By Mike Romero
Children live in the present: a world where every experience is fresh and new. As we age, we become callous to the beauty of life, and our many distractions keep us from experiencing the moment. Provo-based singer/songwriter Adam Hartshorn wants to change the paradigm.
His debut album, Out of the Dark, dropped on September 23, 2022. Described as an “ode to life with its ups and downs,” he says the music encourages the listener to take risks, live in the moment, and to see life in color.
What inspired him to make this record? A few years ago, Hartshorn was attending grad school at the University of Utah while living in Provo. He would wake up at an unholy hour to take the train to Salt Lake City and get back late at night.
“I would hardly ever see the sun. It was the middle of winter, it was freezing cold, and I was tired and stressed all the time,” he says. He woke up one morning with some lyrics and a melody in his head. The lyrics?
There is a road coming out of the dark.
There is a time when a man cannot see.
“I realized I had dreamed this song,” he says. “It sounds super cheesy, but it almost feels like the song wrote itself. It felt like a gift. As I went through the day and hummed this tune and added to it, I felt lighter and warmer even though it was still dark. It helped me realize that my focus in life really changes my reality. It made me want to focus on light and love rather than the dark and the cold.”
Hartshorn is a deep thinker. The reality of death often weighs heavily on his mind, and it makes him anxious. “I don’t think I’m to the point of being clinical, but it’s really easy for me to worry,” he says. “A lot of days I feel anxious or down, but sometime soon I won’t have any days.” He notes that this perspective has positive benefits as well. “That perspective really helps me feel like I want to participate every day. That thought makes me think there’s something beautiful to appreciate every day. And when I look for beauty or joy, there’s always something to find.”
The album plays with themes of presence and positivity in the face of anxiety, worry, and depression. It also strives to be raw and real. “Everything was very intentional,” he says of the recording process. “One of the messages of this record is to appreciate the beauty in life despite things not always going how you want. For that reason, I wanted it to feel raw and imperfect. It’s not pitch corrected, some of the rhythms are slightly off. It’s just me in a room playing instruments and singing with myself on GarageBand. But there’s a kind of beauty to something that isn’t perfect. It’s homegrown, and it’s real.” To accentuate the feel of being homemade, Hartshorn included folk textures in the background of certain songs, like the cajon, the jaw harp, and throat whistling.
In addition to the main seven songs, Out of the Dark features a one minute outro of nature sounds recorded in Provo’s Rock Canyon, giving the listener time to meditate themselves. Meditation is important to Hartshorn and was something he wanted to give back to the listener.
“I actually started meditating because I would get really nervous before performing my music. But I liked it so much, I started using it more frequently in my daily life,” he says. “I like thinking about where my body is in space, and reconnecting to that sense. For me, it’s all about learning to focus on physical sensations. What do I smell? What do I see? What are my muscles doing? What do I hear?”
He says that recording the nature sounds was a beautiful experience. Instead of walking on the Rock Canyon trail, he wandered into the bushes and found a spot away from people. The longer he sat, the more the animals and insects got comfortable with his presence. The wind was blowing through the scrub oak, and the birds, crickets, and bumble bees were as loud as he’s ever heard them. It’s neat to be able to experience this with him briefly at the end of such a personal record.
“If this music helps one person to slow down, to exist with more gratitude, and live life more intentionally,” Hartshorn says. “Then it is a success.”
Make sure to follow Adam Hartshorn on Instagram. You can listen to the opening track “Coeur D’alene” below.