Neo-folk singer-songwriter Armon Jay from Chattanooga has announced plans to release his debut album, “Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed,” on Jan. 21.
Review for Armon Jay:
A culmination of Armon’s two-year journey from darkness to sunlight, or in his words, “desolation to consolation,” his debut album is a manifestation of restored hope – a set of songs derived from sleepless nights that speak from the very core of his being. Reminiscent of artists such as Paul Simon, Bright Eyes and Ryan Adams, “Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed” draws from these influences, while solidifying a unique sound that is distinctly Armon Jay.
Listen to a sneak preview of the title-track here: http://youtu.be/DqVoDBaN0_o. Fans can catch him on tour this spring with Noah Gundersen.
Thanks to raising close to $14,000 on Kickstarter, Armon was able to travel to producer Joshua James’ idyllic Willamette Mountain on a one-acre farm against the beautiful backdrop of American Fork, Utah, to record the album in two eventful weeks. James, introduced to Armon Jay by mutual friend, singer/songwriter Noah Gunderson, proved a valuable partner, not just producing the album, but serving as “farmer, mountain climber, goat herder, high-tailin’ bike rider and a bit of a wild man,” helping Armon get over his fear of heights as well as failure. The album was mixed in Los Angeles by Todd Burke, who has worked with the likes of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson in his Monrovia studio.
“Joshua is all about creating an atmosphere that inspires genuine and real creativity,” says Armon. “He also has a phenomenal group of musicians on call—his own secret weapon for making great records. We hit the ground running. He just said, ‘If you’re going to sing the song, sing it.’ Almost every track on the record started with just an acoustic guitar and vocal performance and then we built from there.”
From the pain of “Edge of the Dark” and “Flight from Sorrow” to the breakthrough of “The Harvest” and “Carry Through,” from the painful self-awareness of “To Be Honest” and “I’m Not Home Yet” to the optimism of “Tomorrow” and “Sunlight,” neatly summarized by the transparently autobiographical title track, Armon Jay lets us glimpse his deepest fears and darkest anxieties, while pointing the way towards salvation. “It’s like I’m stuck in between the cure and the disease,” he sings. “I’m walking straight just in a crooked way.” This theme of light and darkness is echoed through the album’s artwork, which features two original pieces from Anton Van Hertbruggen, a Dutch illustrator Armon quickly became a fan of after stumbling upon his work online.
The Chattanooga-born Armon’s father was a portrait painter (“An ‘eccentric’ artist like me,” he adds), who plucked out songs by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson on a guitar, while his mom, who used to sing around the house, introduced him to the likes of Whitney Houston and Kenny Loggins on the tape deck of the family’s ’89 Buick. Armon sheepishly admits to plinking out the theme to the movie Titanic on the piano by ear before picking up a guitar at 12 and starting to write songs two years later.
After a stint with a major-label Christian band signed to Sony Music’s Provident Label Group, Armon decided he needed to go in a different direction, prompted by a personal crisis that had him terrified to fall asleep at night, questioning his own inability to live up to his ideals. In that season of internal conflict, his questioning led him to the realization that it was time to “shed the skin” of any preconceived genre label before he felt he could freely move forward. That eventually prompted the decision to redefine his artistry, and begin using his real first and middle name (he was formerly known as AJ Cheek).
"I’ve learned to be careful not to create walls that interfere with the ability of music and art to connect with anyone,” he explains, “Attaching that strong of a label leaves too much room for one to assume that my music is only intended for a certain group. A song can have so many different layers of meanings for different people. It’s such a precious and beautiful thing, the fact that we can all find a common ground through the language of art and music. But, it all has to come from a genuine place. I can’t muster up the truth. It already exists. I just have to tell it, and it’s up to the listener with how they choose to receive it.”
“It’s been quite a trip,” adds Armon, “But the most liberating thing is to be able to walk in my own skin, whatever that means… the good, the bad or the ugly. And not to just follow what somebody else thinks I should be. I don’t have to hide my sickness in the dark anymore. This is me. Nothing’s changed…Even if everything’s different.”