Earning Keep as an album and concept came into being over a 3-year span. Even as Christopher Smith was recording and touring in support of his last 2010 album, The Beckon Call, a great departure and band based recording was coming together in the interim.
Where as The Beckon Call came out of circumstance and felicity, the new album was a planned change of course, one of aesthetic renewal. Earning Keep speaks to the everyday acts of survival, but it also speaks to the solid foundations amongst ever-changing circumstance: a funeral pier vs. brick and mortar, or a cairn in the shadow of cathedrals. That songwriting could earn something beyond a living, and maybe the underestimation of simplicity, that restructuring ones craft was as noble a pursuit as one’s security and stability.
That restructuring, of starting from the base and foundation of ones work plays heavily into Earning Keep.
Smith wanted a cohesive sound built off not only simple pop idioms, but one that was more band oriented: contrasting those lush, texture based pieces with more sparse, minimal piano ballads.
Never one for stagnation, Smith has pursued the presentation of his music to many varied ends. From his earlier works grounded in a more traditional singer-songwriter method, to then larger, more orchestral based works, the music, both as a live entity and recorded based medium, is in a constant state of flux/movement/mobility. Working with string quartets, horn sections and choral arrangements, it is as much for Smith’s desire to challenge and re-interpret his material as for a way to etch out the right fit for the individual song. In many cases, songs were stripped of all recognizable features to end up in an entirely different place than where they began.
Earning Keep’s resonance lies in its ability to combine the physical essence of the phrase with the many human parallels that run through it. It is a work of contrast and ubiquity, where roles subvert and the structure of class and ones pursuit of love and identity there-in fold and envelope each other. It is a means to an end in so far as the work defines the finished product. They are one in the same: the process honouring outcome, and the journey longing for destination.