ABOUT THE ALBUM :
I was living in a little house surrounded by trees, on the side of a hill above the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska, when I first began writing songs, in 2008, about Vietnam. Maybe it was the long winter nights, or maybe it was the three-decades worth of incubation time my own thoughts and emotions had already had about my origins, that made the first song, “Origin Tale,” emerge as a 9-minute lyric-heavy experience, with no repeated choruses, challenging all sensible concepts of song structure I’d thus far known. Up until that point, I’d been writing fairly traditional “folk” songs (I thought), but these new songs seemed to be asking for more space, more time, more atmosphere. It would take the next 5-7 years of exploring, experimenting, recording, collaborating, learning and growing, releasing some songs and putting others aside till later, before the whole project finally cohered: two sets of songs, roaming two “geographies” both mythic and real: East, West. Within that time, I moved from Alaska to Oregon, with detours back to Texas where I’d lived before Alaska. In Portland, Oregon, I found my way to Dylan Magierek at Type Foundry Studio, who played an integral part in helping me get these songs into the light. One of the most valuable things any music collaborator has ever done for me: he lent me a good-quality microphone and encouraged me to explore recording vocals on my own at home. I found a new voice—the voice these songs needed—in that part of the process, and a little more confidence in my own musical vision. The last song I wrote for the album was “On an Open Field,” an instrumental guitar piece I added vocal sound bites to (snatched from a 1966 broadcast of Pete Seeger on Rainbow Quest talking with a legendary Vietnamese folk singer of that era, Pham Duy). For me, the time spent wrestling with these songs, and with the material in the memoir that accompanies the album, is testament to the untellability—ultimately—of whatever it means to try to write about “Vietnam”— which is on one hand just the name of a place, but also carries many connotations and repercussions. I am just one more voice in the mix, one more survivor/inheritor struggling to express something about a history I know only via memory, absence, and aftermath.
EAST/WEST is an album that accompanies a book, WE WERE MEANT TO BE A GENTLE PEOPLE. A memoir in text + image + song.
In this experimental memoir, author/musician Dao Strom navigates the space between shores, mother and father, two cultures.
More about the book at: paperdollworks.com/project
Artist website: theseaandthemother.com