WILMINGTON – Though 2020 will be marked by loss and hardship for many, for local musician Sean Thomas Gerard, he managed to create paradise — at least in some form. Gerard will release his upcoming LP, “Finally Found a Paradise,” next month after spending a year prolifically recording and writing.
Despite losing the majority of his live gigs from the pandemic — not to mention going on hiatus from booking and running shows at downtown’s Bourgie Nights — Gerard gained something even more blissful in the last year: the title “stay-at-home dad” to his baby girl, Jovie.
“The good thing for me is that she’s fairly predictable with her naps,” Gerard said. “So, you know, about 12:30 every day, she goes down for two hours, and that’s my time to either go out for a bike ride or work on music.”
Most days over the last year he’s focused on the latter. Gerard has completed eight songs as part of “Paradise” and already has begun tracks for his next LP. First things first, “Paradise” will be a mix of new and old songs, some that Gerard even played with his band Onward, Soldiers throughout the years.
Usually, he begins his writing process on acoustic guitar or piano. When he gets into his home recording studio, he lays down the drum track first, then the guitar, then the vocals.
“It becomes a whole experimental process,” Gerard said. “I don’t write super complicated music — I’m more about layers.”
While most stuff turns out the way he envisions it, a few manage to appear in better form. Take “Wild Inside,” for example, which contains lyrics that bestowed the album’s title “Finally Found a Paradise.”
“Initially, I wrote that on piano, and I thought it was just going to be a ballad,” Gerard explained. “It ended up with a couple synthesizer sounds and instead became this whole ‘80s track. My wife says it sounds like a song that would be played at an ‘80s prom, like in a slow-dance shot in a movie.”
Color your own paradise
It’s been four years since Gerard’s last album, “Avalon.”
“I’ve given people plenty of time to forget me,” the musician quipped.
The journey of “Paradise” began in 2019, in all fairness. Gerard started picking away at his most personal tune yet, “Jovie,” written for his first child. He created it during his wife’s pregnancy, and played it for her for the first time the night before Jovie was born.
“I was in tears, she was in tears,” Gerard reflected, “and the next day she had Jovie. When we brought her home from the hospital, that was the first thing I played for her. Her eyes just lit up like she knew it.”
Gerard released the pedal-steel folk song last April — a sleepy tune that could have been birthed from Wilco and George Harrison combined. Nine months later it has received more than 10,000 streams on Spotify.
Though “Jovie” took the longest to write, Gerard said some of his other songs for the album came rather quickly. “Sail Off in the Sunset” was written in 30 minutes. The song was inspired from living in the doldrums of a pandemic and needing escape.
“You’ve gone through hell and you’re coming out on the other side,” Gerard described. “That’s the hopeful vibe of it.”
Gerard even made a video from public domain footage of beach scenes, sailboats, surfers and other sunny-day good vibes. Gerard ran the imagery through a Super-8 app, did some time-lapse shots and filtered it to look grainy like an old movie.
“I showed it to my mom and sister, and they’re like, ‘Wow, that was really just three-and-a-half minutes of being totally relaxed watching something,’” Gerard said.
The video will premiere on March 15 on the Blood Makes Noise blog, while “Finally Found a Paradise” will come out on Fort Lowell Records on March 30 — though Gerard will drop his third single on March. 19. Gerard has worked with Lowell founders James Tritten and Tracy Shedd for years, including last year, contributing a track to their “GROW” compilation.
Gerard said he’s doing a rather unusual release for “Paradise,” shifting as necessary in the world of Covid-19, since hosting live release parties can’t be done. He’s not doing a livestream either, something many musicians have turned to in today’s unrelenting market.
“I don’t love streaming,” Gerard admitted. “I did a live stream when I put the ‘Jovie’ single out — and I was so much more nervous than I’ve ever been playing.”
To celebrate the release, Gerard teamed up with artist and musician-friend Chris Frisina (Sleepy Cat Records) to do the album cover. When folks buy the digital download, they’ll get a poster of the album and a vinyl sticker. They can choose the poster in color or black and white.
“My whole idea is that you color your own paradise on the black-and-white one,” Gerard said. “So I’m encouraging people to either give it to their kids or be creative with it — to draw, color, paint their own version of the album cover.”
He’s also encouraging fans to post their creations and tag him by using #finallyfoundaparadise. When they do, they will get a special gift from Gerard, like an unreleased song or an acoustic version of one of his tracks from “Paradise.”
“I have a kid now, so I understand they need things to do, and I’m hoping that somebody gives the poster to the kid and puts it on on their Instagram, and we can have a good laugh about how funny it looks, or how amazing their kid is,” Gerard said. “Hopefully, it becomes a little thing for people to have some fun with.”
The first two singles, “Jovie” and “Strange & Electrifying,” from “Finally Found a Paradise” can be streamed on Sean Thomas Gerard’s Soundcloud or Spotify:
Have arts news? Email firstname.lastname@example.org