"That was very eye-opening and very rewarding," says Park, who's struggled with depression himself. "I feel like I've come to a place where I've really figured out how to deal with it and work with it, and I wanted to see what I could do to help. It was a strong workout for the empathy muscle, I guess you could say, just being able to really put myself in someone else's position and hear some stories that are just so extreme." The Here/Gone songs, he says, did not draw specifically from any of those conversations, but they certainly made an impact.
"These songs are more about just moving past that stuff," Park explains. "They're kind of for people who have had that experience -- which, honestly is everybody at some point. It's about how about can we be? OK, this experience is painful, but what is this experience? Who is it that's having this experience? Where did it come from? The more you're open to it, it starts to lose its power a little bit. That's where a lot of these songs are coming from."
That's certainly the case for "Love Lover Love," according to Park, who calls it a song about "staying open" but in the context of present times and contemporary external factors. "I feel like we live in such a crazy time where everything just seems so amplified and people's discontent and their tendency to hold on to their ideologies and their opinions is at a fever pitch," Park explains. "I don't think that's a moment we can have a conversation about or get through if we're not willing to let go a little bit and say, 'This is my opinion, this is what I think, this is the way I look at the world -- but this is not what makes me human.' We really do have way more in common than any differences, just fundamentally as human beings. But these days especially it's hard to remember that."
Kokal, meanwhile, is a longtime friend who Park brought in when he felt a female voice would bolster the track. "I just love her voice and what she does so much," he says. "I just called and asked her and she was like, 'Yeah, when do you want to do it?' She came in and didn't take very long at all, an hour or something and it was done."
Park ultimately found the sonic path for Here/Gone, which he's self-releasing April 26, by "stripping down" the arrangements to their acoustic guitar base, eventually fleshing things out with producer Rob Schnapf, who worked on Park's 2007 release Everyone's In Everyone. "I've never really made a record like that -- and part of it is just because I like playing other instruments and I like the art of recording and production," Park says. "It was definitely a process of elimination. I said, 'I'm just gonna do these acoustic and go in and then build them up from there. We got the idea to put some [string] quartets on them later. Bobby Halvorson came up with some really tasteful arrangements and it worked out really well."
Park has lined up a West Coast shows for April and is planning "some more extensive touring” for the summer. Being a father, he notes, has curbed his appetite for the long tours he's done in the past. Meanwhile, he's already written some songs for his next record and has the material he put aside earlier, though he's not sure if he'll return to any of them yet.
"There's some songs I really like that didn't make it, and maybe I'll do something with them," Park says. "I think some of it's really good, but it's always so hard to go back to the old stuff because there's always new stuff that's coming up and the newest song you write is always the best song you've ever written -- 'Oh, the old songs, they're not as good as this,' which is totally not true, necessarily. So we'll see. There definitely are some things that would be nice to get out, somehow."