How people choose to navigate through life’s highs and lows reveals a lot about their personal character, not to mention what they’re willing to do in order to get to the other side of the horizon. Chronicling these seemingly endless cycles of daily peaks and valleys forms the backbone of Sin & Redemption, the latest album from noted Nashville-based singer-songwriter David Newbould, which is set for release on October 18, 2019 via Rock Ridge Music.
Sin & Redemption was co-produced by Chris Tench and Tres Sasser and recorded over the course of three weeks at the quite appropriately named Sound Shelter Studios in Franklin, Tennessee. From the opening gambit singalong of Sensitive Heart, to the unrepentant resolve of Smiling in the Rain (which also features longtime friend and former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird on electric guitar), to the raucous, gospel-tinged and strings-drenched rollercoaster rodeo of Diamonds in the Dark, to the stripped-down intimacy of Love You Too Much (Henry’s Song), Sin & Redemption is a powerful, 10-song testament from a veteran songwriter at the height of his storytelling prowess, now eight albums deep into his upward-trending career.
In many ways, the messages at the very core of Sin & Redemption show just how focused the Toronto-born and New York City-bred vocalist/guitarist Newbould is at being the director of his own ongoing sonic movie. It’s especially fitting, considering how Newbould’s inherently cinematic songwriting style has also led to a number of his tunes appearing in a score of TV shows and movies over the years, including Criminal Minds, Dawson’s Creek, Joan of Arcadia, and Streets of Blood (to name but a few of the entries on his filmographic CV). “In terms of taking a Cinemascope approach to my music, I like the idea of each song becoming a little world of its own,” Newbould details. “It’s like they’re chapters of a bigger story, with each song having its own engine to drive it. I want people to listen all the way through Sin and not feel like there’s any kind of jolt or glaring inconsistency with the storyline of each song. For something to sink in on repeated listens, it really has to take you to a place, make you feel a certain thing. And if something works on a lot of repeated listens and can also maintain an identity of its own, that’s when I feel a song is where it needs to be.”
To that end, the aural palette of Sin & Redemption simply had to reflect Newbould’s long-term vision. “There was a point when we were mixing where I thought, ‘Are we really gonna get away with this?’” he says with a laugh. “It felt like such a big sprawl of material to tackle, but we were all pretty invested in it — and then it started coming together. After we listened to an almost-finished mix of the first song, ‘Sensitive Heart,’ we all went, ‘Holy cow, we’ve really got a record going here. This is starting to sound the way it sounds in our heads!’”
Sin & Redemption straddles that line in the sand we all face whenever coming to our own personal crossroads, at the exact moment when we have to make those hardline, either/or life choices. As Newbould explains, “You face the question of, ‘Do I make the right decision here, or the wrong decision? And if I do make the wrong decision, I’ll still have to find a way to make things work.’ If a character in a song takes the ‘wrong’ way, there’s still a chance they’ll come back. You’re always looking at a point of no return, but you have to stay positive. That’s the only way you’re going to make it to the end.”
After Newbould became a father four years ago, the stakes of the songwriting game got even higher. “Something seemed to happen after we had our son,” he concedes. “It wasn’t any kind of conscious decision. I always felt like I was breaking new ground and always pushing as far as I could, but I do feel there’s a little more emotional grounding in my songwriting now. I used to write a lot about things that mattered before I really had the ultimate things that matter. Now that I have them, I’m able to flesh it all out better.” That being said, Newbould adds, with a chuckle, “My wife says I still write a lot of songs about guys who are on the verge of losing everything they have.”
Meanwhile, the vintage, driving, narrative tone of Runaround Town speaks to how this restless Toronto native had to first make it in New York City before finally putting his roots down in Nashville. “New York felt like a place that mattered,” he emphasizes. “It was the path taken by all the people who had taken their own life and uprooted it, so I felt like, ‘What other choice do I got?’ When I set out as a teenager to embark on my adult life, I was just trying to follow my heroes. When I first went to New York, I would walk around and revel in being in the same places where all these people had carved their own identities — you know, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen — and then I lived there a long time, so I played everywhere I could.”
In effect, Newbould felt he had no choice but to follow his New York muse. “I had to! There were no other references for me,” he confirms. “It was kind of like the Wild West in your brain — ‘How do I get there from here?’ That’s what these guys did. People go there to reinvent themselves and put their life on a different trajectory, and most of the time, they eventually end up somewhere else after. I guess it’s a calling. It’s a breeding ground for people who are always searching.”
Living deep in that New York groove infused Newbould’s knack for seeing the bigger picture, such as how the album’s final track, Oh Katy (Just Gettin’ By), carries added weight by deliberately fading out at its denouement. “Right from the beginning, I had the idea of ‘Oh Katy’ being the last song,” he confirms. “It’s poppier and happier than some of the other songs here, even though there’s a lotta hardship there between these two people. Actually, it’s a little more than that. There’s also a little bit of peace there at the end, because they’re not just getting by — they’re not not getting by, you know?” Newbould clarifies. “We had another cool ending for that song, but I felt like, ‘Naw, that one’s gotta fade.’ It has a nice, quick fade with the pedal steel that leaves you wondering what happens next.”
Ultimately, David Newbould looks to Sin & Redemption as being the gateway for him to bond with audiences old and new alike, as he takes choice selections from the album onto the live stage with his band to see just how they evolve night after night. “I think it’s going to be an introduction to a lot of people,” he admits. “I sing, I play guitar, and I write songs, and I want to introduce people to the sum of all that — and I want them to connect with it. Finding and building an audience really comes from doing the work and making those connections. What I’m aiming for with my music is that it connects — and then it doesn’t leave.”
No doubt about it — Sin & Redemption establishes a connection to your very soul as the perfectly poured sonic elixir that continues to heal all ills upon repeated spins. And in the case of David Newbould, living in Sin isn’t a bad thing at all.