Get To Know... Valley Maker

Photo Credit: Bree Burchfield

South Carolina’s Valley Maker, aka, Austin Crane is a veteran of storytelling through music and this latest venture, ‘When the Day Leaves’ is his fourth studio album.

Drawing on the uncertainty and isolation of his own experiences, ever the more relatable in the world we have all become accustomed to in this last year of living, Crane has created an album of acoustic guitar lead, wholesome tunes which hum with intimacy.

Carrying campfire vibes throughout, Crane manages to manifest the image of a warm hug through his song writing while simultaneously touching on our emotions.

‘When the Day Leaves’ only goes to prove the ongoing resonance of the folk fuelled genres, and with tickets to his livestream event on the 20th of March now available, this new era we are now in is bringing the timeless, into the digital.

We caught up with Crane ahead of his album livestream to chat origins, influences, and the theme of movement driving this album.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the music you’re making at the moment?

My name is Austin Crane, and I live in Columbia, South Carolina. Valley Maker is the name of my music project, through which I write songs and then record and perform them with my friends. My new album, When The Day Leaves, is out now on Frenchkiss Records.

At what point in your life did you decide to make a career out of your music, and what influenced that decision?

I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old and began writing songs and playing in bands in earnest from that point on. Music has always been deeply important to me and has helped me find my way in the world. Though I was always writing and playing music growing up, I didn’t really see music as a career path after college – partly because the music industry was relatively unknown to me, but also because I was focused on starting grad school, traveling, and doing my graduate research project. I moved to Seattle in 2013 to start a PhD in Geography, and it was through living there that I started to befriend people who were working/touring musicians, and I had opportunities to open for touring artists coming through town. I put a record out in 2015 with a local Seattle label, and then in 2018 released an album with Frenchkiss Records. That was when I started touring a good bit more around the US and Europe, and things started to click, vocationally. So I would say, rather than a conscious decision at any one point, music has been a slowly unfolding career for me – and I’m still finding my way!

You’ve got a new album due out very soon - tell us a bit about it! What was the main inspiration behind this one?

I’d say the main source of inspiration behind my new album, When The Day Leaves, is movement. I wrote this record around the time I was leaving Seattle, where I’d lived for nearly seven years, to move back to the state I grew up in – so movement from one place to another, but also movement through different seasons of life. Writing this record was a process of encountering different questions about home, community, time, and other mysteries of being alive that this move unearthed for me. I recorded the album in the woods outside of Seattle at Trevor Spencer’s (producer/engineer) Way Out studio, with a group of Seattle and Portland-based musicians. We built the record from the ground up over several weeks of consistent sessions, and I stayed out in the studio the entire time – it was a pretty magical experience, and a real privilege, to be able to singularly focus on creating the album for a long block of time alongside the talented musicians who were involved. So I think the location of recording and the process through which the record was made were also big influences on how the new album turned out.

Is there anything the music industry has taught you which you wish you could have known when you first started out?

I think it’s really important to stay grounded in our love for music, and out of that, to remain grateful. I believe that music is one of the best things we have as human beings and that music should not, and indeed cannot, be contained by a narrowly capitalist, production-for-consumption economic logic. So while there is of course a place for being strategic and intentional about how our music enters the world, I think it’s so important for everything we do as musicians – recordings, live shows, and our general ways of inhabiting the world – to stay in touch with the gift that music is. For me, reflecting on that love for music, and the community that music brings into my life, can help assuage some of the persistent doubts and anxieties that crop up around being a working musician, and reframe my mindset towards a position of gratitude.

You’re from the US, are there any upcoming US artists we should have our eye on?

My friend Sarah Beth released a great EP recently with her project Tomberlin. It’s called Projections, and I’d highly recommend it!

Of course live shows are a no go at the moment, but when touring returns what would your dream Valley Maker show look like?

Having not played a show for 15 months, at the moment, my dream concert would quite simply be to perform the new record in a venue space full of people. It would be fun to do that with a band that incorporates all of the instruments/textures on the new record into our set – so my usual 4 piece band (vocals, guitar, drums, bass, keys) with the addition of woodwinds, trumpet and trombone, organ and violin. I’m fortunate to have a community of band members around the U.S. that I really love, and I miss them a lot right now. So it would be a dream to see them again, travel around, and play music together like the old days! Hopefully we’ll get back there soon.

If you could have any director/filmmaker create a Valley Maker music video, who would it be?

Paul Thomas Anderson

What’s the plan post-album release? Anything exciting in the works?

I’ve got a livestream show coming up on March 20th where I’ll play the new album as a duo set with Amy Godwin (who sings on the record, and is a longtime friend/collaborator). I’m working on plans at the moment for making that special. I’m very much looking forward to touring when that is safe to do again, but until then, I’m enjoying being home with my wife and our dogs, getting settled into our new home and life in Columbia, SC. We did a string of renovation projects on our old house throughout 2020; and now that all of that is winding down, I’m looking forward to getting back into a regular flow of writing songs and recording demos. In addition to music, I also teach university-level human geography classes, and I’m working away on completing the writing of my dissertation this spring – so that’s the next big project. A lot about the future feels uncertain right now amidst the pandemic, but I’m planning to keep on writing songs and playing music – it’s what I love to do!