“This album is all about going where the flow leads,” says Brandon Decker. “For the last ten years, I’ve pushed hard, but I realized that there’s more reward in letting go, in being open to where the songs and life’s currents naturally lead you. It was an important lesson for me to learn, both as an artist and as a human being.”
In Decker’s case, the currents didn’t just lead him, they swallowed him up and baptized his soul in a torrent of healing waters. It was an at-times harrowing experience, but the Arizona songwriter (who records and tours under the name decker.) emerged from it all with a fresh outlook on life and a sublime new album, ‘Born To Wake Up.’ A spiritual accounting of his journey across the delicate tightrope between darkness and light, the record captures Decker’s remarkable transformation—a reawakening that informed every aspect of his identity as an artist, a father, and a seeker of truth and beauty. Written entirely in a creative maelstrom over the course of just three weeks, the album marks Decker’s first release of new material since signing to the revered Royal Potato Family label, and it finds him broadening his scope as a songwriter, pushing his unique brand of psychedelic desert folk to new heights of nuance and emotional sophistication.
In simplest terms, decker. is a singer/songwriter based in Sedona, Arizona. A more apt description, however, would be musical mystic. Decker’s music draws inspiration directly from the vortexes of the red rock mountains where he resides—an area so widely known for its healing energy that millions of spiritual travelers flock there every year in an attempt to harness its power. Releasing albums at the extraordinary clip of nearly a record-per-year since 2009 Decker’s songwriting has garnered love from press and radio around the country. Magnet raved that his music “bursts with emotion at every edge,” while KEXP said his brand of “fevered guitar licks, crashing drums, and bluesy storytelling gives Jack White a run for his money,” and Phoenix New Times fell for his “fiery passion,” adding that decker. has “a vision unlike any other these days.”
Decker attributes much of that vision to his environment, and when it came time to write ‘Born To Wake Up,’ he again turned to the land for guidance, dreaming up songs on long hikes through the mystical red rock canyons surrounding his Sedona home. Away from civilization and technology, he could tap into the ancient energy of the rocks and truly engage with the full range of his emotions, from the pain and grief of his grandmother’s passing to the beauty and abundance of time spent with his young son. Decker committed himself to experiencing it all with an open heart, and the resulting album is his most brave, honest, and optimistic collection yet.
Where previous albums have leaned darker in mood, this latest finds Decker exploring optimism and hope. “I wrote this album with intention of exploring both the darkness and the light; life and death; being asleep and waking up” reflects Decker. “In the past, I think I tended to write only when I was grappling with some kind of struggle, but I am a person who’s focused on love and gratitude and seeking to be present in the moments of light. So it was important for me to put these anchors of my life into a record as well.”
The album opens with an instrumental introduction titled “No Beginning, No End,” a swirling soundscape that paints an eerie portrait of the desert at night. Over the course of the record’s nine ensuing tracks, night gives way to day, and the menacing atmosphere transforms into one of promise and splendor as sunlight reveals the world in all its magnificence. On tracks like “The Matador,” the roiling churn of uncertainty explodes into a soaring buoyancy as Decker pushes through the darkness, while the meditative “Smudge” basks in the light of peace we sometimes move too quickly to embody. “Always remember – you are the one,” he sings on the rousing “Awake,” speaking as much to himself as anyone listening.
While ‘Born To Wake Up’ is certainly an intensely personal and reflective record, Decker manages to explore a wide variety of perspectives and imbue his journey with an array of voices on the album. He channels Hank Williams on LSD with “The Strawman,” tips his cap to Tom Petty on the driving “Burning Grass,” and tenderly pays tribute to his late grandmother with the “The Saint.” Perhaps no track cuts closer to the bone for Decker, though, than “Mexico,” a gentle lullaby crafted through the eyes of his six-year-old boy.
“As I sensed that another record was happening, I promised myself it wouldn’t come at the expense of time with my son, that I would include him in the process as much as I possibly could,” explains Decker. “He inspired much about these songs, helped me name some of them even, but ‘Mexico’ was one we actually wrote together. We were sitting at dinner and I basically just interviewed him about his life, about the things he thinks about and the things he remembers.”
Like so much of the album, it’s a reminder to sit still and appreciate the little moments, to appreciate the glory of simply existing. By the time the album concludes with it warm and shimmering instrumental outro, “No End, No Beginning,” the sun has risen and Decker is closer to the peace of mind he’s always been looking for. It turns out it was nearer than he ever realized. All he had to do was let go.
Royal Potato Family