Cycles define life. Seasons come and go. Relationships begin and end. Feelings appear, disappear, and re-appear stronger than before. On his first full-length album for Nettwerk Records, CICADA, Liam Titcomb found inspiration within that cycle.
"Cicadas are those prehistoric looking bugs that make a high-pitched buzzing sound in the summertime," explains the Toronto-based singer and songwriter. "There's a cicada that has a 13-year cycle. It disappears underground for years and then it comes back in a massive swarm. This record captures a feeling of re-emergence for me. The album has been a long time coming, and that's one of the reasons I called it CICADA."
In 2010, shortly after ending an intense relationship, Titcomb stole away to London for a month-long songwriting retreat. Exploring everything the UK had to offer and forging some incredible friendships in the process, he hit his stride as a writer and began penning the material that would eventually become his latest offering.
"My world opened up immensely while I was over there," he goes on. "There weren't any rules when it came to making music. Form and structure went out the window, and the goal was to simply write a great song. You learn the rules and structure. Then, you forget them and just create. London forced me into that mentality. It was a great shakeup, and I came home with some very different songs."
Among those songs was a demo for "Landslide". With a vulnerable acoustic melody and an unforgettable hook, it encapsulates a vivid bookend to a relationship. The track came across the desk of Nettwerk Records C.E.O. Terry McBride. He contacted Titcomb and quickly signed him to the label. The artist then spent the next year prolifically composing between London and Nashville.
"Landslide" holds a special significance beyond being a centerpiece of the final CICADA. He reveals, "Days before leaving to London, I'd left the most significant relationship of my life to date. I had a sudden realization that it wasn’t going to work out long term. We had a tear-jerking conversation, and I got on a plane. A landslide is unavoidable. It's not one person's fault or another. When the earth falls out from underneath your feet, there's nothing you can do. You just need to somehow deal with it and find a new way. The song captures that fresh, raw feeling.”
Embracing both classic folk and pop, Titcomb entered a Nashville studio with producer Jay Joyce [The Wallflowers, Cage The Elephant, Patty Griffin] in December 2011. After spending over a year writing, he jumped feet first into recording. In a little less than a month, playing everything alongside Joyce, the ten songs comprising the record were committed to tape. On Christmas Eve, the artist returned to Toronto with a finished record in his hands.
The album's first single, "Love Don't Let Me Down", is a powerful collaboration with Joyce who wrote the song. The producer had played the original idea for Titcomb years before, and the singer always wanted to record it for a record. It finally felt right. Boasting a cinematic storyline and the singer's palpable delivery, the track remains both irresistible and inspiring. A plaintive banjo line rolls elegantly as Titcomb paints this poetic lyrical portrait.
"The song is dedicated to a brother or a best friend," he affirms. "When you're in an extremely dark place or you're sitting on the edge, you think of giving up hope because you don't see the light. You can lose faith and end up falling into the darkness. The song pleads with love or a higher power to pull you through. It's about being at the breaking point and begging."
On the other end of the spectrum, "Angeline" tells the tender story of a free spirited friend, while the title track “Cicada” rekindles a flurry of feelings complete with that familiar buzzing sound. While in Nashville, the cicadas had returned, and it only felt a propos to write a song about that natural phenomenon. "It's a metaphor for the cycle of love," he adds. "Emotions can lay dormant underground for years and then return as powerful as ever. They never really go away."
The same could be said for his love of music. His father was a folk singer and songwriter himself, and Titcomb grew up completely immersed in art, practically splitting his time between being backstage and at school. Falling in love with songwriters like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell at a young age, his fate as an artist was sealed.
At 16-years-old, he released his first album in Canada, and he became a presence in his home country. He toured alongside established artists such as Great Big Sea, Tom Cochrane, David Usher & Colin James. In 2006, he even received a nomination for "Best New Group" or "Solo Artist" at the Canadian Radio Music Awards. However, CICADA is truly his proper introduction to the rest of the world.
"This is a fresh start," he says. "I'm ready to go after the whole globe. There's a little bit of everything on this album. It's bittersweet at times. It's fun at times. This is who I am at the end of the day. There's no persona. I try to be genuine. I make music because I love it."
Audiences are going to love it too. "The most beautiful thing is when you connect with fans in the live setting," Titcomb concludes. "I hope fans find their own relationships with the songs. I just want to get the emotions across. That's the purest essence of music."
Liam Titcomb's new cycle truly begins with CICADA, and it's going to last a long time.