Lonely piano kicks off the record on "Holy Days,” as McConnell explores that distinct blend of captivity and freedom that defines youth. He highlights the track as a favorite, noting that it’s the most different from the original version. "We were rolling tape as I sat down for the first time to learn it on the piano,” McConnell says. "When I was done, I popped out into the control room to take some notes and then give it another go, but when I heard it playing back through the speakers I fell in love with what we captured. It has a sort of charming clumsiness for me. I can hear myself stumbling on all these odd little accidental notes because I didn’t know what I was doing, and it resulted in a performance I couldn’t recreate.”
McConnell treads similar ground on "Ghost Town” as he haunts streets, parking lots, and names left behind to grow up. Stunner "Queen of St. Mary’s Choir” traces McConnell’s personal history to gritty, poetic perfection, proving it’s often a writer’s most obviously autobiographical work that resonates most deeply with audiences. One of many showcases for McConnell’s breathtaking vocals, "Babylon” features accompanying keys and bemoans the confusion that unfolds when things fall apart with heartbreaking clarity.
"I'm really attracted to songwriters who just put it out there honestly, and I feel like I'm getting back to basics and expressing things in a simple, direct way on this album," he says. "I'm just trying to learn how to be a more honest storyteller, trying to get my mind in a place where I'm not actually thinking and the music's just kind of happening naturally.”
Sweet "Hey Mary” is a guitar-driven charmer, while "One Acre of Land” is a moving offer to build real love that lasts. Performed and written with McKenna, the sparse and gorgeous "Nothing on You” captures the eclipsing power of love. "We laughed as much as we sang,” McConnell says of recording the track with McKenna. "It just took a few passes, and that was it. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish, and it’s a real thrill to have it be a part of this collection.”
Writing better songs than ever before and singing them like no one else can, McConnell is now in a place that can’t help but feel like fate. "From a very young age, I just knew that I was gonna spend my life making music," he says. "I never really questioned it, so I just forged ahead and didn't let anything stop me.”