Thursday, December 30, 2010

From The Darkness and Fear: Volary Moves "Out Of Shadows"

Volary: Noun. 1) A flight or a flock of birds.  2) the cage you keep them in.

Seldom in life do we pause to think about tomorrow, to think about whether or not we will still be alive to love, eat, breathe and create. We often take for granted our day-to-day existence and seldom do we stop for a moment and think, ‘What if I die tomorrow? What sort of legacy do I want to leave behind?’

Enter Volary, an Australian born singer/songwriter now making her home in San Francisco.  Volary has just recently begun to ask her self those questions.  She has cancer.  As most of us know, cancer sucks in a really big way and will inevitably change your life and perspective of it right before your eyes, regardless of whether or not you want it to.  A deeper sense of your own mortality can make you want to live your life even more.

In Volary’s new album, Out Of Shadows, the lyrics and songs were already written before “cancer” became a common, daily word for Volary. The darkness of the mood of her music and the positive hope that she tries to convey within her songs are present and accountable in this breathtaking first effort from a woman who knows how to survive everything from self- doubt to lost love.

“I was actually diagnosed just before we were due to start in the studio. My producer and I had already been doing preproduction for months, I’d booked the studio dates, we’d lined up the musicians’ schedules, I was super excited to finally be making my debut CD...and then the bottom fell out of my world,” states Volary of her brand new reality. “The songs were all written before my diagnosis, but the title and dedication of the album were definitely reflective of my situation. At the time I didn’t realize how far the shadow of cancer can stretch, and I would say that I’m still struggling to get out of those shadows (for example, I’m still not strong enough to play a full length set), but the hope is that I will be out of those shadows sometime soon.”

The album covers a wide spectrum of emotional ideas within the music. Her power-pop vocals are set against a moody backdrop of layered arrangements, both thick and sparse with instrumentation that guides the listener deeper into the dark lyrics. Viola, horns, clarinet, organs, cello, oboe and sax all add their rich sounds to guitar, bass, drums and voice.

“I didn’t want to make the typical singer/songwriter or rock band album. I definitely wanted to try for a sound that was not your typical vocals-guitar-bass-drums,” says Volary of her decision of adding less typical instruments and arrangements to her album. “I’m a sucker for music that’s really layered and moody. I love listening to albums where you can discover more and more on each listen. Sometimes stuff will be buried so deep in the mix that it’s barely there, but the sum of it all adds up to some aural goodness.”

The opening track of “Die A Little” starts us out on the journey of looking deeper into our own darkness of the soul in words like “Too many years of sadness/ I’m stretched so thin/Standing with my back to the wall trying not to scream/ I wanna cut the demons out/from underneath my skin.”

Tapping into all things intense and tumultuous, Volary’s lyrics speak of a woman taken to extremes of her emotional life. She gives in to self-doubt and lack of confidence in the powerful “That Girl”.  All of us have been there; all of us have at one time of another wanted to be someone aside from ourselves. “Yes, it’s true, I’m insecure/sometimes…. I wanna be That Girl.”

The gorgeous piano arrangement in “One Good Reason” sends the emotion of lost love into my heart within Volary’s soothing vocals as I ask myself ‘How many times have I been in relationship that was not good for me but I refused to let it go?’  “I’m standing up and I’m refusing to play/You are lost to me/Your love has not left me unscarred”

From pop to rock, from tribal drums to simple acoustic guitar and gypsy string, the songs on Out Of Shadows move from light to dark, uplifting to heartbreaking. The songs are never simpleminded and are always intense in fullness of sound, each layer comes forth with more meaning upon each listen.

“I don’t know if I would express songwriting as being my therapy. It’s more like a necessity. Sometimes it really feels like my soul needs to give birth to something and then it’s like an itch I can’t scratch until a song comes out. It’s also very often like banging my head into a brick wall.”

Although her diagnoses of cancer did not make it into her lyrics, it has made a major impact on her life. “As to how {the cancer} has changed my view point on life; well, it’s definitely changed that forever. The spectrum of a possible recurrence is always going to be there, especially since I was diagnosed at a young age and statistically the cancers that occur in younger people are more aggressive than those that occur in older people. I’ve had to face my mortality at an age where other people are in the full bloom of life, and that’s something that leaves its mark forever. One thing that I will be doing when I get to play shows again is to do some benefits. There are two organizations in particular that have been helpful to me along my cancer journey – the Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) support group, and the Commonweal Cancer Help Program.”

Along with all despair and intensity in life, there is hope and dreams of something better. Volary takes the good, the bad and the ugly and makes music that can resonate with us all. Whether it is dark or light moods, fear or doubt, creativity can make a difference in setting our paths to the correct direction we are meant to be heading. Faith in that path, whether we understand or not where we are going, is not always open for us to question. But we can know there IS something better...we can start out with ideas in our minds as we think “I’m reaching out but I’m grabbing air/and I freefall through my life” (from “Touched”) and end with the mantra of  “No, I don’t wanna believe/that there’s nothing more than this/Nothing more, nothing more, nothing more than this/So I just gotta believe/that there’s something more than this, something more, something more, something more than this.” (from “Blackbird”).

All Volary photos by Alexander Kieselstein

Moonmama says: HI!

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a review, Moonmama, with quite a powerful subject, and it makes me want to hear the CD! Much substance, well stated! Hail fellow reviewer!