Iron and Wine is the musical persona of Sam Beam, who released “Ghost on Ghost,” his fifth studio album, last month. The 12-song record functions as a sort of travelogue, following a couple who has moved past the fervor of new love and into what Beam calls “the maturation of a relationship.”
The record marks a new, less tense sound for Iron and Wine, evoking strains of both Motown and "Moondance"-era Van Morrison. Earlier this month, we convinced Beam to play in the changing exhibits room and courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Check out the videos (above and below).
On the inspiration behind "Ghost on Ghost"
This last record, I realized I had a lot of songs with this central couple ... They weren't courting songs, they weren't really like, 'I'm going to get this girl' or 'I wish she liked me.' It was more about the maturation of relationship or just a further development in the adventures of this couple. And they had similar problems, they were disenchanted with the place they were at or were working something out with one another. It was a them-against-the-world kind of feel to most of these songs.
Then all the place names, travelogue idea kind of made it almost feel, when you put them together, a little like it was the further adventures of this couple even though the songs were developed totally separately. It felt like this fun kind of chapter book, in a way.
On the new sound of his latest album
I've been playing shows for a little over a decade now ... When I started I hadn't really had an opportunity to push the boundaries of my voice, which I've found is pretty limited, but at the same time had a lot more range than I originally thought ... And I thought it was appropriate for the subject matter, the tunes I was writing at the time. And so I never had a reason to push my voice until I got into the concert halls, and then all of a sudden you realize there's a lot of reasons to project.
But it's also nice to add something to a record to differentiate from the others. You know, I don't like putting the same record out over and over again. So one of things you could do is sing a little differently. Another thing on this last record was to take a lot of the guitar out. You know, a lot of the records are so saturated with guitar, it was easy to remove that have this new sonic palette.
On how the song 'Lovers' Revolution' came to be
I've been working on that one for a while. And it started as a kind of longish folk tune with lots of long verses and eventually it became more of an R&B thing and when I finally got the title of it, 'Lovers' Revolution,' it struck me that Mingus's music is some of the most revolutionary, angry music that I've ever heard and so you follow the tune and see.
I would have never said five or six years ago, 'I'm going to do a Charles Mingus tune, that's going to be my thing.' But, you know, you let the lyrics or whatever the sentiment of the tune say, 'Why don't you try it here, or try these sounds.' It's probably my favorite track on the record just because it was unique and really fun to do.
Off The Record, an occasional series from WBUR, takes musicians out of the concert hall to perform at different spaces throughout Greater Boston.
This program aired on June 3, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.