Jeremy Squires, Hymnal
Jeremy Squires' previous album, Unravel (Blackbird Record Label, 2021), was created in part as a farewell to his late grandmother who raised him. Fearlessly intimate, with songs about grief and mental turmoil swept insoothing layers of synths and guitars, Americana UK gave the album a 7 out of 10, calling it “dreamy melodic poetry for dark times,” while Indie Band Guru referred to it as “everything that honest songwriting should be about.”
Now, Squires is releasing his eleventh full-length album, Hymnal. Centered around a dissolving marriage, the music here is much more scaled back, featuring thedelicate interplay between two musicians: Squires on vocal, guitar and ukulele, and Autumn Rose Brand on violin and harmony vocals.
“The songs are true stories that I wanted to tell without any clutter,” Squires says. “I didn’t add any overdubs of instruments. I recorded my parts here at my house live,and then sent the album to Autumn. She is a fantastic violinist and singer who lives here in North Carolina. She played and sang her parts, and sent them back to me.”
Writing and recording Hymnal was a magical, but also bittersweet experience for Squires. “Most of the songs are about my marriage falling apart,” he says. “The opening song, ‘Don't You Cry,’ is like a letter to my wife. I was feeling vulnerable and helpless, but trying to be strong. I also delved deeper into writing about mental illness, and the song ‘Moon Coin’ is about a childhood friend of mine who was brutally murdered. It was a way for me to acknowledge what happened, process it and still question why these things happen.”
Hymnal is an album with a tender and life-affirming quality, where Squires' warm singing voice, shimmery guitars, sparkling ukulele voicings, and Brand's vocal harmoniesand heartfelt violin melodies stand out just as much as thepoignant lyrics. Squires handled almost all the aspects of the album's making, including the recording of his vocals and string instrument parts, production and mixing.
“I use vintage acoustic guitars to record,” he says. “In particular I like to use old 60's parlor guitars to get that shimmery sound. I recorded Hymnal with a 50's Silvertonearchtop acoustic, two Harmony Stella’s in different tunings, a 60's Gibson B25, and a newer Fender ukulele. I like to use one mic about two feet away from me to create an airy sound.”
As a guitar player, Squiers is self-taught. “I started playing when I was ten or eleven,” he says. ”My Mom bought me an acoustic guitar from an antique shop, then my Granny bought me an electric guitar when I was 12. I was really into Smashing Pumpkins, Archers of Loaf, and punk bands too. So I taught myself by ear just playing along to my favorite albums at the time.”
“I like to play with my thumb and index finger. I don’t use picks. That’s how I get a balance that’s right for me. I use the tuning EBFFBD for a lot of the songs on Hymnal, Unravel and Many Moons. I also use a D tuning that's tweaked a little for me.”
Having released eleven full-length albums and two EPssince 2013, being prolific is a very natural thing for Squires. “I have always been this way,” he says. “I have to write. I am inspired by life circumstances, experiences, dreams, movies, and scenery. My brain goes a million miles a minute and things just happen. Maybe it was childhood trauma, or a gift from a higher power? I don't know, but I have always been this way since I was a small child. Always creating in some form.”
Squires also shoots, directs, and edits his own music videos, including the ones for his upcoming singles, “Into the Fog” (out 8/26) and “Hymnal” (out 10/14).
“I have been doing photography for about 25 years,” he says. “I see things like I’m looking through a lens all the time. I started making my own music videos because it’s really expensive to hire people for that, and a lot of times my friends are too busy and I’m on a schedule or time frame, so it was just easier for me to shoot them myself.
I don’t like the whole approach of repeat themes and the same scenes in music videos. I like the rise and fall of a song, and the video should reflect that. It should be beautiful and make you think at the same time. It doesn’t have to mimic the lyrics. I feel like there is a whole world untapped when you shoot a video for a song. You can literally make anything. I love what I did with the video for ‘Hymnal.’ I’m very proud of it, and my mind was like a rollercoaster when I was making it.”
Squires' recent three albums, including Hymnal, feature the cover art of Kelley Wills from Brain Flower Designs.
“I have been a fan of her art for a while,” Squires says.“She’s done quite a few of my friends' merch and album covers, so we were bound to work together at some point. I give her ideas and send her the songs. Then she takes my ideas into consideration, listens to the lyrics, picks things from them that stick out, and puts them into the album artwork.”
As artists are touring again and Hymnal is about to come out, Squires hopes that it will reach a wider audience:
“I really poured my heart, soul and every cell of my body into it,” he says.
Hymnal will be released October 14 on Blackbird Record Label.