Well known local music artist Adam Levy released his first solo album in October called Naubinway. In 2012, Levy’s son Daniel lost his battle with mental illness and took his own life. After taking time off from writing, Levy used Daniel’s story and art work as inspiration to bring Naubinway to life, and he graciously took time to answer some questions about this deeply personal album. You’ll find his answers below, along with links to find out more.
Q. Tell me a little about Naubinway and the intention behind the album.
A. The record is a group songs related to my son’s struggle with mental illness–it has served as a way to process explain my grief and to try to make sense of his suicide.
The process of writing the music started about a year and half after his death. I essentially stopped writing music for some time after his death. The gravity and pain we were all experiencing was consuming. I’m a songwriter, though, and many of us use this art as a way of processing the world around us–relationships, tragedy, politics. I knew all along at some point I would make music related to this unbearable pain. It was a matter of when and to what extent.
As the songs came together it was feeling like the emotional context required a bare bones, austere approach leaning on omg voice and guitar playing. There is kind of a balance of ensemble and solo pieces on the record. It feels like a sonic journey where I take the listener through a dark tunnel and promise them some kind of hope at the end.
Q. Were there times when writing the album got especially tough? What helped you push through?
A. I only wrote for the record when I felt like it. I made no timeline, no expectations. I worked on the songs when I was ready, really. Towards the end of the writing process I was also working on new Honeydogs songs and finishing a kids’ record for my Bunny Clogs project with my daughters.
I tend to work a bit ADHD, tinkering with multiple things. I think creating this record without worrying about a timeline, and being able to dabble elsewhere, allowed me not to get completely consumed by some of the pain I sing about.
Sometimes when I was writing I would go though his mound of sketch books–painful but amazing work to behold. He was a genius, I think. His prolific last 4 years have been an inspiration to me.
Q. What kind of support has the Twin Cities music community provided, knowing how personal this album is to you?
A. I can’t say enough about the amazing support I’ve received. From the beginning of our grieving to the release of this record nearly four years later, I’m truly astounded at the love and supportive comments showered upon me.
A. I looked though his art as I was writing songs. Daniel’s art is extremely dark–violent, sometimes. Ghoulish characters. Victims of torture and anguish. And yet there was a humanity in his work, empathy… sometimes even humor. It reinforces my desire to make art that explores tough subjects but gives the listener hope and beauty.
Q. Is there any song in particular from Naubinway that brought out unexpected emotions?
A. “How I Let You Down” — It’s a confession of the gnawing sense of failure as a parent I experience in the wake of my son’s death.
Q. What’s a favorite lyric from the album, and what does it mean to you?
“Hope is the wounded beast that never should be put out of its misery.” I think it speaks for itself.
Levy now speaks about mental illness, and he was the keynote speaker at the 15th Annual Conference on Mental Health at the St Paul JCC on Nov 8, 2015, and was also part of a Grand Rounds lecture at the Yale School of Psychiatry on Oct 23, 2015. You can view the trailer for Naubinway below, and click here to purchase it. More information can be found on Leby’s website, adamlevymusic.com.
If you ever have thoughts of suicide, or feelings of depression, please know that there is help available and it is nothing to be ashamed of. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-888-273-TALK (8255).
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