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Tyne Darling Ties Up Loose Ends on ‘These Ghosts’

Dec. 20, 2016
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Photo by Joe Stapp

It’s fitting that so many of the songs on Tyne Darling’s latest album These Ghosts catalogue redemption and second chances, since the songs themselves are second chances in some respects. Eight of the album’s nine tracks began as short stories that singer-songwriter Tommy Vollman had previously written or published.

“Having those two formats in dialogue with each other is interesting,” Vollman says of translating his stories into music. “There’s a certain rhythm when you’re writing a story, but that rhythm changes when it’s augmented by the rhythm of a song. It’s funny, I often found myself taking words or images that didn’t fit into the story when I first wrote it and then using them in the song. That was satisfying, being able to use those ideas that you originally had to edit out, and finding a place where they fit.” 

A sense of hope carries through the album, which Vollman wrote after becoming a father. Parenthood, in some ways, is the ultimate do-over, the chance to raise a child the way that you wish you might have been raised yourself. “You get to revisit yourself, in a way,” Vollman says. “I get to parent myself as much as I get to parent my son, and that was on my mind a lot. A lot of the record has to do with maintaining hope and kindling happiness in any given moment, which might sound trite or cliché, but really is important in terms of being balanced in the everyday. It’s easy to talk about but much harder to execute.” 

For all its optimism, though, in many ways These Ghosts is a lonely album. That may have something to do with how it was recorded. Where past Tyne Darling efforts were recorded with a rootsy backing band, Vollman did this one on his own, tracking it himself in hotel rooms across the country while he toured. “In the past I’d get a few songs and work them out in the studio, but this time I toured behind them first, which was weird for me,” Vollman says. “They took on a life of their own. I could see the evolution of them, which in the long run made a better record. It gave me some time to figure it out.” 

The actual act of recording took some time to figure out, too. Achieving such a full, earthy rock sound without a background in producing or engineering required some fumbling around. “When you’re playing in a hotel room and just experimenting with sound, that gives you some dynamics that you wouldn’t get from a traditional studio setting, but it has its limitations, too,” Vollman says. “Google and search engines are great, because if you get stuck with something, and can’t quite get a track to sit the way you want it to, you can pretty much always find a few queries out of the search results that can help you to tweak it and make it more effective.”

And, he says, “If at the end of the day something goes wrong with the recording and it’s not what I wanted, I could always just press delete and start over again.”

The Sports section of the Shepherd Express is brought to you by Miller Time Pub.

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