The work of Portland, Maine singer-songwriter Whitney Walker inhabits dark, rain-soaked landscapes where back-alley transactions, secret affairs, and the underbelly of society is brought out for public inspection. He doesn’t shy away from the parts of the world, and himself, that feel ragged and voyeuristic, peering into the void of past decisions regardless of their result. His insight into these often-nightmarish themes is due to his past proximity to them – he has fought his own demons involving addiction and mental illness and found the strength to rise above their terrors.
After getting sober in 2011, he became a social worker and now uses his time to help others find their way through treatment and rehabilitation. As a prominent advocate for addicts, he has become a recognizable figure in Portland circles over the last 12 years. It was here, in 2014, that he met and befriended musician-producer Will Bradford, bandleader of SeepeopleS, and their common musical affections would eventually lead them to collaborate on Walker’s upcoming album, A Dog Staring into a Mirror on the Floor, out March 3 via RascalZ RecordZ. He also brought Morphine’s Dana Colley into the fold, allowing Colley’s saxophone and bass clarinet to add the necessary gravitas and gravity for the songs to develop into their own habitable worlds.
For our first glimpse into one of these creations, Walker has shared “Heather from Here”, a darkly melodic, scruffy rock dirge recounting Walker’s memories of, and experiences with, countless townie girls living in any forgotten town in the country. Featuring backing vocals from Brooke Binion (of theWorst), the song seeks to pair fuzzy acoustic guitars and thumping percussive rhythms against stories of women who’ve informed his present through historical interactions and how he often wishes that circumstances could have been different and decisions made under better influences. The ragged riffs that come late in the track provide a suitable burst of nervous energy, enough to carry out our temporary trip through his past.
“’Heather From Here’ is about any girl in Anytown U.S.A. who’s one of the guys,” Walker explains. “She’s infamous. Drinks a ton. I was thinking about my high school years and some of the wild girls I knew. I started partying in earnest sophomore year of high school. I had my first drink at 12 and I was over it by the time I was 21. That lead to real problems in my life, but now I haven’t had a drink in 11 years. The song’s nostalgic, not that I necessarily miss that time in my life, but I miss that I can’t make those times a little bit different. It would be nice to fix the errors I made in life. I was thinking about those days and the nurse that helped me after my suicide attempt, whose name was Heather. It’s an homage to these women who informed my early life and now adult life. One is very positive, and one is surrounded by negativity.
He continues: “For the video, I was describing to Chelsea [Sparxsea], the director, how the song was about these two separate stories, the nurse and a girl from a party. She takes a lot of footage and is super easy to work with and a joy to be around. Super creative. We got Cortney Peare for the part of Heather, who gets mad at me and kicks me out of the party and also plays my nurse later. She was so in character that at one point she spit on my face, but we ended up cutting it from the video.
“The lyrics are humorous, but it’s serious subject matter. I tend to write funny, sad lyrics. I’m always thinking about how the Pixies and Pavement are absurd, dark, and humorous all at the same time while still being intelligent. Nick Cave’s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” was a big influence as well.
“Overall, the song’s saying to treat yourself with respect or you might kill yourself. The good times might kill you if you don’t straighten out.”
Watch the video below.
Whitney Walker’s forthcoming album, A Dog Staring into a Mirror on the Floor, is due out March 3 on RascalZ RecordZ. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.