Iron & Wine’s trademark vulnerability laid bare in new EP

Chapel Hill resident Sam Beam is Iron & Wine.Courtesy of Iron & Wine

This year marks the 16th anniversary of Iron & Wine’s debut album, 2002’s “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” so it should come as no surprise that fans of the songwriter behind that stage name, Sam Beam, have only grown more familiar with the recording artist over that time period.

Coincidentally, many acts that play under assumed names begin to realize just past the 10-year mark that they would have given that decision a little more thought at the time of creation.

With so many of Beam’s listeners, even casual ones, referring to the artist’s projects using Beam’s real name at this point in his career, some might wonder if he wishes he had gone with his instinct at the time, now that he might be eyeing his second full decade of performing as himself.

“Nope,” the man behind Iron & Wine quickly answers with a chuckle from his Triangle home. “’Sam Beam’ on the marquee does not excite me at all. I chose (Iron & Wine) because I felt it fit more with what I was trying to do with the music, in embracing contradiction. It was a choice I made as a songwriter, in being a comment on the songs, and I think it still holds up. It was actually one of my better decisions in music, I think.”

The performer’s decision to take on a stage name has served him well, as he takes the stage at downtown Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall Nov. 9, celebrating the success of his latest release, the acclaimed EP “Weed Garden.” The record features Beam’s trademark lyrical vulnerability, as seemingly every aspect of the songwriter’s life is laid bare.

We had a chance to ask Beam on the meaning behind the new EP’s title, as well as the continued release of his recorded archives, which celebrated its second release in 2017 with “Archive Series Volume No. 3.”

Q: Wikipedia tells me that you live in Durham.

A: Well, it’s a Chapel Hill ZIP code. We actually live right in the middle of the two. My wife and I lived in Texas for about a decade, and I had grown up in Columbia, South Carolina, not terribly far from here. My wife’s family is from Hampton, Va., so we decided to just go with the best spot in between.

Q: “Weed Garden”’s release date is a departure for you, as only one year has passed since the release of your album, “Beast Epic,” and your albums of original music are usually predicated on three- to four-year gaps in-between. What spurred on such a quick followup this time?

A: The songs on the new record are all orphans from the last record. Most of them are things that we either recorded, or started to work on and didn’t finish, but they are all basically what the title suggests: these are the weeds that were left over.

Q: Why a six-song EP, instead of holding on to these songs until you record your next full-length album?

A: The completist in me, I guess. They felt finished, and there was a bunch of them, so it just felt like it would make sense. We still had places to go on tour, so it seemed like a good idea, just as a way to remind people of what we were doing.

They were songs that I really liked, but for one reason or another, they just didn’t fit on that last album. You try to not necessarily make songs that are too similar, but that have a similar question about life or whatever, I don’t know. Some of these just didn’t fit what the others on “Beast” were doing.

Q: To go along with the talk of “Weeds,” longtime fan favorite at your live shows “Waves of Galveston” is finally recorded and released with this EP. Considering the origin of this album’s title, did this feel like the best time to finally officially release it?

A: Yeah, that’s kind of the idea. We recorded that one for the “Beast Epic” record, and it was written at the tail end of the album “Ghost on Ghost” recording sessions, but it just didn’t feel like it fit either album. Thematically, it felt like it fell right between the two, so we left it off. With this project, there was a banner that went over the songs that felt more generous, like anything would fit.

Q: When an artist is able to release an Archive series of recordings, it tends to signal a certain milestone in a career…

A: Are you trying to say I’m old? I think you’re just trying to say I’m old.

Q: No, nothing like that, I mean that you may have hit a point in your career where a little voice in your head was saying, “I’m popular enough to have an Archive series…”

A: I’ve been saying that for a long time! That voice in my head gets me in trouble. I’m just teasing.

The way that I started this career was by recording at home, just as a hobby, for the longest time. I ended up with all of this … stuff, just lots of old stuff, that by the time I started putting out records I was much more interested in what I working on at that time than old stuff. What happened was that the fans found out about those (recordings), and they kept asking about how they could get ahold of it, so this felt like a pretty fun way to just clear the closet.

Iron & Wine

When: 8 p.m., Nov. 10

Where: Meymandi Concert Hall, 2 E. South St., Raleigh

Cost: $30, $35.50, $42.50

Info: DukeEnergyCenterRaleigh.com or 919-996-8700

Comments

Want to keep up with what's up in the Triangle?
Sign up for our newsletter.