A Courteous Handshake Between Reality and Some Other Place
Worlds of Secret Lives reveals Fred Argir the artist and receptive soul
Worlds of Secret Lives, the latest album in Fred Argir's blossoming body of work, is an example of what can come of it when a talented and experienced artist allows intense visions to assume control of the creative process. It takes faith, along with an instinctive ability to let unsettling story lines play out again and again, capture them raw, then set them to music.
This is the very thing that all songwriters aspire to, the ability to function somewhere between full awareness and a trancelike state.
"A lot of these songs started in dreams that I've had," begins Argir. "I'd find myself in the wee hours of the night or early morning in the studio, with pieces of paper everywhere piled up on the floor. Then a couple hours later I'd come back and write all the rest of the music. By surrendering myself to these thoughts, music just comes out. You can choose to hold back or give them up, and this album is about giving up those sorts of emotions."
Allowing himself to become open and vulnerable in this manner is not all reverie, however. It comes at a price.
"There's a place that I go to (in order to write lyrics) that I like," Fred says, "but it scares the hell out of me at the same time. In a lot of ways I don't like it, because sometimes I can't control it, can't shut it off. It's hard on me. I feel it a lot."
An example: the song Widows. "It was written about an incredible woman I've admired, who recently lost her husband," says Fred. "Watching her go through that process was chilling. The song wrote itself in less than ten minutes. It starts off with a light rumble, and there is a lot of airiness to it, a lot of space.
"There was a surge of emotion, that ended in a state of very strong emotions after I had recorded it. I had a hard time getting through the recording. Even much later, during the mixing and mastering sessions, I had to walk out at times, had to leave for a while."
Secret Lives is loaded with songs that rose up in this same way, leaving Argir changed for having written them. "It's a courteous handshake," he notes, "between reality and some other place."
Letting Others In
Exhilarating, draining, transforming it was. The act of creating this album, even though it took only about seven weeks, produced a shift in Argir as an artist and a human being.
"I think the intent of the songs come from a very honest place, so there's no change there," he says. "But I'm letting myself bring songs from a place I've never let them come from before, with a deeper connection to the emotions."
Through this has also come a new willingness to offer up deeply personal revelations about what he was thinking and feeling while writing the songs. "I have never liked to share anything about the meaning in the writing," he says. "I'm seeing a change of belief I've had for 25 years, and am starting to be more open about disclosing emotions, fears and ideas."
Motivation for this change of heart? "What I've come to realize," Argir says, "is there are statements and messages in my music, and I have always wanted to protect them before. I didn't want to disclose those statements to anyone. But I've come to realize that it's important for me to disclose the messages."
"Because there are some things I want some people to know, and I was never really given the gift of being able to come out and tell them. It's about love and values and anger and abandonment. All of the above. For me, music is therapy, but I had never really let anybody else know what the meanings were, to me."
Order by Meaning
As he created the order in which the songs would play on this album, Argir broke from another tradition. "This is the first time," he notes, "that I did the order based on the meaning of the songs, not the music.
"I'm not sure how to say this, but I am becoming more focused on meaning, content, writing. I care less about best practices, what the industry says you should do, and find myself thinking mainly about the content and meaning. That doesn't mean the music isn't well thought out and performed, but there is much more importance given to the introspective, deep meaning with these songs."
Meanwhile, the music continues to flow from a tap deep within. Even as he was finishing Secret Lives, additional songs came forth, eventually forming themselves into yet another album to be released soon. This time, it's a collection of acoustic songs tentatively titled Basement Tracks.
"I don't know what's happend," says Fred when asked about the quickend pace of his output. "I'm writing better music and connecting with it in a much different way."
Basement Tracks just kind of happened, he reports, because he kept the pipeline open between the daylight and dreams. One line from this work: no one's going to listen to my little mission, no one will ever hear me pour out all my fears. Then, in the very next verse: dark paintings on the wall, they call me home, hundreds of curtains hang on the wall, just shadows alone, worlds of endless roads, in the distance dying voices moan.
Fred Argir has said that he hears music in his head all the time. From this point forward, it would seem that the music will continue to become ever more meaningful, and likely bundled with insightful commentary.
One of the songs on Secret Lives is Little Drops of You. "In one of my dreams," recounts Fred, "I had a terminal disease. When I woke up, I went down in the studio and wrote the song. It wasn't until after I wrote the song and started recording it (that same morning) that I realized it was only a dream.
"What I remember (about the dream) is that it was a painful disease. The song is really about asking someone to take the pain away. It's a unique song, because a third of it is the big bridge right in the middle. This was such a powerful experience. I had never written a song like it, and the bridge becomes the essence of it. It's what will stand out when you listen to it."
The discovery here is that impact, when measured in human emotion, registers a direct hit when the artist is able to let go of control and allow instinct to color both inside and outside the lines. It makes the art timeless, an apt description for Worlds of Secret Lives.
This is the new Fred, telling us what he was experiencing, and even what he imagines we will think as we're listening. "Old dog," he says, "new tricks, I guess."
Notes: Worlds of Secret Lives CDs and digital downloads are available on the 'Music' Page of this site, iTunes, and CD Baby. Argir, who has relocated to the New York City area, has released a new music video featuring the acoustic version of Before I Disappear, a song which appears on the album in its electric version...find it by clicking on 'Videos' here on the site, or at Fred's You Tube Channel. Worlds of Secret Lives was mastered by Todd Fitzgerald at Winterland Studios in Minneapolis, with live tracks by talented drummer Derek Abrams...Fred's son, Alex, sings with him on I'll be Long Gone, noting that "sometimes it's hard to tell which track is his and which is mine."
- Mark Strand