A couple of days prior to the release of Story of an Immigrant, Ken Grand-Pierre got to sit down with Steven McKellar and Richard Wouters from Civil Twilight to see how their lives influenced the new album, and where the band hopes to go from here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So you guys live in Nashville now and are originally from South Africa. It seems like a no-brainer but would you say that the story of that is what influenced the upcoming album, Story of an Immigrant?

Steven McKellar: That definitely is our story and I think it definitely did inform the story of the album, and us as a band. We actually moved to LA first, and then the south. I think the album is more of a story of us growing up in Cape Town, and looking back on Cape Town as adults. It's a bit of a reflection towards how we've grown and changed as people, and how being in a new place can cause you to realize that.

We didn't plan to write about that, about home. We didn't plan to have musical influence from our home as well, but it all just crept in. I think this album is the best representation of where we are now as people.

That really is something I've noticed. I believe that you end up reflecting more about life the older you get. As a musician I'd imagine that'd feel a lot more poignant due to the fact that songs/albums are usually autobiographical.

Steven McKellar: Yeah and it's amazing having two records out now, because with this third record we were able to go back and look on at five to six years of records. Experiencing those records and touring for them, and being able to go back on them is a big thing. It's was particularly interesting going back and hearing the similarities, as well as the differences between the two. It made the scope of possibilities feel much more vast.

That's one of the things about musicians that's grown to intrigue me over time. How your albums change for you after you let them out into the world. Was this the case when you were looking back?

Steven McKellar: Definitely. It's just natural; you just grow the more you create. It's a funny thing too, because as much as I love making records, and despite how fortunate we feel, it is indeed a very strange thing to create a new record every two to three years. When you make a record you're creating a body of work, but it can feel so small in the context of what's going on with your thoughts and your life.

And it must be even more maddening having that gap of time between finishing an album and releasing an album as well?

Steven McKellar: It's remarkable that you have to learn how to live. The way we approach that is just making music that can be as deep and personal as it can be for us. To touch subjects that aren't solely topical, just things that can..

Richard Wouters: That can always relate to us as people. As a band we're just naturally drawn to that.

Do you feel that aspect of making music allows for the process to remain fresh for you over time?

Steven McKellar: Yeah. Keeping songs lyrically vague helps with that a lot. But this record (Story Of An Immigrant) is probably the least vague we've ever been, actually.

I've noticed over the years that bands I work with, usually bands from abroad, will eventually relocate here and begin to experience American music within the context of America. And with that, they begin to notice how songs can be vague yet still represent a way of life and thinking. Do you feel this was something you've experienced after living here for a time?

Steven McKellar: Yeah! It's an understanding that is interesting and takes years to master. But it definitely is something you notice with being here.

I was wondering on my way here what it was that brought you guys to Nashville, but you said you lived in LA before Nashville, so maybe that's the reason why you relocated?

Richard Wouters: [Laughs]

Steven McKellar: It says a lot about LA, doesn't it?

What drew you to Nashville? Sure there's the hospitality and the music, but you're four men who decided to move to one place together and that really is a big deal when you think about how much of a task it is getting just two people to agree on something.

Steven McKellar: I think an important thing to remember is that we weren't actually aware of the south prior to going there. We didn't know what the south looked like and had no idea what it'd be like actually living down there.

A very different lifestyle to living in Africa I'd imagine?

Steven McKellar: Yeah, though we did make the move because it was cheaper. There was a studio in South Carolina that was willing to give us a deal on making the first record. So from there we just didn't know what South Carolina was like. So because of that need we kind of infiltrated Southern culture, without any real idea of what it was, or what it'd be like at all. After we recorded there we decided to go to Nashville because we wanted to be in a bigger city but still have something that would be familiar to us after being in South Carolina. And when we got there we also met some amazing people, and that just meant a lot to us. We really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into and if we did we probably wouldn't end up feeling about it the way we do now. But we are very happy with Nashville.

Speaking about this kind of makes me think about what the record is ultimately about in a lot of ways. There's darkness in our lives sometimes, but the most important thing to do is to adapt to those things. You could never get through the things in life if you had foresight on how things would go after the fact.

I love that you said that, because I feel that something I've noticed over time is how you'll end up spending so much time just adjusting to things in your life, even good things like a job or a relationship. So to hear that these aspects of life compelled you enough to write music specifically about that is quite amazing. You can never see the milestones in your life coming towards you. Things rarely are ideal.

Steven McKellar: Exactly. You can never project yourself in the future, otherwise you wouldn't have to learn to live with doubt, to extinguish doubt.

How does Story Of An Immigrant feel for you now that you've had experiences living outside of South Africa and going back to visit it with a new lens. I'd imagine experiences like that must've informed the record, especially the aspect of you guys being different men due to your travels and experiences.

Steven McKellar: Totally, that's definitely shaped it.

Richard Wouters: It's funny you ask because going back makes us realize how it's not the same it was before, and how it can never be. We were never successful in South Africa before we left, so after we became a bit successful in the states we'd go back and those experiences were both great and strange in some ways. But when we go back now we play great shows and get a bit of a hometown welcome, which is nice. We all still love South Africa, and it always feels like there'll be a piece of us there when we're not there. I think the most important thing to take away from this record is that no matter where you go in life, where you come from never really leaves you. We've lived here in the states for the long time, and we love it, but you'll always feel as though you're between two places when you live away from home.

That must've particularly made living in LA strange, because that's a place where so many people move to just to forget where they come from.

Richard Wouters: Exactly! You really can't foresee those feelings and thoughts prior to making such big choices, but even with that I wouldn't trade what we've been through. The album to me is about our experiences and our roots. I don't think this is how it is for everyone, but when we were young we'd kind of feel distant towards where we come from. But now, we've found ourselves feeling much more proud and happy towards where we come from.


You can visit the band by heading here.