“Now that I’m older I no longer steal, but I think about it all the time.” No, Anthony Green wasn’t talking about the five-fingered discount when he wrote that lyric in “Get Yours While You Can.” He was describing the act of “stealing” music and ideas, such as when he was directly influenced in the making of his new solo album, Beautiful Things, by the work of Good Old War, the indie-folk band he collaborated with to create the experimental set of tunes.
Before Green departed for his tour in support of the new album, he took some time to chat while seeing the local sights with his young son, James. Punctuated with happy screeches and babbling from the toddler, as well as occasional loss of cell-phone signal, the conversation was a glimpse into the life of a charismatic musician who, despite being internationally acclaimed, relies on his family to remain grounded and says he doesn’t live in a fantasy where he thinks he’s a rock star.
Released Jan. 17 on Photo Finish Records, Beautiful Things is a diverse joyride through the land of musical styles—from a groovy, psychedelic trip across the sonic atmosphere (“When I’m on Pills”) to a bluesy duet with Norwegian singer Ida Maria (bonus track “Can’t Be Satisfied”). And sometimes the only common element uniting the songs is Green’s ethereal voice and intimate lyrics.
“It’s very difficult to describe [the songs] to people exactly,” Green says. “[The album] has got so many different sounds that I feel like I almost accomplished something in that.”
And Green doesn’t mind being a musician who’s impossible to pigeonhole into one genre, as evident by the myriad musical projects he’s been involved with, most famously as the uncontainable force of a frontman for alternative-indie-rock band Circa Survive. The soaring, progressive melodies of Circa Survive, as well as the surreal aesthetic the band has become associated with through its phantasmagorical album artwork, showcase a powerful voice with an impressive range that lowly mortals can only dream of. But in Beautiful Things, Green has dialed back the unearthly screams to mellow crooning, and was free to toy with sounds outside the Circa style, a process he describes as “a really fun, experimental time.”
Beautiful Things was recorded in Avalon, N.J., a small coastal town that’s overrun with tourists in the summer, but abandoned during the winter off-season. Holed up in The Big House in Avalon, Green and Good Old War found the seclusion they needed to focus on songwriting.
“You get there, and there’s nothing to do … but play music,” Green says. “I feel like because the place is so energetic in the summer and then there’s nobody there to soak up any of that energy in the winter, maybe there’s some crazy shit floating around and that makes the creativity a little bit more fluid.”
That fluid creativity is especially evident in “Do It Right,” a song that was recorded literally as it was unfolding organically. On the recording are Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold and Dan Schwartz of Good Old War, and Green, drunkenly making up lyrics and backing vocals on the spot, clapping and stomping their feet to keep time. The song is raw and full of rough starts. In one of the videos Green posted on his Beautiful December advent calendar on his Website, he says, “[‘Do It Right’] was just like this goofy thing that we were all singing together, and then it turned into this really serious thing like 20 minutes in—one of the most important things I feel like I have ever sung.”
But Good Old War was involved in the genesis of the album long before arriving in the studio, and provided creative influence as well as musical accompaniment. The title Beautiful Things, Green explains, is actually a lyric from a Good Old War song called “Lullaby.” He says he heard the song before Good Old War was established as a band, and he would warm up before Circa shows by singing it. When Green learned Good Old War wasn’t going to include “Lullaby” on an album, he asked if he could use it, and with the band’s blessing, the song was “stolen” and included with Beautiful Things. Green also sang it to his wife on their wedding day.
“In the chorus of [‘Lullaby’] they say, ‘Beautiful things are coming to you,’ and I just always loved saying that,” Green says. “I found that it was sort of a positive affirmation, and I think I wanted to write some kind of album that … had more of a sense of hope.”