Capturing seasons of transition, Canyon City’s solemn ‘Circling the Sun’ EP is a soft, tender set of heartfelt acoustic songs full of space, reflection, and acceptance.
Stream: “Purple Horizon” – Canyon City
Where do you go when you don’t know where you’re going? What do you say when you don’t know what you’re knowing? What do you reap when you don’t know what you’re sowing?
Canyon City’s new EP opens with a series of questions so simple and innocent that you’d think they were pulled from a children’s lullaby. Listen long enough, however, and these once so unassuming wonderings come to assume a sort of framework for transition and change in our lives: A subtle entryway for understanding the emotional weight of chapters’ endings and the intensity of page turns. Capturing seasons of transition, Canyon City’s solemn Circling the Sun EP is a soft, tender set of heartfelt acoustic songs full of space, reflection, and acceptance.
Say, call out
Tear out a page, and we’ll make up a list
Like paper planes and cliffs
I brace for the fall now
Rush of the air as we’re losing control
So everyone’s scared, I know though
Has it ever been better than this
Moment I’m with you?
In the weather, it’s sheltering risk
It’s always a simple truth
You’re my measure by letter, my wish list
All I could write
You’re a new line
– “Wish List,” Canyon City
Released December 4, 2020 via Nettwerk Music Group, Canyon City’s five-track EP Circling the Sun is a somber wintry collection as well as a fitting soundtrack for our transition from 2020 into 2021. From those first few questions on “Purple Horizon” that so deftly set the stage for all that’s to come, Canyon City – AKA Fort Collins, Colorado-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Paul Johnson – takes his audience on a journey that is as personal to him as it is truly universal: His themes mean a little something different to each of us, but ultimately they affect everyone in the end.
Oh, this life is long
All the lines are gone
You’re on my mind and I’m on an island
Purple horizon soft
We’re lost to be found
“This EP marks a few milestones for me creatively and personally,” Johnson tells Atwood Magazine. “Creatively, I had the joy of working with Zachary David Kuykendall, who mixed and co-produced the record, though we were both working remotely and in some unconventional environments. Though we were able to tap some fantastic instrumentalists (also working remotely) for things like strings, we were largely trying to figure out how to get the sounds we wanted while being apart from our usual studios and setups. Zach improvised by doing things like banging furniture for percussion, and I converted a spare bedroom into my tracking space for vocals and guitars. Though restriction has its challenges, I think it pushed us to be creative in a way that, in hindsight, added some interesting and organic textures.”
Restricted though he may have been, the nature of Johnson’s recordings result in them being some of the most intimate of his career. Songs like “Wish List” and “Ferris Wheels” immerse the ears in hauntingly hushed textures, where the artist’s acoustic guitar shines alongside occasional accompaniment from cello and piano. Every finger-plucked vibration seems to ring out with profound strength, and it is above this weighted backdrop that Johnson’s voice radiates its welcoming warmth. On songs like “Like the Stars Shine” and closer “You Don’t Let Go,” Canyon City effectively uses layers of instrumentation to deliver an insulated aural world of wonder. Whether he’s dwelling in darkness or light, his music always relates a sense of comfort and genuine connection.
“Personally, this set of songs was written and recorded in seasons of transition,” Johnson says. “Half was written towards the end of my time living in Tennessee (I had called it home for the better part of a decade), and the other half was during my family’s move out west, much of which was spent quarantining in a cabin half way there as we hit pause when the pandemic started. There was a lot of reflection on where we had been, where we were going, and how to see the world with an expanding frame of view. In my view, Circling the Sun is about watching the familiar shoreline fade, wondering (sometimes fearfully) about the horizon ahead, and holding close the people along for the journey.”
December is a natural month of transition, heralding for many the true onset of winter’s cold weather while it also brings an end to the year. As such, it seems only fitting that Circling the Sun would arrive here and now, while we begin to think about the past 365 days – where we were and where we are now, who we were and who we are now. Canyon City’s opening track “Purple Horizon” sums up some of these feelings in its final verse:
Fast and slow we’re circling the sun, and
How do you know when you’re who you’ve been becoming?
Hold me close, imperfect, but in love I’m told
It’s enough, so I’m wondering
Can I come home? There’s one thing
I need to know, so I’m jumping…
Experience the fullness of this record via our below stream, and peek inside Canyon City’s Circling the Sun EP with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his latest release!
Circling the Sun is out now via Nettwerk Music Group.
Stream: ‘Circling the Sun’ – Canyon City
:: Inside Circling the Sun ::
“Purple Horizon” is a song full of questions with very few answers, but it’s circling a place of accepting the inevitable discomfort, but essential pursuit, of growth. The EP gets its title from the lyric, “fast and slow we’re circling the sun…”, and that’s so often how I feel in life, especially now. It’s that feeling that things are moving so fast and you struggle to keep up, but as you look at where you are in relationship to where you want to be, or who you want to be, it can feel like progress is painstakingly slow. In “Purple Horizon,” I take a step back and just let there be some space for all that and to look out at how it’s all swirling around, and how to put one foot in front of the other.
This is pretty openly a love song to my wife, but it approaches love from the perspective of expectations and how they get animated in the reality and infinity of a person. The idea is that we can approach relationships with a sort of “wish list”, or, in other words, an idea of who you’re looking for, but falling in love can mix it all up as it becomes less about the imagined person in your future and more about the person in front of you. The chorus tag “you’re a new line” is about how the wish list evolves with the relationship, becoming a description of that person.
Like the Stars Shine
The first verse in “Like the Stars Shine” starts in a place of disorientation and a kind of lostness, but the story progresses to a realization that, like in the wild and natural world, there’s an effortlessness that can sometimes be tapped into. It’s not to say that things don’t take work, but rather to remember that we’re made for this (community, balance, love). The chorus summary, “all I had to do was love you like the stars shine” is recognizing that sometimes you don’t have to effort so much and instead make space for your heart to find its “natural frequency”, so to speak.
“Ferris Wheels” comes from that aching feeling that peace is always just barely out of reach, and this hopeful yet simultaneously anguished resolve in “someday”. The image is of a Ferris wheel, always in motion but stuck in place. It’s an observation that, even though things change, even though we change, there’s still this stubborn emptiness that seems to stick around. The song is maybe pulling at the hinges of that feeling and hoping to shake it loose.
You Don’t Let This Go
“You Don’t Let This Go” starts as a couple lines that the speaker is sort of whispering under their breath, thinking about whether to profess feelings for a person. The second half of the verse is then directed at the listener as a sort of confidant, and finally in the chorus, the walls come down and the speaker is expressing how they feel directly to the person on their heart. It all comes to the conclusion that this is a relationship to fight for, that when you have something this special “you don’t let this go”. The rest of the song is leaning into that, celebrating overcoming hesitant self doubt in the second verse and coming to a place of resolve and assurance throughout the repeated refrain.
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📸 © Brooke Johnson
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