Bill Kwan is releasing a new album called Iron and Wine. This unique concept album consists of rearrangements of heartbreak songs from Ryan Adams, Aimee Mann, Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, Everything But The Girl, and more.
With this album, Kwan creates a compelling cohesive collection of songs that resonate emotionally with the listener. His gracious collaborative attitude informs his process based work, as he finds a distinct viewpoint from which to arrange the music.
Just as Ryan Adams has recently reimagined Taylor Swift’s 1989 album in its entirety, Kwan similarly reimagines Adams’ and other artists’ work in such a way that it reveals under layers to the songs, bringing out the heartbreaking side of the material.
Kwan’s distinctive focus on the emotional narratives of the songs he covers enables him to bring a distinct texture to each song. Like Adams, Kwan is doing far more than covering the music, he is creating a parallel universe of sound and story while expressing his own emotions in an artistic manner.
Like any great art, Kwan’s creative work raises important questions. Specifically, it raises the idea of what the true nature of covering a song is, as he has successfully integrated the brilliant work of other artists with his own unique musical vision in creating an enjoyable soundscape rich with narrative.
Kwan interviews here:
Will Engel: What was the process like in choosing and arranging these songs?
Bill Kwan: It took me and Matt Pierson (the producer) about a year to pick the songs and to arrange them. I was going through a tough, emotional time and was attracted to “lost love” types of relationship songs. I really wanted to tell a compelling story with this collection. My arranger and guitarist, Teddy Kumpel, along with Matt and I, sat together and figured out the approach and arrangements of most of the songs. Teddy came up with some basic demos that I worked with and were building blocks in the studio for the band. It was a real learning experience for me, and helped me really feel a strong point of view for each track.
WE: How did you approach this?
BK: Since I knew I wanted to do something very different sonically on this album, Matt came up with the approach that we would have Teddy come up with demos for me to work off of. The three of us sat together in Teddy’s apartment in Brooklyn and figured out the relationship of each song to the entire group. We started to think about the tempos, vocals, instrumentation and arrangement of each song and how to make each unique. Plus, more importantly, what would the mood be of each track.
I took the resulting demos home and worked on the vocals, trying to delve into each as much as possible. I wanted to have the time and space to be very specific with each song, crafting an emotional narrative which was down to where and what I was feeling with each line of song lyrics. When we got to recording in the studio with the band, we already knew what we wanted for the most part, which made things a lot easier. Matt and Teddy really shaped and crafted the sound on this record. I can’t thank them enough.