In autumn 2021, Denver-based musician Joel Van Horne, who performs under the moniker Covenhoven, released “IV” — an album whose dozen tracks streamlined all the emotionally rich poetic musings we didn’t know we needed.
From well-crafted ballads that ache with bittersweet nostalgia to love songs lush with metaphor, it’s clear Van Horne doesn’t stray from the rawness of letting his feelings guide his art.
Hard truths, glimmers of hope and questions of faith are cradled by guitar strums, piano chords and powerful melodies.
While all songs on the album were written by Van Horne, listeners will find a roster of prominent Colorado artists — including Gregory Alan Isakov, Megan Burtt, Luke Mossman, of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and The Fray’s Ben Wysocki — lending their skills to this thoughtful collaborative effort.
Throughout his career — and on previous full-length albums and EPs — Van Horne has delivered modern folk similar to storytellers Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. With over 100,000 streams worldwide, “IV” continues to infiltrate collections far and wide.
On “I Was Salt, You Were The Sea,” Van Horne sings, “I was all that you could see/ You were the moon and I was the ocean/ tethered to your gravity/ And right beside you/ there’s a me-shaped hole that’s been pulling you sideways/ Deep down inside I know the universe wants to push us all the right way.”
“Monterey” may just inspire a long trip along the coast. The well-crafted track is an ode to clocking a multitude of miles, going the distance for the one who you hold dear.
Although the tune mentions the California seaside city, its music video is a black-and-white love letter to the Front Range. Viewers will recognize Flagstaff Mountain, snippets of North Boulder and Foot of the Mountain Motel on Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder.
The name Covenhoven is a tribute to his family’s Wyoming mountain cabin, built by his grandfather. The property — a refuge for Van Horne, where he would often glean inspiration for his songs — was recently sold.
We caught up with the talented troubadour to find out what he’ll miss most about the sanctuary of his kin, which track means the most to him on “IV” and what artists he credits as being endless sources of inspiration.
Kalene McCort: What are you most looking forward to about returning to eTown’s stage? This is your first live show in how long?
Joel Van Horne: I love Boulder and eTown Hall. It’s such an intimate room set up perfectly for listening and the audience is always so engaged there. We played in Denver, in December, so it’s been about six weeks.
KM: Really love “IV.” The album is filled with such memorable tracks, but if you had to pick one you are most proud of which would it be and why?
JVH: That’s lovely to hear. I’m really proud of the whole album, but if I had to name one track it would have to be “Nothing Left to Be,” which I wrote for my late brother Ben. The experience of writing it was both difficult and cathartic. I’ll always feel a closeness to that one, it’s like a friend that got me through a really rough patch.
KM: I understand the name Covenhoven actually came from your family’s Wyoming cabin, built by your grandfather, that was recently sold. What will you miss most about this special property?
JVH: Everything. That place will always be sacred to me and my family. I would wake up early and take long walks alone through the forest with a hot cup of coffee — usually working on a song in my head — I’ll miss that. And the gatherings of friends and family around the campfire. I’m really lucky to have had that growing up.
KM: Who were some musical artists that had a profound impact or influence on you when you were growing up? Who are some that folks may be surprised to hear you adored?
JVH: Let’s see, always have to mention Bob Dylan. He stands tall in my childhood memories because my dad was such a fan. His songwriting has had a lasting influence on me, no doubt. My dad… the love and appreciation he had for music definitely had a profound effect on me. I get kind of obsessive when I find someone I love and devour their music — for months, or years — Radiohead was one of those for me. Most would probably be surprised that I went through a rap phase when I was younger. I can’t say I listen to it much anymore, but still appreciate the focus on wordplay and groove. A Tribe Called Quest is still a fave.
KM: Any goals, either professional or personal, you hope to reach in 2022?
JVH: I hope to do a lot of touring and playing live in 2022.