From depression and oppression to feminism, social justice, LGBTQ issues, racism, and beyond, As Above, So Below challenges listeners to face the brutal reality of modern life through rich lyrics full of vivid imagery and emotion.

The college will teach you to stay where you’re sitting
The bar’s gonna teach you how not to treat women
The church is the last place I’d go get forgiven
All the fun things in life are forbidden
Rich blonde girls drink lattes and take trips to countries
For photos with orphans to show everybody
You don’t need salvation if you’ve got enough money
So I’ll start saving my pennies honey
Now you know
You don’t have to think everything that you’re told
As above, so below
– “As Above, So Below,” Corey Kilgannon

The liquor’s no good for the ease of your mind
But the good stuff has been outlawed since ‘75
Let’s meet north of Atlanta sometime later tonight
C’mon baby let’s go get high
The mushrooms could help cure your brain of depression
One less corrupt doctor who lives in a mansion
Red blooded Jesus on the cross for expansion
Of blue collar, white man’s oppression
Now you know
You don’t have to think everything that you’re told
As above, so below
– “As Above, So Below,” Corey Kilgannon

Corey Kilgannon © Hunter Airheart

Corey Kilgannon © Hunter Airheart


Politically charged, utterly vulnerable, and unapologetically honest, Corey Kilgannon wields both his guitar and pen as valiant, moving extensions of himself. “This album felt like a turning point from deconstructing what I don’t believe, to the beginning foundations of putting together what I DO believe,” Kilgannon tells Atwood Magazine. “I’ve been striving for oneness and these are the songs of yearning that came from a lot of pondering and consciousness expanding.”

Among As Above, So Below‘s emotive tapestry are dynamic rewrites of American classics: Home on the Range (“Home of the Estranged”) and the Star Spangled Banner (“Anthem”): “I was enjoying rewriting these old American songs and giving them a modern twist,” Kilgannon explains. “The familiarity of the tune, and the tension of the context really bring the words to life. I know it’s a little risky to pick such a controversial topic as using the anthem as a means of protest, but I feel like that is because people are so attached to the original (and beautiful) words. By writing my own I hope it can create a space for people who also feel the tension of not being sure how to reconcile being thankful for an amazing country, but also appalled by all the things it took, and still takes, to bring about our freedoms. If we lay down our guns, loss of freedom for love? I mean that’s just it right? Are we willing to risk our own safety to make the world more loving and more safe.”

Atwood Magazine spoke to Corey Kilgannon about his growth, his musical journey, and the inspiration driving As Above, So Below. Stream the album exclusively now, and dive into this provocative artistry through our interview below!

I know it’s a little risky to pick such a controversial topic as using the anthem as a means of protest, but I feel like that is because people are so attached to the original (and beautiful) words.

Stream: ‘As Above, So Below’ – Corey Kilgannon


A CONVERSATION WITH COREY KILGANNON

Atwood Magazine: Hey Corey, thanks so much for honoring us with your album premiere! To dive right in, if As Above, So Below had a thesis statement, what would it be?

Corey Kilgannon: In a sense, “As Above, So Below” is a thesis statement. It’s one of those sort of ancient expressions that encompasses our entire dualistic nature, really breaking metaphysics, God, reality… .Whatever you call it, down into its essence. I’ve been striving for oneness and these are the songs of yearning that came from a lot of pondering and consciousness expanding.

It’s been nearly two years since your debut album The Hollow II released. Who were you at the time, and who have you become?

Kilgannon: Gosh, I hate to think of The Hollow II as my “debut album” because it feels like such an outlier in what I’ve released so far, and what I plan to make more of, but I suppose it is my first true album. When I made that record I was sort of at the bitter end of a deconstructive, and depressingly numb time of my life. Frankly, I was suicidal and that album was often what made me want to keep striving.

I still have a lot of work to do and anger to let go of, and this album felt like a turning point from deconstructing what I don’t believe, to the beginning foundations of putting together what I DO believe. That has to start with things like love and kindness and equality. I think I’ve become, and am striving to become, a more forgiving and compassionate person: Towards humanity, towards the craft of songwriting, and towards myself.

Could you have made the songs on As Above, So Below without the past two years’ life experience? What was it about the moments of life happening to you during that time that led to this album’s creation?

Kilgannon: Absolutely not, they are incredible experiential (Though I will say several of the tunes on the album are remakes of songs I wrote and recorded 3 years ago under the Pseudonym “Radiant Phaedrus” for a disastrously stoned album called “Don’t Hold God to a Promise He/She Can’t Keep”) Every single one of these songs/recordings sends floods of memories through my mind or hard moments alone, deep conversations with friends, and the different times where I was forced to face the really difficult parts of the human experience (grief, trauma, privilege, death, etc.) It’s been slowly occurring to me the beautiful complexity of the interconnectedness of everything, and its some of those profound moments of dots connecting that these songs are born from. You can’t rip the skin off the snake, and these songs/emotions took several years to unfold (and to be honest, I feel like it’s really only beginning).

Why do you open the record with “The Ballad of Radiant Phaedrus”?

Kilgannon: Well, like I said I sort of had this alter ego “Radiant Phaedrus,” affectionately called RP, that ended up growing into more of just a project I can have on the side to not “care” quite as much about. The first album I made in a rapid month of creativity (kick-started by an ego unraveling acid trip…yes with Edward…. and fueled by admittedly way too much marijuana) and I guess I’ve just felt for years like some of the songs are truly my best work but they kind of got lost in the unprofessionalism of the record. This album was about connecting into that perceived otherness within myself that I experienced as I learned to open my mind, to let other people into that process and by doing so also allow myself to come to terms with what I had to say and in a sense OWN it. I don’t really know if RP will keep going, the last project for it was Lazy Deuces which was basically a bunch of friends hanging out all summer and recording on to an old tape machine. The only rules with RP are to have fun, but it also addresses some of the serious ego attachments I’ve had with music and has been a crazy way to go deep into my own psyche. Truthfully it was the last song we recorded and I just didn’t really know where else to put it on the record, but it sort of feels like lyrically it kind of covers all the ground that the rest of the album does more in depth. Sort of like an overture/a coming to terms with the confusion of my past so the rest of the record can delve into more clarity.

The title track is incredibly dynamic; I love the emotion you put into it, as well as its diverse arrangement! What’s the significance of this track; how does it lay the groundwork for the record, and why is it the album title?

Kilgannon: Well I have to say the arrangement on this one (and a lot of the album) I owe to my longtime collaborator/arranger Alexandre Lunardelli (strings), and my good pal Patrick Taylor a.k.a. Lazuli Vane (seriously check out Snakes – it is NUTS).   Like I said in the first question, As Above, So Below kind of embodies the entirety of what I am saying on the record. The track is one for me that sort of came out of that random inspired place where I don’t even take credit for writing it. I sat down with the pencil and guitar, but that song has a life of its own and I’m just thankful I was able to tap into it. I wrote it in an RV outside of Atlanta one morning, and showed it to Patrick that afternoon on his porch before a show at Eddies attic. it’s a tune that has continued to evolve and grow (as Trump has done more things to make it relevant basically….) and the theme just really stuck with me for the last few years so I had to make it the title track.

You released “Home of the Estranged” and “Oasis” as two pre-release singles. What is the significance of these two songs; why were they your choices?

Kilgannon: “Home of The Estranged” was the first single honestly because it was the first song we finished for the album. It had such a beautiful recording process, with myself and four others: Landon Gay (aka Hallow Bones), Matthew Heckman, William Smith (producer), and his friend who stumbled into the session to pick up one of his guitars but was convinced to stay till 5 am recording, Nate Jasensky. We spent the night practicing and recording live takes of the song, but the real meat of the meaning came from the moments between takes where we were simply sharing our deep struggles and hung out. That was such an important part of the process, the liminal space where the issues I addressed in the songs got to come to life in conversation. I started this album off working with a label and we tried to do some singles for promotion. I picked Oasis as the second because it’s somewhat upbeat and thought it might work to that end. The whole endeavor of doing singles was really a drag for me, on a business / communication level the label and I never found a way to make things work and parted ways and yeah basically it’s felt like slowly peeling off a band-aid haha. I hope it has sparked people’s interest but I feel like I tend to put together albums conceptually and in the future I plan to just release them as a whole body of work. It’s been really humbling for the release process on the logistical side to be so messy, it’s forced me to strip away my expectations for the album, I think in a good way.


I remember how significant a role family and religion played on your last album; what would you say are the major themes or challenges you face on this album?

Kilgannon: I think religion/belief is still a big part of it. Thankfully I feel like a lot of the familial stresses have resolved peacefully in the last few years. I got engaged last September to most amazing human, and she has deeply opened my eyes to the plight of women in the modern world (and throughout human history for that matter). I feel like The Hollow II and a lot of what I have written has addressed suffering but only through the lens of my own personal grievances (which have been a lot and very heavy and I’m thankful for the release I’ve had in sharing them). With As Above, So Below, I feel like I reached a place where I can zoom out from my own problems and write a little more candidly about the world we live in, while also acknowledging my own participation in the craziness. So I guess the feminist edge to what I was already singing about really captures the theme, if we aren’t paying attention to the divine feminine and how often we miss the Yin energy in the world, we need to!

Not every artist necessarily needs to have challenges of significant topics on their records, but for some reason you end up having them. Why do you think that is? What is it about you as a musician/artist that leads you down these deeper paths?

Kilgannon: Honestly, I feel like I need to chill on that (haha). Most of what I’ve written in the last year is much lighter in content, and I’m really excited to move on from all this sorrow, but to the question of “Why do you think that is?” my honest and frustrated answer is that I don’t know. I’ve been deep in my head and in touch with a lot of sorrow for many years, and I think this album is definitely me trying to make sense of myself in that context. I grew up religious (as you mentioned), so I was definitely trained to think deeply about these huge metaphysical concepts, whether my church leaders would describe it that way or not. I’m often praised for my honesty and depth, but in real life I don’t feel like I’m living in these deep trenches constantly. Life is full of joy and silliness sometimes, I just don’t really know how to write songs about that stuff (yet).

I love how “Anthem” co-opts a tune we all know so well. What inspired you to make a song like this?

Kilgannon: I don’t exactly remember writing this one, it’s such a short song in the grand scheme of things lyrically, and I was enjoying rewriting these old American songs and giving them a modern twist. The familiarity of the tune, and the tension of the context really bring the words to life. I know it’s a little risky to pick such a controversial topic as using the anthem as a means of protest, but I feel like that is because people are so attached to the original (and beautiful) words. By writing my own I hope it can create a space for people who also feel the tension of not being sure how to reconcile being thankful for an amazing country, but also appalled by all the things it took, and still takes, to bring about our freedoms. If we lay down our guns, loss of freedom for love? I mean that’s just it right? Are we willing to risk our own safety to make the world more loving and more safe.

Take all of your masts
For the world as we know
Is as dark as the night
Of the black-hearted bleeding
You can cut them in half
For no flag should be flown
At the loftiest height
While so many are weeping
If we laid down our guns
Loss of freedom for love
Could a garden still grow
In the singe-cornered sun
Oh say did the newscaster
Finally pray
For a land truly free
Or some truth to convey
– “Anthem,” Corey Kilgannon

“Progress of Man” is an incredibly dark, real song. What inspired this number?

Kilgannon: I actually wrote it after taking a Lyft ride in Dallas, Texas. I was going through a nice neighborhood, and the driver, an African American man, was telling me stories of growing up in the neighborhood and how it had changed. He really did work in a factory shaping plastic cups, and told stories of losing his brothers and all the pain he endured in the time. I’m sort of butchering the retelling, and the interaction was brief, but it stuck with me and evolved into the progress of man. I was also dwelling a lot on technology in general, and the great irony of all the things we’ve made to prolong/improve life on earth that are destroying earth. I think if we focused more on WHY we are alive instead of being driven by our fear of death to create without reason, we might find a better balance.

What are your personal favorite moments on this album?

Kilgannon: I LOVE the back-up vocals on Easter Sunday. That was just such a fun joyous time in the studio where someone had the idea, and we had the exact right group to just sing together for hours getting the parts right. I also love the hidden track after fishing feminist, it is COMPLETELY silly but we spent like 4 hours doing takes of it. The whole album there would be sessions where there would be like 12 people in the studio, several of which don’t know each other and we’d just make it a weird night. It was really so much fun. On the heavy side, Ashamed is such a meaningful song to me and getting to sing it with my fiancé and watch her open up about some of her deep pain was so beautiful.

Similarly, if everyone could listen to just one song off As Above, So Below, what’s the one track you’d have them listen to and why?

Kilgannon: Wow, I guess I’d have to pick “Ashamed” thought that really is a tough question. It’s a big time bummer, but ultimately this record isn’t that entertaining, it’s carrying a message of protest and the issue I feel most strongly about is feminism and rape culture in our world. We have created such an unsafe planet for women, and I think we really need to start having more skillful conversations about sexual assault, why and how it is happening, and figuring out things to do to make it happen less. I certainly don’t think my song is the answer to all that, but I hope people will hear it and begin to ponder if there is ANYTHING they can do to fight against this.

I love the juxtaposition between your built up tunes and moments like “The South. Will Soon Rise”. Why is that song so sparse, and how do you approach instrumentation?

Kilgannon: It’s sparse because it was literally just a between-take recording of another old RP song that I thought we might revisit and add more to. It’s one of my favorites on the record, and William the producer basically talked me into including this recording because it moved him so much. We basically just never got around to adding anything else to it, and decided that it could carry on its own. I can’t listen to and enjoy recordings like that, I hear every imperfection in the playing and singing but I know those moments are my favorites on other people’s albums so I’m trying to let that go.


How, if at all, do you hope your album affects listeners?

Kilgannon: I’m doing my damndest to let go of my expectations of what it will do, but the baseline hope is that listening to it would inspire someone to choose a more open mind. I also hope it makes people feel mellow, and like they are in the early 70s at some hippie event that is going really well and peacefully and everyone is high and reconciling their problems and hugging and stuff.

What’s coming up for you? Are you excited for your tour?

Kilgannon: Yeah, I’m going on an admittedly thrown together tour to sing these songs and I’m excited but also really unsure of how it is going to go. There’s a lot of healing I need to do, and I really want to move away from doing “shows” of these songs, and move towards letting the songs work and open up conversations the way they have amongst family and friends. We want to create some safe and gentle environments to be a part of the conversation about the issues our world is up against, and we want everyone who comes to feel just a little less alone. It’s all one song, but there are a lot of different versions and I’m already working on another album or two. What a beautiful life to get to make and share music with the world. Thanks for the questions; it’s 1 AM – I hope it was all moderately coherent. Much love, CK


— —

:: stream/purchase As Above, So Below here ::
Stream: ‘As Above, So Below’ – Corey Kilgannon

 

— — — —

Connect to Corey Kilgannon on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
📸 © Hunter Airheart

Diving into The Depth & Humanity of Corey Kilgannon’s ‘The Hollow II’

:: ALBUM REVIEW ::

:: Corey Kilgannon ::




Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com