Several years ago, Arthur Alligood set his dreams aside. After a decade of trying to provide for a family as a touring singer-songwriter, Alligood came off the road for good and decided to pursue a new career—one that allowed for a consistent paycheck and presence at home. It was the necessary choice, but with it came a sort of death—a personal loss that required grief and time and reorientation.
When Arthur recently launched his Kickstarter campaign for a new album, Better Late Than Never, it represented more than just an emerging set of songs. It marked the beginning of something new, a season in which Arthur felt the freedom to pursue making music on the other side of great personal change.
I asked Arthur to tell me more about his journey back to recording and the emotions that accompany a willingness to dream once again.
It’s wonderful to see you back here, but at one point I know you set music aside. Can you take us into that decision first?
In 2012, I put out One Silver Needle, an album made possible by winning the 2011 Mountain Stage NewSong songwriting contest. I put that album out and there was a bit of touring behind it, but very quickly out of that, I knew I was moving into a new realm of life, based on what I was going through personally with a divorce and all. I guess “timid” is the word. I went from being on the road to going back to school and got a job teaching. It was a totally different way of living. Carrying that to today, I got my Masters and have continued to teach.
Music has always been a thing that, during this time, was always there as a way to process life. But it was nothing I was looking to do vocationally. I’m still not there, but the music’s not done with me. I still have things to say. I feel like incrementally, over these last 10 years, I’ve realized how important music is to me. It’s not just me in a bedroom recording my songs, but I feel like I have, for lack of a better term, something bigger to say and I want the records to reflect that.
What was your first impulse that music was coming back around again?
I just realized that I’ve never been able to shake songwriting. I’ve never been able to stop writing songs. I’ve always written songs and they pile up on my phone in voice memos. At some point you ask, “Why is this impulse always with me to do this?” There are a million things I’ve started in my life that, after six months, have faded away. [Laughs] Why is songwriting a thing that’s always been there? I can’t let go of it.
The logical conclusion for me is that I’m supposed to write songs. I’m supposed to do that. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t supposed to be a part of my life. So I’ve had a lot of little moments where I’ve realized it’s core to who I am, so of course I should be writing songs.
I've never been able to shake songwriting. I've never been able to stop writing songs.Arthur Alligood
Did that feel like the responsible thing to do, to try to set that aside?
I had to come to grips that I could not provide for my family by being on the road as a singer-songwriter at that time. I just could not do it. It felt like giving up on a dream for sure, but it also felt like the pivot that maybe I should have made all along instead of trying to put all my eggs in that basket. It made me realize that music was a part of my life, but it doesn’t have to be like everyone else, like how I provide for my family. It can still be important. I can still make thoughtful music and put it out into the world, but unless the stars align and opportunities come, I can do it in a way that fits with my life and the core things that are also important to me.
Could you share about that shift from realizing music was still important to actually making a new record?
During quarantine, just as a writing exercise, I thought if I made a rock record, what would it sound like? What were the songs I’d bring to the table if I lost some of those Americana tones and went for the general pop/rock thing? It was just for fun during the pandemic, and that’s where the idea for the album came. Then Mikal [Blue] reached out on Instagram about possibly working together one day. That gave me enough strength to dream about music. I realized that I’d not dreamed up any projects or albums. I used to dream about making records, but I hadn’t done so in a long time. So that writing exercise was how all of this started.
You brought up Mikal and I know you also have a great team of players. Can you introduce them to us?
Mikal Blue is going to produce and he’s known for his work with Colbie Caillat. His career was kind of made on her success. He did her first record for free years ago and really developed her as an artist. Dean Dinning is the bassist for Toad the Wet Sprocket and Josh Daubin is the drummer for Toad. They both work with Mikal closely on other projects and they’re working together on the new Toad album. They’ve been brought in. Then we’ve got Michael Ward, who has played with John Hiatt and The Wallflowers. He played on One Silver Needle in 2012, so I know him and he’s a great electric guitarist. Then there’s a handful of others who will come in.
What are your emotions as you step back into all of this?
It’s real exciting and it’s scary for sure. But the scary part is more about the Kickstarter and putting yourself out there in that way. The last time I did a Kickstarter was 2010, so I haven’t done a bunch of crowdfunding before. This is my first official big one. It’s scary to put yourself out there and all the work put into it. But with the music, that’s where I’m comfortable. I’m the most excited to get out there and start working because I love how Mikal works. We get along really well. He lets me be me. There’s no dumb idea, and we’re able to chase down the songs and have fun in the process. So I’m over the moon about recording.
Thematically, what weaves together the songs you chose for the new album?
It’s me reaching out for hope in this time. They’re all pulled straight from my life. I’ve been writing for 20 years, but I finally wrote my first legit love song. My wife got sick during this time, and it just came out. Generally, it’s looking for light in all the darkness, but it’s also way more lighthearted than I’ve ever been. I gave myself challenges to do things I’d never done. There’s a couple guy-girl duets on the record. The songs are very accessible but definitely still my writing and who I am. They came from my heart. I’m just really excited and I hope that comes through in all I’m saying.
Matt Conner is a former pastor and church planter turned writer and editor. He’s the founder of Analogue Media and lives in Indianapolis.