Strand of Oaks goes from ‘healing’ to ‘hard love’

Singer/Songwriter Tim Showalter (aka Strand of Oaks) had one last warm weekend home before he was off again, doing what he does best — touring the world relentlessly since the release of his 2014 breakout album, “Heal.” “I feel as if I just put my feet up,” says Showalter about being at home after a never-ending tour that slowed long enough for him to record two versions of his brand new album “Hard Love.” “The first take just wasn’t ready,” he says. As depth-defying and mournfully emotional as “Heal” is, “Hard Love” finds Showalter rocking out and battling sadness again, but winning handily while enjoying his marriage and cherishing the relationship with a brother he nearly lost. On March 10, he returns home for a gig at Union Transfer before hitting the road again.

Knowing and loving your first three primarily acoustic recordings, what do you say to critics and listeners who only got to you with “Heal?”
I am my own worst critic, so by the time my record is done it is the past, you know? I was kind-of okay with people getting to me through “Heal” because it did seem like a debut as it sounded so radically different than my first three albums. I probably should have just changed the band’s name.

You really went through the new experience of a press mill. Everyone wanted to talk to you.
I was grateful, and of course there’s usually only one answer to each question, but I was starting to feel as if I should make up some imaginary new answers.

Where does that older material sit in your head as you rarely play any of it?
It was all so introspective and each of their own little world that is difficult putting them into my new sound. I am trying however with this tour, during sound-checks for instance. I would love to be like My Morning Jacket, who we toured with, who can seamlessly pull out anything from their back catalog and make it seem like new. Oddly enough, it was when I had one eight-day break during those shows with MMJ that I recorded the first version of “Hard Love.”

You just couldn’t slow your roll. What went wrong? Why didn’t you use that take?
Because though I couldn’t stop making music — that new music wasn’t ready to come out, wasn’t ready to be a record. The label, me, my friends — we all knew it wasn’t right. I should’ve used that time to stay home and pet my cats or hang with my wife. So when I did stop a few months later, I walked around Mount Airy, had coffee, hit a reset button and recorded it in Brooklyn. Plus, I had to stop writing new songs. It was becoming an excuse for me to not interact with the outside world. Sounds weird, right?

Well, you build your own prison.
I needed to make friends, learn to paint, support my wife’s poetry, just be a person. From pre “Heal” through to the “Heal” tour’s end — it was five years of non-stop traveling and playing.

So “Taking Acid and Talking with My Brother” from the new album is more him than you, and not about what it sounds like, right?
Yeah, exactly. I nearly lost my younger brother John to a birth defect nobody knew about. His heart stopped while I was on tour in 2015 right between my shows at Lollapalooza and Made in America. My mom called and told me he had cardiomyopathy. He was in an induced coma at age 26, and two weeks in, we never knew. The whole time I kept thinking that I had written this sad, heartbroken album and that yet, none-of-it compared to this. Luckily he got better, completely better — but it was harder and more intense than any acid trip you’ll ever go on.

With “Heal” you made the exposed heart your calling card. Coming into new songs such as “Cry” and “Quit It,” were you trying to show that you had moved on triumphantly?
The one thing that I wanted to do with “Hard Love” — or realized after it was done — was to not be an apologist. I didn’t want to portray any victims, me or anyone else. “Cry” is not me talking, not the narrator, but everyone talking back at me. It is more of an argument than a blame. “Hard Love” is a conversation. “Quit It” is a conversation. Talking back-and-forth didn’t happen with “Heal.” That was just me yelling at the world and going ‘me-me-me.’ This time, it’s ‘you-you-you.’

If you go:

Strand of Oaks
Friday, March 10
7:30 p.m., $16-$19
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden

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