Lucia De Giovanni / Lucia De Giovanni Photography
If you go
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Shine, 2027 13th St., Boulder, 303-449-0120
More info: shineboulder.com
The self-titled debut of Covenhoven is a love letter to Joel Van Horne’s childhood and family, centered around a cabin his grandfather built in the Wyoming woods.
Van Horne embarked on this solo project after the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s Denver group Carbon Choir ended its run as a band. With the exception of a violinist and cellist on one song, Covenhoven is all Van Horne. We talked with him ahead of his show at Boulder’s Shine tonight, where he’ll perform as Covenhoven with the Denver band Chimney Choir.
I want to start with the obvious, which is the Covenhoven cabin.
So, essentially, my grandfather built this cabin over the course of 10 years. As I got into the story, and got into the idea of sort of paying tribute to him and to this place, it kind of dawned on me that he did this completely alone and pretty much just by hand. He completely holed up in this place over the summer for weeks on end and built the place — and he had no help except for remedial tasks that were taken care of by my dad, who was a young boy at the time.
The reason I bring that up is that started to become the focus of what I did with this record. I wanted to create that in a music way. I created the whole record on my own in a room. This was recorded mostly over last winter, so the cabin was inaccessible, so I didn’t do everything there. I was distant from the place and had an outside perspective and dwelled on the place and the spirit. It’s hard to capture and put into words, but I wanted to use the spirit and just use that as an inspiration.
Does doing everything yourself make you a little crazy?
You now, I think that was made easier by the fact that I’ve been doing this a very long time. I’ve done a lot of recording in studios and I’ve collaborated for 15 years of my life. It was kind of a welcome change, because while there are many positives to collaboration, there can, at times, be negatives. I think of the obvious one is where a song can sometimes become diluted with many minds on it.
I really enjoyed being in a band for 15 years of my life and the great camaraderie and collaboration that comes from that. This is fun for me because it allows me to really see my visions all the way through … Recording a record, in my eyes it makes it a lot easier to do that, because you’re able to step outside of yourself. You can come up with an idea and lay it down on a recording and let it go for a week and listen to it and decide if it works. You are wearing many hats and being able to step outside yourself and have new eyes and ears on it. I’m comfortable with that. I don’t know what it is, but I’m definitely comfortable with that.
What made you decide to write about it?
When I was faced with that decision of, ‘What now?’ Because my old band (Carbon Choir) broke up about a year ago … I think at the root of that was, ‘Who am I? What makes me who I am and what can I pull from or draw from that’s gong to really be undeniably me as a person?’ And my head just went immediately there. It’s a central concept or physical place, but beyond that, our family and my upbringing and who I am as a person. I love the outdoors. I loved growing up in Colorado. I love music that captures that … It was almost like a no-brainer, you know? It was kind of immediate. And I love that word, the name my dad gave it, Covenhaven.
Is that material exhausted? What comes next?
I’ve been asked that question a lot actually. It kind of seems like you can’t keep writing records about this one cabin. Moving forward, it’s just going to be a name with a lot of meaning behind it. It’s sort of this muse in a lot of ways. I spent 10 days up there this summer and wrote a lot of the music that will be on the next record. None of it is intentionally about the cabin, but things just flow up there. You’re completely cut off. We don’t have a phone, we don’t have a TV, we have electricity now. You’re totally cut off and it causes you to go backward in time. Every morning I’d wake up and walk around in the woods and write lyrics. To extend that I spent 5 days alone in the canyon country … I’ve always done that. That’s always been how I write music, I just get out in to the wilderness to be alone. I’ve really come full circle and used it in my music.