Seth Walker Takes a Political Turn with 'No More Will I': Premiere

Seth Walker
Alysse Gafkjen

Seth Walker

Seth Walker opened himself to a number of different creative paths on his new album, Are You Open?, both stylistically and lyrically, especially on "No More Will I," an openly political response to the Trump presidency, premiering exclusively below.

"I'd never really written a topical song like this before," the Nashville-based singer-songwriter tells Billboard about the track, which he co-wrote with longtime pal Gary Nicholson. "But thinking about the landscape here, socially, it got to a breaking point for me. I could not stand idle watching this -- just the fear-mongering and the blatant racism going on, right in our back yards. I just kinda looked at it going, 'Man, this is actually happening...' And our president's rhetoric is setting a tone for all this."

Walker, who declares "no more will I turn a blind eye” in the song over a spare, rolling rhythm and spacious arrangement, explored a variety of sources in writing "No More Will I" and other songs on Are You Open?, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and poems by Maya Angelou, whom he name-checks in the song. "They were a big influence on me, how they went about it in a positive way, preaching love first," Walker explains. "It's a very personal tune, and I'm really, really proud of the way it kinds of spilled out through the recording."

While Walker usually writes lyrics and melody first, for Are You Open? he built tracks from grooves, assisted by Wood Brothers drummer Jano Rix, who produced the set. That resulted in a number of different sonic flavors, touching on Cuba and the Caribbean as well as New Orleans and some Americana fare. "This is my 10th studio album, and I really wanted to go out on the skinny end of the branch and kind of test myself and challenge myself and also challenge the listeners on a little bit more of a creative endeavor," he says. Spending time in Havana, he adds, had a particularly strong impact on his writing.

"I just got my mind blown, creatively, and came back and started writing some poetry," he notes. "I wrote a lot of these songs completely opposite of what I usually do, getting the grooves first. That's not my usual musical path but it was really exciting to see where it led me." Recording at home in Nashville also helped Walker, who hits the road Feb. 14, the day before Are You Open? comes out, expand his sound.

"I didn't have any real red light fever here at my house, like you have in a studio," he says. "You never know when the music shows up, so doing it here I could record at two in the afternoon, two in the morning. I was submerged. I could experiment -- 'Try this,' 'Nope, that ain't it...' Some of them have to spill out of you, and you capture that moment. So doing it at the house was a really great way for me. I'll probably end up doing it again."