Local Musician Discusses Release of New Album
By Lauren Bray
If you’ve visited a local winery or brewery recently, you’ve most definitely heard Conner Cherland’s music. He’s usually tucked in a corner with his guitar and microphone, singing a variety of heartfelt notes for crowds more interested in daytime revelry.
While sipping a locally grown Pinot Noir and catching up with your friend from Pilates class, you’re likely missing out on one of Santa Barbara’s most interesting musicians.
I caught up with Conner last week to chat about his upcoming album, but I didn’t expect to learn about the cultural mythologies surrounding his songs and his internal process in discovering what being a good husband and man is in today’s world.
Cherland’s new album, The Choices of John Still, drops on September 7th. Although the title track is now available on Spotify and other music platforms.
I asked the obvious question, who is John Still? Cherland described his choice to make this a concept album about a character who can see into the future. He creates a potion for a girl he loves so she will love him back, but the potion starts to wear off, and that’s where we enter the first song and title track, “The Choices of John Still.”
Not only does the song have a rich backstory, but vocally it’s different than the rest of Cherland’s indie acoustic style with gritty vocal distortions. “In my mind it’s a huge rock song, so a lot of loud vocals and echoes,” said Cherland.
He described this album as one big metaphor for him learning what it’s like to be married. “Actual men want a beautiful [woman] to keep in a box, but marriage is truly the opposite of that. It’s two different people with different goals who are figuring it out together,” said Cherland.
The second album song is titled “Kashi the Deathless” and is focused around a Russian fairytale. To sum up a very long and intricate story, it centers on the villainous and immortal Koschei (aka Kashi) who abducts and traps women with magical powers. Cherland describes how there’s a consistent perspective in this album that men need to go against the urge of trying to control their partners.
“When I play music I talk about love, control, and power, and they’re all one in the same,” said Cherland. “I’m a big fan of self-awareness and I think my songs reflect that.”
The biggest example of that is his song “EmmyLynn” that just released on Friday. Cherland describes this as his most straightforward song of a woman from his past. The day after getting married he had a dream about this past woman that forced him to reflect on it. So, like a natural artist, he wrote and sang about the experience.
“It’s culturally shameful to have dreams of people that are not your partner,” said Cherland. “It’s ok to create empathy around the actions we deem evil and despicable, so long as it can help us have empathy towards ourselves while we do the work of uprooting it.”
Throughout writing this album, Cherland said he reflected on the man he is, the man he wants to be, and how he could continue walking towards that.
The full album, The Choices of John Still, is available on September 7, and an album release party will take place at the Breakfast Culture Club on the same day. More information on pre-ordering the album and attending the release party can be found at connercherland.com.