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Next Paperback Hero embrace vulnerability on 'First Impressions'

For this week's premiere, we've got a taste of Next Paperback Hero's upcoming album "Morning Skies & Heavy Eyes." Stream and read about their sax-adorned "First Impressions" below.

Next Paperback Hero | Photo credit: Samer Ghani
Next Paperback Hero - "First Impressions"

Artist's statement

“First Impressions” was written after a disastrous social encounter with one of my heroes. After years of being a fanboy of their music, I suddenly had the opportunity to have some real one on one time with them. It was a jarring juxtaposition that I did not handle especially well. I ended up absolutely grilled them with questions about their work, analyzing the smallest details, and honestly just trying to learn. I had tried to cut out the small talk and go straight for the good stuff,but simply could not connect to this person how I wanted. I walked away from that experience embarrassed, angry, heartbroken... an emotional mess. I’ve always had a hard time meeting new people and showing my true self in those social situations, but this one really took the cake.

The first person I shared this song with was my old college roommate, saxophonist Nick Zoulek. We’d just reconnected after many years and his immediate encouragement and enthusiasm helped me see there might be something more with the whole Next Paperback Hero idea. We had originally tracked the song together with Daniel Holter at Wire & Vice while he was working out kinks with the studio’s new console in the Summer of 2019. I didn’t have a clear vision, and while that session was an absolute joy, it never went anywhere. So when I started putting together Morning Skies & Heavy Eyes and zeroing in on my sound, I knew it needed to involve Nick. I was so thrilled to have him add beautiful, heartbreaking layers of saxophone to this song and help bring closure to the story.

COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine have had catastrophic effects on the world and on artists everywhere. But for me it has had a different creative effect, resulting in my first full-length record coming out on Friday, September 3, 2021, "Morning Skies & Heavy Eyes." COVID forced me to stop focusing on what I couldn’t do, and start zeroing in on what I could.

Initially, I did feel helpless. I had my songs and a relentless drive to share them with a larger audience, to connect with more people. But for years I was convinced that so much was out of reach. If I couldn’t afford the drummer I wanted, I just shouldn’t have drums. If I couldn’t book time in the studio, I shouldn’t record an album. The early stages of quarantine removed all of those options from the table, and while I may not consider those things to be my “strengths”, I realized that I do have abilities. The question of “What can I do with what I have?” turned into a challenge.

Between the months of March and December 2020, I recorded the entire record at home with an entry level audio interface and two microphones. Then utilizing some stimulus money to hire Wire & Vice’s Ian Olvera for mixing and Justin Perkins of Mystery Room Mastering for mastering, I was able to connect the necessity of the DIY approach with the talents of Wisconsin music industry professionals to make the final push across the finish line. Add in the beautiful and distinctive artwork of Samer Ghani for the album cover and it all came together.