by Kelly Rae Smith
Things are going pretty well for Charlestonian-turned-Brooklynite Owen Beverly. He spent February in Denmark writing and recordingExit Wound, his first solo album in six years, which is tentatively scheduled for a September release. Last week, the City Paperpremiered the video for its first single "Postcard." The day before Beverly was in a Brooklyn cemetery filming video scenes for another single, "The Wake." Earlier the same day, he auditioned for a television pilot.
"It's set abroad, and the character is an American that's sort of a fish out of water," Beverly explains. "It isn't too dissimilar to myself, and I think there's a bit of typecasting involved. But since it's a comedy, I was improving a lot of the dialog, and they laughed most of the time. So I think that was a good sign."
Such is the life of a New York creative. Originally from Oxford, Miss., Beverly describes himself as "just a small-town Mississippi boy." He left home to study music in Charleston, where he enjoyed notable success as a solo artist before teaming up with Mechanical River's Joel Hamilton to form the Americana band The InLaws.
In 2010, Beverly headed for the Big Apple to see what was next. Before long, he and some friends (including former Charlestonians Benji Lee and Danny Cassady) began making music as French Camp, who released their latest album last year.
Beverly's New York City circles eventually introduced him to Brooklyn-based Danish singer Oh Land, who he has worked with ever since. One track Beverly wrote for Oh Land, "Wolf and I," wound up on Gossip Girl in 2011, which was a defining moment for the musicians. Last year, the band toured 17 countries in two months. Due to his travels, the inspiration and ingredients recently came together for Beverly to make something on his own.But French Camp isn't a totally abandoned project. "It's definitely not the end of that journey," Beverly says. "I think we were kind of getting some indications from the universe that there were some other paths we were meant to follow, and mine has brought me a little around the world to a place where I'm pursuing my solo career again with this record."
While frequently traveling to Denmark with Oh Land, he meshed well with musicians, producers, and engineers there and decided it was the right place for him to record. So he wrote some songs, flew to Copenhagen, and let the whole thing turn into an organic process.
Beverly had never been to Europe before last year, and the aptly named "Postcard" succinctly explains the varying emotions his travels have evoked over time. In fact, it's the only song on the album that really explores that experience at all.
"I think I said everything I wanted to say about that lost-in-translation feeling of being isolated from everything you've known," he says, "and the toll it takes on you juxtaposed with the insight on the world it gives you and the meaning that you find from that, which is very positive and is very negative, but is also a soul-searching experience."
The song is a pretty, dreamlike ballad on which Beverly articulates the surreal experience of being a stranger in a strange land. The line, "Dammit I'm proud, to be out of the city, out of the country/ Even looks pretty, doing the laundry," describes the beauty found in everyday life when viewed through the eyes of a foreigner. But as the chorus implies ("Wish I was here/ Wish I was here"), Beverly still felt somewhat absent from it all.
"A lot of the time, I was in these amazing places, and it was like an out-of-body experience," Beverly says. "I didn't really feel like I was there, and I was kind of thinking, this is amazing; I wish I could have actually been here to experience this, but my mind is in another country. My mind is with another person that's 5,000 miles away. My thoughts are on the daily grind of being a touring musician, and sometimes you just have to take a step back and realize where you are and realize the gravity of what you're' doing. And it's actually kind of impossible."
But then other parts of the record journey to lands Beverly is more familiar with. Tracks like "Memphis" and "The Delta" recall scenes from a region where his thoughts wander to often, no matter where he rests his head. The songs prove you don't have to be on another continent to be homesick.
"I make this quote a lot of times because it was one of those things I didn't understand at the time," Beverly explains, "but as I get older, it means more and more. Jay Clifford [of former Charleston band, Jump] told me, when I was 18 or 19, that sometimes you write the best lyrics about a place that you aren't in anymore. You almost have to remove yourself from it to get to that sweet spot where you can really write from the heart.
"And a part of homesickness is making the places of your past into a mythical place in your mind that is just a product of your own memories and your own nostalgia," Beverly continues. 'It's almost like fiction-writing about a place that's actually real. But the way you're relating to it is more abstract, more ideal, and it's more of an illustration."
It only took Beverly two weeks to write his new collection, and the music was added and produced over the course of another month. He hadn't planned for such a quick conclusion, but rather a drawn-out process where he could return to the project every other month or so. But things worked out a little differently.
"The last time I got there, we listened to it, and we just felt like it was finished," Beverly says. "We were taken by surprise by the brevity of the process and how happy we were with it, and it just seemed like the right thing to do — just let it exist as a sort of snapshot of this little period of time in February when it happened. I didn't want to dilute that by overthinking it or feeling like it had to be more than it was in its inception."
For now, promoting and touring in support of Exit Wound is Beverly's priority, though he'll still audition for acting roles to keep life extra interesting.
Beverly will be spreading the good gospel of "Postcard" with a Southeastern tour ending in Charleston on May 23 at the Royal American with Jordan Igoe and The Kernal. Showgoers who join the mailing list that night will be given a QR code to download "Postcard" for free, and old-school fans can catch an InLaws reunion the following evening at the Pour House's Punks & Snakes CD release / Shrimp Records Family hoedown.