It’s common for a musician or band to revisit an album that came out 10 years ago. But five years ago? Singer-songwriter Adam Marsland, whose current tour is designed to give his 2009 album Go West another push, feels fine about going back to an album that few people heard the first time around (it’s only now become available on iTunes).
“When I made that album, I put everything I had into it,” says Marsland, who performs at the Barking Spider at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28. “When it came time to get it out there, you realize you don’t have the platform for it. Yeah, it’s real good but it’s not easy trying to get people in a crowded bar to pay attention to a song that’s a little more heartfelt than your average Chumbawamba hit. The music I’ve made since then has been good and easily digestible punk songs. Ten songs, verse chorus, verse. But when I went back and listened to Go West, I thought it was the best thing I ever did and better than anything I’m every likely to do again.”
He played the album in its entirety earlier this year at a L.A. tour stop and plans to play many of the songs when he plays the Barking Spider. Even though he’s older (and presumably wiser), he says he’s still connected to album's themes.
“When I made the record, I was just nudging into middle age,” he explains. “I was dating someone who was a lot younger than me. I was interested in how much the anxieties of someone who is 24 are similar to those of someone who is 40. Your quarter life and mid-life aren’t that different. It ties into concerns of people who are ending their youth and starting their adult life. The idea of the record is that the first disc is your twenties and the second is your thirties. There’s a thread that goes through it. You leave home, get your first job and start to experience sexuality for the first time. Then your idealism comes under attack and you have to start negotiating increasingly difficult choices between idealism and pragmatism. To hold onto one, you have to give up some of the other. That gets harder as you get older.”
Part of what makes it difficult to promote is that fact that it’s such an incredibly eclectic album. Some of the snottier songs recall Elvis Costello, but it’s ultimately not possible to pigeonhole.
“I thought if I have to listen to fucking 23 songs in a row, it better not be the same shit,” Marsland says. “That’s what drives me nuts. I was thinking back to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or a Todd Rundgren record or even Exile on Main Street; there’s an eclecticism to them. You create a little world and there’s something to go back to and discover.”
The prolific Marsland, who says he’s not currently working on any new material, doesn’t regret taking time off to promote an album that came out five years ago.
“I’ve made the equivalent of about 40 albums in the last few years,” he says, referring to all the session work and production he’s done. “I’ve done one-off and limited edition discs to finance things and I’ve done things for other artists. It’s just not under my name. When I make an album, I got to get a publicist and line up the tours. That’s fine if you find me in the mood to do that. To do it properly, it’s a year out of my life. My records have done a poor job of breaking out of the indie ghetto. I’m a good survivor and I’ve managed to outlast other people, but I never get on NPR and I never get that little thing that says you matter. I’m not saying that with any sense of bitterness. I’m successful but not that successful as a singer-songwriter. If something unexpected happened with Go West and some game changer occurred, I could come up with an album in two weeks.”