Published Aug 20, 2018Conner Youngblood is an explorer. His debut full-length, Cheyenne, was written over a two-year span when Youngblood did a lot of traveling. His songs are shaped by his love of discovering places and meeting new people, which include, as the Nashville-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist tells Exclaim!, when these experiences have happened only in his head.
"A lot of the places I write about in songs, sometimes I haven't even been there or it's just a case of wishing I were there," Youngblood says from his temporary summer home in Copenhagen. "Rarely do I write about places that I had an actual encounter in. Mostly it's just me putting myself, or another person, in a new place because it's easier, in a way, to imagine in writing versus something that I'm too familiar with. That becomes a little monotonous. Travelling and imagining to travel is very inspiring to me."
This interest in globetrotting also influenced Youngblood's four previous releases, including his lauded 2016 EP, The Generation of Lift. These releases caught the attention of blogs and, before Spotify curated their own playlists, influential Spotify playlist makers. Youngblood's fan base has grown steadily over the years and many of his tracks have now racked up more than a million streams on Spotify.
The songs on Cheyenne are lush folky tracks that overflow with the oscillating sounds of 30 different instruments, including guitar, piano, harp and bass clarinet. Some tracks, like the stuttering "Sulphur Springs," where Youngblood's voice is warped by a vocoder, have an undercurrent of electronics that fracture the otherwise organic nature of the record.
"It's a mixture of influence — a lot of what I listen to, and wanting to try to incorporate a bit of it all," Youngblood says about his expansive sound. "[It's] also a mixture of me not quite knowing what I want or what I'm doing in the studio, and not going in with a structured game plan."
In the studio, Youngblood has a hands-on approach to crafting songs. He plays all of the instruments on the album and, depending on the track, works with more than 60 sonic layers to find the right balance of sounds. "I just make noise and see what happens," says Youngblood, succinctly.
The resulting sonic complexity of Cheyenne fosters a feeling of restlessness, and Youngblood's lyrics also have a shade of unease. Throughout the record, Youngblood runs not just from place to place but from soundscape to soundscape, vibrating with energy along the way. On "Lemonade," for example, Youngblood admits to feeling unstable and softly sings, "I feel inclined to run, so I feel like I should run."
Youngblood muses on this perceived restlessness and replies that he sleeps a lot. "I definitely get my eight hours," he notes calmly before offering a further explanation.
"I'm constantly looking for something else, but at the same time, I am very relaxed about doing it," Youngblood says. "I try to have a pretty peaceful, drama-free way of living my life. I'm very, very zen most of the time, but at the same time, I think most of the restlessness is just in my head and I don't express it on the outside. Music is just one way to get thoughts out, and so that's a very nice way to get the restless side of me out. Other than that, I would probably never show any sign of it."
Cheyenne is out now on Counter Records.