For two-time iTunes Indie Spotlight Artist Jon Bryant, writing his latest release, What Takes You, was a challenging, yet invigorating experience.
"The writing process was difficult to get back into as I had been touring continuously for almost all of the previous year, finishing University and planning for my touring year of 2011," Bryant admits. "But each song I wrote for What Takes You immediately came to life for me. It was as though I knew they would make it onto the album, while all the others I was very much on the fence about. I wrote about 40 songs and only 10 actually made it."
The certainty Bryant felt about the songs he selected helps make What Takes You a well-rounded, cohesive album. The album is an earthy, folk/bluegrass/Americana collection of twelve songs—including a cover of James Taylor's "Carolina," as well as "Be Still," whose author is unknown—that winds its way through tales of faith, love, loss and the search for purpose and meaning in life. Stark in their simplicity, yet bold in their proclamations, these songs create a variety of lyrical and emotional landscapes whose effects go well beyond simply giving the listener pleasing music to enjoy.
From the stirring and sweeping Americana-tinged opener "Souls of Manhattan" to the chillingly ambient closer "Comfortable Land," Bryant guides you on a multi-genred journey, introducing you to a host of characters and situations that simultaneously feel unique and universal. Adding to the universal theme of the record, Bryant chose a couple more songs that are named after North American locales, the easygoing Country shuffler "Ontario" and the aforementioned sun-splashed acoustic ditty "Carolina." Given the fact that his father was a Gospel singer and his mother was a flight attendant, it should come as no surprise that Bryant has ended up singing about weighty content while mixing in worldwide destinations in some of his songs.
"Traveling and music were my life long before they became my vocation," says Bryant, who has toured throughout Canada and the U.S. in 2012, in addition to having played shows in Holland and Germany.
One of the hallmarks of Bryant's songs is their ability to be characterized in more than one way depending on the listener. The Mumford & Sons-esque "Take Me if You Must" speaks about walking down narrow roads in ways that will resonate with Bible-believing people as easily as it will with folks who are making their way through heartache and struggles. And Bryant himself takes this dichotomy to a deeper level on the dreamy and languid "Evening Sun" by paralleling the importance and rapture of finding someone to love in this life with the notion of setting your eyes upon the Lord. Bryant's decision to refrain from having these songs be about one specific thing was a conscious decision on his part.
"I like the way music can draw one specific reaction from one person and another very distinct reaction from another," Bryant says. "I feel if I give away too much information about these songs, they will somehow lose their power and ability to do that."
Produced by Jordan Weiberg (Paul Brandt, Jann Arden), What Takes You is Jon Bryant at his best. With vocals that at times are as dusty and quiet as the dawn, and occasionally charge forth with the power and earnestness of a horse chasing the sun, Bryant draws you into his songs with his simple, authentic sound. His work on the acoustic guitar also grabs your attention as he confidently switches from light and easy to fast and dynamic from one song to the next, while his skill on the piano and snare drum are noteworthy as well.
From the thoughtful lyrics to the diverse range of skillfully played and sung songs, What Takes You will enchant and enthrall you, all while leaving you to wonder what Bryant will do next.