Strand of Oaks is largely the solo project of Timothy Showalter, whose music combines elements of folk and rock genres. Last year, Showalter released Heal, Strand of Oaks’ fourth album and Showalter’s first after being injured in a car accident in 2013. The near-death experience revitalized Showalter’s sound, and critics took notice — he’ll be riding a wave of acclaim into the Hangout Arts and Music Festival this May.
Showalter spoke to Weld about overcoming the accident, collaborating with Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and his plans for Gulf Shores.
Weld: You’re on the road with Jason Isbell right now, right? How did you two meet up?
Timothy Showalter: Yeah, we’ve got three dates. Too short, man. I just like watching him, dude. We played a show with him last night and it’s pretty amazing to play a show with somebody that can sing every lyric to every song they play. It was awesome! It’s a rare thing.
I just think we swim in the same pool of music; we have a lot of similar friends. I think we both have been fans of each other’s records, individually. We were doing a quick run and he was doing a quick run, so it worked out perfectly timing wise.
Weld: You had a really bad accident in 2013. When you came away from it, you had an entirely different sound. How did that experience influence your art?
TS: I think it was basically just facing coming that close to having it all be over. It wasn’t that I didn’t care anymore. I just didn’t care about giving myself rules. Life is too short. I’m going to make whatever kind of music that I want to make and my hesitations and all of that stuff be damned because it was time to kind of do what I always wanted. For me, it was just turning the guitars up and embracing that inner rock part of me.
Weld: That accident was another in a long string of bad experiences — losing a marriage and losing a house among them. What have you learned from those experiences?
TS: I think it’s just — it’s a cheesy statement, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. At this point in my life, if something bad is going to happen, I anticipate that I’m going to be really bummed out for a few months. But after that, I’ll get over it like everything else. It’s just a matter of working through it. If you give up or if you look at the Internet too much, you get depressed, it’s going to delay it. I just choose to write songs instead of wallow in it, I guess.
Weld: Do you still weave in the new material or do you mostly focus on the new stuff?
TS: A lot of times, if we’re doing an opening slot — you know, 40 minutes — we try to do mostly stuff off Heal. But I love when we do headline shows and we can kind of dig deeper in the catalog. I forget sometimes that I have four records out. I’ve been so engrossed in Heal, I’m like, “Oh man, there’s other songs to play!”
It’s kind of funny, the other day — I don’t have a very good memory, but I had to look up one of my songs on Google because I forgot the lyrics. “What is this song? I wrote this one? All right. Let’s see what goes on with this.”
Weld: Your home state of Indiana has been in the news a lot lately. How have you felt about that attention and that debate?
TS: Man, you know, it’s like, I love where I’m from. I love the state. My parents live there and my family lives there. But I just think we’ve got to stop — I don’t know the best way to say it — there’s much more important things to be focused on than how people choose to love one another. I just think it’s a situation where — everybody is entitled to their opinion, and I don’t think one has the power to tell people what to think. It just feels like something that should have been over 100 years ago and we still have to talk about it, which is unfortunate. But I think they’ll pull through.
Every generation coming up, even younger than me, they’ve had the Internet their whole lives. Aziz Ansari said once, “People aren’t going to care about this stuff because they’ve been looking at every movie ever made. They have every album at their fingertips…”
The world is more accessible. And this small-minded [expletive] will hopefully be done with sooner than later.
Weld: Your adopted state of Pennsylvania has developed a scene out of transplants – you, Katie and Allison Crutchfield from here — what is it about Philadelphia that inspires that art?
TS: I think Philly is a place where you can be a functioning musician because it’s relatively inexpensive to live in. You can afford a practice space. It’s nice because there’s such a diverse style of bands — there’s some bands that really broke out — I just love to see all the different kinds of music that are being made. Another thing that helps is that we’ve got a super supportive radio station, WXPN, that takes local bands and works hard to foster their local community, but also works hard to move them to the national or international perspective. We’re pretty grateful to have them being so supportive of us.
Weld: You were on Sirius XM recently and you were talking about J Mascis playing the solo on Heal’s “Goshen ‘97” and that you can’t recreate it. How do you fill that hole?
TS: It’s funny, I had a solo on that song before J came onboard. So I’ve just reverted back to my solo, which I actually really like. I just came to the conclusion after about two hours of trying to learn J’s part that I never would. It’s futile to try to recreate it. I think it’s so awesome on that record. Maybe one day I’ll convince J to come onstage and shred face. He can play over the whole song if he wants.
That was a big argument I had when it came to mixing because J really didn’t edit himself, he just shredded from the beginning to end. And I was like, “Let’s just keep the whole thing!” [Laughs] You can’t quite have a guitar shredding for, like, three and a half minutes. Maybe we should pick and choose where to put it in.
Weld: You’re playing Hangout in Gulf Shores. Is your hair going to be a problem at the beach?
TS: No, man. I just let it go. I’m hot in the winter. I’m hot in the summer. I’m just always a sweaty bearded guy just kind of hanging around looking like a trash collector. It’s kind of the way I roll. I’ll be wearing all black and leather boots. I’m hoping to get on a jet ski with this exact outfit on with a can of Busch Light and both middle fingers in the air, living it up at Hangout.
I’ve heard the best stories about that. I’m so psyched to play.
Strand of Oaks will play at the Hangout Arts and Music Festival in Gulf Shores on Saturday, May 16. For more information on the festival, visit HangoutMusicFest.com.