Covenhoven’s Fourth: Joel Van Horne talks about his fourth album and his coming to Willits
As singer-songwriter Joel Van Horne, who plays Covenhoven, began working on the new songs that would eventually make up his fourth album, “IV,” the Denver-based musician found himself in don’t start with the poetic lyrics or the piano or the six-string. guitar.
It started instead with a drumbeat.
Van Horne isn’t a drummer (“I dabble,” he said in a recent phone interview) but he still found himself building these new folk tunes out of drums.
“I just thought to myself, ‘What if I kind of turned the songwriting around and started on the drums,’ which are often the last thing – or one of the last things – that you start fleshing out on a song,” he explained. from my home in Denver.
Van Horne has just returned to Colorado after a five-week show streak across the West Coast, Montana and Utah. He has steadily developed a national following over the past decade and occasionally traveled to the Roaring Fork Valley for intimate performances at Belly Up. He returns on Friday to perform at the Arts Campus in Willits.
The new starting point, naturally, led to different results in the songs.
“It takes me down a totally different path when I pick up the guitar or the piano or whatever,” Van Horne said. “It was a new way to explore songwriting.”
He shot the new songs, released in the fall of 2021, in various forms and with various arrangements, including solo and duo setups. He comes to TACAW with a quartet version of Covenhoven – featuring Van Horne on vocals and guitar with the backing of a drummer, bassist and rhythm guitarist/synthesizer – which serves new songs well and allows him to play new tracks that he can’t do it solo.
The final single, the evocative road poem “Monterey”, for example, was among the songs born from the drum and is driven by a slow beat.
“It’s such a heavy song,” Van Horne said. “The groove is so important that I can play it solo, but I’d rather not.”
The new album wasn’t purely a pandemic project born out of quarantines and the live music industry’s long 2020-21 shutdown.
Van Horne had started recording songs for what would become “IV” in early 2020 and continued as the world stopped and changed. Elements of the stay-at-home experience and its mental and emotional shock worked their way into the songs and spirit of the record, slyly and inevitably.
“It’s certainly not intentionally a pandemic record,” Van Horne said. “It was not something that was in reaction to the pandemic. But the fact that it was recorded during lockdown, during that time when things were really anxious and weird and nobody really knew what was going on and where we were going, that definitely had an effect on me and is found in some of the songs. ”
Among the songs influenced by the pandemic is “Everything I Said Yesterday,” a quiet ballad about, as Van Horne said, “everything is going too fast for many of us to follow” and grapples with tight relationships. It started out as a demo in 2019, but added new lines and let pandemic weariness seep in enough that it could be read as a song about pandemic stress.
While Covenhoven’s first three full-length albums were inspired by specific locations, “IV” takes a broader view and is not limited to a single theme. In keeping with its ambitions, the album features a wide array of guest musicians and producers, including Denver stalwarts like Ben Wysocki of the Fray, Gregory Alan Isakov and Julie Davis.
Van Horne grew up in Lakewood in a family of musicians and has been part of Denver’s indie music scene since he was a teenager alongside these artists and their bands, bouncing around coffee shops and the Mercury Cafe, listening to OpenAir 102.3, playing many times to the metro. Musical showcase.
Van Horne is just beginning to write new songs for his upcoming album and is planning a fall tour across the Midwest and East Coast. But this summer, he’s staying close to home, playing around Denver and the mountains.
“The music community here has been amazing,” he said. “It was really inspiring. I feel pretty lucky to have grown up here and been a part of it. “