My conversation with Peter Silberman began with us talking about the presents we got our mothers for the holidays. He described to me a nifty device he bought his mom that helps someone maintain traction on ice while walking. "They fit over your boots and have these metal treads that keep you from slipping by breaking the ice, supposedly. I don't know, but I think they are becoming a go-to solution for icy walks."

This is the kind of homey, cozy conversation that Silberman invites with his comforting dulcet tone of voice. The founder and front man of The Antlers, everyone's favorite band for cathartic musical sadness, is on the precipice of releasing his first solo album under his own name, Impermanence. The record, which has been several years in the making, comes from a deeply personal and disorienting experience in Silberman's life: the loss of hearing in his left ear.

"It was a surprising experience and one that I had no roadmap for how to deal with it," he explained. "But it was sudden and when it happened, it took awhile for the reality of it to set in. Then, in my head, a list of considerations started popping in, like if this is a thing that's going to last for a long time, what would that mean? If I can't handle sound, if I can't handle not just loud noise but any noise, what does that mean for a life that revolves around sound and is largely defined by it? There was a period of time where I had to be in almost complete silence and I was clueless to what I was going to do next. I was thinking maybe I'd have to just focus on writing and maybe music would be a thing of the past for me. That was an upsetting thought, but I just tried not to focus on it and focus on what was possible. So while it was happening, I did what I could to protect my hearing from getting worse and keep the things that were agitating it at bay."

The loss of Silberman's hearing, however, just so happened to coincide with the lead up to the release of The Antlers' 2014 album, Familiars. "It was really bad timing because we were about to start touring on the record, we were about to start rehearsals for it and I had started to do phone interviews for the record. I remember that during the first one I did, I could barely hear the questions that were being asked."

For Silberman, the loss of his hearing quickly became a recalibrating experience, forcing him to reexamine and reorient his place within the world.

"Your hearing affects so much," he says. "It has a such role in how you navigate through the world and how you interact with it. Sounds give you a sense of whether or not everything is okay. Alarms are sonic. They are designed to let you know there is an emergency situation or that there is something you need to get out of the way of, all through sound. Then in an environmental sense, say if you are walking through the woods and hear a sound you don't recognize, that's a signal to you to snap to attention. When that's all thrown off balance, it changes your whole reality. My reality changed when my hearing changed."

"I did everything I could to help [my hearing] return to normal," Silberman continued. "Part of that was being diligent about going to the right doctors who could treat this. In hindsight, it looks like things I did to alleviate stress helped the recovery process as well. Things like yoga and mediation, which I had already been doing for a bit, became tools for me to calm my mind and focus my attention. I did some acupuncture and that seemed to help indirectly. Over time, things subsided. The hearing started to come back and the tinnitus came down to a manageable level. The sensitivity to sound was a weird one, however, because it also came down to a manageable level where I could go outside, but since then I'm much more affected by sound than I was in the past."

This increased sensitivity became a major influence upon the record, perhaps most directly on the poignant track 'New York.' "When my nerve wore down, I was assailed by simple little sounds," he sings. "Hammer clangs, sirens in the park, like I never heard New York."

But as a musician, Silberman's lifestyle was thrown into flux, as he could no longer comfortably accommodate practically any noise, let alone the ear-rattling, emotional crescendos The Antlers are widely known for creating. Still, he pressed on.

"There was a fairly long stretch of time where I couldn't listen to music, I couldn't play music, I couldn't sing, but as this tour and its rehearsals were approaching I decided I kind of had to get back to work," Silberman said. "I had to start preparing for that stuff. It didn't feel like an option to cancel everything and just recover. When I look back on that period of time, I'm glad I saw it through but it was almost like loyalty to the project clouded my judgment about my health and I probably shouldn't have gone through with it. It made all the problems take a lot longer to heal. In a period of time where I should have been reducing stress and my exposure to noise and basically transitioning into a different lifestyle, I was instead heading out on the road and playing really loud shows every night and not getting a lot of sleep. I took care of myself as well as one can on the road, but that's already an uphill battle."

Silberman's insistence upon playing shows even went against the advice of some of the medical professionals he sought out. "When I would see doctors and they would ask me what I did for a living, I would tell them that I play guitar in a rock band. They all told me I better stop doing that," he said with a hearty laugh. "I would explain that I kind of can't and also I don't want to."

After the tour cycle for Familiars came to a close in 2015, Silberman recognized and embraced the need for change in his lifestyle and his music. He left New York City for the quieter confines of upstate New York, and he opted to reacquaint himself with much more subdued instruments and styles.

"The way I came back to music was by playing acoustic guitar and by playing really lightly and singing really quietly," he explained. "It felt like I was kind of learning this stuff for the first time while that was happening. It changed my approach to playing guitar and acoustic guitar specifically, which I hadn't really touched in awhile. As I played that way over the course of the following year or two, songs just started coming out of it."

Impermanence is Silberman's return to solo material, having originally written and recorded material for The Antlers by himself. But for him, the differences between then and now are both numerous and vast.

"It is a little hard to place myself back in time that far," he admitted. "I started writing solo stuff when I was a senior in high school so that'd be like 12 years ago now. And solo stuff under The Antlers name goes back to 2005 or 2006, so about a decade. In some ways, the process might be really similar where it's just coming up with ideas on guitar and circling back to the same ideas over a long period of time until they grow into a song. I think the difference was that, in the early days, I was writing these songs with the intent of expanding a band outward to a group of players and transforming it into something of a collective or a band. Back then, I was writing and performing solo because I didn't yet have a band, but the idea with The Antlers was always to become a band.

"With this material, it was kind of the opposite," he continued. "The intent was for it to be a singular thing, to be capable of being performed by just me. That's where most of the difference lies: directing it inward rather than outward."

Whereas the past fuel for Silberman's song material -- heartache, existential crisis -- can all be set in universal language for all to understand, the loss of one's hearing is a much more personal and difficult experience to share for all to comprehend. As a result, Silberman thought it had to be something he shared solo, under his own name.

"I think part of that [decision] is the nature of the experiences that I was writing about and, in this case, it was about this psychological experience that was a very solitary one," he explained. "It wasn't one that felt like a shared experience despite my attempts to share that with people close to me and explain it to them, and despite receiving so much emotional support at that time. I really was in it alone. It was just a fact of the situation. When something is happening inside your head and you are the one experiencing it, the best you can do is translate it and relate it. But while it was happening, it felt very much like I was in it alone. As a result, the work that was coming out of it was reflective of that aloneness. It existed in my head and it wasn't designed to sound like a shared experience. It was designed to reflect that solitary thing."

As a result of the difference in thematic content, Silberman naturally sees Impermanence as a starkly different emotional experience for listeners as compared to the cathartic release of The Antlers' records.

"I don't know if I think of this album as cathartic because it doesn't really have the bloodletting that earlier Antlers stuff did," he said. "It is very subdued. There is maybe one moment on the record that is a release, but the rest of it is more gradual and more aimed at mesmerization and disorientation.

"It is not following a traditional arc the way pasts Antlers records were," he continued. "This album follows a path but like with Hospice, as far as literature is concerned, there was more of a traditional arc. That story begins and ends. This record is circular. It doesn't exactly have a clear cut beginning and end, even if it does have a first song and a last song. The emotional profits of it are very different."

Perhaps part of the difference is a result of the recording process, which saw Silberman joining up with friend and "childhood collaborator" Nick Principe of ambient project Port St. Willow. The pair grew up playing in a band together and Impermanence marked the first chance for them to work on a project together in over ten years. According to Silberman, "the next step is making a joint record together. That's on the horizon."

Silberman's journey to Principe followed the loss of his hearing, as he abandoned the hustle and bustle of an urban metropolis for somewhere more suitable for his new lifestyle.

"Nick built a studio upstate around the time that I had left [New York City] and I was basically floating and living nowhere," Silberman told me. "So there were a couple of months while we made this record that I lived at his house. Every day, we'd wake up, make some coffee, heat up the studio -- it was very, very cold out there -- and just go to work."

Beyond the change in scenery from a Brooklyn loft recording space to the open expanses of upstate New York, the recording process of Impermanence was chock full of innovation and experimentation on Silberman's part.

"It was different from the last several albums I've made in that it was pretty much all written by the time we started recording," Silberman said. "That was part of the goal for me, I wanted to have the songs exist before they were recorded and exist outside of the recording. I wanted to have portable songs, that weren't dependent on production or arrangements."

To achieve the effect of songs feeling tangible and alive, Silberman and Principe were forced to work harder than ever before and shun many of the conventional tools that have altered the landscape of music production in the 21st century.

"It was painstaking work, but the idea was for it to have the feel of being in the moment rather than 'in the box,' as they say. I want to be careful how I say this because I'm not 'throwing shade,' as the young folk say," Silberman joked. "But I've begun to be able to hear Ableton. You can just hear music that is on a grid. You can hear that it is to a clicktrack and you can hear copy-and-paste happening. I wanted to get away from that and make something that felt like it was hanging in the air."

In order to properly translate the feeling of this new material, Silberman has developed a fascinating idea for a tour for a musician of his magnitude: He wants to play in living rooms and lofts around the U.S.

"I think these shows feel like a better vehicle for this material than the kind of shows I was doing with The Antlers. For something that is a very solitary experience, it feels like a smaller leap to go to a living room with a small group of people as opposed to a big rock club, a big stage, big lights. There is a lot of grandiosity with The Antlers," he laughed.

"It's all about doing what's appropriate for the material," he continued. "Those big shows were...well first they were fun. They were fun for us as a band. Being able to reach the back of the auditorium or the theater or whatever venue was always a fun challenge and a really great, exciting and exhilarating experience. But this material feels really different to me. And at big shows, if I'm being perfectly honest, I can have trouble connecting with an audience. But this material demands that kind of connection. I think there is the potential for a lot of connection in a living room, with the ability for people to be really zoned in and share it and experience it together. But there's something about a house show where everyone feels like a friend, even if you don't know each other personally. I didn't do a ton of house shows when I was coming up, but I did a fair amount of them and I remember there being a very supportive feeling all around. As a performer, you can't really hide behind mystique and I think that's going to help this material. A connection has to be forged for it to work."

Silberman has already had the opportunity to test drive his theory, playing a series of small, intimate shows around the West Coast of the U.S. and throughout the UK. For him, they were a rousing success and reaffirmation of his goals for Impermanence.

"They were great," he enthused. "The atmosphere is really different from an Antlers show, but I think some Antlers faithful who have been to shows before will feel at home. But it is very meditative. Being that they are all seated shows lends a different vibe that allows people to either focus very intently or, what I encourage is that people let themselves drift off a little bit. By the end of the shows, I would feel that. I would feel that there was a bit of hypnosis going, but it is a shared thing. The more that I can give myself to the room and getting lost in the performance, the more people can come with me on that and the two end up reinforcing each other."

As he adjusted to his hearing loss, Silberman also found himself diving further and further into a burgeoning interest in Eastern philosophy and other related fields.

"Around the time of Familiars was when I was first dipping my toes in that stuff," he told me. "A friend of mine turned me on to meditation and another friend turned me on to yoga. Through both of them, I started digging through the literature. Speaking for a lot of people I know and for my own experiences, there is a funny feeling when you first start getting acquainted with those practices and those ideas. They are mind expanding but your mind can't quite wrap its head around it. So as a result, you have this barrage of new ideas coming into your head and you start deconstructing yourself in a way where reality starts shifting a little bit. Your perceptions start shifting. To catch someone in the middle of that doesn't always make sense," he said, laughing before clearing his throat. "Familiars came out of that. I haven't listened to the record in a little while, but thinking back to that time and the songs that came out of it, I think I was attempting to understand some ideas that were new to me and pretty big. As a result, I don't know that I was best able to articulate a point that I was trying to make, if I was trying to make a point at all."

Like all the best curious individuals, continued exploration and inquiry has allowed Silberman to refine, develop and expand his mind, giving him the language to more adequately express the perception-bending experiences he was having.

"In the years since then, including the incident with my hearing and the things that came after it along with reading more and meditating more, it has given me a bit of a better grasp of the ideas I was trying to explore," he said. "So this record is maybe another step along the journey. But it is a journey. Spiritual exploration is an exploration and it is a very long path. I don't think it really has an end and I don't necessarily think it has a moment of complete understanding. You get glimpses of it. And in those glimpses, I try and write about it. I try and put it into words that I can understand. Sometimes that's effective and sometimes its rambling and sometimes the rambling helps you understand it better the next time you take a stab at it. You get a lot of ideas out and you make more room for simpler ideas. Impermanence is one of those simpler ideas."

Perhaps of many alterations Silberman was forced to accept as a result of his hearing loss, the largest and best was a deeper appreciation for reading. Already a voracious reader, Silberman found it to be one of his primary outlets while he cut himself off from the sounds of the world.

"I definitely became a much better reader," he said with a chuckle. "There is that cliché where people say losing one sense sharpens the others. I definitely found that to be true in this case. It was less that I lost one and the others became sharper, but one of them was malfunctional and so I had to shift my attention. At the time that this all happened, I was reading a lot of Alan Watts and reading about zen. The Way of Zen is the book I remember most clearly reading. There is some point in that book where he talks about the perception of background and foreground in reality. He could do a much better of job explaining this than I could, but it felt very relevant to me at the time to be considering background and foreground attention such as through meditation, trying to reorient the tinnitus to the background and bring something else to the foreground. I don't think that's what he meant by it, but it woke something up in me that was very helpful.

"I was also reading Chögyam Trungpa a lot," Silberman continued. "I found a lot of writing on Buddhism and psychedelics to be relevant to the experience I was having because it is about deconstructing reality and putting it back together. We often take being in a normal equilibrium for granted, but this all helped show this is simply how we perceive it and that it is, to some extent, an illusion of our senses...It is actually the result of a really delicate balance that is happening within the brain in relation to the environment around it. If you tweak that just a little bit, it kind of turns into chaos."

As a result of his increased appetite for literature, Silberman's nightstand quickly filled up with books on mindfulness, fiction, "non-heady nonfiction" and poetry. When asked for a recommendation, he turned to David Foster Wallace's famous tome Infinite Jest. "I just finished it over the summer. It ruined other fiction for me for a second," he joked. "I just remember putting it down and feeling like I had to read it again."

Interestingly, writing is an outlet Silberman hopes to pursue on his own here soon. "I'm going to be writing some music that doesn't revolve so much around my life experiences. My plan for a little while is to transition that sort of creative non-fiction out of the song realm, out of the album, into just the writing realm," he told me. "What form that is going to take is not yet clear to me, but I'm going to start exploring that."

The theme of exploration came up a great deal throughout our conversation. "I'm in a really lucky place where I get to do things on my terms," Silberman said.

Exploration will not just be limited to testing other mediums, however, but also to pursuing new collaborations and styles within the musical world as well.

"I have a lot of musical collaborations with friends that deserve their light of day...That's my plan for the future, to explore that stuff," Silberman said. "A lot of the goal of starting this solo project was less about the project itself and more about getting off or expanding a narrow path. I want to work within multiple contexts."

And for fans of The Antlers, rest assured, Silberman sees the band returning at some point, in some way, even if he and the other members aren't quite sure how and when that'll be just yet.

"All of our lives are undergoing this period of reconfiguration," he explained. "Even just geographically, we are all in transition. But once the dust settles on that, it'll be a little easier to assess where we go."

As for now, Impermanence represents a profound, poignant and transformative experience in Silberman's life. As he shares the record and takes the material out on the road, Peter Silberman will continue to keep his eyes looking forward and inward, all at the same time.

Peter Silberman's debut solo album, Impermanence, is due out February 24th via Transgressive Records.