Between spending time at a Buddhist monastery, recording an entire album at his home studio, and journeying around southern California, Corey Heuvel is trying to find a way to let his personal search shine through his music. From the bluesy, hard-driven electric guitar showcase of his debut album In Balance, to the quiet finger picking poeticism of his follow up EP Evers, it seems like predicting the next direction for Heuvel would be anybody's guess. The 20-year old Canadian songwriter assures that his latest release - The New - drapes sonic elements from both worlds around an unlikely spiritual theme.
Since the release of Evers in 2008, Corey Heuvel has used much of his time contemplating where he wants to go both musically and personally. For him it seems these two realities must intertwine and weave through each other in order to create something truly inspiring. Another goal for Heuvel was being able to record his songs from home. In today's world, this is becoming more and more the preferred way of making music; not to mention saving a few bucks along the way.
"I guess after my first album, I just wanted to get away from the edginess of rock music... the full band and guitar solos. And then I feel like I figured myself out a little more with the acoustic EP which was so crucial. So for the next record, there had to be a way to show both sides in a fresh and interesting way. It really took me a while to realize what that was. Even when I had some of the songs finished, I still didn't know where I was coming from and what I was trying to say."
The next two years were spent teaching guitar, writing new material, traveling and putting together the pieces for a home studio. Once the studio was ready, work began on a second full length album. As the recording process began, a change in lifestyle became part of the inspiration for the songs and overall direction of the album. "I began to practice formal meditation on a daily basis at the same time as I started recording the album. I was inspired to try it after going to a few North Indian music classes while I was in California earlier that year. They look at music in a totally different way, a much more spiritual connection to art and life in general. I ended up resonating more with the Buddhist approach to meditation and realized how much of the music I wanted to write had in common with the life of a Buddhist monk - rebirth, disillusionment, the forest, wisdom and enlightenment. I spent a week at a Buddhist monastery and almost decided to ordain as a monk! But I knew I had more work to do." The eight tracks on The New sweep across some unusual but nonetheless interesting themes: "Beautiful Slide" - a lament about approaching rebirth, "Crimson Fools" - an outsider's look at the world and its inhabitants, "Sage Trees" - a tale of escape and refuge in the forest, and the epic final song "Jhana" which means meditation in Pali, the ancient language used in India during the time of the Buddha. Heuvel asserts that the album isn't meant to promote Buddhism in any way, but only to take the listener on a voyage. The music must always remain the number one priority.
"The image of a monk, or spiritual seeker, or vagabond, or even a troubadour always carries a certain mystique that resonates with people who feel lost or find themselves looking for truth. It just worked as a catalyst for this album and made it more meaningful to me. As difficult as it was, recording the album at home gave me the freedom to take my time and think about each sound, each instrument, each vocal take, until everything was sitting just right. It allowed me to be patient. In the end, I hope people can enjoy the sounds and colours they hear on this album more than anything, and if they pull something deeper out of it then that’s great too."
The acoustic guitar remains in the forefront throughout this album, but there are many new textures and a more elaborate production takes it beyond the listener’s expectation. All instruments were performed by Heuvel except for the cello heard on three tracks, which is showcased by Alyssa Wright (who also performed on Evers) and drums on the opening two tracks courtesy of Charlie Cooley. Another new dimension is the addition of background vocals on nearly all of the songs. Overall, the voice seems to be making up a bigger and bigger part of Corey Heuvel's sound which is not a deterrent in any way, just one of many examples which prove he is growing quickly as an artist.
Don't hesitate to follow this young songwriter on his incredible journey and have a listen to what his world sounds like.