When John Calvin Abney finished writing “Always Enough,” naturally it felt good. But, it also felt like a necessary step in Abney’s budding career. Abney readily admits that may sound cliche and contrived, but it’s a genuine sentiment from the Oklahoma singer-songwriter.
“I don’t feel enlightened or anything,” Abney tells Wide Open Country. “I just feel comfortable with who I’ve become. I’m more connected with my songwriting and feel like I’m not trying to be somebody else anymore.”
“Always Enough,” the lead track from Abney’s upcoming album Coyote, is a dream swept lullaby that finds Abney finding himself. “There’s no point in making this so tough. Can’t you see now that we were always enough?” Abney gently sings on the opener. With its lush arrangements and intimate lyrics, it sets the table for the entire album acting as a harbinger of what’s to come.
Abney’s been holding onto parts of “Always Enough” for some time. Some five years ago, it started out as the rough outlines of a melody progression on his piano, which was being stored in his mother’s garage at the time.
“I had a dream. I literally woke up from a dream and wrote down the lyrics to the chorus on a piece of yellow steno paper at my buddy Johnny’s house,” remembers Abney. “A week late, the rest of the song came out when I was in Vancouver.”
Abney, who’s been a sideman for fellow songwriter John Moreland over the past few years, has learned to embrace constant travel and the endless road. Like “Always Enough,” much of Coyote was written while Abney was traversing the country playing music.
“It used to be where I had to write at my house. I couldn’t write on the road at all,” says Abney. “But over the past year and a half or so, I guess I’ve found a way. I just started writing small parts. A line or two. After shows, I’d try to find a little bit of space here and there to stretch out verbally to hone in on something.”
Coyote‘s lo-fi feel urges you to lean in and listen. Abney’s vocals may be soft as a whisper, but still evoke as much emotion as if they were a booming roar. Abney’s brand of Americana isn’t deeply rooted in country tinged crooners or twang. Rather, Abney delievers soft and elegant moments reminicent of Beck’s Sea Change, Ryan Adams‘ 29 and Elliott Smith’s Either/Or. The sparse, yet ornate compositions written by Abney are unwavering. Still, Abney’s Oklahoma upbringing consistently pops up throughout Coyote. It’s a blend of earnest balladry with an angelic and pensive soundscape that leans and sways with a comfortable ease.
Being in close quarters with Moreland and several other Oklahoma and Texas songwriters has had an immeasurable impact on Abney. It’s not just been in style or techique either. Their impact has, in part, been in approach and habit.
“I feel like I’ve fallen into where my voice has resided the entire time,” says Abney. “I’ve wanted to be all these different people. I feel like after consuming all this music, these various insprirations, trying all thee different things musically, taking these different turns, I’ve finally ran into myself. We go down all these proverbial roads and then find ourselves at the end of one.”
Coyote is officially out on May 18.