|Off the Cliff: Weinland, June 7 at Huckleberry’s|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Wednesday, 04 June 2008 03:01|
For many musicians starting out, a day job is a means to support that which they love.
For Adam Shearer, the singer and songwriter for the Portland-based Weinland, his jobs in the mental-health field served that purpose, but they also held him back.
"When I was working as a mental-health counselor ... I could not write anything," Shearer said. "When you spend the day working with kids that have those experiences ... it would just take everything out of me." It was the type of job that provided a wealth of experiences and stories from which to draw songwriting material, but it was also draining.
Shearer left the mental-health field in December - after six years - with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, Weinland - which will perform at Huckleberry's on Saturday in a show presented by Daytrotter.com - was financially supporting itself, and he wanted to see if it would support its members, too. "There's nothing I could do except for jump off the cliff," he said. "There's no way I'm going to find out whether or not this works unless I go for it all the way."
On the other hand, he had considered mental health his life's work - a vocation that was validating and meaningful. The challenge, he said, is "trying to make sure you're still doing something important and good for the world."
It might not have the direct one-on-one impact of his previous job, but there's little doubt that Weinland is a force for good. The band's new album, La Lamentor, is Americana both delicate and sturdy, and the first real document of Weinland as a band rather than a reflection of its leader.
"We were recording it as I was separating myself from what I thought I was going to spend my life doing," Shearer said.
After college, he began recording under the name John Weinland - an alias drawn from two parts of his name that he doesn't use.
"I was very specifically wanting to do a project by myself, but I didn't have the need for it to be my name, and I didn't really know what it would become ... ," he explained. "It's not directly tied to me, but it's very much something that's my own."
By 2006, John Weinland was a band, and Demersville was a collection of songs Shearer had written prior to that evolution, "still clinging onto that solo type sound."
La Lamentor, recorded as a quintet and without the "John," is the first full collaboration, with the band contributing arrangements to Shearer's songs. "At this point, we all direct each other," he said.
"The band just sort of grew over a period of about a year to two years, where friends would just slowly, kind of very nonchalantly, join the band until all of a sudden we had a full band," he said. "It seems to be happening still. Now we're on tour, and by the end of the tour we'll have seven people traveling with us. ... Against my will."
Shearer's voice at times recalls Neil Young's falsetto, but more controlled and without the strain. ("If you think I sound like Neil Young, you should hear my brother," Shearer said.) He doesn't seem bothered by the comparison, which he first heard when he was 15: "Back then I thought it was sweet. I think it's sweet now."
The arrangements on La Lamentor might also remind some of Young's acoustic albums, but they're more deliberate and wide-ranging.
"Our primary focus has always been lyrics and melody," Shearer said. "All of the instrumentation and arrangements just exist to serve the song. We want to create an entire mood with our music."
And if Weinland does make it big, Shearer said he still has 75 copies of Your Big Best, a solo album he recorded under the John Weinland name, at home. "I'm gonna get more than $7 for it," he said, "starting in 2012."
Weinland will perform with Nik Freitas, Snowblink, and Dan Goodman at Huckleberry's (223 18th Street in Rock Island) on Saturday, June 7. The show starts at 7 p.m., and admission is $6.
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