“My joy breaks windows”: The Ballroom Thieves Shine Bright on ‘Sundust,’ a Tender Album of Love, Healing, & the Human Experience

The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves premiere their new music video and take us track-by-track through their radiant fifth studio album ‘Sundust,’ a spirited, soul-stirring, and sun-kissed collection of folk-pop songs shining a warm light out on all who listen.
Stream: “Everything Is Everything” – The Ballroom Thieves




When you shine your light out on others, they often shine their own light back.

It’s a beautiful cycle of emotional expression, and it’s an intrinsic part of the human experience; a sort of real-life example of how do-unto-others really does work when put into practice, in ways both large and small.

And there’s no denying all the infectious passion and invigorating energy radiating out of The Ballroom Thieves’ latest album. The Maine-based duo of married couple Calin Peters and Martin Earley dug deep into their individual and collective pasts, presents, and futures as they explore the people they are today and the people they hope to be someday – unraveling themselves through soul-stirring poetry and sweet sound in an effort to discover and embody their best possible selves. A radiant record of tenderness, love, healing, and hope, Sundust is a spirited collection of folk-pop songs shining their warm light out on all who listen.

Sundust - The Ballroom Thieves
Sundust – The Ballroom Thieves
My joy breaks windows
Runs along the roof
It’s the miracle of nearness
It’s the levity of youth
It’s the floodlight in the driveway
It’s the longing for the truth
I wanna dive into the colder water
Hey back to the beginning
Drinking pink champagne
All the music in the flowers
And the calling of your name
In the end I never knew you
In the end we’re all the same
I never thought I’d be the one to say it

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the smile-inducing music video for “Everything Is Everything,” the focus track and opening song off the aptly-titled Sundust. Releasing April 12, 2024 via Nettwerk Music Group, The Ballroom Thieves’ fifth studio album arrives two years after their fourth LP Clouds, and finds them stealing a lot more than ballrooms. Their first LP since tying the knot (back in ’22) finds singer/songwriters Calin Peters and Martin Earley asking a simple question to each other, and themselves: “What if we could all just be a little more tender?”

Of course, simple questions seldom have simple answers, and on Sundust, Peters and Earley – who founded The Ballroom Thieves over a decade ago, and have weathered life’s highs and lows together ever since – spend ten songs diving into the intimate and vulnerable depths of their respective human experiences. The resulting record feels personal and genuine, because it is both of these things: The duo bask in a raw, honest space full of rich, dazzling melodies and vivid, visceral lyricism, all of which comes from and speaks to the heart.

The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington



“The songs are generally a year’s worth of thoughts on our own life experiences past and future,” The Ballroom Thieves tell Atwood Magazine. “We had been thinking a lot about how our childhood shapes our adulthood, so after jotting down a lot of thoughts, some ideas were poetic enough to become songs. Some songs are nostalgic and personal to the primary writer, and others are a larger comment on how we all have inherited trauma from our parents and what it’s like to break those unhealthy and long-standing generational behaviors.”

Unlike past endeavors captured in more traditional studio environments (think white-washed mic booths and tech-filled production rooms), Sundust was made at Peters and Earley’s home in Maine, where they turned one of their guest rooms into a makeshift recording studio for four months.

“Rainy days were especially tough, but the main culprit was our dog, Bagel,” Earley recalls. “He’s a bit of a snorer and he absolutely needs to be by our side, so there were quite a few good takes that had to be discarded because we could hear him snoozing away in the background.”

The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington



Despite a few growing pains, recording at home gave The Ballroom Thieves the creative control they were looking for.

“We had a strong vision even before we were done writing the songs,” the pair explain. “It can be difficult to make something that keeps representing both of us musically and lyrically as the years pass, so this time we wanted to make sure we’d be able to relate to the album for as long as possible. We tried to remain in control of the sound we had envisioned from the beginning of writing and demoing, so we were really particular about the producer and musicians we chose to help us make each song.”

“For this reason, we were so thrilled to work with Cody Iwasiuk on drums, and Dan Cardinal for production and engineering, amongst a few other talented people. The studio is a gloriously creative place and sometimes a well-intentioned tone quest can take a song to an unrecognizable place. We feel like in the past we’ve lost the plot on a few tracks, so we were more careful to honor the vision this time. We aimed to strike the balance between checking our boxes and staying open to new ideas and we’re happy with the effort. Only time will tell if we still like Sundust in a few years!”

For now, at least, they’re both proud of the end result. “Making an album is an important way for us to get thoughts out, but it’s also a fresh opportunity to improve,” they smile. “Each new album we make it seems like we did a better job in some ways and discovered new ways to fumble other things. Lately we’ve been interested in making calmer songs and using more straightforward lyrics. More than ever, we’re focused on writing about things that many people will be able relate to.”




They describe Sundust as warm, tender, and familiar. The album’s title, Earley explains, harkens back to special moment while the band was on tour in Utah last year.

“We were enjoying a day off from shows in Zion National Park about two weeks after wrapping up recording,” he recalls. “We had just gotten the first mixes back after not hearing the songs for a while, so they were fresh in our minds for this warm sun-drenched southwest adventure day. We rented e-bikes and meandered around the mountains for about 8 hours. At one point early on I fell behind the group and after a few minutes of searching through turns, I started to panic a little bit. There was no service and I had a little less than half a bottle of water. I’m also not skilled at directions and being lost can get a little dark for me, so bad feelings started to wash over.”

“I had experienced one of the tougher years I can remember, and the prickly feeling of anxiety was coming on, but there was something so incredible about the day in front of me that instead of going down that road, I was able to stop and just let it be.”

“It was the flip of a switch after a lot of practice. I was so blissful in my new state that I felt like I was on drugs (I wasn’t!) and as I looked around at the endless orange I blurted out “Sundust” to myself. I ended up riding straight to the group within 15 minutes, and ‘Sundust’ started to feel like it represented the feeling of the good stuff. The glimmery stuff you can access when your life is sorted and you have clarity.”

The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington



If songwriting itself is sometimes an act of diving into and dwelling in one’s darker spaces, then perhaps we can consider Sundust a spiritual return to the light.

From the opening moments of “Everything Is Everything” (where Peters unapologetically declares “my joy breaks windows“) to the gentle, yet painful self-reflection and acceptance in “Tender” and the unbridled love and sweet serenity of “Time Just Falls Apart,” Sundust is a tranquil and ultimately uplifting journey through life’s many pastures.

“We both love ‘Everything Is Everything’ because it does a good job of representing the album as a whole, and it feels warm and weighty as soon as it starts,” The Ballroom Thieves say on the topic of favorites. Additional personal highlights include “Time Just Falls Apart” and “Right on Time” for their lyrics and full band sound, and Cody Iwasiuk’s drum performance.

Whereas the dynamic, impassioned “Boring Disaster” has the potential to be this summer’s stomp-and-holler hit and the catchy “I Don’t Mind” finishes the record off in a space of closure, connection, and campfire-like charm, the sun-kissed “Everything Is Everything” really does set the tone for all that’s to come. In many ways, the track acts as a headstrong rejection of those naysayers who bring us down or refuse to change either themselves or their world.

“The phrase ‘it is what it is’ might be one of the most infuriating mottos ever,” Peters says. “It implies that we’re just along for the ride of life, instead of captains of our own experience. We all tend to get stuck in the outdated and harmful patterns we were taught, and ‘Everything is Everything’ is about breaking free from that cage and living in a self-aware and compassionate way.”

That conviction comes to life in the song’s invigorating, open-minded chorus:

Give me a heart without the teeth
Give me the glimmers in between
Give me the happiness of hope
Give me a knot without a rope
Give me the loveliness I need
Give me the me inside of me
It’s a bittersweet awakening
That everything is everything




Sundust truly does shine with a warm and wondrous inner light.

From end to end, The Ballroom Thieves’ fifth studio album is a deeply self-aware soundtrack to life’s adventures large and small; to being true to and with yourself, even if that means confronting some tough facts and feelings along the way; and to being human and recognizing that your faults and flaws are part of what makes you who you are. We can work on ourselves day in and day out, but we can’t forget to also stop and smell the roses along the way.

And by all accounts, it seems like The Ballroom Thieves have managed the perfect balance between introspection and external experience. Their most personal album delves into trauma with unflinching honesty, all the while embracing those glimmers of light and love in our everyday.

The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington



“It’s rare to come from a family that doesn’t operate in some sort of dysfunction, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s okay,” Calin Peters concludes. “I hope some people will feel seen, and [that they] hear again from us that breaking these cycles isn’t easy, but that they’re in good company. I hope others can see that it’s not about blaming our parents or grandparents; it’s about having a closer look at the bad behaviors we absorbed and how they hurt our relationships.”

“For us, it’s been a creative way to discuss some of the topics around behavior. Most of all, we hope the songs are played loud and people like yelling the ‘Boring Disaster’ chant with us.”

Experience the full record on April 12, and peek inside The Ballroom Thieves’ Sundust with Atwood Magazine as Calin Peters and Martin Earley take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their fifth studio album!

— —

:: stream/purchase Sundust here ::
:: connect with The Ballroom Thieves here ::
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington
The Ballroom Thieves © Meredith Brockington



:: Inside Sundust ::

— —

Everything Is Everything

The phrase “it is what it is” might be one of the most infuriating mottos ever. It implies that we’re just along for the ride of life, instead of captains of our own experience. We all tend to get stuck in the outdated and harmful patterns we were taught, and Everything is Everything is about breaking free from that cage and living in a self-aware and compassionate way.

Right on Time

We all have a collection of crystal clear memories from long ago. Things that feel as if they just happened last week, even though they actually took place decades ago. Right on Time celebrates those moments, often from our childhood, and the warm, nostalgic feelings they give us. This song also tries to square those feelings with the fact that we’re all getting older every day and how different life was when we weren’t as constantly aware of it.

Snake Bite

Callie: I angrily wrote Snake Bite during a plane ride from London to Boston in early 2020. It’s all about wanting to get out of the situation you feel stuck in. Out of the plane, out of the job, out and into a new life. The song was left unfinished until we started working on Sundust, at which point we changed the vibe from old country to whatever it is now.

Tender

Martin: Inspired by the sparse instrumentation and fluid melodies of the band Watchhouse, Tender was written partially at the Newport Folk Festival in 2022 and then finished at home and on the road. It’s a reflective song about long winters in Maine spent struggling to accept my flaws while working on improving myself. It’s as much about the space between the notes as it is about the notes themselves, and Rich Hinman really outdid himself with the pedal steel part.

Time Just Falls Apart

Martin: Probably the most loving song on the album, Time Just Falls Apart is my love letter to Callie and our life together. Songwriting allows me to express my feelings in a way that I can’t quite achieve in conversation. The positive sun imagery in the lyrics is all over Sundust, but this song is meant to feel especially warm and serene.

Casual

Callie:There’s this saying that bugs me, that “kids are resilient” but I disagree. Kids are adaptable. We can all handle a lack of love and support, but we don’t thrive like that. The words that parents tell their kid’s about themselves becomes their inner voice, whether the words are unkind and untrue or positive and supportive. This song is about finally dropping some of the unkind things I was told about myself when I was a kid.

Words

Martin: Getting older is inevitable and can be a little mundane. Sometimes it feels like the days are just flying by like birds outside your window. But it’s the little inanities that make your life uniquely yours and worth experiencing. It’s the dying plant in the window and the endless bey-ing of your beagle, Bagel. It’s all connected, and this is an homage to that connectedness. And also to Fleetwood Mac.

Angry Child

This song is more on aging. It can be a heartbreaking process because if you’re doing it right, aging forces you to come face to face with who you really are and how you fit into the world around you. A lot of us are angry adults, which makes us wonder how many of us were angry children that were never given the emotional support they needed to become grateful, pleasant, emotionally mature adults.

Boring Disaster 

We met this couple who had just started a open relationship outside one of their marriages. They were flushed and in love but nervous about the future. Boring Disaster could be about any relationship, but it’s easy to apply it to one that exists in uncharted territory.

I Don’t Mind

Martin: There’s this morbid joke where I tell Callie that I’m gonna die before she does and that she should probably start preparing for life without me. She hates it. Then it turned into a whole song about living for the moment and accepting the temporary nature of life instead of wasting precious time on the notion of an eternal afterlife, or spending energy holding grudges and being unkind.

— —

:: stream/purchase Sundust here ::
:: connect with The Ballroom Thieves here ::

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? © Meredith Brockington

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