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BIOGRAPHY

The old adage, You can’t go home again, certainly held true for Byland – the acclaimed musical project from Seattle-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alie Renee Byland and her husband and co-writer Jake Byland. Born of a dream of home but then waylaid by disappointment, frustration, and eventual acceptance, the couple’s journey through the past led to Byland’s extraordinary new album, HEAVY FOR A WHILE. Fueled by Byland’s spirited, eclectic musical approach, songs like “Settle My Mind” and “Postcard” are widescreen expressions of longing and isolation, weaving deep-rooted melodies, candid lyrical communication, and sophisticated arrangements with whispers of nostalgia and an unstoppable sense of forward motion. The result is a singular vision both familiar and unprecedented, bittersweet yet strikingly life-affirming. “Music is such a gift,” Alie Renee Byland says. “It gives you a way to process, to express something that maybe you don’t have words for, or maybe once you write it in a song, you realize, ‘Oh my god, that’s how I feel.’ Those are my most real, honest, brutal thoughts. I’m so grateful for that time. It was really hard, but we made something incredible from it.” Alie Renee Byland had what can only be described as an extraordinary childhood, raised in New Mexico among a religious community led by her father. “My dad was a pastor growing up,” she says, “like a Jesus hippie. It was an amazing childhood, we grew up for the first ten years of my life in the mountains where my parents were building an Earthship. Then when I was 10, my parents moved us to the inner city of Albuquerque, which was literally called The War Zone. It’s actually a very diverse neighborhood, predominantly Spanish-speaking, and our church was right in the middle of all of that. We also had a community of people that lived with us, at any given point, there were 20 or 30 people living together. “I feel so conflicted about that whole part of my life. It was very beautiful in one sense, I really felt like part of a community, but there was also a lot of trauma that came from that time. I was the oldest girl in the pastor’s family, and a worship leader when I was 12, so my own sense of choice was squashed and simplified. I had the answers to any question given to me on a platter, and there was only one thing on the menu for me. I became, in many ways, a performer to avoid disappointing people.” Though Alie gained invaluable experience, her artistic growth was limited by the community’s religious boundaries. In 2010, she left New Mexico for school in Seattle, where she met and married Jake Byland, making her official recorded debut with 2018’s Desert Days. GRAY followed in 2020, earning applause for its expansive pop soundscapes and landing them multiple high-profile film and TV placements via their partnership with Los Angeles-based indie label, Mother West. That same year saw the Bylands finally fulfilling Alie’s long-standing dream of returning to New Mexico. They packed up the car and left the Pacific Northwest in March 2020 – quite literally days before lockdown restrictions. “We had been married for six years,” Alie says, “and I had been wanting to move back home for basically that whole time. Finally, we did it, and it was so tough in all the ways I wasn’t expecting. At times it was so horrible and hard relationally because of the pandemic, grief, politics, just everything... So music was sort of an escape or a respite, a way to process how difficult it was.” Caught in place by COVID, Alie and Jake began documenting their emotions and experience in a string of contemplative new songs, written independently and then refined together, creating a seamless yin/yang between individual introspection and dynamic cooperation, each bringing their own unique voice to the process. “I’ll write down some lyrics,” Jake says, “and then without telling Alie my idea for the melody, I’ll just give them to her and see what she does. I have a note with a bank of words, and she’ll often pick and choose what she likes for a song. A lot of these songs weren’t written from beginning to end in a day. There were a lot of feelings, moments and lines strung together and refined over time.” “Jake’s really amazing about writing to an idea,” Alie says. “My songs are much more in-the-moment. I can write a whole song in one sitting because I’m just feeling something really deeply and need to process it. Then, oftentimes, I’ll bring that to Jake, and we’ll fine-tune it together. It’s super collaborative and really, so fun.” Demos were sent to longtime producer/engineer Nathan Yaccino (Brandi Carlile, Pearl Jam, Tanya Tucker), who encouraged Byland to nurture and shape the songs into a full-fledged album. Having spent almost two years to the day in what essentially amounted to pre-production, they returned to Seattle in 2022 and quickly set to work, joined by Yaccino and an array of friends, among them guitarist Jessica Dobson (Shins, Beck, Deep Sea Diver), pedal steel guitarist and vocalist Skyler Mehal, multi-instrumentalist/percussionist Jonny Gundersen, and Lemolo’s Meagan Grandall, the latter of whom lends backing vocals to a number of tracks and shares lead vocal duties on “Postcard.” Frequent collaborator Abby Gundersen (William Fitzsimmons) once again contributed assorted strings and arrangements, her evocative motifs bringing rare resonance and additional depth to Byland’s intangible magic. With its shrewd sonic template and Alie’s striking vocal performance at its center, HEAVY FOR A WHILE expertly marries themes of intimacy and heartache, nostalgia and hopefulness, the quest for home and the complexity of holding onto it once it is found. At once finely etched and strikingly direct, songs like the celestial “Two Circles” and the kinetic ode to Alie’s childhood best friend, “Monstera,” are ideal distillations of Byland’s approach, balancing multiple shades of emotional nuance with an uncluttered sentimentality that ultimately leads to a greater truth. “I wanted to keep it very cinematic and full,” Alie says. “but also a lot more raw and a lot more personal, so we stripped away a lot of the vocal effects and made it very dry. Like, you feel closer to what I’m saying. It kind of feels like a journal entry in that way. When you’re listening to the songs, you can almost see me processing what we’re going through.” “I feel like she’s hiding behind less,” Jake says. “It’s less apologetic.” From the album-opening title track and haunting late-night rumination of “Lean In” to the elegiac “Postcard” and stark solo piano finish, “End Scene,” HEAVY FOR A WHILE expertly captures the emotional maelstrom of Byland’s two years in New Mexico, serving as a clear snapshot of their experience as well as a therapeutic primal scream releasing all the deep feelings and frustration felt by them both. “‘HEAVY FOR A WHILE’ was a phrase that stood out,” Alie says. “It’s me realizing that as long as I acknowledge what I’m going through, I then have some power over it, and it doesn’t have to last forever. But I had to go through it, not around it. That song really sums up the whole record. The songs are about a moment there in time that was really rough. I feel like we really did allow ourselves to move through that, experience it, and not shy away from it. It changed me to learn how to acknowledge those feelings, so I can choose my own direction moving forward.” As always a project eager to avoid easy categorization, Byland will next bring HEAVY FOR A WHILE to life on stage, reimagining the album’s rich colors and emotional textures through various instrumental permutations, surprising itineraries, and inventive new arrangements. “I want to surprise people,” Alie says. “I want to use weird time signatures, I want to change keys in the middle of a song. It’s really fun for me to create like that.” HEAVY FOR A WHILE stands as testament to Byland and her husband’s continuing evolution as musicians and human beings, marking both a personal milestone as well as a universal expression of longing for a sense of community in an increasingly detached world. “I feel like we’ve kind of settled into a sound,” Jake Byland says. “The new stuff that we’re writing right now is staying on that path. It’s like a mixture of close and big.” “We’re intentionally trying to write stuff that’s a little bit lighter because we feel lighter,” says Alie Renee Byland. “I know now that this record, HEAVY FOR A WHILE, is not just about leaving New Mexico. It’s more so my own unfettered journey of finding a sense of home and comfortability with myself, wherever I am.” (SEPTEMBER 2023)

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BYLAND - "Lean In" (Live In-Studio at Ballard Bait Shop)

BYLAND - "Lean In" (Live In-Studio at Ballard Bait Shop)

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