Interview: Elenowen’s New Album Captures Musical + Personal Changes
It’s been a long road to Elenowen‘s new album, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The duo of Josh and Nicole Johnson worked on ‘For the Taking’ for a year, and the songs chronicle a turbulent period in their lives that they have now worked through and left behind. The result is both a musical and a personal leap forward for the couple, who many fans are familiar with from their appearance on ‘The Voice,’ as well as TV placements of their songs in shows like ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Army Wives.’
"So many things in our lives just felt the essence of being trapped — physically, emotionally."
Jeremy Bose and Trent Dabbs co-produced ‘For the Taking,’ and their input was crucial in taking the duo in a new direction musically. The new album features a fuller production, with the duo backed by a full band.
“They played a huge role in just helping us hone in on that sound that we ended up landing on,” Josh states. “The record took us almost a year to make, the longest it’s ever taken for us to make a project. But I’m so glad that it did, because where we initially started, it ended up going a pretty different route, and I’m pretty happy it went that way. In between recording sessions, we were on the road playing the songs live, and they ended up taking a completely different form when we tracked with the musicians and got in the room with Jeremy and Trent.”
The album takes its title from its final song.
“It was this season of us living in this small basement apartment that we had been in for five-and-a-half years, and so many things in our lives just felt the essence of being trapped — physically, emotionally,” Nicole shares. “We wanted to buy a house, we wanted to start our family; we just wanted to do all these things that we just felt like we couldn’t, for logical purposes.”
She adds, “We kinda ended up taking things into our own hands, got pregnant and bought a house, and made a decision just to start living more the life we really wanted, even though some things weren’t gonna make sense and were gonna be hard. So when we went to name the record and that song was on there, it seems to really capture that.”
Elenowen utilized Kickstarter to fund the new project.
“It was one of the only options we had, to be really candid,” Josh says with a laugh. “We had an idea of how we wanted to go about making the record and who we wanted to use, and it was gonna cost more than we had ever spent on a record before, and we just wanted to do it right. And we also just loved the idea of having fans rally together to create something together. It was really cool to see the fans show up and gather around this music, and it kinda made it more special for us.”
The album’s first single is ‘Half a Mile,’ which showcases some of the new elements of their sound. “That song was actually on ‘Nashville,’ and the air date of that show was right around the time we were releasing the single,” Josh states. “It was between that, a song called ‘Desert Days’ and a song called ‘Losing the Lonely,’ and those are probably the most energetic, very different-sounding from things we had done in the past. We kinda wanted to come out with a bang, so to speak, and kinda surprise people with, ‘This is the new us.’”
The couple admit that balancing their work lives and their home life together can still be challenging.
“It’s been a learning process, and we still haven’t really figured it out,” Josh says candidly. “We’ve kinda been just learning as we go.”
In the beginning, Nicole says, “There weren’t a whole lot of big, life-juggling things happening for us. It was just, ‘Cool, we’re married and we’re doing music together. This is great.’” But as they quit their day jobs and music became their full-time pursuit, according to Josh, “That was when we had to learn how to separate our business relationship and our marriage relationship.”
“Which we’re still learning how to do,” Nicole finishes.
"We kinda wanted to come out with a bang, so to speak, and kinda surprise people with, ‘This is the new us.’"
Their lives got more complicated with the arrival of their six-month-old son, Nolan. “Absolutely!” Josh says with another laugh. “And again, another thing that we’re in the process of figuring out.” The couple have toured extensively for the past two years, but now that they’re parents, they’re looking to scale back that aspect of their career.
“We’re trying to find a way to make a living just from songwriting, from licensing and things of that nature, as well as touring — but touring when it makes the most sense,” Josh adds. “When the show guarantees are big enough for us to justify hiring a nanny to bring out with us.”
“I have so much less time than I ever envisioned,” Nicole observes. “You think as an infant, not taking him to soccer and always driving him around — he’s just a baby, but he requires so much time and attention and effort that, the time that I do get, when I have an hour when he’s napping or whatever, it’s interesting the things that bubble up to the surface that are important to me. A few months back, when we first stepped back into music after having him, I was really surprised at how much music kept bubbling to the surface.”
Nicole had been dreading touring after Nolan was born, but to her surprise, she found that having her son along actually made it more enjoyable. “At the end of the day, whether it was a bad show where something went wrong, or the turnout wasn’t what we had hoped, or whether it was a fantastic show, it doesn’t really matter, because he’s my pride and joy, literally, and having him there with us every night to to come home to has made things awesome.”
For now, Elenowen are keeping their focus on bringing as much awareness as they can to the new album.
“To just expand our audience a little bit more,” says Josh of their goals. “To go beyond just that cute married couple from ‘The Voice’ who sang pretty. I would love for us to be known for more than that. For our songwriting, for stylistically what the record sounds like. And I’d love for people to just come out to the shows and have a good time.”
Best of Country Music 2014