Track-by-Track: A Stroll Through Sara Davis Regan’s ‘Riverland’

Sara Davis Regan © Ryley Rush

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Sara Davis Regan’s ‘Riverland’ is set at a pace that calls us to pay attention, to relax, to let the sun in—and sometimes the shadows.

In the days of constant music streaming, it’s hard to find a record that takes its time. But Sara Davis Regan’s Riverland, released independently on May 1, is a rare exception. Its content matches its title, with eleven tracks set at a pace that calls us to pay attention, to relax, to let the sun in—and sometimes the shadows.

Stream: ‘Riverland’ – Sara Davis Regan




Riverland - Sara Davis Regan

Riverland – Sara Davis Regan

When I’m broken I’m at ease
I forget the notion I can earn my seat
And like the meadow leans into your breeze
I’m whole at last when you’re with me
– “Days of Old,” Sara Davis Regan

The path to Riverland was slow and winding, too. Regan started pursuing music in college, and thanks to some help from the guys in Penny & Sparrow, she started playing shows and recording. Flash forward a bit, and Regan moved from Austin, TX to Katy, TX with her husband—away from the music scene she was familiar with. So in the midst of a musical rut, Regan’s old producer suggested she try out producing herself, and thus Riverland started coming to life. “As a producer you get to shape the dimples in the smile, choose the color of the eyes, decide the song’s demeanor and personality, and I’m obsessed with it. You get to create beyond your original creation; it’s riveting and addicting,” Regan says.



Sara Davis Regan © Ryley Rush

Sara Davis Regan © Ryley Rush

The record begins warmly with “Days of Old,” easing us in and taking time as it comes, backed by acoustic guitar and the lyrical dance of being nostalgic for a moment you’re in. And though the warmth remains in sound, shadows creep in on “Handmade Thieves,” longing for who we miss and what we can’t have, and “1:09 AM” driven by steady drums and distorted vocals, a late night reckoning.

I’m feeling sick and frankly
Undone, unamused by who I can be
By tendency
They say I don’t need boundaries
They say and pour me another neat
I guess I need reminding
I’m capable of the worst things
– “1:09 AM,” Sara Davis Regan

As Riverland continues on, there are small nods to special places: “Pine Canyon #5” to a freeing moment in Big Bend, “Apt. 6303” to Regan’s Katy, TX apartment, and “Camp Green Lake” to Regan’s old house in Austin. The instrumentation weaves in and out, from bright light acoustic to late night distortion, each song as earnest as the last.

Near the end, lead single “Ready or Not” is a pleasant outlier, energetic and upbeat with a gang vocal; it’s the song that really started it all for Regan, and a special performance sealed its spot on the record. Ultimately, each song on Riverland holds something special and important, whether it be a ray of light or a moment of darkness, and as whole this record is a testament to the way good can grow in unexpected places.



Sara Davis Regan © Ryley Rush

Sara Davis Regan © Ryley Rush

“Take these songs in your hands and wring them out. In them you’ll find the unconditional belonging of a covenant kept, sunburned days on the river as a kid, the bewildering feeling of loss, weatherworn self acceptance, hopeful and childlike romanticism, and a lot of life lived,” a note from Regan.

Whispering secrets flow through our veins
Eyes wide as we run through the unmistakable rain
Ready or not, it’s all for you all this time I fought
Ready or not
– “Ready or Not,” Sara Davis Regan

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Sara Davis Regan’s Riverland with Atwood Magazine as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!

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:: stream/purchase Riverland here ::
Stream: ‘Riverland’ – Sara Davis Regan



:: Inside Riverland ::

Riverland - Sara Davis Regan

Days of Old

“Days of Old” explores the simplicity of being content with what and who you have. It’s a spring day on the river. Your favorite people are close by, time is slow, and the day is rich. You’re suddenly brought to a moment where you understand that the time you’re in is time you’ll miss dearly. The nostalgia is somehow both a bitter and welcome friend. It is a feeling that invites you to live as full and present as you can. I originally wrote this song in 2012 and I wanted to salvage it. I reworked the lyrics, wrote a new chorus, and just let my instincts go wherever they wanted to in production.

Dear Forgetful

“Dear Forgetful” is cut from the same cloth as my song “Dear Daughter” from my first EP, Summit Hour. Honestly, there are some songs that come so easily that I feel like I didn’t write them. In some process I can’t explain, it seems I received the gift of being the pen that is used to write them. “Dear Forgetful” is one of those songs.



Handmade Thieves

I wrote this song in the wake of tragedy. Two young people I knew passed away suddenly within a few months of each other. It was a time that left me beat up and aching. I was forced to confront the unsettling truth that I constantly try to drown out; things are not as they should be, something is missing. The title is meant to be ironic, something sacred (handmade) with something scummy (thieves). That to me feels like the world we live in. That to me feels like the predicament of being human.

1:09 AM

“1:09 AM” is a late night, a fear of the dark, a painful vulnerability, a look into the mirror. Sometimes writing and producing is hunting and stalking around for the right art direction. This one came quickly with strange ease. I did maybe two vocal takes and the instrumentation came and slipped right into place.

Pine Canyon #5

“1:09 AM” cuts me open. “Pine Canyon #5” graciously puts me back together. It is acceptance; it is not being enough, and allowing that to be enough. I wrote this song in a very unorthodox way. I took a stem from “Camp Green Lake,” reversed it, and ended up writing the entire song around it. You can hear the sample in the second verse. After that, there must’ve been 4 or 5 different demos/ arrangements before it came to be what it is now. Definitely one of the hardest songs for me to produce.



Apt. 6303

This song is named after my husband and I’s little home in Katy, TX. I wanted it to be a lovely and simple moment on the record. I hope it makes you feel how I feel when copper light pours into our apartment at golden hour.

Teem

“Teem” is all about empathy for the people in your corner. Sometimes there is no comfort. Sometimes you just hold each other’s deepest pain. I am ever inspired by Ben Howard and I think you can feel that in the instrumentation.

25 and Separated

I wanted “25 and Separated” to stand out from the rest of the record. I had to fight instincts to layer up all the vocals and fatten up the instrumentation. This one needed to be kept in black in white.

Mansfield

In “Mansfield” I am carried away by nostalgia, comforted by strange familiarity, and I drift away in pieces made by broken relationships. This instrumental bears the weight of the emotions I feel for relationships lost.



Ready or Not

Life is eagerly waiting to be lived fully, and I hope “Ready or Not” makes you want to go live it. This song really started my music career. My best friend and I wrote it as wide-eyed, hopeless romantic seniors in high school. In college some friends filmed me singing at the beach, posted it on Youtube, and it went “viral” within our friend group. After that I started chasing music. I wanted this song to make the listener feel like a kid again. So, I had some friends over, I made them old fashioneds, and they sang on the choruses over and over and over again. I love the feeling their group vocals capture. The ending is from a show I did at a Young Life camp where the high school kids just started moshing. It was one of my favorite moments at a show and right then I knew I had to put “Ready or Not” on the record.

Camp Green Lake

“Camp Green Lake” sums up the whole process behind Riverland for me. I originally wrote it back in college while I was living in this huge house with a bunch of friends in Austin, TX. I was sitting in our backhouse with the door wide open. Austin had been in a really bad drought and it was finally raining. The waiting days and the rougher seasons can be so brutal, so draining, so scary. But they’re refining, and their days are numbered, and life is still lived. Besides, after you’ve fought and waited so diligently for something, it usually becomes the most cherished and sacred thing.



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:: stream/purchase Riverland here ::

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Riverland - Sara Davis Regan

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📸 © Ryley Rush

Riverland

an album by Sara Davis Regan



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Lowndes is a writer and film photographer, currently living in South Carolina after a few years in Nashville, TN. She’s a big fan of morning news podcasts, cool-weathered city walks, and those moments when a song unexpectedly makes you feel something. These days, you can probably find her drinking cold brew and working on a book of poems, or writing articles here at Atwood.