Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros guitarist Christian Letts recently released his debut album as a solo artist, Hold Fast, which was produced by Marcus Mumford. Rich with an acoustic sweeping flow, the album was written, recorded and produced over two Januaries at a farm in the British countryside. The result is charming, personal yet lighthearted in its sound.
Christian Letts sat down with us to answer a few questions about the album, working with Mumford, and how he decided to go solo. Enjoy.
L4LM: ‘Hold Fast’ is your debut solo album. What prompted the decision to record an album of solo material?
CL: We had some time between touring and recording with Edward Sharpe so it felt like the right moment for it, both emotionally and time wise.
L4LM: Were any of these songs intended for the Magnetic Zeros, or was this written consciously as solo work?
CL: You can kind of tell when you are writing where songs are gonna live, not always but most of the time. All of these were for my record.
L4LM: How would you compare your solo work to your work with the band?
CL: It’s my own thing. It is definitely influenced by years of all of us playing together in Edward Sharpe. So many stories come from all the time I have been a part of this band and have led me to writing a lot of these songs for my album.
L4LM: You produced the album with the help of Marcus Mumford. How did you link up with him, and how did his influence help shape the final result that is Hold Fast?
CL: First off, Marcus produced the record. He did an amazing job! He Smashed it. We met years ago on the train tour and have been mates since. He is an amazing artist and has a clear vision that leads to great things. It’s easy to trust that and has led to something that I am personally very proud of.
L4LM: You’ve mentioned that you recorded the album over two Januarys. Was there any issue in taking such a break between sessions?
CL: I don’t think so. I actually think it was better to do it that way for this record. It gave us some time to think of what needed to be done. I purposefully did not over listen to the recordings so as to still have fresh ears for it when we got back to it.
L4LM: The album has a sweeping acoustic flow to it. Would you attribute that to writing/recording at a farm in the countryside?
CL: One hundred percent. Being surrounded by the country; clean air, nature, grass, cows, pigs, creeks. It still lives inside me. I can’t wait to get back there! I think the quiet helped me be able to hear my internal voice clearly, and the cycle of farm life was always going on in my head. Being very aware of the birth, death and regrowth of it all, that all comes from that circle. In some ways I guess that’s what happens with records. You write it and find its final resting place on the vinyl ( or iPhone, hahaha) which then leads you to sharing that with people on stage, and after that you do it all over again, bringing all that you have learned to the next chapter.
L4LM: It seems that your album has a theme of “overcoming darkness.” Would you care to comment on that theme, and how it relates to the songs on ‘Hold Fast.’
CL: Yeah, it’s the quest to capture light and live in it. Being okay in the dark. It’s fucking terrible sometimes, not a new story for sure. We have all been there. But to hold fast and get to that other side.
L4LM: The songs certainly have an organic feeling to them. Tracks like “Skipping Stones” and “Twenty-Seven Arrows” conjure pastoral imagery, they’re very calming yet emotionally. What elements do you think contributed to this overall sound?
CL: So many of these songs were written from my dreams. I think that’s a huge factor. I used to sleep with a recorder next to my bed so I could wake up in the middle of the night and sing these melodies or sometimes entire songs into it. I think this album lives between the real world and the subconscious.
L4LM: Do you have any favorite tracks from the album? They’re all obviously so personal, so I was just curious if any of them had some special deep significance to you as a songwriter.
CL: They all mean a lot to me. The Keeper and Charles de Gaulle, and… fuck it. Too hard. All of them!! They all are my favorite.
L4LM: Do you have any plans for a future album?
CL: Always writing. I guess we will see what happens!!
L4LM: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us!