Life on the road is stressful, but in between the broken-down cars, sleepless nights, canceled gigs, and general headaches that afflict any touring musician, brief moments of unexpected beauty are merely an invitation away. Such was the case with Christopher Paul Stelling, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who found himself standing with just his acoustic guitar in a gorgeous sanctuary flanked by gnarled, entwined trees in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After performing the night before, Stelling met up with Charlottesville’s Pando Creative to film a spot for their Garage video series. “The Garage is the literal garage of a funeral home called Hill and Wood that doubles as a venue in the warmer months,” he recalls. “When they brought me to the location they had chosen, I was stunned….It was a giant installation of woven saplings by an artist named Patrick Dougherty on the campus of UVA.”
What follows is an intimate look at one of the tracks off Stelling’s stunning debut, Labor Against Waste, out June 16 via Anti Records. It’s one thing to give in to the hypnosis induced by Stelling’s fluttering finger-picking on the studio track, but to catch him live is to see Stelling at his prime, all hoarse inflections, pensive delivery, and a pristine, total package of a one-man musical outfit that recalls the intensity of The Tallest Man on Earth and labelmate Glen Hansard.
It’s been a big week for Stelling, too: In addition to the drop of this video, for “Warm Enemy,” Stelling announced on April 9 that he’ll be joining the lineup at the Newport Folk Festival this July 24–26. “I’m beyond excited to be playing at Newport Folk Festival this year,” he says. “Historically, it’s one of, if not the most important music festivals in existence….I don’t put much stock in labels, but ‘folk’ is one I’ve come to appreciate, simply because it just means ‘people’…simple as that. At its core, all music is folk music.”
Listen to the live cut of “Warm Enemy” below, and stay tuned for the release of Stelling’s Labor Against Waste on June 16.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 9, 2015