The way fate would have it, one wouldn’t blame Winchester, VA folk-rock singer-songwriter Mike Frazier for not being the type to spend copious amounts of time looking back. From running with an idea right after finishing his last album, to the fact that lessons built his new album Leave It All Behind center around different forms of letting go, absolution, or emotional growth, to the unforeseen halt of the world during a health crisis, there’s plenty of justification to go around. Nevertheless, for what was a project meant to accompany future journeys afar, Mike Frazier now finds himself doing just that: looking at the past.
Everything about Leave It All Behind projects the thought of leaving and-or getting away from something: places, feelings, memories. Frazier wasn’t out to write a concept album with this third record but it just so happened each piece of the album told stories of various figures who experienced this mentality in different ways. Add to this, the fact that Frazier chose to record some of his new material with an older, less easily amendable method – thus having to leave more of whatever he did behind, instead of changing it. Yet, as the world closed down, he came to realize no one would be able to escape the way he described so in the end, Leave It All Behind exists on a shifting platform of perspective. However Frazier sees this change for the better.
Leading up to today’s premiere of Leave It All Behind, Mike Frazier discusses the transition from his last album to now, how he embodies transformation and escape on some of his songs, and why the world going on quarantine didn’t put a wrench in his artistic message nor leave this new album headed for the shelf.
Mike Frazier: “My sophomore album that came out last year is called Where The Valley Kissed the Sky. It was a conceptual album based on stories of life and death in the Shenandoah Valley, where I grew up. With [Leave It All Behind], the songs are definitely centered around one common thread – the intricacies of moving on. The record follows each character’s journey of growth as they leave behind the pain that haunts them.
[For Leave It All Behind,] I spent more time on individual tracks than I ever have before which led to sonic discoveries. [The song] “Getting By,” for example, maintains minimal instrumentation which helps bring out all of the dynamics. The twelve-string guitar on that song especially helps create a sonic quality that changes the whole tune. [I actually] wrote that song immediately after finishing [my last album,] “Where The Valley Kissed The Sky,” which is why the character in the song is experiencing much of the same conflict as the characters on [that] last record.
The feeling of melancholy in “Over The Mountain” is very apparent. That song depicts the fragility of man as well as the need for forgiveness. [Engineer,] Erik Romero, captured those emotions by creating a sonic landscape that moves to the narration. I wrote “Denali” a week after I got back from visiting a few childhood friends who worked on the railroad in Alaska. The experience as a whole was beyond inspiring. I met a woman who told me there’s two types of people in Alaska, ‘those who are born here and those who are running from something.’ It seemed fitting to add a song like “Denali.”
Lastly, the title track, “Leave It All Behind” encompasses the entire theme of the record in three and a half minutes, which is what led to the album being titled “Leave It All Behind.” The recording process for that song was longer than usual because it had to be completely re-tracked. A grounding issue between the tape machine and computer led to a very present buzzing noise. But, those technical difficulties are worth the authenticity that recording analog creates.
On March 17, 2020 I had to return home from a European tour weeks earlier than I had planned. I had to spend my first two weeks home in isolation and I spent that time debating whether or not it would be appropriate to put out a record during a global pandemic. I decided to continue on with the original release date because it is my hope that this record can be calming during such an unprecedented and anxiety-inducing time. Then as I [was setting] every thing in place to prepare for the release, the Black Lives Matter movement caught much overdue traction and I refocused my energy to listen to these heroic and inspiring Black voices
With that being said, I have adapted the release again, this time, by donating any money raised from Bandcamp to Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd Memorial Fund. I will also be raffling off the original artwork created for the album to raise money for Color of Change. More information on the raffle can be found on genevarecords.com and my Instagram page, @mikefrazierva.
Listen to the premiere of Leave It All Behind below.
Photo credit: Brett Ballachino