We’re only a few days away from the release of “wildflower,” Jackson Bybee’s sophomore album. I sat down with him to talk about the record, his creative process, and which new songs he’s most excited to release.
Jason: The theme of your first album, “Galactic Voyage,” was outer space — lots of cool, sleek sounds and a very ambient feel. With “wildflower” you are heading in a different direction thematically. Talk about the theme behind the new album and what made you pursue this direction.
Jackson: Well, I’m still writing songs the same way: layering and taking samples and creating loops to layer over one another. But I’m also being more cautious as to what instruments to use because I really wanted to convey a sense of spring and warmth throughout this album.
As soon as I was done with “Galactic Voyage,” I started thinking about a second album. I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go, but I was inspired by the way nature presents itself. There was a lot of seasonal change taking place at that time, which was really cool. So I thought about “wildflower” as a possible direction. The opposite of space is earth. I liked the idea of calling it “wildflower” because on this album, none of the songs sound similar. On “Galactic Voyage,” a lot of the songs sound the same. But wildflowers bloom and grow on their own. They’re kind of unexpected.
Jason: Talk about the significance of the release date of this album.
Jackson: It comes out on April 22, 2022, which is Earth Day. Probably about two or three songs into the process of recording, I already had a title for the album and the creative direction set. The next thing to think about was the release date. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to work on this album. And so I started to look at it: if the album is about spring and summer and new life and wildflowers in bloom, then what date would fit with all of that? And I saw that April 22 was a Friday and it was Earth Day. It just made sense.
Jason: Let’s talk about some of the singles from “wildflower.” The first one you released was “forever ago,” right?
Jackson: Yes, “forever ago” is a funny song to me. I originally wrote and recorded it for a different project. But then I was talking to a friend and their birthday was coming up, so I told them that I would release a song to honor their birthday. But then I was like, “Wait, I don’t have a song ready.” But then I remembered “forever ago” and I already had it finished and I also had the artwork ready for it. So I released it and I started listening to it as part of “wildflower” and I really liked it. It seemed to fit. So “forever ago” is a really fun song and it was a great way to end the summer (of 2021), but it also was great to introduce people to the new direction I’m exploring with “wildflower.”
Jason: “Forever ago” is really unlike anything you’ve ever done. It has kind of a jazzy sort of vibe to it, isn’t that right?
Jackson: Yes, the funny thing to me about this album is that no two songs really sound alike. There are so many genres represented here. There’s the jazzy sound of “forever ago.” There’s the piano intro of “myth.” “Better days” is an 80s-inspired retro song. Creatively, it’s all over the map.
Jason: But that’s intentional, right? Some people might say that the album is lacking in coherency if it’s, as you say, “all over the map.” What would you say to that?
Jackson: I like the idea that the songs don’t sound the same because it matches the theme of wildflowers. Even though the songs don’t match the same genre, it still has the flow of warmth and spring-inspired music.
As we talked, the image of a flower bed emerged in our conversation. I got the distinct impression that Jackson thinks of each of these songs as a different flower in a different part of the same flower bed: red roses here, pink tulips there, yellow daffodils beside colorful pansies — each distinct in their own right, yet collectively sharing space to create a beautiful work of art. In that sense, Jackson agreed that “wildflower” is the most colorful project he’s completed to date.
Jason: Another single that you’ve released is “dream.” To me, this sounds like a montage moment in a movie. It’s very cinematic. Can you talk about this song?
Jackson: “Dream” is my favorite song on the album. It’s one of the last songs I made for the record. It just fit perfectly for that particular time of life and the album as a whole. It’s very refreshing to me and it sounds unique.
Jason: Can you talk about what was going on in your life at the time you wrote “dream?”
Jackson: So I recorded this song back in September 2021 and it was starting to turn cooler with fall weather just around the corner. It was a really fun time in my life because I love that time of year. I was also looking forward to fall break. But that’s also when I started meeting regularly with my good friend, Pat McRight. Pat and I started swapping ideas and collaborating toward the very end of the “wildflower” recording process. I was nearly done with the record, but he really pushed me to finish songs like “dream” and “summer nights.”
Jason: “Easy” is one of the really upbeat songs on this album. What does this song mean to you?
Jackson: This song has grown on me a lot. It’s an odd choice for a single because it’s not the most layered song but I feel like it’s a more subtle version of “Happiness,” which was the upbeat song on “Galactic Voyage.” I liked the idea of having a song in the middle of the album that’s more calming. People love a happy song.
Jason: And then there’s the title track, “wildflower,” which closes out the album. Why did you decide to make that the final track?
Jackson: I originally had another song to close the record, but eventually I decided that the title track would work better. It’s a bit of an odd choice, because this song is more on the techno side of things, but I also feel like it really embraces the sound of spring and, you know, a wildflower blooming.
Jason: For me, it’s a song that brings ALL of your music full circle. If you take “Galactic Voyage,” you have this journey through the universe. And now, with “wildflower,” there’s this journey through the earth. So it’s like we’re marshaling all our old friends to come together for this epic conclusion to both records. It has such a bold, confident sound to it. I love it.
So, what other songs are you excited about that we haven’t had the chance to talk about?
Jackson: I’m really excited about all of them. In all, I recorded about a hundred songs for this project, but these twelve are my favorites. But if I had to pick a few, “jealousy” is one that I love. I just really like it a lot. And “summer nights” was the last song I made for the album. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
Jason: Talk about “amoeba” for just a minute. Because for me, I thought this was really indicative of the kind of music you could be making as an artist: kind of a Bon-Iver-esque sort of sound.
Jackson: “Amoeba” is definitely the artsy song on the album, more experimental sounding. At first I was a little uneasy about putting it on the album, but I’ve really grown to appreciate it as a piece of art. I love that it’s not really defined by a single genre but it brings in aspects from several different genres.
I asked Jackson if he had any final words on the new album; here is what he said:
I’m really excited to see people’s reactions to this record. I love each song on this album and each time I play it for someone, they find new things to like about it that I didn’t even think of at first. I hope you like it!
“Wildflower” will release this Friday, April 22, 2022 — which is also Earth Day. You can find it wherever you stream music by searching for “Jackson Bybee.”