John Louviere has been writing and performing music in Salt Lake City for a long time—around 20 years. Despite his experience, something feels new on his latest album, The Future Is Now (JohnLouviere.Bandcamp.com). "I completely decided to talk to myself in this album," he says. "I've never done anything like what I did this time."
This is his second release as a solo artist, the second since a series of life-altering events including the death of his mother and going through a divorce. He says he spent a lot of time mining the feelings that were still left inside, even the most painful ones, and describes writing the album as an almost torturous ritual of honest self-evaluation, agonizing over the truth of every last lyric. "It took hours to push through to finally say what I actually wanted to say," he recalls. "When I'd find the lyric, sometimes it would just break me open, and I would just begin weeping."
There is certainly a sadness that permeates through much of the album, including its title track, which twists an optimistic phrase into a ballad for a past that he neglected. "Hold on to the ones you love/ Even though one day you'll have to let them go/ Because you know what you're building right now is a memory," Louviere sings alongside mournful piano.
His sweetly sincere voice is a nice call-back to Todd Rundgren, Harry Nilsson and other singer-songwriters of AM radio past, and it fits well with The Future Is Now's themes of loss—not just loss of time or love, but a loss of self. The track "Young Fighter" is a song for Louviere's younger self. It comes from a painting his grandmother made of him as a 5-year-old, depicting him holding a toy horse and pistol in each hand, not quite knowing how lonely the ride ahead would be. "Young fighters fear, even to tears/ the day they've got to ride alone/ When the smoke is cleared, everyone I held dear/ was gone," he sings.
"I talk to my past selves a lot, only because there was no one there to help them," he says. "I wrote it to defend that 'me' that really needed someone to stand up and defend him, and that just brings me to tears every time I think about it."
Louviere talks a lot about the tears he shed while making this album. While his songs have always been very personal, the emotions he unearthed in the process of making it were actually something he hadn't experienced at that level before. "I was just purging something," he says. "And I'm not a crier over my songs." Even when he goes back and listens to the finished product, the conversations he's having with himself hit him just as hard. "It hits home. I realize, 'Wow. I think I wrote this for people who are broken.'"
As painful as writing the music was, Louviere also found himself in new territory for the recording process. Before, he was stubbornly protective of his songs and didn't like people meddling with them. This time around, he enlisted the help of producer Andrew Goldring, who took Louviere's songs and fleshed them out in the studio.
Collaboration felt liberating. "I was ready," he says. "I think when you grow sick of yourself enough ... it's nice to let someone else take over for a while."
Although he's started playing live with a band, his objective at a concert remains the same as it always has—to open an audience, and himself, up. It's worth the heartbreak, he says. "The response that I'm looking for is to just fucking shatter your heart. If I can create that environment where people are actually open to feeling, I'll feel safe."