Ben Cramer, most commonly known by the moniker Old Sea Brigade, didn’t set out to rewrite his acoustic indie-folk notoriety, but with the release of his new single, “Day by Day,” there seems to be a new artistic language coming from the direction and sound- but with lyrics as rich and poignant as ever.
The Nashville by-way-of Atlanta songwriter has many accolades under his belt to date. Touring with acts such as Joseph, Julien Baker, and Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and songs featured in the notable TV shows, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “This Is Us,” and “A Million Little Things,” Old Sea Brigade has always set the backdrop for idyllic lyricism and digestible, and sometimes heartbreaking, contemplation.
But with the release of an upcoming album later this spring titled Motivational Speaking, and a new single, “Day by Day,” we are getting different sides to Old Sea Brigade, one that merges instrumental firepower with more emotion and melodic enthusiasm.
With the energy and influence of a Bruce Springsteen anthem and an honest narrative resting on inner disturbance and anxiety, you can’t help but dance along as Cramer bears his soul singing, “Darkness it comes and puts me in place/I’m a prisoner babe, you know I can’t escape/Take all you want, take all you can take/But the shadow of age is every step of the way.” Though the honest and stark introspection is nothing new, the tone is brilliantly matched with the cadence of the song, as chaotic and disorderly as ever, on purpose.
The song initially starts with a clear-cut rhythmic bass line and bright snare beat as layered vocals quickly captivate you into the storyline; one of mourning and temporary apathy, and though this sound isn’t typically tied to the Old Sea Brigade custom the listener is used to, it bears the same candor of what you’d hope for. The song signals a pivot in Cramer’s expression, one that is honest to him, not trying to force his creative discomfort and evolution on anyone.
In “Day By Day,” Cramer is allowing different elements to creep into the song, holistically allowing himself to live in, and in this case outside of, his trademarked indie-folk songwriter sound, floating with a grace that seems contradictory to the lyrics themselves.
In the music video, which is told almost as a heroic fight for personal liberation between Cramer and his other self, can be seen through multiple lenses. Is this other self his subconscious, self-doubt, devil’s advocate, or is it the “stranger in the mirror?” It could even be the darkness itself – as it puts him in his place. But as the anxiety and weight of the song rises, we are met with the climax of the chorus, in which Cramer is forced to reckon with this other self.
There is one thing Cramer is sticking true to and that’s the intentional artistry behind the composition of each song, matched with humbling and honest storytelling, not necessarily writing to cater to a specific person, but for his specific experience.
And if others resonate and find their own meaning? That’s the perfect spark, and one we find in “Day by Day,” where Cramer somehow makes feeling stagnant far more captivating and excitingly chaotic.