Vincent Draper is one of the quintessential storytelling musicians that Utah has the pleasure of calling its own. The self-proclaimed "sad bastard" strums his own brand of folk-influenced softcore, belting out tunes that hit the heart in tender and sometimes whimsical ways.
Draper's previous two albums are already local hits—his first, SAM (VincentDraper.Bandcamp.com, 2013) was made while fronting The Dirty Thirty, and his most recent is a 2014 collaboration with fellow singer/songwriter Charles Ellsworth called Salt Lake City: A Love Story. Since then, Draper has only played a handful of shows over two years while working on new material. But even he didn't know he was making an album until old and new songs started to come together.
"I really started writing for the record before I knew there was going to be one," Draper says. "'Angler' was written years ago while I was with the Small Town Sinners. I liked the song, but it just never felt right. Once 'Lunatic' was born, I could see all these little things in many of my songs that, to me, tied them together. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized an album had been written."
Draper booked himself time with Wes Johnson of Archive Recording to mix and engineer the album, but after the initial work was done, his personal life started falling apart, and he hit a musical depression. He forgot about the album for three months until formerly local singer-songwriter Josaleigh Pollet hit him up and asked if he still wanted her to sing on it. The two booked an impromptu session while she visited from Seattle.
"Josi sang like a bird, like she was born to do it," Draper says. "It was inspiring. [She] and Jory, her boyfriend, were very supportive. After that session, I decided that I owed it to myself and the other musicians to finish the project."
Called Ruiner, the new album strays from the darker tone of SAM. It still has sad tunes, but also its fair share of bright spots. "1920's Eyes" focuses on the gaze of a new woman, while "Tickets" gets the foot tapping to the memories of an ex-lover. But the downer tunes—like "Faded," "Sleeping Alone" and "Lie To Me"—are wrapped in sweetness with low riffs and comforting string sections, making even the depressing topics feel like they've risen above the gloom and into a moment of reflection.
It's a damn fine folk-rock album, but Draper initially "didn't like it at all." He says it "reminded me of a lot of pain that I was trying to let go ... But I've grown a lot, and it means something new to me now. I love it. It reminds me of some of the best friends that I've ever had." CW