ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Americana songwriter Chris DuPont is known for deeply personal performances at The Ark and Ann Arbor Summer Fest, but a soon-to-be-released album offers a darker side to his music.
“My songs are personal to a fault. They’re generally autobiographical. They’re about people in my life.” DuPont said over Zoom. “They’re about me trying to make sense of how I love and how I relate to other people.”
Assembled at in-home studios and in Ann Arbor’s Big Sky Recording and Solid Sound Recording Company, “Floodplains” isn’t the sound that fans are used to. It’s darker and full of loss sorrow, grief and anger.
The LP reflects a difficult time in DuPont’s life, but despite the shadowiness of the new music, he said he hopes audiences see past the darkness to his beliefs in light and hope.
The new music will be released on Friday, Feb. 5 on Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes. DuPont is also hosting a live Q&A session and concert at 7 p.m. through Facebook during the launch.
When DuPont started writing “Floodplains” the record didn’t have a title, but he was struck by a sign he saw in Ann Arbor’s Parker Mill County Park when out on a walk.
“There was a sign that said, ‘You are on the floodplain.’ And I thought, ‘What the heck does that even mean? This is neither a flooded place nor a plain,” DuPont said, explaining that the term refers to a type of soil near a riverbed that is fertile but not deep. Trees grow in it, but they grow too quickly and topple over.
“And I thought, that feels like a perfect metaphor for what I’m feeling. Perhaps I was cultivated in rich soil that didn’t go deep enough for me to take root.”
DuPont is usually very intentional with his music but some songs on the new LP, like “White Linen” were written stream-of-consciousness or when he was half awake. Others, like “In the Lap of the Mountain” combine personal narratives and past adventures with the feeling of being seen and at-rest.
The album is also predominately Michigan-made. The cover art for “Floodplains” was created by Crane Wives frontwoman Emilee Petersmark and guest vocals were provided by Detroit-based Olivia Dear and Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Rin Tarsy.
Many Michigan musicians also contributed including Ann Arbor’s Billy Harrington on drums, Luke Jackson on bass and Johannes Stauffer who plays piano.
“I do try to keep things, more or less, in the family with every record,” DuPont said. “I love where I live. I love where I’m from.”
He moved to Ann Arbor from Grand Rapids over a decade ago in order to attend the University of Michigan. DuPont said he promptly plugged into the music scene and would listen to musicians that he now calls friends.
Piecing together albums and music remotely isn’t entirely new for DuPont, who is also a recording engineer. He said that musicians and producers are used to dropping sound files into DropBox or sending each other files. Nevertheless, the pandemic dialed things up and made that necessary instead of just convenient.
For “Floodplains,” DuPont found himself contributing a lot more musically than he has previously, including singing his own background vocals, high notes and piano arrangements.
“It’s funny, for this record, for as many cool collaborations are there are on it, I think I played and sang more things on this record than I have on past records,” he said.
Although darker than his previous music, songs on the new LP were written before things starting shutting down due to the pandemic. That said, DuPont added that he’s curious to see how the music that he has written over the past months will sound like in the future.
Learn more about DuPont’s music at http://www.chrisdupontmusic.com/