Bradford Loomis calls his new album, which is premiering exclusively on Billboard below, Where the Light Ends. But the Nashville-based singer-songwriter hopes the 12-track set isn’t entirely defined by darkness.
“It’s a fine line,” Loomis tells Billboard. “There’s a lot of heavy television on these days — all visual art, movies — feels very heavy of late. I want something to take my mind off the heavy stuff, but at the same time if we don’t process through what we’re going through it just sits there. It doesn’t go away. You’ve actually got to think through it and get into the emotions of it and process it.
“I just see the inevitability of some degree of suffering. We’re shielded from that a lot in America,” he adds. “We don’t encounter death in the way they do in other cultures around the world. We have this kind of shielding from suffering, and that’s not necessarily healthy.”
Much of Where the Light Ends, according to Loomis, is drawn from the stories he’s been collecting, both from the road and in his own life. His father has Alzheimer’s, and, Loomis reports, “It’s been a rough couple of years for a lot of my friends.” Meeting fans at shows, meanwhile, has also provided a great deal of source material that he brought into his songs for the album, which comes out Oct. 11.
“You’re out on the road and you’re having all these experiences and meeting all these incredible people,” Loomis explains. “Then I kind of sit in the car for eight hours and reflect on everything. I like to sit in silence as much as I can when I’m on the road, kind of a meditative process. So, I wanted to put together a collection of all these stories and inspirations into one album.” Filtered into that is Loomis’ own story, which includes leaving music for 10 years after losing his job in his native Washington state, as well as supporting an ailing spouse.
“It’s just the road we walked,” Loomis says. “I think when you go through any level of trauma you’re just trying to function, put one foot in front of the other. I’ve just been trying to continue to keep moving forward. We were kind of forced back into doing music, which is what I always wanted to do. So on some level I’m thankful for everything we went through. It’s still hard to go through, but now I’m getting to do exactly what I always wanted.”
Where the Light Ends, recorded in Kennewick, Wash., with producer Brandon Bee, dresses up Loomis’ take on the human condition in a variety of styles, from the rollick of the opening “Rambling Man,” the shuffling “Righteous Kind” and the nostalgic “Good Old Days” to the polished soul of “Take a Swing,” the twangy touches of “Evangeline” and “Chasing Stable,” the spare, prayerful drone of “Wayward Son” and the emotive angst of “Treading Water.” The vivid “Stories,” meanwhile, draws from a performance at a Missouri prison where Loomis met the acquaintance of a death row inmate convicted of killing a police officer, later attending one of the man’s court hearings.
“That must have made me realize there’s a pretty intense power in not only sharing your own story but also wading into somebody else’s story that might be even more powerful,” Loomis says. “Just being weird or vulnerable is a powerful thing.”
Loomis crowd-sourced Where the Light Ends, and among his favorite perks for contributors are customized, often stripped-down versions of cover songs. He’s so happy with a rendition he did of Bruce Springsteen’s “My Father’s House” that he plans to release it as single during the spring.
“You just never know what you’re gonna get out of that process,” says Loomis, whose “aggressive” touring schedule runs through November and resumes in January. “On the last album somebody hired me, and their cover song was Creed’s ‘With Arms Wide Open,’ and I was like, ‘Jeez…How do I go about doing this?’ It was interesting, to say the least. I don’t know that I would’ve covered that had somebody not asked me to do it.”
Listen to Loomis’ Where the Light Ends below.