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John Mark McMillan
October 26 2017 | 2:00 pm CDT$19 – $45
JOHN MARK MCMILLAN
“Who are we sometimes I wonder, mercenaries or lovers,” John Mark McMillan asks at the outset of his latest album Borderland. Singing with the weight of bankrupt promises and failing friendships; the heaviness of lonely miles and grinding doubt—McMillan’s voice hangs against the backdrop of spare keys and fragile strings. The drums come in and the mood subtly shifts—a slight lifting—and then the song comes to a close. And the listener is left with the distinct impression that this album may be something special, something rare.
John Mark McMillan is something of an anomaly. From the very beginning of his career, nearly a decade ago, his music has defied easy categorization. A singer-songwriter as interested in musical exploration as lyrical exploration, McMillan carved his own path from the outset—with an ear for melody with a poet’s eye for metaphor—no topic was off-limits: death and love; isolation and exultation; restlessness and silence. And always consistent—an ongoing dialogue with God, ever-wrestling for some kind of blessing and usually at volumes most suited for rock clubs. Now, ten long years in, McMillan is set to release Borderland, his fourth studio album and arguably his finest.
To create the genre-bending Borderland, McMillan returned to the studio in rural North Carolina where he created much of his first two albums. He and producer Elijah Mosely spent a year out in the woods, an hour outside McMillanʼs native Charlotte, patiently and intensely crafting an album that would do justice to the songs that McMillan brought to the table. Dispensing with much of the folk and the rock nʼ roll that informed his earlier work, McMillan opened up his palette to include deep grooves and arena-filling sounds. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds and 80’s era- Springsteen, McMillan and Mosley stripped the songs to their bare essence, building them back from the foundation one element at a time. As a result, every song exudes a kind of primal soul and raw swagger only matched by the studied strength of McMillan’s voice.
As for the songwriting, Borderland borders on the literary. Full of metaphors that twist around themselves and images and adjectives that are at once both literal and figurative, McMillan bends words to his own devices. Religious imagery is pressed into service to describe the mundane while the mundane is often elevated to the ecstatic. And like the Psalmists that McMillan reveres, the hardest questions are never avoided, but hit head on. “This album is about life between the crevices, about life on the verge,” songwriter McMillan slowly explains. “The literal concept of borderland is that itʼs that space in between spaces…we all walk these lines between work and family, passion and responsibility, art and commerce. We all feel these pressures—and itʼs where Iʼve been living as a person, as an artist and as a believer. I think Borderland speaks to my experience living in that thin space.”
McMillan’s album is indeed something rare—the sound of an artist staking a claim in the no-man’s land of contemporary life, intent on finding heaven there. Make no mistake, Borderland is the musical statement of a songwriter at the height of his powers; one who has made a career of rejecting easy categorization and defying expectations, and this album is certainly no different.
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A descendent of some of Lapeer’s earliest settlers, 23-year-old LaPeer’s roots run deep into the heart of the Michigan city that bears his name. The son of a brilliant violinist, LaPeer grew up on music, classic literature and travel – exploring over 30 countries. Of all the experiences that have marked his songwriting, it was a season of wrestling with a relationship trapped in ambiguity that resulted in over a hundred new songs. LaPeer is releasing four EPs to tell us what became of his story; one of love, loss and everything in between.
His first fall EP, When Lands Are Golden, debuted in Oct. 2016. These six tracks were written simply – all on one guitar – then brought to life by producer Gabriel Wilson (Bethel, Kari Jobe, John Mark McMillan). With instrumentation from musicians Jesse Proctor (John Mark McMillan), Jason Barrows (Josh Garrels), Kendall Fowler, and Jeremy Larson (Sleeping at Last, Violents), the EP features thick 80’s synth pads, rich string arrangements, and effortless melodies. “Heart Haunting,” the debut single, was recently added to the Starbucks “Coffeehouse” Spotify playlist and can be heard throughout Starbucks locations worldwide. LaPeer continued his EP series with In Blistering Cold on Feb. 24 featuring the single “Torchlight.” Now fans can get the third installment titled To Brighter Dawns everywhere featuring the track “Men Without Lungs.”
Fresh off the heels of a two-month tour with the Grammy-nominated artist Gungor, LaPeer will hit the road September through November with John Mark McMillan this fall.