A day-in-the-life unfolds on the singer-songwriter's latest, 'Ragamuffin Parade'
Though some of the songs on Ragamuffin Parade, the sophomore solo effort from singer-songwriter Jordan Kirk, date back more than a decade, the entire album actually unfolds over the course of a single 24-hour period.
“The album is supposed to be listened to almost as a day-in-the-life experience, even though it wasn't written that way at all,” said Kirk, who recently signed a deal with Scioto Records (an album release show is set to take place at Ace of Cups on Thursday, June 1). “[Opening track] ‘My Coffee' starts in the morning, and then the record goes through some very mundane heartbreak before moving into a more surreal set of songs. The last one (‘Holding the Rabbit, Losing the Dove') is waking up in the morning with birds chirping as it starts into a new day.”
Kirk, working with engineer Keith Hanlon at Musicol Recording, captured the songs to analog tape in more than 100 hours of sessions stretched over a two-year period. In addition to his recording prowess, Hanlon served as a welcome sounding board, pushing Kirk to consider takes he might have ditched in past years, determined to find the “perfect” sound at any cost.
“I don't try to make things sound pretty as much as I used to,” Kirk said, and laughed. “I used more first takes when recording because I think you get something raw and real out of them that people can connect to, even if sometimes that can be hard to hear yourself because you just hear the imperfections.
“Thank God Keith was there to be like, ‘I think there was something special there.' Otherwise I might have done 20 more takes and settled on one that was free of imperfections but completely devoid of that emotion and power.”
Of course, working more in-the-moment in the studio had little effect on Kirk's sometimes-glacial songwriting pace. “My Coffee,” a richly orchestrated, stately, piano-driven ballad, took shape over three years, while the fragile, fluttering “A Hole in Time” has roots stretching back more than a decade.
“If I don't finish a song in that same [initial period of] inspiration and on that same emotional wavelength, I feel disingenuous finishing it until I get back in that headspace,” Kirk said. “It can be hard to touch base with that emotion again. Sometimes I just let [songs] go and never finish them because of that.”
While thematically the album encompasses a long, dark night, delving into issues of mental illness and heartache, it's also a comparatively playful, hopeful effort from a musician whose worldview has brightened considerably in more recent years.
“If there's one central theme on the record it's that, yes, OK, there is this great sadness, but I don't take it so seriously anymore,” said the Vermilion-born Kirk, 28, who first picked up a guitar at age 12 and began performing onstage just two years later. “Maybe it's growing from all that hurt and change and being grateful for what I have. I definitely lived quite a few years in isolation … [but] I'm in a great relationship now and I have a lot of great friends, so I'm very much excited for the future.”