"In a weird way I've come full circle," says Howie Day. "After high school, I decided to skip college, but wound up spending a lot of time touring college campuses. Four years later, I'm releasing a new record instead of getting my degree."
Produced by Youth (The Verve, Crowded House, Dido) and mixed by Michael Brauer (Coldplay, David Gray, Starsailor), Chris Lord-Alge (Goo Goo Dolls, Shawn Mullins, Eric Clapton), and Clive Goddard (Sneaker Pimps, Marianne Faithful). Stop All The World Now is Day's first full-length album for Epic Records. In 2000, Day independently released his self-financed debut, Australia. Impressed by the 30,000 albums he sold simply by word of mouth, Epic Records signed Day and began distributing the album. A year later Australia has sold over 100,000 copies. In addition, Day released the Madrigals EP, a collection of live tracks and demos that were produced in Howie's living room.
Day's latest, Stop All The World Now, was recorded at Olympic Studios in London, England during the spring of 2003. He spent three months recording 16 songs, 11 of which will be included on the album, with guitarist Jay Clifford from Jump Little Children, ex-Verve bassist Simon Jones, Los Angeles keyboard player Les Hall, and London drummer Laurie Jenkins.
While the 23-year old songwriter from Bangor, Maine continues to explore the themes of love, regret and loss in his lyrics, his music takes on an additional dimension as he incorporates a 25-piece orchestra to "Numbness for Sound," "I'll Take You On," "Collide," and "She Says." Writing on piano for the first time on an album, Day adds a new element to "End of Our Days" and "Trouble in Here." "Going into the studio, I wanted to create a timeless record that will hold up 10 years down the road," says Day. "But really the biggest advantage was that I had enough time and the right people around me to help me fully realize the vision for this album."
After recording Australia in two and three song bursts over the course of a year, Day says it was refreshing to record Stop All The World Now all at once. "When I listen to my first record now, I can hear myself growing up in those songs; time stretching out," observes Day. "The new album is more like a current snapshot, and its not overexposed or blurry."
Stop All The World Now explores Day's experiences from the road as he toured for four years as a solo artist and opened for artists like Sting, Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow and most recently, Tori Amos. "Watching how hard Tori works and seeing how she carries herself as an artist was an education for me," says Day. "She gave me a lot of great advice but one thing kept coming back to me in the studio. She said it is crucial to stay true to your artistic vision when you record or you'll regret it the rest of your life. She reaffirmed that the biggest mistake I could make would be to ignore my instincts."
HOME…FOR NOW When the tour with Amos ended in Frankfurt, Germany, Day moved back into his old apartment in Maine. "It was the first time in three years that I got to sleep in my own bed for more than two weeks at a time. I loved it, no schedule to keep but my own."
As Day reacquainted himself to a life without sound check, he began writing songs for Stop All The World Now. The first single from the album is a "Perfect Time of Day," a surprisingly upbeat track about endings and new beginnings. On it, Day addresses his mixed emotions about getting older while countering the introspection with an insistent rhythm that embodies the song's underlying message of hope.
"When you're young, you can take a certain amount of comfort knowing that a lot of your life is mapped out for you, but as you get older, the map goes out the window and you have to find your own way. In a sense, this song is about me confronting the uncertainty that I think we all feel as we go through life."
A few months later, Day was on a plane to London.
Living and recording in London was an exciting mix of work and new culture, but Day says he got the biggest charge from working with Youth, who has produced musically diverse albums such as The Verve's classic Urban Hymns to Crowded House's Together Alone.
Having an orchestra accompany several of his songs was another surreal treat for Day. "When they started playing ‘Numbness For Sound,' it was a little emotional for me," he says. "I could remember sitting at home, strumming my guitar and thinking about how great it would be to have strings on this song. A few months later, it was happening."
The song with the oldest roots on Stop All The World Now is "She Says," a song Day wrote when he was 17 and first appeared on Australia in what Day describes as "almost demo form." The re-recorded version on the new album fills in the blanks on the original. "I love the version that's on Australia, but I never felt it was finished in a studio sense. It took six years, but I finally got on tape the song I'd been hearing in my head for so long."
ROAD "SWEET" ROAD When Day returns to the road this fall, he will take a band with him for the first time. Working as a solo artist since he began playing, Day developed a unique approach to performing that allowed him to build a huge sound around his intimate lyrics. He literally created each song in front of the audience by using live loop sampling and delay pedals to create rhythms, melodies and backing vocals that served as a full band while he played guitar and sang.
"I've been looking forward to taking a band on the road for such a long time," says Day. "I love playing solo, but I can only take the songs to a certain point. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by how big some of the old songs sound with a band behind me." Day will continue to incorporate live loop sampling and solo performances in each show.
The key to Day's growing success has been strong grassroots support from enthusiastic fans who helped spread the word about his music. It began with the Rep Program, an innovative approach to marketing, says Day's manager Shawn Radley. Through the program, fans who came to Day's first shows were given an opportunity to take 10 copies of Australia-on the honor system-to sell. Members who sold all 10 discs were allowed to attend Day's shows for free.
As word spread about Day's unique live performances, tapers-some with microphones strapped to their heads-became permanent fixtures in the audience. Robert Helms helped establish the Howie Day Trading Board (www.thehdtb.com), a Web site that allows fans to trade concerts online. "Howie never plays a song the same way twice," says Helm's. "I think people come to the trading board because they enjoy hearing a song like ‘Ghost' go through an amazing transformation over the course of a year." On the site, fans can browse and download different shows. Fans can also contact a taper directly via the trading board to get a show by sending the taper blank CD-Rs and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. No money changes hands. "It's such a huge compliment to think people like what I'm doing enough to record it and pass it along to their friends," says Day. "It keeps me on my toes too because I can't go out and play the same show night after night.
There will be even more opportunities to improvise this fall as Day hits the road to support Stop All The World Now.