Andrew Duhon’s current album “Emerald Blue” is roux rich, darkened with earth, and textured by deceptively understated performances that pulse like nearby hearts.
Inspired sweetly by sojourns to visit his girlfriend in Washington state and tautly by his pandemic experience amid the struggling scenes outside his own New Orleans window, Duhon chain wrestles the challenges of the day, smoothly navigating his way with harmony, awareness, and humility.
As an album largely written during the pandemic, it’s not surprising that various circumstances and issues from that period filter through the “Emerald Blue” album.
The song “Slow Down,” for instance, found its roots in the pre-pandemic hustle of being an independent artist– wrangling shows and tours while attempting to maintain some semblance of a “normal.” Of course, as the old adage goes– be careful what you wish for.
“I agree that the nature of the quarantine, for me, was a proof of concept that if only I would’ve given myself that time and respite to write, I could be effective in doing so. But I still haven’t ever given myself that time voluntarily,” laughed Duhon during a recent interview.
“That’s the interesting thing about “Slow Down”– it was one of the first songs that I shared during the quarantine because it wasn’t inspired by the quarantine. It was inspired before that when I was hustlin’ and never stopping. It was a question of, ‘Can we just slow down and enjoy this stuff before we are gone, before it goes away, before the opportunity to slow down doesn’t exist anymore?’ But then there’s that other piece, a passion for something kind of feels like a vent more than it does a job. It’s clear to me that if money didn’t exist or I didn’t have to do anything, I would still write songs.”
Though dark and dangerous, the downtime experienced by every working artist on the planet also offered opportunities for much-needed rest and creative rejuvenation. It was also an opportunity to virtually meet up with fans on a deeper level. Duhon used his Patreon platform as a means to workshop songs in real-time, allowing access for fans into the process few would have considered before COVID-19.
“It doesn’t feel comfortable to me to share, wide open, my whole life. I’m carefully editing some songs to figure out what I have to say– that’s the part that I want to share that’s intimate,” said the native of Metairie, Louisiana. “Patreon is a much more intimate crowd, a smaller community that is choosing to pay a monthly membership to be a part of [it], and I found that much easier to share a little more intimately the process of the songs.”
Through the process, Duhon found a new comfort in his own abilities and fresh courage to explore the situations and stories he feels are important.
“I think there was a bit of a pivot with those two ideas ‘What is it that I have to say?’ and ‘Write what you know,’ Duhon said. “‘Everybody Colored Their Own Jesus’ is a good example of me feeling fairly confident, ‘Okay, I know enough in my own experience to write about this.’ But the pivot is about me being less precious about the whole thing – less precious about the recording, less precious about how other folks might take this. I think I’m comfortable enough now that I’m being thoughtful in the process so the product will remain thoughtful, and hopefully, it will inspire thought. But if it’s not completely squaring with someone else’s worldview, that’s okay.”
For the recording of “Emerald Blue,” Duhon engaged percussionist Jano Rix (Wood Brothers), bassist Myles Weeks (Seth Walker, Eric Lindell), and keyboardist Dan Walker (Heart, Courtney Marie Andrews) as his band at Maurice, Louisiana’s Dockside Studios, reuniting with GRAMMY-winning, golden-eared producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker.
“I got back together with Trina partly because after the quarantine, to me, it was about putting together the [people] I felt most comfortable with and most confident that they knew exactly where I was coming from because we had traveled some road together. Trina, at the top of that list, we had already made two other records together, and she just understands what needs to be done at the helm of the ship navigating a particular record,” said Duhon, who worked with Shoemaker previously on 2009’s “Songs I Wrote Before I Knew You” and 2013’s “The Moorings.” “I find that extremely comforting in what can be a pretty nerve-racking, precious process. You’re putting down in track form what you have created, essentially making it a static thing, where otherwise, it always moves. Every time you perform it on the road, it’s moving, it’s changing, but that (recorded) track won’t change. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. It’s an important place to make decisions, and I feel like Trina has been the person I trust the most to help make those decisions.”