Levi Weaver is not the kind of artist who likes to sit still for very long. To borrow a line from Willie Nelson, one of his favorite songwriters, he just can’t wait to get on the road again. The multi-instrumental singer/songwriter, who recently packed up his house and bought an RV for his family to travel the country with him in, readily admits to his inherent wanderlust, having grown up going from town to town to follow wherever the rodeo his father worked for went. “It’s accurate,” Weaver agrees. “I didn’t think it was much to do with my childhood until we bought this RV and the first week out, there was this sense of… almost relief. Like going home after a long time away. No wonder I’ve had commitment issues with locations; I couldn’t find home because home was a moving target.”
Weaver’s perpetual on-the-move lifestyle helps fuel the churn of the core concepts explored on his latest and most affecting album, Your Ghost Keeps Finding Me (Rock Ridge Music). Your Ghost tells intimate tales about young love, marriage, marital separation, introspection, mature love, marital reconciliation, and death, all beautifully supported by Weaver’s most impactful, varied, and fully realized songwriting. “Songwriting, for me, is like painting,” explains Weaver, who went to school to study baseball play-by-play announcing. “I think about every word, revisit every melody, painstakingly pore over the details. With play-by-play, it’s like freestyle. It’s verbal acrobatics, trying to keep up with what you’re seeing happen at the speed of world-class athletes.”
Weaver’s own brand of world-class post-folk is grounded in emotional authenticity, thematic ties, and literate lyrics. Through these ideals, his tastes extend from classic country like the aforementioned Willie Nelson, to modern singer-songwriters like Josh Ritter, to sonic adventurers like Radiohead and Arcade Fire, and to pop-punk like Thursday and Brand New. The bold palette of Your Ghost Keeps Finding Me is confident, and, at the same time, expansive but cohesive, spanning the grand and hauntingly atmospheric “Pieces,” the invigorating pop-punk flavored “Song in My Branches,” and the breathtaking and poetically folky “Paddleboats.” It also features gorgeous contributions from special guest vocalists Rachael Yamagata (“The Widow’s Song / The Widower’s Song”) and singer/songwriter Carina Round (“Pieces”).
Weaver has released two full-length albums, two EPs, and two live albums. One of his most profound artistic assets is how Weaver’s live show complements his recorded music. His studio work is often stately and beautifully layered, but live, he re-imagines these creations as a one-man band, intriguing audiences with loop pedals, dual mics, and a violin bow, which he occasionally applies to his guitar strings. “As far as the loops go, it was honestly just a matter of necessity,” he explains. “I had just moved to England and didn’t know any other musicians, but I’d been asked to play a show and they wanted to hear ‘Which Drink?’. It’s nice to have requests, but that song is just the same five chords on repeat. Recording it, I’d been able to add and subtract, but it was going to be really boring and disappointing if I just played it on a guitar. I learned to loop the chords so I could at least play the lead line. From there, it just became a matter of having ideas — ‘What about my voice?’, ‘What about some effects?,’ ‘What about multiple channels?’ — and figuring out how to do them.”
Audience reaction to Weaver’s one-man-octopus-band approach has been quite stellar. “I do feed off the audience, but I’m not sure I know how to describe it,” he says. “I feel an audience as an organism, almost; every one has a unique combination that I try to unlock. When I get it right, it’s a great show. Sometimes, I have to recognize I just don’t have the key for that lock that night — some organisms want to dance.”
Weaver has been the focus of short films, documentaries, and received some powerful tastemaker plaudits. He’s been the subject of the award-winning short film Spirit First, chronicling Weaver’s journey, and ADDvocate Film’s String Theory: A Levi Weaver Documentary. In addition, he’s also been featured in both Map the Music and the upcoming Map the Music: 2. Onetime tourmate, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, raves about his live show. Performing Songwriter Magazine calls Weaver a “musical wunderkind with grand ambitions.” After one performance Citybeat Cincinnati concluded: “Weaver was a one-man work of art.”
Your Ghost Keeps Finding Me marks Weaver’s second record with producer and audio engineer Aaron Dethrage. Dethrage contributed to Weaver’s previous album, but this is his first time as Weaver’s sole producer, and he was essential with arranging, orchestration, consistency of sound, and enhancing the sonic experience of each composition. “I think we are just kindred spirits,” says Weaver of Dethrage. “We both came from small rural cities, the eldest brothers in larger-than-life families, and there’s just kind of an unspoken ‘I get it’ feel with him, both in the studio and out.”
Both Dethrage’s and his bandmates’ contributions to Your Ghost cannot be understated, Weaver feels: “I’d been trying to find my voice as a musician for a decade, and he just nailed it. And on this record, we finally had a studio to work in from start to finish — East Side Manor in Nashville — and I finally had a ‘band,’ not just ‘some guys I hired.’ Lindsey Dethrage, Corey Horn, Ben Jones, and Jeremy McCormick were as much a part of this process as Aaron and I were.”
A tireless troubadour, Weaver has averaged 200 shows a year, often covering upwards of 50,000 miles in travel — and now his wife, their two small children, and their dog have all joined him on tour. “Having them out with me makes me feel like a millionaire, because if I had a million dollars, this is how I’d spend it,” he observes. That said, being out on the road all-in does present its own set of challenges. “It’s a lot like a relationship within a relationship, actually,” Weaver says. “It will be awful sometimes, but it’s worth it. ‘You are, for me. I am, for you. Whatever circumstance happens, we’re in this together.’ Going through those things reminds you how committed you really are. ‘Well, that didn’t stop us. We know we can beat that obstacle now.’ It’s been a lot like that. Yeah, we might end up vomiting in a parking lot in Brooklyn, but we’re still here. I like that.”
We like it too. And we also like knowing Your Ghost Keeps Finding Me will keep finding a sweet spot in your ears and in your heart upon each successive listen.
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