In 2010, Fort Worth collective Telegraph Canyon released its sophomore album, The Tide and the Current, on Velvet Blue Music. The record catapulted the band, led by singer-songwriter Chris Johnson, to the front ranks of bands not only in its native Texas, but also across the country and around the world. Armed with sweeping, dynamic folk-rock songs, rich with melody and mood, Telegraph Canyon spent nearly three years touring the U.S. and Europe, capitalizing on the momentum generated by praise from outlets as diverse as Rolling Stone, Paste and the band’s hometown newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But just as Telegraph Canyon was reaping the benefits of its acclaimed record, its multiple placements in films and television shows and its punishing touring schedule, everything fell apart. “My life has been the highest and the lowest it’s ever been,” Johnson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in July 2015. “Some of that was already headed my way … and I just plowed through it. But there was a crash at the end of that.” Two band members left the fold, Johnson’s personal life imploded, and, for a time, the singer-songwriter was homeless, living in the band’s RV.
Even at his lowest moments, Johnson held fast to the music. The process to create Telegraph Canyon’s latest album, You From Before, may have taken time, assembled over a period of roughly two years, but it’s impossible to argue with the results. Co-produced with Centro-matic’s Matt Pence and Will Johnson, You From Before is a magnificently bruised, deeply compelling record, a near-cinematic tour de force from a band finding a bold new direction for its captivating sound. Rather than withdraw and lick his wounds, Johnson healed through his art — pouring himself into striking songs like “Old Hearts” and the funky lead single “Why Let It Go,” or the gripping “Lightning.”
Flashes of Telegraph Canyon’s singular, anthemic style — the sort of venue-levitating uplift found in abundance on its previous records — are glimpsed throughout Before, particularly on “Wheel to the Garden” and “Mantle.” By making his personal frustrations and anxieties universal and relatable to an audience, Johnson and his band mates found their way through a bleak, uncertain period — not only personally, but also professionally.
Simply recreating past successes and hoping to reap similar benefits was not a path Telegraph Canyon was interested in taking. The only way forward — the only way Telegraph Canyon could stay true to itself — necessitated a confident leap into the unknown, testing themselves and their loyal audience, knowing the risk was worth the reward.
In music, as in life, the highs are inevitably followed by the lows. But for Telegraph Canyon, thanks to the ambition fueling every track on You From Before, the lows are at bay for now — and the highs to come are positively astronomical.
As always at MOTR Pub, show starts at 10p and is FREE! Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker open up this special night.