Aaron Espe (Singer-Songwriter) $12
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Like a page in a photo album or a handwritten journal entry, a song often bottles a memory. Minnesota-born and Nashville-based singer and songwriter Aaron Espe seamlessly translates those kinds of memories into songs on his sixth full-length album and first for NETTWERK, Passages.
“Many of the songs are key moments in my life,” he explains. “They represent turning points where I thought about things differently and everything started to change. If there is a theme to the album, it’s those important experiences and remembering them out loud.”
Aaron arrived at something of a creative turning point in 2016. Upon his 2011 move to Nashville, he cemented himself as a sought-after and successful songwriter in between releasing a trio of acclaimed solo records—Three , Tennessee Sky , and Safe Enough to Wander . He landed high-profile placements on MTV, Animal Planet, VH1 and more in addition to ABC’s Nashville. Along the way, he logged miles on the road with everyone from Juliet Turner and Brian Houston to The Fray and John Gorka. His 2016 single “Making All Things New” emerged on numerous coveted Spotify playlists such as Your Favorite Coffeehouse, Indie Acoustic, Fresh Folk, and Hanging Out and Relaxing, racking up over 21 million streams under the span of a year.
When it came time to begin work on what would become Passages, he yearned to embark down a new path yet again. Instead of personally picking up the production reins as he did on the previous three offerings, he enlisted the talents of Brian Joseph [Bon Iver] behind the board. He also left Nashville and retreated to the producer’s barn studio in the heart of Eau Claire, WI.
“It was time for a change,” he admits. “I needed to get out of Nashville for a bit. I also felt like I needed another perspective. Brian made me comfortable enough to deliver. So many of these songs were live performances versus doing all kinds of overdubs. He set the scene, let me enter, and go from there. So much magic happens in the moment—Brian got those takes out of me in a serene space at a time when I wanted a break.”
You can feel that magic on the first single “Heidi.” Punctuated by lilting finger-picked guitar, Aaron’s voice borders on heavenly as he pleads, “If you fall in love, let it be me.”
“My wife’s name is Heidi,” he smiles. “It’s a simple love song. It’s also another moment of change. Interestingly, the song runs just a little over two minutes. The chorus was repeatable. Singability is something I’m always striving for in my melodies. When you keep things straightforward, you never know what might happen.”
Meanwhile, “Sunday Night In Chinatown” sweeps into a romantic metropolitan dreamscape illuminated by resounding piano, airy slide guitar, vivid lyrics, and delicate delivery as it conjures “the feeling of being rescued.” The bright strumming of “Yourself” gives way to a soulful refrain, “about that moment where it’s incredibly difficult to be all alone.”
“Everything Is Temporary” culminates on powerful harmonies between Aaron and a full choir, stretching to the heavens and back. “That one just happened,” he says. “It was special, in the moment, and loosely based on my life.”
As Passages came together, Aaron experienced yet another crucial revelation. For the first time, his two halves—artist and songwriter—felt as one. “This is the first time I’ve been able to match who I am as artist and what I’ve learned as a songwriter in a way that feels right,” he admits. “The songwriter and the artist aligned. I feel like the songs can stand on their own, but they’re also mine.”
Now, those songs and memories will resonate with listeners worldwide. Aaron leaves off, “When you write music, the best case scenario is someone listens alone in their car and identifies. I just hope it moves people.”