Editors’ Notes In 2017, Kevin Morby moved home to Kansas. “I ended up sort of liking it, if for nothing more than having space and time to work on things,” he tells Apple Music. “But with that definitely came a bunch of uneasy feelings, having to interact with a bunch of ghosts from my past and just being back where I grew up. I really had to push through some initial emotions, but once I got past those, I was able to see the Midwest for the first time in a way that I never had before. That’s the seed of this record.” Having found inspiration in New York (2013’s Harlem River) and LA (2016’s Singing Saw), Sundowner finds Morby paying tribute to Midwestern twilight and Midwestern expanse with a set of panoramic folk that’s flush with fresh perspective. “When I was living on the coasts, so much of my life happened at night,” he says. “I wasn't really measuring the days in the way that I do now. In coming home, I just found that I'm like looking at the sun going down and it's making me face myself.” Here, Morby walks us through the entire album track by track.

Valley
“Not only is it the first song on the record, but it's also the first song that I wrote for the record. Kansas doesn't really have any valleys, it's famous for being flat. But when I was living in Los Angeles, I was living in Mount Washington; my album Singing Saw, the cover was taken there. I would do this walk every day to the top of Mount Washington and this valley would be in my wake. That neighborhood just meant a lot to me, and it was really hard for me to have to leave it—I really didn't want to in a lot of ways, but I knew that I sort of had to. So that is kind of like my exit song to LA, the song that I feel like I was singing to myself as I left one part of my life and went into the next.”

Brother, Sister
“Coming back here and sort of looking at other people that I admire and what they were kind of doing around 30, it wasn't lost on me that a lot of my heroes and songwriting influences were doing similar things—like growing beards and moving to the country. One of those artists is Bruce Springsteen. I love his album Nebraska, and I've always loved the story behind it. When I moved back to Kansas City, there was this killer on the loose—he had killed a few people, and then he got caught. And he explained to the press that he was doing it sort of as revenge for his brother who had been killed. I never learned too much about his brother, but my imagination just sort of ran with that, the idea of someone killing for someone sort of speaking to them beyond the grave.”

Sundowner
“It was a fear of the night coming on, just in the sense that I was living two lifestyles. One is my life of being a musician, out on the road and living in these exotic places and having this very social, active nightlife. And then my other life was coming back here and really being faced with myself once the sun went down, sort of left to my own devices and not really being able to run away from any sort of collection of thoughts that I may be thinking at the time. I just really have to sit with those, and I do a lot of processing and just getting to know myself really. The night represented that.”

Campfire
“I was watching a lot of Westerns, and I think of songs very cinematically. This is the first song that I recorded into my four-track where it felt like I had something really real. And I wanted it to feel like someone was walking, singing this song, and in the middle of this, they encountered someone, a stranger, who was sort of singing their own song, and they have some overlap at a fire. I was reading a book called Lonesome Dove, and there's this Latin phrase in that book that translates to ‘A grape ripens when it sees another grape.’ I'm singing this song and I'm going to come across another person, and they're singing a song, and then it changes the song that I'm singing. That's what I'm doing sonically, and the subject matter is paying homage to friends that have passed away and heroes that have passed away.”

Wander
“When I sent the demos to [producer] Brad Cook, I kind of put that one on there by mistake, or I didn't think there was too much to that song; I didn't know where to take it. And Brad seemed really excited about it in this way that got me excited about it. So it's a song meant to speed up and sort of get your blood pumping and then just abruptly stop. That central lyric—‘I wonder as I wander, why was I born in a wild wonder?’—is just something that's been in my brain for a long time. It's a sentiment that I’ve said to myself, kind of a fun tongue twister that sums up some outlook I have of the world.”

Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun
“The Midwest is largely looked over as flyover states, and most people who haven't been here think that it would be boring or just don't have much of an opinion on it. It was wanting to put the name front and center and have a song revolve around that and then have the sonic space to really represent or display what the openness of the Plains and the openness of the Midwest feels like. The lyrics are speaking to that, but also with this sort of depiction of a relationship in its earliest form when you kind of aren't clear what exactly is happening yet. You know you like it, but you're afraid that at any moment it could dissolve.”

A Night at the Little Los Angeles
“A friend of mine had commented, when I moved out to my house, that I was decorating it to look like Los Angeles and not like a typical house in Kansas. And I just liked the imagery of that a lot, of the idea of someone who is sort of longing for an exotic place like Los Angeles, but has to live in rural Kansas, and how they sort of decorate their place to mimic the other. My imagination just sort of ran with that idea and came up with this idea of a rural hotel that you could sort of step inside of, and there would be this sort of magical but kind of left-of-center idea of what Los Angeles is. I spent a lot of time in hotels around the world, and it's different things that I've sort of encountered or heard coming through the walls. It’s really my take on fiction, for the record.”

Jamie
“Jamie was my best friend who passed away when I was 20. And at the time that I wrote the song, I had just turned 30. Jamie was a huge influence. He was kind of like an older brother to me, and we would spend every day together up until his passing. And he's been sort of my muse, but also this person that I felt that I worked really hard to sort of carry some sort of torch for. He’s made his way into a lot of my work over the years. But something about it being 10 years, I just felt I wanted to write a song to honor him that just sort of explicitly named him and put him front and center.”

Velvet Highway
“My girlfriend and I, when we first started dating, we went to Marfa, Texas, which is very close actually to where I ended up recording the album, outside of El Paso. To get to Marfa, we had to fly to El Paso and then drive three hours down this long, desolate highway. You really feel like you could just sort of disappear out there—it’s the open West Texas desert, and there's no one around. It was really late when we were driving, and there were jackrabbits all over the road, and they kept running in front of the car, and we kept hitting some, but we also just noticed there's a ton of these dead rabbits all over the road. When we got to Marfa, we asked someone about it and they said, ‘Oh, yeah, you came in on Delta Highway.’ And I just liked the idea of the imagery of this highway with a bunch of dead rabbit fur all over it. But I also like the idea of this magical kind of Yellow Brick Road, the imagery of a highway with a sort of velvet carpet. So I wrote that piece, and it just seemed like something that I would like to soundtrack that sort of drive.”

Provisions
“I was going through a lot of different things at the time. I left Los Angeles because of a breakup, and I was beginning something new romantically, and I was living back in my hometown. It just felt like my life was very much in flux. And ‘Provisions’ to me was a reminder of all these things changing. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, and sometimes it stays bad for a long time, and sometimes it stays good for a long time, but no matter what, you need to take care of yourself. You need to grab provisions, because you don't know when the next stop is going to be. You don't know when the next sign of relief or joy or respite is going to be, so you just need to be thinking ahead. It’s a song that really felt appropriate given where everyone's at right now, in quarantine and with the pandemic.”

1
4:04
 
2
4:37
 
3
5:09
 
4
5:19
 
5
1:54
 
6
5:21
 
7
7:10
 
8
4:11
 
9
3:20
 
10
5:36
 

Music Videos

  • Campfire
    Campfire
    Kevin Morby
  • Wander
    Wander
    Kevin Morby

More by Kevin Morby

Featured On