Chris Thile Examines His Christian Roots on New Album ‘Laysongs’

Chris Thile, musical prodigy from the age of five and member of Grammy award-winning groups like Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, joins the latest episode of the Basic Folk podcast. Along with Cindy Howes, Thile engages in a fascinating conversation about how his post-Christian life inspired his newest album Laysongs

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Thile’s history with Christianity began when he was 12 and his family moved from California to Kentucky. As an adult, he found that those fundamental truths which once brought him peace started to become dismantled. This record, he explains, was a way for him to examine his beliefs from a different vantage point. 

“For me, it was scary to start acknowledging the gray that I was seeing in the world. It wasn’t that I felt that what I had been taught was wrong, except as it pertained to the damnation of people who didn’t believe that, that’s what I could not wrap my head around. I can’t wrap my head around it. I feel that we have to allow for perspective, and how radically different the world can look from different perspectives, and how it might actually be different. So that the way that you see the world from your perspective is equally valid,” Thile says.

He shares that his questioning didn’t come from a place of bitterness or rebellion, but instead a sense of discomfort at the idea of attributing absolute truth to a belief system that doesn’t generally allow for any pliancy. His perspective started to shift after experiencing more of the world and meeting people from all backgrounds with his Nickel Creek bandmates Sara and Sean Watkins

“What this new record dwells kind of a lot on particularly in this piece in the center of it called ‘Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth’ (a three-part song) is how I’ve recently become aware that I think I’ve taken the same dogmatic tendencies that I grew up with into my ostensibly non-dogmatic life,” Thile states. “And I am similarly judgmental towards people who maybe believe, or maybe are coming from the perspective that I used to be coming from. And I’m as dismissive of them as I used to be of people who are coming from the perspective that I’m coming from now. And this is…this is all very new for me.” 

Thile’s unrelenting intentionality and striving towards total self-awareness is just as inspiring as it is humbling. Unafraid to admit he might be wrong, Laysongs is a carefully crafted work on the post-Christian life, thought-provoking despite religious affiliation. 

Nevertheless, the episode also dwells on far less heady topics such as his son Calvin (named after the Calvin and Hobbes comic), pop music today, growing up playing classical music, and Thile’s passion for wine. 

For the rest of the conversation, check out Basic Folk

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