NPR’s First Listen is like the Holy Grail of music press. It means that you may be on the fringes of widespread success, but you’re right on the money when it comes to artistic expression. They do a good job of mixing it up, too: world music, jazz, metal, funk, R&B, and, with Showalter’s Strand of Oaks, folk. For the Philly resident but frequent road warrior, his new record Heal is an achievement, and we’re proud of him.

As Showalter puts it, he’s “no spring chicken.” This is not his first record, and hopefully it won’t be his last. But it IS the record that seems to be the one to get his music to the masses. And it’s dark and gritty and beautiful and sad and weird and personal. From his website:

“The record is called HEAL, but it’s not a soft, gentle healing, it’s like scream therapy, a command, because I ripped out my subconscious, looked through it, and saw the worst parts. And that’s how I got better.”

Phew! Don’t you want to listen now? What writers seem to be focusing on most is the revealing nature of a few songs, namely his divulging details about his marriage and an affair. Really, Heal is just a great folk record, and great folk records, in my opinion, tell stories about emotions, life, loss and love. Here’s how Tim responded to some questions.

What’s your Philadelphia story? How’d you get here, what brought you here, and where were you before you arrived? 

I grew up in Goshen, Indiana. I was friends with this cool guy named Lee Green.  He was a few years older and moved to Philly in the late ’90s. I’d never been to Philly, but decided if it was cool enough for him, then I’m going. So I moved for a brief time to Philly in 2001, then relocated to Wilkes-Barre. Lived there till 2009, then came back to Philly. Basically been spending the last 13 years up and down 476.

How’d you end up on First Listen?! That is some shit, man. Like, you’ve arrived. Is that exciting for you? What do you think it is about this Heal that might win you a larger audience than ever before?

I assumed NPR just liked the record and wanted to get behind it. NPR has really become a huge source for me discovering new music, so I’m honored to be in that league. Heal is my favorite record I’ve made, and I’m thrilled with the possibility of it getting a wider audience. I’m no spring chicken when it comes to the music world and have worked my ass off to get to this point. It’s exciting.

I loved the Grantland story, too. That one dwells mostly on the personal nature of this record, and you get very honest about marriage. Kudos (to you and Steven) – it’s a good read. Honestly, I think folk music and folk music that’s blended with rock sensibilities lends itself quite naturally to confessional songwriting. Is it not obvious that good dark folk music is a little painful and emotionally gritty?

It’s obvious to me. Unfortunately, a lot of bands recently have lost the gritty and really focused on some weird campfire bullshit. So hopefully my record can in a small way destroy that trend.

I’m psyched to see artists like you bubbling up with Philadelphia attached to their press. It feels like, more and more, there’s a band renaissance happening in this city with folks like Swearin’, Cheerleader, The Districts and NOTHING gaining momentum. Do you see it as well?

Never heard of the first three bands. NOTHING is fucking brilliant. Some of the best guitar tones I’ve heard in a while. Those dudes are tearing down all the bullshit and getting right to the center of what rock should be right now. I love living in Philly. I’m not here very much because of touring so I’m not really tapped into the local scene that well.

Do you keep tabs on big music releases? Which records of 2014 have resonated with you? Do you have a top three or five records of all time? 

Right now, the new Sharon Van Etten is my favorite. It’s a perfect record. It’s pretty impossible to list my favorite records of all time. I have so many records that have created and shaped me as a person. My memory is also shit, so I’ve never been good at keeping track. That works in my favor because I forget about records then can rediscover them again. I’ve loved music my whole life and that records can still move me.

Strand of Oaks hits up WXPN for a Free at Noon on Fri., June 27th and, after a bunch of tour dates, hits Boot & Saddle in September.

About The Author

Staff writer

Bill's a small town, public school boy that grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York and attended Hamilton College and the University of Oregon. In New York, he interned for Next magazine, Out magazine, and Flavorpill.com. As soon as he got to Philly he sent about a dozen emails to then-music editor Brian McManus, begging for an internship. Six years later he's the Senior A&E writer for PW and the Staff writer for the South Philly Review.

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