Paper Route’s struggles, growth highlighted in new album
“We’re always going to be slaying something,” said JT Daly, lead singer of Paper Route. “I’ll always be a mess of a man.”
His words are fitting to describe the Nashville-based indie band’s new masterpiece The Peace Of Wild Things. It’s an album that explores new emotions, talks about uncomfortable things, and inevitably brings hope when the listener least expects it. Peace is ultimately about the balance of opposites– light vs. dark, love vs. loss, faith vs. doubt.
Daly said that he and the band, had to “examine and move on from things that hold us back. We must fight for what we believe in.”
Paper Route has had an interesting journey. All of the members were transplanted into Nashville and were immediately immersed into the thriving art and music scenes. Daly, originally an Ohio native, said promptly that the new community he experienced in Nashville’s arts scene “made me better,” and he added that it caused him to “look at the art that (we) were a part of in a different lens.”
The members started making music together, with no plans for anything more than sharing this work with friends. Their self-titled debut EP turned many heads and soon attracted record labels. The band then signed with Universal Records and in 2009 released their prolific album Absence. After years of hard work, touring with major label bands, and a slew of song placements in network TV shows, Paper Route seemed to have “made it.”
Then life happened. The band experienced the heartache that came with the decision of a band member to leave, death, heartache, and a variety of things. It’s through all of these things that Paper Route found the inspiration for their new album. It was a process of growth. “There’s a lot more hope in me than I ever expected,” Daly said. “There’s a lot of fight in us, I don’t think we realize that until we are forced to.”
Peace is highlighted by richer, deeper lyricism as well as a change in musical styling; whereas Absence was highlighted by its eclectic variety of styles- with everything from indie rock to synth pop to ballads. Peace can be described as a complete, cohesive thought.
In response to the difference between albums, Daly said, “Absence felt like a ‘greatest hits’ album of Paper Route songs.” He said that the band’s writing process contributed to the notable changes in Peace.
“We’ve always been a band where we sing about what we know, and we sing about our lives,” Daly said.
Songs like “Better Life” and “Glass Heart Hymn” show the heightened depth and vulnerability that characterize this record.
The album also shows that Paper Route is willing to take chances when it comes to their music and instrumentation. There is definitely a “poppier” feel to the record and songs that delve into new genres.
“Two Hearts” is the best indie pop song you’ve ever heard, and “Rabbit Holes” is a huge track with heavy, cutting synth leads and fantasy story imagery. The growth and experimentation that is displayed throughout this album is rare among young bands, but Paper Route has made it obvious that they aren’t your average band. Peace draws you in with its honesty and vulnerability. It is an album that communicates deep human truths that listeners understand and can relate to.
“We all have a lot to learn from each other,” Daly said.
In addition to making great music, Paper Route attracts their legion of devoted fans through a breathtaking live show. Their album release show in September at Exit/In was no exception.
The show opened to a packed house with a chilling version of “Tamed,” complete with a video cameo from the female singer featured on the track. The band then tore through fan favorites like “Wish” and “Carousel.”
The night was accentuated by a formidable light show and proficient performances by the band. The band held the attention of the audience with a commanding stage presence and kept them enthralled as they switched instruments and added new nuances to old favorites, such as the classic “You Kill Me.” The night ended, as most Nashville Paper Route shows do, with a confetti-filled rendition of their seminal song “Dance On Our Graves.” The band closes every set in Nashville with that song- something that diehard fans keep coming back for.
As an unexpected success, Paper Route had to learn to “evolve or die.”
“You better really love it if you’re going to try it,” Daly said. “It’s a constant fight.”
Daly said the band has to ask themselves “everyday if this is still something we can do.”
Daly said this is where the band’s famous do-it-yourself spirit comes from.
“We’re all just blue-collar guys,” he said.
This attitude sets them apart from other indie bands.
“We never really asked who was going to produce our albums, we just assumed we would do it,” Daly said.
This mantra is spread over all the areas of their career– from merchandise, to artwork, to production, to album packaging. A lot of bands can do these things, but Paper Route is a band that does these things remarkably. Their albums sound better than major label albums, their artwork is a lot more artistic than major label art, and their merchandise is just plain cooler than other bands. Paper Route is a band that bleeds pure talent, and it shows.
Paper Route were, in a sense, forced to wait for over a year after finishing Peace to release it. This period was a trying time for the band, but they dealt with the uneasiness of this wait time deftly. They wrote more songs, produced records, and JT released a (fantastic) solo album. But more importantly, they still had confidence in Peace.
They “set it aside as a complete thought,” Daly said, and they had no doubt that it was “the best thing (we’ve) done.”
His words are fitting for a band that are kings of resilience.