“I think the main thing that any artist has to offer is his own perspective. My songs are about how I see people and how I see the world. I think that’s the most important thing that an artist can communicate.”
This is a quote from folk songwriter Jim Stanard, whose sophomore album Color Outside The Lines drops this Friday October 16th, and it doesn’t get any more poignant than that. And in my humble opinion, that’s what makes a majority of folk, Americana, and music in that spectrum some of the most authentic. Stanard is one such artist who demonstrates a no-frills, music-first approach to his sound- just a guitar, a voice, and meaningful lyrics.
Color Outside The Lines again showcases the Florida/Colorado-based troubadour’s distinctive songwriting abilities, bright storytelling, and unmistakable voice. He picks up where he left off that made listeners and critics take notice of his acclaimed 2018 debut Bucket List.
Stanard’s upcoming album lives up to its title, matching Stanard’s inviting songwriting with intricate production by Grammy-nominated hitmaker Kip Winger, and instrumental support from notable players as Afghan Whigs guitarist Jon Skibic. The 11-song album also features guest vocals from folk legend Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) and his daughter, Bethany, who lend their voices to the songs “Home” and “Arkansas”.
Stanard is something of a late bloomer when it comes to putting out new music, embracing a sonically creative life at a point where many in his shoes throw in the towel and put a cap on their ambitions. During a successful career in the business world, he made a point of seeking out new challenges, and he’s applied that attitude to his work as a creative artist.
We had the chance to ask Stanard some questions regarding the new album, his transition back to the music world, and much more.
So where did you grow up, and what got you into playing and writing music?
I grew up in Newtown Square, a suburb west of Philadelphia. In Junior High in the early 60s I was a big fan of folk, and then early rock music, so it was natural to want to play guitar- all of my friends did. 🙂
I see in your younger years you were in the thick of the music scene, and like most, you put it aside for a perhaps more accessible and practical career. How hard was the initial transition, and then recently when you reverted back to creative endeavors?
In my teens and 20ss I was an enthusiastic musician, but nowhere near professional. I never considered music as a full time career. It was frustrating that I didn’t have time for it, but it just faded away. It was always some “unfinished business” for me, so picking it back up over ten years ago wasn’t hard, but I had to make the commitment to myself to put the practicing in to give it a fair try to see how far I could take it.
Who are some of your favorite songwriters that inspire your songs?
Dylan is the top influence. Some others are Springsteen, Warren Zevon, Robert Earl Keen, and more recently, Jason Isbell.
Can you talk about your songwriting process? Is it more of a structured routine for you, or more catching lightning in a bottle, so to speak?
Structured. I have been mentored by several professional songwriters most importantly Kip Winger. I take six months or more on each song, rewriting many times until I am satisfied with each word and chord change. I test songs out live, and will modify based on the audience reaction or comments.
So your second album, Color Outside The Lines, is to be released October 16th. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this collection of songs?
When I got about 15 songs that I thought were ready, and Kip could make time to produce it, we started the project.
What was the most challenging aspect in recording this album?
The whole thing is a lot more work than it seems like it should be going into the project. Getting the scratch tracks good enough initially, then the vocals at the end were a lot of work for me. But I’m delighted with the result.
Where was it recorded?
We finished the vocals in Nashville where Kip is based. Many of the tracks were added remotely, because we were in lockdown.
And I see Peter Yarrow sings on a few songs in the album. Can you talk about how that came to be, and your relationship with him?
I became friends with Peter a few years ago, because we had common interest in trying to reduce political polarization. I played an early version of some of the songs for him, and he offered to sing on them, which I of course jumped at. We then got his daughter Bethany, who I had met and had heard sing before to do a wonderful female harmony.
What messages or feelings do you hope listeners of your music come away with?
I hope they want to listen to the songs multiple times, and I hope they feel an emotional connection to them.
What advice might you offer to young twenty-somethings debating whether to keep playing music or be a bank teller? (or other standard profession)
Hard question. I would advise to find what interests you in a career, and always look for great mentors to learn from. My career was hard work, but it was rewarding and stimulating.
What can fans expect from Jim Stanard to close out the year?
I’d love to be able to play live again in Sarasota, Florida, and Beaver Creek, Colorado, where I spend time, but that will depend on Covid.