Some songs are written during a moment in time. For Jarrod Lawson, “Love Isn’t Always Enough” started coming together as he released his 2014 self-titled debut and was simultaneously going through a divorce. Just one chapter in a set of personal stories, “Love Isn’t Always Enough” set the tone for Lawson’s second release, Be The Change, a collection of songs that still feel relevant to the Oregon-based artist today.
“It’s a classic story of two people who married rather young and slowly drifted apart over time,” shares Lawson. “I remember coming to the distinct realization that, although I still loved and cared very much for this person, our paths had diverged a long time ago, and it was clear that our time together had come to a close. Hence, the words ‘Love Isn’t Always Enough’ came to me in a very honest and pure moment of inspiration.”
On Be The Change, Lawson resurfaces as a changed man, reflecting and coming to terms with the past and revisiting tracks that weren’t ready for an album in their earlier stages. Maneuvering through his own slower brewed jazz, Lawson offers narratives on love, loss, and renewal. Be The Change finds the artist on the other side of hardship, wrapped around more textured instrumentation and storytelling.
“I tend to chip away slowly at songs,” says Lawson. “Some of the songs I wrote so long ago that it would impossible for them to not take on new meaning as I’ve grown and evolved as a human being. People ask if I’ve written these songs specifically for this time during the pandemic. Of course, the answer is ‘no,’ but I try to put a timeless message in my songs that will be relevant today, and tomorrow.”
Musically, there’s still a deeper thread of relevancy for Lawson, even if many of the songs were written throughout the past decade. “Though many of them come from different times in my life, I did sort of assemble an album that made sense to me in terms of trying to create a balance across the album and form something that has deeper socio-political connotations,” says Lawson, “then lightening it up with something more palatable.”
Looking at the album objectively, Lawson says it’s a much more mature piece of work. “My spirituality and my concept of God and whatever those things mean is always changing,” he says. Growing up in very religious household, when Lawson released his first album he was immediately locked into the Christian music category, which is far from what he set out to create. “I’m really trying to pull away from that,” he says. “I offer something much more universal.”
Partially recorded at Fremont Studio in Portland with drummer Reinhardt Melz and bassist Damian Erskine and Sammy Figueroa on some incidental percussion at Jackpot Studios, most of Be The Change was already being laid down over several years with some of the bass and drums, and piano tracks recorded five or more years earlier.
While only three tracks— “Soul Symphony,” “Be the Change” and “Embrace What We Are” were recorded in early 2020—Lawson initially started recording everything at his home studio, trying not to veer too far from his original demos and adding most of the instrumentation himself to the tracks.
“Sometimes I just want to hold on to that original vibe, rather than go into a studio and try to recreate it with another band,” says Lawson. “With a couple of songs, I just wanted to keep the original recordings and made sure it still had that vibe that I want, and feels real raw.”
For Lawson, who recently moved and is putting the finishing touches on a new studio space, it’s been a rough year stagnated by no touring. Still brainstorming ways to get himself “creatively activated,” Lawson says he’s proud of Be The Change and can only hope that song by song, it resonates.
“The songs feel relevant to me right now,” says Lawson. “What defines this particular collection is that I held on to songs that still felt relevant to me even if they were old. That’s what ties it all together for me. Hopefully, other people will feel that as well.”
Though “Love Isn’t Always Enough” was based on subject matter some may not identify with, there’s something more omnipresent in its message.
“A breakup does not have to be perceived as so tragic,” says Lawson. “It’s not the end of the world. Of course, it always seems like that in the moment, but it is a very natural thing for people to grow apart, to evolve and drift into a place where that relationship no longer makes sense.”
Lawson adds, “We should embrace that and acknowledge that this is part of the process… part of this strange journey of life.”