Jonah Tolchin has wrestled with a wellspring of emotions in his 26 years, and in the process, has consistently found the means of integrating his sentiments into his songs. It’s been a relatively brief progression as far as his career is concerned, but the maturity and musical progression he’s tallied in that short time has been shared in sync with his coming of age.
On his upcoming Yep Roc album, Fires for the Cold, Tolchin lays bare the conflicts and quagmires that have engulfed him over the course of the last few years. Indeed, by his own admission, it’s been a difficult time. The ending of a marriage and an upheaval in his mindset left him shattered, confused and struggling to find the solace that had eluded him for too long a time.
“Every record I make is like a record in time,” Tolchin explains. “It recounts the things that I’ve observed and experienced between the last album and the current one. It’s painful for me to talk about the last few years. It’s even painful to write about it. But singing and strumming about it? That’s different. That’s the main way I feel that I’m able to interact with the impossible emotions. It’s the greatest gift that music has given me throughout my life.”
Given those circumstances and by Tolchin’s own admission, making the album wasn’t easy. Writing the songs became a kind of catharsis, one that found him sharing his most intimate feelings and, in turn, searching for a resolution and the answers he’d been searching for.
“I’m not about writing songs that aim to get a certain reaction or to specifically please anyone,” Tolchin insists. “I found that for myself, and for this record, it has been important to delve into the depths of my emotions and confront them head on. The album became a healing process. I’m sure that other people go through similar things, whether it has to do with today’s culture or their own relationships. After all, we live in a crazy world. We’re forced to create our own meaning of existence. I found it was okay not to know everything, and it was okay to let things go.”
Fortunately, he found all the support he needed once he was ensconced in the studio. Recorded at Carriage House Studios and co-produced with Grammy winning musician, engineer and producer Sheldon Gomberg, the album includes a number of notable guests — Jackson Browne and Rickie Lee Jones — both of whom lend their voices to a stunning and sublime cover of Little Feat’s “Roll Um Easy.” Sara Watkins sang on two other songs, “Supermarket Rage” and “Honeysuckle.” Several A-list players — drummer Jay Bellerose, Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett, Pedal steel player Greg Leisz and guitarist Ben Peller — lend their efforts as well.
The results yielded some of the most beautiful melodies and emotive offerings Tolchin has ever delivered throughout his steadily evolving career. From the soothing strains of “Supermarket Rage” and “The Real You” to the rousing revelry of “Honeysuckle,” the steady determination of “Day by Day” and the percolating torrent of “Timeless River,” Fires for the Cold shares an emotional trajectory that resonates every step of the way.
“I was looking outside myself for all these answers until I realized that the things that mattered most were right in front of me the whole time,” Tolchin reflects. “I didn’t have to ponder the big questions. I could simply focus on the miracles I discovered right in front of me, and allow myself to be present.”