Americana Highways brings you this premiere of Johnny Stanec’s song “Along the Middle,” from his forthcoming album Sunrise, Sunset, due to be available on September 16. The record was produced by Johnny Stanec; mixed and mastered by Josh Roman at MindRocket Recording, in western Pennsylvania.
All vocals and instrumentation on this album is performed by Johnny Stanec. We had a chance to chat with Johnny about the project. The song appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: You talk about how these songs were recorded very shortly after being written. How did that change the process of making an album?
Johnny Stanec: For once my plan was to have no plan. Typically I would have songs written and then start the demo process and then build on them. But on this record I focused on a song at a time and began seeing thematic tie-ins as I went ahead.
The loose idea for a cohesive, slightly conceptual record about one day’s events came to me about halfway through the writing process. I started noticing how different I wrote at certain times of the day. Once I had this vague idea I was able to complete the songs and put it all together. For me, a new approach. I think because of that decision, each song feels like a standalone statement in itself. However, together if flows pretty well. The album opens and closes with the same harmonies, sort of to represent the cyclical nature of time. We’re constantly revolving. The record gets divided into four parts; morning, midday, evening and night. Each section is announced by a short musical interlude.
I approached each tune in a unique way and wasn’t concerned about how it would fit in with ones I had already completed. Even despite that, the concept was completed. In the end it all came together and felt finished. A record about a day in the life and all the ups and downs that one day can bring.
There are some darker moments on the record, but it ends on a hopeful note. That final thought as you drift off to sleep is that even on your toughest days, the promise of another lies ahead and maybe you’ll sort it all out. All that self doubt can eventually serve a purpose in the end.
AH: Was there a specific event that inspired “Along The Middle?”
JS: It’s definitely one of the more personal songs on the record. Specifically it’s about my wife’s and I’s relationship, where we’ve been and maybe where we’re going. I reference some memories of places we’ve been together, but not by name. I like to keep things general sometimes. It makes songs more universal.
The lyrics are also a little surreal and weave in and out of the stream of consciousness. The title really doesn’t mean anything more than maybe where we’re all at in our lives. Just somewhere in the middle of our journey.
It’s a love song about how challenging love is and also how necessary it is because it helps shape your entire existence. I rarely write about love, so I needed to make it count. I think it does the job.
AH: What were you listening to while writing this record? Are there any artists that directly inspired the new material?
JS: I typically don’t listen to much while writing, but regardless there are always reference points. My influences haven’t changed much for a while. I try and write songs that touch on multiple genres. I think I’m trying to combine Americana, folk rock, Britpop and classic singer-songwriters all at once when I’m making an album. But I just let it happen naturally and see how each song develops and what each song needs. I’m a big fan of records that go from loud to soft and from acoustic to electric, so I stuck to that outline and went from there.
AH: How does this album compare to your previous work?
JS: I feel like this is the best work I’ve ever done. I know every musician claims that with every new release, but I think the results are better than I expected. I’ve written quite a bit over the years, but never with this much focus and attention to detail. I think being more “hands on” with the recording process opened up so many new ideas and allowed me to take the production in new directions. Using layered effects and instrumentation gave the songs more nuanced arrangements and overall produced some of my best work to date. I think fans of classic songwriting will enjoy this album, but also listeners looking for an updated take on the singer-songwriter genre will find something worth discovering.
AH: Will you be touring soon? Where can we expect to find you later this year?
JS: I just did several shows on the east coast including Brooklyn and Jersey City. Plus a recent show in the Cleveland area. I have dates coming up in Chicago, northern Michigan and Pittsburgh. Later this fall in November I’ll be back out in New York and New Jersey and then a show in central Ohio. More dates are always in the works. After that, over the winter, I’ll probably return my focus to recording new material, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes.
Thank for the chat Johnny Stanec! Check out the calming serenade which is Stanec’s forté, here in “Along the Middle” and put yourself in all the feels.