Breaking the Record with Roan Yellowthorn, Part 12: What Now?

Breaking The Record 2020
Breaking The Record 2020
Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
Stream: ‘Rediscovered’ – Roan Yellowthorn

With the lockdown still in place, things have been shifting. Initially, we planned to release my new album in July of this year and have been hustling to get everything ready for it – preproduction, recording with my dream producer John Agnello, mixing, mastering, and artwork.

Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1 here!

With everything that’s going on lately, the music industry is having to majorly regroup. Releases are being pushed back because touring is not currently possible and because, in this environment, promoting a new release is trickier. It’s a weird landscape. It’s a different situation for each artist and some are better poised to release music now – perhaps skewing towards those who are more established because their music may be something that people are looking forward to. And the name recognition is already there. Fiona Apple is a good example. But many well-established artists are also choosing to hold their releases for a time when things feel closer to normal. Each case is its own situation, with many factors involved. Everyone is doing their best to navigate the landscape as best they can. That’s something we all have in common.

Since I am an artist who is technically just beginning (even though I’ve been working at this for over 5 years) it’s not the right time for me to release my album. Firstly because promoting myself as a new artist would require a level of intensity that feels uncomfortable to me right now, and, secondly, because I need to be able to tour in order to support my album. Even if it’s ok for people to gather this summer, which is unlikely, it might take everyone some time to readjust to the idea of going out. My album could get lost in the milieu. I don’t want that to happen.

With PR in a weird place and touring not feasible, I’ve come to the difficult realization that my album is going to have to wait to come out.

back when touring was possible, performing at The Lyric Theater in Lexington, KY
back when touring was possible, performing at The Lyric Theater in Lexington, KY

In the scheme of things, it will be ok. I’m just going to have to wait. But waiting is hard. I waited for six months to record the songs I wrote for the album and, now that it’s recorded, I will be waiting an additional six months from the initial release date to release it. But that’s ok. Because it’s the right decision. The saddest thing for me would be to release an album I care so much about at the wrong time. There is a lot to be said for timing. Even if it’s hard, I think it will be worth it for me to wait for the right time to put this project into the world. I want it to be received.

While the waiting will be hard, I’m comforted in knowing that I have support. My label is working hard to make sure that, when the album is released, we will be ready. This means that we’ll be doing a lot of work in the intervening months leading up to the release. I may be in agony with waiting but I will, hopefully, not be without things to do.

I am not the only one in this position. Everyone is being affected by the pandemic, to varying degrees. In the grand scheme of things, this is ok. I have to move back the release of my album but that’s really no big deal. It’s frustrating but I’m not going to complain. This is ok.

In the immediate interim, I’ve been doing a lot of things. We were unable to do our first-ever official SXSW showcase this year because of the cancellation, so my partner Shawn and I recorded a video of our set from our living room, wearing the outfits that we were going to wear in Austin. It was kind of silly but it felt good to do. I imagined I was there. It felt like some kind of substitute. And it was fun to wear something other than pajamas!

Music-wise, we’ve also been live-streaming twice a week – doing music on Mondays and other kinds of segments on Thursdays. It’s a good way to stay in practice and feel connected to people.

quarantiny concert
quarantiny concert

The other thing that’s helping me to feel fulfilled is collaborating. I have a wonderful group at Blue Elan Records and we’re working together right now to do some special projects remotely, from home. I’ve also been writing some songs in stolen increments of time. That feels good.

For a long time I wanted a creative community. I have one around me now and that feels really good. I have friends sending me manuscripts and stories, musicians I can collaborate and commiserate with, people who understand and who are creating in these weird times. I feel that, now, art is more important than ever. It’s always been important but I’m realizing it more now. I am so thankful to have other artists in my life. It took a long time to feel like I had any sort of community. I spent many years yearning. And building. It takes time to build something. But, when the thing you’re building is important to you, it’s worth it to wait in order to do it right.

More next week and, until then, listen to music! An artist I’ve been enjoying lately is Chelsea Williams. She is my label mate at Blue Elan records and we toured together in the winter of last year. She is sweet and lovely and one of the most excellent artists I know. Her voice is pure, her lyrics ring true, her songs are exquisite, and the production of her music – mostly done in her home studio with her partner, multi-instrumentalist and harmonica player Ross Garren- is thoughtful and lush. I love this song ‘Wasted’ from her upcoming album, ‘Beautiful and Strange’.

And this banger of a song, ‘Red Flag’ which is also off of the same forthcoming album:


Learn more about Chelsea at her website here.

And catch me on Mondays and Thursdays live-streaming from home at 9pm EST on Facebook and Instagram live!


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