We got Chris Dupont to open up about his band’s newest album, Outliers and it wound up being one of those conversations that reminds you about how important music is in life.
Dupont can do that; the Ann Arbor singer/songwriter has spent the last five years re-imagining the folk aesthetic with a devastatingly soft brush of baroque strings and pianos under autumnal wistfulness strummed across his guitar, with lyrics that punch the gut in slow motion and cathartically pluck the heartstrings (snapping a few, sometimes, after the third chorus). Dupont’s music manifests that startling quiet you feel come over you when you reach that clearing in the wood, or if you’re out traipsing a cold Michigan lake’s shoreline at dawn.
That’s just a taste of what to expect on Outliers, out October 2nd.
The blend of electric and acoustic guitars, splashing together with soft radiance over the steady pulse of the drums and pianos like soothing sighs; yes, it’s this kind of revitalizing folk music, the epilogue of emotional ravages, the soundtrack of the next sunrise. And we haven’t even touched on that voice, fragile and fresh, celestial and smooth. Let’s really open up…
Current: Outliers songs sound more existential, lyrically; it’s like an outlier being out of one’s body or a view from a scene from backstage, singing as an outside observer…
Chris Dupont: That’s a great take on Outlier! Yes, the idea of being an onlooker, being outside your own environment or even your own body, that’s definitely there. It’s a feeling I have often, and I think it speaks to the mood [of Outlier].
It’s almost as if I’m separating myself from my emotions, sorting them out, looking at them, reintegrating. I’m not sure that’s what I set out to do. I started realizing the title really described me as a person, and how I view the world.
Not necessarily as an “outsider” or “rebel,” those imply something more active. It’s more a calm submission to being on the fringe. You can follow what everyone else wants for you, you can stay bitter for a long time, or you can accept your own oddities and do your best to live with what you’ve got. That’s what a lot of these songs dwell on.
It’s not easy striking such a heartfelt frankness to one’s musical poetry like this. Talk about allowing the heavy emotions to rise to the top and what draws you to these poignant veins of folk singing?
Frankness. I love that word. Yeah, it’s tough being so exposed. It’s not necessarily embarrassing because I absorb these energies from people, whether good or bad, and then gravitate toward writing. Usually, the process of putting those thoughts to music and molding ideas into a narrative lyric helps me discover an insight that might not have occurred to me. I think that’s why a lot of my songs have turns or resolutions. Some of these songs and stories spur emotional reactions in people, but that might cause them discomfort. That can make me squeamish; I’m that party host wanting every guest to feel great, ya know? But, I can only connect with that I’m doing if I believe it. Frankness is all I’ve got.
I also draw lots of inspiration from my environment and the seasons. I try to set a scene; to really place people in the grey overcast valley of Ypsilanti, or in the woods when everything’s frozen and dead.
Talk about what moves you, when it comes to music—like your influences and what it is you strive for when you record and perform with the band.
I write a lot of my music when I’m in deep need of sorting something out. I love songs that make sense and feel like they’ve been there for a long time. James Taylor, Ryan Adams, Tracy Chapman…all wrote a bunch of those. I’m attracted to songs that could stick around and mean something new several years later. Outlier has a bunch of ‘jam’ sections, but I think the songs themselves are actually simple forms with lyrics and melody leading the whole work. I was taught by my father, long ago: “don’t just be a guitar player; make the guitar sing.”
Chris Dupont starts the biggest tour of his career to support Outlier this month, which gets a national release on November 13 (iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp). Look for Outlier on vinyl next January.
7 pm, Friday, October 2
Towsley Auditorium, Wastenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron Dr. Ft.