Every songwriter has a different language. Some speak in brass section crescendos, others tell their story through tragic historical figures. For Tim Showalter, aka Strand of Oaks, the process for writing HEAL, his fourth full-length album, was a grueling and celebratory journey inward, to the very first moments he discovered music.
“I don’t think I had any plans when I started. I didn’t plan on making it this diary entry, but each time I went to write a new song, something else came out,” said Showalter from his home in Philadelphia. “It’s like, ‘I’ve got so much shit here, let’s see what happens.’ It’s like the car is running and I have to catch up with the driver.”
Strand of Oaks’ new album is a poignant and arresting album full of crunch and beauty, anchored by Showalter’s candid memories of alienation and loneliness throughout childhood. “I was rotting in the basement, buying Casios with my friend. Then I found my dad’s old tape machine, that’s where the magic began,” Showalter sings on the single, “Goshen ’97.”
As honest and painful as his lyrics are, there is always a ray of hope throughout the record: a life filled with music. “I wanted to record an album that felt like when I first got ‘Siamese Dream’ or something,” said Showalter. True to form, the album is ambitious as it is confessional, filled with soaring guitar parts that harken back to dour rock anthems of the 90s, all of which were played by Showalter himself. In fact, the songwriter took on all the playing duties when recording the album in his home studio.
“It’s me playing and it would almost feel phony if a hotshot sessions player had played an incredible piano part,” said Showalter. “Even though I may not have the most pro caliber of playing, I think there’s an authenticity to me doing it.”
When recording, one of Showalter’s goals was to craft an album that simply begged to be turned up on a late-night drive. “I’ve always wanted the record to be as loud as possible and I truly think there’s a point on ‘JM’ where I don’t think we could have turned the guitar up any louder.”
Although HEAL is Strand of Oaks’ fourth full-length album, it hums with a freshness and a disarming sense of itself, because the songs are not merely intimate windows of nostalgia. On each song, Showalter is boldly attempting to capture the essence of a feeling felt for the very first time, and often succeeding.
“I kind of wrote it for 15-year-old me, honestly,” Showalter said of the album. “Like the first time we snuck in ‘Appetite for Destruction’… and were like, ‘Oh my God, there’s a bigger world out there.'”