Singer/songwriter Evan Veasey opens up about his intimate debut album ‘Don’t Cry,’ a tender folk record full of vulnerable reflection and reckoning.
Stream: “Annie Dillard” – Evan Veasey
Through its name alone, Evan Veasey’s debut album hits hard before the music’s even started. The title Don’t Cry is an undeniable trigger in its own right: A loaded phrase, sometimes a command and sometimes a mantra, packed with personal meaning as well as internalized gender norms and expectations. It’s the tip of an iceberg that runs not only through all of us, but also throughout Veasey’s songwriting: A tender folk record full of vulnerable reflection and reckoning, Don’t Cry is the gentle, heartfelt soundtrack to an intimate journey of personal growth, self-discovery, and acceptance.
you are a riverbed
I am a stream
we are the kind of people time falls into
I read Annie Dillard
you watch QVC
we are the kind of people that lay around ’till noon
did you know
that you’re the only
person like you
that I’ve ever known?
the way that love
cuts a path hewn by
the choices we chose
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Don’t Cry, independently out May 6, 2022. Evan Veasey’s first full-length album is a softly stirring reintroduction to the Michigan-bred, Asheville-based singer/songwriter, who is otherwise best known as the guitarist in emo/indie rock band, Fallow Land (we premiered their song “Faux” in 2017). Stripped down to the bare roots (sonically and metaphorically), Veasey’s solo music beams with a sweet, folksy Americana sound, with hints of jazz and indie rock influence peeking through the blinds (with tongue in cheek, he refers to his music as “pseudo-laurel canyon”). It’s minimalist, moving, and utterly engulfing: A kind of blanket for the ears and nourishment for the soul.
For Veasey, who for so long performed alongside other singers and songwriters, his album, in all its folksy resplendence, represents a massive step up and out into the light.
“I’ve been writing songs for a while, but for most of my time playing music professionally I’ve been collaborating and supporting other artists. I always identified as the guitar player in someone’s band,” Veasey tells Atwood Magazine. “When the pandemic started in March 2020, all of my performing came to a complete standstill. With the newfound time on my hands, I started focusing more intentionally on my own writing and personal creative work. This also coincided with my first serious foray into going to therapy. The songs kind of became a way for me to explore some of my hang ups while also exploring the songwriting craft. I didn’t initially set out to write a record, but as I continued to finish more and more songs it became clear to me that there was a through line connecting them. Once I had a solid batch of songs, I contacted my friend and frequent collaborator Whit Fineberg (also of Fallow Land) about maybe producing something with me, and we went from there!”
Veasey’s record is the product of considerable introspective soul-searching, and it shows. in his music as well as his writing, which tackles everything from nature and philosophy to depression, community, longing, fear, change, and more. Whatever the topic, Veasey has a voice and much to say.
“Going into the process of recording Don’t Cry, I wanted the songs to feel really intimate,” he says. “For me, this meant rough edges, so no autotune, live tracking, and as analog as possible. I wanted the record to feel warm and raw, like you could be sitting in the same room as the performer when you’re listening. As we got into the process it became apparent that, for certain songs, to convey the feeling they needed to convey we needed to go further with the production, so we ended up tracking rhythm tracks (drums and bass) live while tracking guitars, vocals, keys, and textures separately. I think that in general this struck a nice middle ground between the kind of record I was envisioning at the start of recording and the way that Whit (my producer) generally likes to work. Even though in some ways it isn’t the record I thought I would make going into the process, I am really happy with the result.”
“I feel like this record is full of different thoughts and feelings that sometimes contradict,” he adds. “I guess if I could sum up the “message” of this record in three words it would be “let yourself feel”. That’s really what this whole thing has been about for me personally.”
“I think that Don’t Cry showcases a lot of the qualities I value most musically. I am by nature not a super virtuosic performer. I’m not someone who’s a super trained singer, and while I am a really “schooled” guitar player, I have never been someone who really liked choppy technical playing. What I really value is specificity. I like the way that interlocking parts can play into or against each other, or the way that songs can play with a listener’s expectations. I think musically one of my strengths is my ability to craft harmonies and melodies that don’t go where a listener would expect. When I’m writing it’s all about surprising myself, getting into a difficult situation musically and finding a way out. I also think that these songs show a level of thoughtfulness that I value in music. There is a way that every decision carries weight when you write, because of this I take every decision seriously. I try not to put anything into a song that doesn’t serve a purpose either in terms of arrangement or emotion. I hope that this sort of thoughtfulness is conveyed in these songs.”
“On a more emotional level, vulnerability is really important to me as an artist and is often what I look for most in other people’s work. I think the songs on Don’t Cry are really honest and don’t lyrically obscure their meaning. I wanted these songs to tap directly into this really private place in myself and share that space without any decoration or obstruction. I believe that in order to truly connect with others you need to connect with yourself and these songs are my way of doing that and sharing it with the people around me. I think this record gives people a really honest glimpse into my internal world.”
As we previously, the album’s title is its own wellspring of potent emotional depth; the phrase Don’t Cry is lifted from the song “Seven Years of Bad Luck,” where Veasey sings, “Only now, I see all the ways I hide the person I deny, saying keep it together, men don’t cry.” This becomes something of a motif on the album, as later on in the gently lilting “I Taught Myself,” he sings, “I taught myself to cry today. It truly was a miraculous display. The tears cut creases in my face, my fears were all declawed, deveined, the firemen put out the flames in the corner of my mind.”
“In my experience as a man, “Don’t Cry” is something that is told to you at a young age and reinforced by the world around you,” the singer/songwriter reflects. “I think to a degree, this is a message many humans internalize, regardless of gender. It’s seen as a weakness to show your feelings and people (boys in particular) are chastised for it. I can remember when I started noticing the way people treated me and looked at me differently when I would cry or express my feelings and how I taught myself to hide them, turn them off, shut myself down, and convince people I was someone I’m not. While this helped me survive when I was growing up in environments where there wasn’t a lot of space for me to express my emotions, it ended up doing a lot of damage too. I started to think that the person I presented to other people to keep myself safe was actually who I was. This record is really a dismantling of that mask and a reclamation and acceptance of my sadness and fear as valid parts of me. So while the record is called “Don’t Cry,” it is really a critique of that idea. Everyone, no matter who they are, has the right to feel anything they find inside themselves and I hope that we can all live in a world soon where “Don’t Cry” isn’t something that anyone’s told or tells themselves.”
In other words, Don’t Cry is an invitation to cry; to let it all out; to embrace your emotions.
Highlights abound from end to end on this intimate nine-track record, from the enchanting opener “Annie Dillard” to the immersive closer, “Never Change.”
“My absolute favorite song on this record is “I Taught Myself.” This was by far the most fun for me to record,” Veasey shares. “Scott (on bass) and I just sat together and worked out this beautiful intricate interplay between upright bass and acoustic guitar and tracked it live on the spot. Whit, Andrew, and I accented the B sections with toy drums and piano and we also overdubbed vocals and that was it, really simple. I think that more than any other song on Don’t Cry this one stayed the most true to my vision for the record that I had before we began. As songs go through the recording process from demos to the finished product listeners hear, things change, choices are made, and inevitably there are compromises. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is definitely a part of the process that I wasn’t fully prepared for. I feel like this song was able to keep the vulnerable, intimate feeling I had when first recording my demo, but become even more itself with the arrangement we decided on in the studio.”
As a lyricist, Veasey hones in on the second verse of the song, “Seven Years of Bad Luck”: “‘Daylighting ghost, a slurry of notes, the lopsided prosody of the chickadee.’ I love the way these words sound together. It’s hard to find lyrics that are not only interesting together, but that fit a melody and make sense in a song, so for me this one is definitely a victory. I also love the lyrics to the bridge of “Hopefully Someday” as well. ‘How long can this take? It’s been twenty four years and two weeks and six days and I’m not over it. Anticipating a change, waiting on this fever to break, like the loosing of reins. The letting go, the falling away. If not today, hopefully someday.'”
Ultimately, it’s okay if you shed a tear or two listening to Don’t Cry.
The album was born from vulnerability, and it encourages its audience to wholeheartedly embrace that mentality as well.
“I hope that listeners can use Don’t Cry as an invitation to see and better understand themselves,” Veasey shares. “These songs have definitely done that for me. Music has so much power to help us all feel less alone. We all have this life we’ve been given and it’s beautiful and full of joy, but it’s also confusing and scary. It’s hard to know what all of it is for. I think for me songs are like friends I turn to, they are a place where I can try to explore what it all means and find solace in people I can see myself in. I think through making this record I have been scared that there wasn’t really space for me in the world, or that I didn’t have anything to share that had value. Putting out this music has thoroughly debunked this fear about my place in the world. I’ve really learned how kind and supportive my community of family, friends, and artists are and how much people really want to get to know me and what goes on in my head. I feel really lucky.”
Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and peek inside Evan Veasey’s Don’t Cry with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!
Stream: ‘Don’t Cry’ – Evan Veasey
:: Inside Don’t Cry ::
Annie Dillard always reminds me of autumn. I wrote this song in the fall of 2019. The melody and guitar part have a cascading quality, almost like falling leaves. To me, my writing is often colored by the things that surround me, the books I’m reading, the season and the people I’m with. I think this song is a great example of that.
Seven Years of Bad Luck
Seven Years is about stasis. This song became one of the focal points of Don’t Cry. I feel like the bridge of this song communicates the overall message of this record more clearly than anything else on it.
Like a lot of people I’m someone who experiences depression and anxiety which have definitely been exacerbated by the events of the past couple years. One way these things manifest for me is this feeling of being enclosed and sinking. I was trying to capture that exact feeling in Spread-Eagle.
Unseen is about wanting to feel understood and a part of a community, and also feeling scared that I wasn’t capable of growing beyond the person I was when I was younger. It was really hard for me getting out of college and into the wider world and realizing that no one else was going to give me the life I really wanted, that it was up to me. To me, the feeling of frustration and desperation of this song is unique to the record.
This song is about fear, the way it manifests in our lives, and my desire to understand my fear for what it truly is. I think sometimes I operate in a state of conflict between my conscious mind and my subconscious mind. It’s difficult to see yourself clearly when you are constantly engaged in internal warfare. This song is about trying and ultimately failing to clearly recognize and accept fear.
I Taught Myself:
This song is about learning and unlearning. There are certain things we are born capable of and certain things we learn. We are all born capable of feeling and for a while this is the way we live, expressing ourselves more or less freely. Then as time goes on we learn how to lie, we learn that we can manipulate others’ perception of us, we learn that we can even lie to ourselves. This song is a way of learning and recapturing that original human capacity to feel.
I am someone who’s always been very aware of loss. This awareness started when I was really young and has persisted since then. I have trouble seeing the things I’ve gained, but it’s very easy for me to see what time has taken away. This song is about wanting to let go of this fear of loss so badly, but seeing that I’m just not there yet. Even though I’m not free of this loss I’m hoping that someday I could be.
Guiding Light is about seeing the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and learning to recognize and love those parts as pieces of who we are. For a long time I tried to pretend I was someone else, a different version of myself who was how I wanted to be. I’ve only realized recently that those parts of me that I’ve been ashamed of in the past are just as valuable and beautiful as the parts I like, holy even. If we truly want to be seen we need to truly see ourselves.
Never Change is about the person we lose as we grow up. Often when I think about my childhood or my child-self it feels like a dream. I remember that time so clearly, but it seems like things followed a different rhythm, a different set of rules, a different internal logic than that which governs my world today. In a lot of ways I think we are our truest selves before we learn that other people perceive us and have the capacity to pass judgment. I remember thinking at that time that I wouldn’t do what the adults around me did: I wouldn’t lose sight of myself, I wouldn’t let myself disappear into the ordinary, I wouldn’t change, but it feels like one day I woke up and all of the sudden I had. This song is my way of mourning that loss while also trying to reconnect to myself: that child-self that still lives somewhere inside me.
Stream: ‘Don’t Cry’ – Evan Veasey
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? © Tori Essex
:: Stream Evan Veasey ::