Listening to songwriter Anthony Savino’s voice and guitar feels like sitting down with someone who gets you, who trusts himself, questions society and despite the rollercoaster of uncertainty, provides you with comfort. On July 23, his album Back Before the Fall was released into the ether. It was recorded in early 2020, before he (a former Providence resident) moved to Los Angeles. Savino sings “about work and money, as well as the changes that come with time, both incremental and instantaneous.” Read on to find out how this album came to be and why I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Mayté Antelo-Ovando (Motif): Tell me about your new album! How did the process start? During the pandemic, no?
Anthony Savino: So, a lot of this album was pre-pandemic. I had all the songs written by early 2020, and when I started recording we didn’t know there was going to be a pandemic. After the first few sessions, news headlines began popping up regularly about [it], and soon there was a panic in the air. The day after we finished [tracking], Rhode Island went into lockdown.
MA-O: Oh wow…
AS: … All the mixing and post-production took place in lockdown.
MA-O: What did you think when Rhode Island shut down? In reference to the music?
AS: My first thought, as an artist, was how grateful I was to have gotten [the songs] down in the studio before lockdown. The timing couldn’t have been better. But I also didn’t know at that time that it was going to be an album. In my mind I had just recorded some songs without [a] plan to release them or anything like that.
MA-O: Oh that’s so cool how it evolved! How did you move from that to: ‘Ok, it’s an album.’?
AS: Somewhere between getting the first mixes sent to me and moving to the west coast a few months later, the songs started to sound like a cohesive collection. And as quarantine went on longer and longer, the before-times felt more distinct, like there was a real divide between then and now, or between then and whatever was next, and as that was happening, the songs started to feel more and more like an album from that time. All of them were written pre-COVID. One of the [songs] is loosely about 9/11. One is about the effects of the 2016 presidential election on family relationships and another one is about the uncertainty that comes with losing a loved one. These stories all stood in the doorways between chapters, a surprising reflection of what was happening around me in real time. The old ways were definitely gone, but the future was still uncertain.
The first song on the album picks up where my last album, Good Job, left off: the plight of the worker, set to a strummed guitar. A full band comes in on the second song, and reappears throughout the album. Some of the songs were written on the upright piano that’s heard on the album, which was left in Rhode Island when my partner and I ended up moving in the spring of 2020. Hearing its heavy creaks and dark tones brings me back to the before-times, when there seemed to be less uncertainty. Naturally, many of these songs have taken on new meaning since the events of that year. So, there were parallels to other clear then-and-now events. And that’s another point when I realized- oh, maybe there is a theme here after all.
MA-O: Hmmm … the before times … and then the times that came after. How else would you describe your new album?
AS: A few months ago, I was looking through some old calendars and I came across one from a particularly dynamic year, when I traveled a lot, and moved a lot, and my partner and I started dating. Looking through those dates and plans I had written down, I was able to relive a lot of those moments. Similarly, I feel like this album is like a photo album or a journal from another time, even though the songs are only a couple of years old at the most. But to me it doesn’t feel nostalgic, it feels more like something forgotten from the past that now has its own meaning in the present.
MA-O: I love the picture you just painted with that answer. I feel like you’re a storyteller and I therefore have soooo many favorite lyrics after listening to your music. From lines like “paychecks scattered like foliage,” an “open mind [that] can’t see why”… “the family tree [that is] “losing leaves”… and singing, “I know I told you I don’t mind waiting, but I gotta get outta here…” How do you write your songs?
AS: I don’t have one method for writing, but I think I usually start with a melody. And I try to think about the rhythm of the lyrics, about how words are spoken and how they can be sung. And if none of that’s working, then I try to break my own rules. I can’t think of a specific line, but I think the song “The Old Me” is a good example of a really lyric-driven song. It’s essentially a story song, almost the whole thing is literal. I love using imagery and metaphor, but I also like to tell stories. And if I can do both in one song then that’s even better!
MA-O: Yes!! A story in song. I’m obsessed with your single “One-Track Mind.” And the harmony, too. I’ve already learned it.
AS: I was honored to have Emily (aka Mountainess) sing on these songs! Anything with her voice on it is made immediately and immeasurably better!
MA-O: Indeed! So tell me about the title of the album.
AS: The title, Back Before the Fall, comes from the song “Lightning.” I shared the album with some friends over the last year or so, and Dylan Block-Harley, who is a magical musician and just incredible person, suggested that as the album title. I loved the way it sounded, and also the way that it could mean so many things. I think it just fits.
MA-O: Aw, that’s great- I love that Dylan (aka MisSter Dylan) helped. Of course he did.
AS: I know right! Haha. He’s everywhere!
MA-O: Anything else you’d like to say?
AS: My new album is out now and you can access it via all services except Amazon. Folks can also get it at anthonysavino.bandcamp.com
Follow Anthony at @anthonysavino.mp3