(Press Photo Credit: Rodrigo Melgarejo)
Chicago-born Alternative artist Willis Earl Beal announced he will be releasing a new album, Noctunes, on August 28th, 2015, via Tender Loving Empire.
Up until this point, Beal has led a colorful life. He was born and raised in Chicago, but left home and enlisted in the U.S. Army. After a childhood obsession with Batman that lasted into his teenage years, enlistment would take that love of superhero vigilantism, and channel it into a real world career. Or, so he thought.
After a grueling experience in bootcamp, a series of health complications – including the removal of a large portion of his intestine – forced his discharge, and he headed back to Chicago. “When that all broke down,” Beal said in a press release. “I lost a piece of myself.”
He would reemerge in Albuquerque, NM. After a period of homelessness, Beal took on odd jobs to make ends meet, and moved into a studio apartment. It was in this city that he began recording low-fi demos of songs, despite having no instrumental music education. He would leave his demos with hand drawn covers around the city, along with a personal-ad on a flyer that contained his phone number, as he was seeking a girlfriend. Eventually, his demos found their way into the hands of Jamie-James Medina at XL Recordings. In 2012, Beal signed with XL’s Hot Charity imprint.
After relocating to New York City and having two well received albums on XL – Acousmatic Sorcery, a collection of his early home recordings, and a fully orchestrated studio album he recorded in Amsterdam called Nobody Knows – Beal was drinking himself “into stupors,” he said in a press release.
“I’d walk around in the daytime, crying, then I’d go downtown. The police would bring me home in the morning.”
He ended his contract with XL; relocated to Olympia, Washington; underwent a period of artistic transformation; and, emerged as a mysterious crooner.
“People had all these ideas about what I was supposed to be,” he said in a press release. “I had only ever wanted to make lullabies.”
Prior to the patient and ambient-sounding Noctunes, Beal released two self-titled EPs and a full-length album. The 12 songs on the upcoming release are moving, meditative, and minimalistic with simple lyrics and mournful sounding strings. The minimalism was intentional on Beal’s part.
“I wanted to create this persona that could say everything perfectly with very little,” Beal said in a press release. “The record, to me, is a perfect record. I listen to that thing a lot, and it helps me.”
In addition to the album announcement, Beal released a new song, “Flying So Low,” which will be on the upcoming album.
“Flying So Low” opens with a mournful string and piano duet, as Beal hums a few bars. Then, he begins to sing with a voice that has shades of blues, r&b, and gospel influences. There is power in the simple arrangement and lyrics, “I’m flying so low. . .,” even without knowing his life story, the lyrics themselves convey a sense that this man that has seen and overcome challenges.
Check it out, below, and click here to pre-order Noctunes.
Willis Earl Beal, Noctunes (2015) Tracklisting
01. Under You
02. Flying So Low
03. Like a Box
05. No Solution
07. Say The Words
08. Love Is All Around
09. Able To Wait
11. Start Over
12. 12 Midnight