Just a couple years ago, Van William thought he had life figured out. Having toured the world from age 20 - first with his band Port O'Brien, followed by his second group Waters - he had met and cultivated a tight knit community of fellow musicians, embarked on a serious romantic relationship, even found time to spend his summers on Kodiak Island, Alaska working on his father's commercial fishing boat, as he'd done all his life. When, in short order, his musical projects and relationship dissolved, and his father announced his retirement, Van reached an inflection point. "I was freaked out," the songwriter recalls, looking back on the most tumultuous year of his life. "But with that freak-out came a renewed sense of purpose."
And a new musical direction, heralded by the arrival of Countries, Van's vivid and open-hearted solo debut full length album. BuzzBands.LA called the album centerpiece "The Country" - "the sound of a man turning the page, classic songwriting ferrying yesterday's melancholy and tomorrow's hopes on vessels of indelible melodies and poignant lyrics." Anchored in Van's love of melodic song craft and infused with melancholy, the eleven new, original songs on Countries don't belong to any specific style. Call them American Heartache, music that stirs up forgotten memories and feels eternal and fresh, pulling the past into the present as a way of navigating loss.
Van wrote the songs that would become Countries in a secluded part of the Sierra Nevada, then enlisted a group of musical confidants - including his co-producer Brian Phillips, Dawes drummer Griffin Goldsmith, Pop Etc bassist Chris Chu and keyboardist Tam Visher - to bring the album to life in a studio in Marin County. Special vocal guests on the album include the Soderberg sisters of First Aid Kit. "These songs sound exactly like I feel," says Van, "restless, reeling, heartbroken and ready to burst. I grew up on Fugazi and Plastic Ono Band; The Lonesome Crowded West and On the Beach. I wanted to make a record that unambiguous, that digs its hooks in deep and doesn't let go."