After spending over a decade speaking solely through music alone as part of the instrumental outfit Balmorhea, lyrics provide somewhat of a challenge to RG Lowe. It’s not that he isn’t familiar with them. After all, he spent his youth growing up and singing in West Texas church choirs and musicals. Writing them, however, is a completely different animal. And pop songs? The kind he is interested in creating? You might as well have asked him to write it in Braille. But writing a pop album was the challenge he issued himself and write one he did.
Actually, he’s now written two.
In true RG Lowe fashion, his definition of ‘pop’ differs from most. Lowe’s pop sensibilities are more cerebral and ethereal and his solo stylings flow along those lines. That was proven with his solo debut, 2017’s Slow Time and here in 2020, it is again.
Enter his new song “Sendai, Unknown,” an offering from the upcoming Life of The Body due out at the end of May. A wistful, jazz-oriented musical postcard, “Sendai, Unknown” is as much about the historical events of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake as it is his own personal recollections of the literal ripples that washed over him.
“This song intermingles historical and personal events of March 11th, 2011 as a metaphor for the distances between people,” explains Lowe. “The Tōhoku earthquake of the coast of Japan, near the city of Sendai, was the 4th most powerful ever recorded; literally moving the planet on its axis and increasing its rotational speed. The Tsunami from the event reined havoc on Japan killing thousands and causing the meltdown of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
“The following morning, I was with a friend in Portland, Oregon waiting as the waves from the Tsunami would hit the Pacific Coast of the United States, but they came in as little more than a set of small ripples. Looking back on this event from almost a decade ago, I was struck with its illustrative significance for myself and my life.”
Without question the quake and its subsequent events moved Lowe with nearly just as much force.
“This is the most personal piece of music I have written in that; it is about quite a specific memory from my life. Most of the music I have made in my career has been instrumental, so I consider communicating with music alone as a strength. A strength in one context can be a challenge in another, which is where I found myself with this piece.”
In fact, it was the story the lyrics needed to tell which proved to be the most challenging part.
“With the arrangement and melodic content completed, and even knowing very specifically who the characters were and what the energy and emotions were that they were experiencing; it took me months of using a different part of my brain to find the particular illustrative moment in time and to make the lyrics sync with what I had already created. Even though this memory is from over a decade ago, I feel like I was able to learn some more about myself and gained some new mental territory making this song.
“Music can be so healing and therapeutic, usually I experience this as a listener, but I’m grateful that in the process of writing this song I was able to find that in the writing process as well.