Transition and change are common themes in art and music for reasons that are perhaps obvious, but that doesn’t make them any less poignant. The idea of finding oneself in a different physical, emotional, or spiritual place is a powerful motivator that drives us to take account of our state of being and to eventually come to a kind of reckoning — for better or for worse. What we do with that moment of calculation is what’s important — do we use it as opportunity for growth and personal elucidation, or as an excuse to bury our heads and further seek out our demons.
In the case of folk singer-songwriter Danny Brewer, who writes and records under the moniker Besides Daniel, that transformative moment arrived when he and his wife decided to leave behind their bustling urban existence and build a tiny house on a vacant wooded hillside well outside the city. At the time, Brewer had grown exhausted from years of touring behind his 2013 release The Marvelous Grief, and attempting to strike the delicate balance between the demands of work, pursuing his art, and starting a family. Rather than continue to slam his head against an unyielding wall, Brewer and his wife made the choice to leave it behind altogether. “We collected as many free piles of scraps and lumber and doors and windows as possible and now we live in our solar-powered little home, off grid, with our one-year-old daughter,” he says. “The transition has been one of the most challenging things we have ever done because we chose to do it with only our savings and not use debt in any way shape or form. So it has taken a good long time, and I have these scars on my hands as trophies.”
During the process, Brewer’s perspective began to shift from one focused on quick results and gratification, into what he calls a “slow and contemplative tempo.” You can hear this languorous, ruminative sense of peace unfolding on his new single “Hatchet in the Wood.” A plaintive acoustic ballad that leans on Brewer’s earnest vocals and graceful guitar playing, the track supports its outward fragility with a bulwark of poetic reflection and naked honesty. “Nothing can tear us to pieces now / We found a bedrock under us somehow” he sings on the arresting chorus, signaling that while his family’s journey has been difficult, they’ve emerged stronger and wiser for the experience.
“My writing lately has been more about fulfillment, beauty, and stability rather than grief, longing, and sorrow,” Brewer says about his new circumstances. “I am happier now than I’ve ever been.”
“Hatchet in the Wood” is the first single from Besides Daniel’s forthcoming EP, The Hatchet, out July 7. Pre-orders are available here.