Cameron Sharp embraces ambiguity on a new ramshackle-folk EP recorded in the quiet of night after the birth of his son
On Earth Day in the spring of 2017, two days after Cameron Sharp’s Ohio State MFA thesis was approved, the musician welcomed a son, Charlie Moon, into the world. And in the days, weeks and months following the birth, Sharp would retreat to the basement at night to quietly play music while his son slept.
“I was flexing a muscle that I hadn't in a while,” said Sharp, who records under the name sovroncourt. “But it also made me feel more centered and closer to understanding where my feet were on the ground with this major upheaval of life.”
Down in the basement, Sharp waited for the furnace to go silent, then recorded hushed takes in front of a hot mic. Often, he did so in complete darkness or with only a single light bulb illuminating the room. Sometimes he closed his eyes. Denying himself a sense of sight helped Sharp focus on the sonic space of the songs. “What happens if I step into these songs … and have the songs live around me instead of sitting in a space and listening to it?” Sharp said. “I was thinking about having a space that is filled out — not just a wall of sound, but a filled-out space where nooks and crannies are considered sonically, not just instrumentally. And then to be in that space.”
The guitar is Sharp’s largest instrument; all the rest, which he made or collected over the years, can fit into a box or a drawer. “The process is one that's relatively immediate and quickly satisfied. It’s finding a place where something could happen, whether that's a melody or a note or a drum sound, and then just looking at the drawer of little instruments and picking and choosing,” he said. “It feels important to let that immediacy of a choice kind of dictate what the next move is, whether that's in choosing what instruments to use or what words to use in a song or how a thing is played.”
Sharp released the summation of those choices in the form of a new, six-song sovroncourt EP, Hi Shadow (sshhh), which is actually Side A of a 12-song, homespun-folk album (look for Side B next spring, followed by a physical release containing both sides). Sharp wrote, recorded and mixed the songs and played all the instruments, other than a bassline from friend Glenn Davis, who also mastered the release. “That was a really special experience,” Sharp said of his time with Davis. “Being able to talk about [the songs] and have him help me walk through what this album might be like sonically was really, really helpful.”Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Listening back now, Sharp, whose unrefined vocals take center stage on Hi Shadow, realized the concept of “the unobtainable” is a through line in the songs.
“It’s the unobtainable as a clarifying or a freeing sensibility,” Sharp said, noting a particular line on “Light Around”: “When words don’t work, don’t use words.”
“[Right now] it's fall, and I was out in the woods, and it's so beautiful to be around these trees as they're changing. That was amazing, and I wanted to take photographs of it because I just want to own it somehow. And you can't. … That happens in ‘Light Around.’ There's this stuff that exists and surrounds us, and oftentimes words don't do it justice. And we all know that. We've been in situations where you just can't articulate that sense, and there's something that is frustrating about that. But that can be really clarifying and freeing.”
On the track “In a Dream,” Sharp sings about a photograph depicting someone waving, but he can’t tell if the person is saying hello or waving goodbye. “Photography is supposed to help tell us what's happening, but in fact, there are these moments, like that situation, where we should have definite truth, but it just kind of confuses us,” he said.
For the closing track, “Lookin Out My Back Door,” Sharp converted a Creedence Clearwater Revival song into a goodnight tune for his son. “I would play it to him, and I started playing it in a slower version and style while he was going to sleep. The song turned into this lullaby,” Sharp said, noting that some of his own songs, like ‘Nothing At All,’ have also begun to change over time. “I thought that song was about something very specific. I've been playing it for a couple years now, and as I've played it, I recognize that it's not about this specific thing that I thought it was. That song is much more general. … I think 2020 has helped shift the lenses for me on how to understand it.”