I’ve been following Levi Weaver’s music career for a number of years, so when he decided to release his latest album, “The Letters of Dr. Kurt Gödel,” via a subscription model, I was excited to get in on the ground floor and be able to follow the process as the songs began to take shape and the album, as a whole, evolved into its own story.
Typically, fans only get the end result – the album in final form on a shelf at Target or in the iTunes store. What Levi did by letting his fans have a bird’s eye view at the entire process was to make us all feel like a part of the final product.
Realizing that not everyone was involved in that made me want to conduct a Q&A with Levi about the album, so that those of you who have the final product can glean a little bit of that precious background information as well. I hope it will give you a stronger connection and understanding of this fantastic album.
Q: You’ve dubbed this a “concept album.” Can you explain what that means and how it relates to this album? Would you say that your previous works were concept albums as well?
By concept album, I just mean that all the songs are related to the same storyline somehow. So, whereas I would say that the other releases I’ve done were more like a series of short stories that may or may not be related to each other, this one is more like a novel with different chapters and themes. I think each song holds up on its own, but whereas I think the last album, if you heard a song, it told its own story, this one — you’ll “get” each song a little better if you consider it against the background of an entire storyline.
Q: Without ruining the discovery for a new listener, can you give the broad scope of the journey this album takes from start to finish?
Yeah, absolutely – I think this story starts with the search for meaning; first finding, and then discarding things that we think will be that missing piece, that final link in the chain to enlightenment, happiness, whatever you want to call it, and eventually jumps into the struggle to find faith in the midst of (and sometimes in spite of) religion; trying to find a place to file “faith” – is it just another one of those things we try to attach meaning to where there is none? Or is there really something to it. I don’t think a “spoiler alert” is even necessary, because it finishes a little open-ended; I felt like giving it a hard-and-fast answer would be insincere and not really be true to the rest of the album, which is about the struggle.
Q: You have written publicly about the crisis of faith you experienced and worked through during the course of making this album. What is the most important lesson you learned in that process?
That you don’t have to have all the answers to “know” something. Because the truth is that you can never “know” anything. Even science stops at “theory”. So it’s okay – necessary, even – to act on what you do understand while you’re still trying to figure out what you don’t.
Q: The opening track, “String Theory,” is an ode to the scientific “string theory” as well as a commentary on how that theory can be applied to life in general. How do you think your study of the universe impacted your writing on this album?
I could get really complicated about this, but that would be SO boring. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll say this: studying really really big things (the Universe) was like the crowbar that popped open a lock and went “you *have* to think about these things. You really can’t ignore them anymore if you ever want to feel like you’ve been honest with yourself.” I had to dump it out and sort through it.
Q: “Drink, Drink, Drink” is an extremely vulnerable song, written from personal experience. Is songwriting a way for you to come to terms with your past struggles and heartaches? And how difficult is it to share something so private with the world?
Yeah, it definitely is cathartic. There are a lot of songs that never see the light of day, though. Catharsis is great and necessary, but the only ones that make it out are the ones that I think also happen to be good songs. I liked where this one went, so at that point, there’s a decision process of “okay, am I ready to admit this?” I wish I were honest enough to admit those things while I’m going through them, but I’m not yet. I wrote this a couple of years after the fact, so there had been enough time that it didn’t feel like an open wound. It’s WAY easier to say “here’s something I went through 4-5 years ago and came out on the other side” than it is to go “I don’t know if I’m going to beat this, but here it is?”
Q: “The Best Defense (Is To Be Offensive)” has emerged as the dark horse winner for my favorite track on the album (at least right now!), as I relate strongly to the sentiments it expresses. The lyric, “I’m damaged but I’m hopeful; I’m gonna keep on trying,” seems to sum you up very well. If you were to choose a lyric to be this album’s thesis statement, what would it be and why?
I have lyrics on this album that I like more, but a Thesis Statement would have to come from a song that was originally titled “A Thesis” (now titled “An Incompleteness Theorem”). The final words on the album: “You’ll always be a little incomplete, but don’t throw away the things you do know.”
Q: Being an independent artist is challenging on many levels, and “Spirit First” illuminates your struggle with that most-daunting enemy, discouragement. Did you anticipate how much that song would resonate with fans? And how did the support you received from that song affect the original sentiment of the song?
Yeah, I quit music the day I wrote that song. Heather was out of town, I was alone in the house, and I had too much time to think… I cut off my hair, told myself “I quit”, and it was so liberating that I was inspired and was like “THIS IS AWESOME! I GOTTA… I .. … i gotta write a song about this.” So… my retirement lasted about an hour, but when I came back it was with a *completely* different perspective. I tweeted something that got really misunderstood: “I no longer wish to be famous”. And people were like “um… you’re really not famous.” but the wording was important. It wasn’t “I wish to no longer be famous”, but “I no longer wish…” – It was a total re-definition of success, for me. I want to create art that impacts the few people that hear it. And if I succeed at that, then I have succeeded. Fame sucks. Fame is fleeting and insincere.
I had no idea that would resonate with people, but in retrospect, I’m glad it does. I don’t think it changes the sentiment of the song, though. It was pretty intensely personal. I’m glad it resonates, but it doesn’t change anything.
Q: You worked on this album for over two years, and also became a first-time father during that time. Now, you have an excellent album to be proud of, and an adorable son who strums his guitar and stomps his feet, emulating you. How has fatherhood changed how you view the world and how you approach your own life goals?
I understand my parents better now. I am more aware of the legacy that I’m leaving behind. I’m still learning how to be unselfish, but I think I can at least now recognize that I am intensely selfish, which is a step in the right direction. I’m re-learning what it means to grow up as I try to teach him.
Q: You recorded what I believe to be your first true love song for this album. Being that your wife is so awesome, do you think you’ll be writing a few more of those in the future?
I hope so. No promises; I’m coming to grips with the fact that a lot of my inspiration comes from a pretty melancholy place, but for her… I hope so.
Q: If you could share a festival stage with 5 other acts that you’ve never toured with before, who would they be?
Radiohead, Eisley, David Bazan, Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter. Wow. Those just popped out, I really thought that was going to be more difficult.
Q: Imagine that one of your heroes wanted to cover one of your songs. What would be the perfect pairing of artist and song? Feel free to name more than one.
Alright, this one is difficult. Let’s go with The National, covering Spirit First, and Mumford and Sons, covering Good Medicine (from the first EP). Also, add those two to the above list. Also I think it would be cool to hear what Jack White would do to one of my songs. Any of my songs, doesn’t matter.
Q: What’s up next for you, musically?
Touring this fall!! Everywhere in the U.S.. I’m doing almost exclusively house shows, so if you want to host one, get in touch. I’ll be on the road starting August 30th and ending December 11th. (with breaks in between, obviously.) I’m still working out the kinks, but I’ll have some manner of schedule posted on leviweaver.com very soon.
The album is available now at www.leviweaver.com. Also check the website for updates to the tour schedule, Levi’s blog, as well as to connect with other fans in the forum.