[This issue, we sit down with Chris Welsh. A musician and songwriter, Welsh here discusses the intersection of his music and spirituality; his new album Re:member; and his upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How does your spirituality inform your music? Do you find yourself drawing on myths and personal experiences when you compose?
Chris Welsh: The music will always reflect where the spirit is. I draw my inspiration from personal experiences and the world around me. The greatest teacher is the source. The greatest inspiration is the mystery. Ginnungagaldr was the last album that called upon myth for inspiration. That is not Sun and Moon Dance anymore. Spirit Walker was really the shift away from the “norse” walk in a way. Not to say that my music is not still influenced in a way by northern spirituality because it definitely is. It’s just from a more animistic and gnostic perspective. I have no label for my beliefs except maybe “Spirit Walker.” All of that kind of got stripped away in the past couple years. Freeing the spirit freed the music.
ev0ke: You call your band Sun and Moon Dance. What is the inspiration behind that name?
CW: Sun and Moon Dance, yes. Balance is the inspiration behind the name of the project. Sun and Moon Dance is about balance. The light and the dark and the necessity of both to learn, to grow and to heal from. I always envision the Sun and Moon in this never ending circular dance that we witness every day. We as humans join in that same dance with the light and shadow within ourselves. Both are beautiful and serve their purpose.
ev0ke: You recently released a new album, Re:member. First, congratulations! Second, how did this album come about? What was the creative process for the songs like?
CW: Thank you so much. Yes, Re:member was released on December 30th, 2021. It was supposed to come out January 1st, 2022 but the distribution services released it a couple days early.
How did this album come about? Well, it originally didn’t start as an album. When the pandemic started in 2020, I had just undergone a very big spiritual initiation process. I will not elaborate on that a whole lot because it’s personal, but that time in early 2020, there was a very big shift in the spirit world that a lot of people felt. People of all different spiritual paths felt it. It was wild seeing the synchronization of it all and really inspiring.
In short, I heard a call and I had to make an uncomfortable decision to accept it or not. I believe that my decision rings fairly clear in this new album. Sun and Moon Dance grew into something new in 2020. As the pandemic and quarantine was starting, I had four songs come to me in a matter of just a few weeks. Those songs were “Elden Tears”, “Mending the Ring”, (then called Hagal EhwaR AnsuR LaukR), “An Eagle’s Blessing” and “Old Tree.” I was doing my part to offer the world healing songs in those uncertain times. We were all literally watching the corner of this dark veil being pulled back and exposing the illusion that many people are caught up in.
That is where Re:member was born. It was born out of necessity to try and help alleviate some of the pain that the world is in. I realized that all these songs were following a theme so I decided that I was just going to write a full album. The name of the album was definitely inspired by a group that heavily inspired me in my teenage years called The Psalters. Heck … they’re still an inspiration to me today …. I’m not gonna lie. They had a song on their album Carry the Bones called “Re-member.” The first two lines were “Nёmёshatàm xuwi achimёwakàn” which in the language of the Lenape people means “I remember an old story.” The next line reads “Akaran Iko Iko” which in the language of the Malinke means “learn again, again.” Re:member means to remember again. Re:member creation and the connectedness of everything in the universe. Re:member was crafted to help peer into and recognize those ancestral traumas and to begin to heal some of those wounds that have been passed down through the generations.
The creation process of this album was intense to say the least. It’s the most potent album I’ve released to date. It was a journey from beginning to end and I’m thankful for that experience. Pieces of the album just kind of came together. It was one of those albums where you just had to let go and let the music write itself basically. I can’t tell you how many times I was recording and the words “Well … that just happened” came out of my mouth.
ev0ke: Several of the songs feature guest vocals by Charity Cimarron, Lydia Nichole, and Bobby Sant. How did these collaborations come about?
CW: Yes, indeed. I keep my collaborations close to home for the most part. Charity is actually my bandmate. During 2021, Sun and Moon Dance officially became a two piece. When I invited Charity to become a co-creator, I had already written most of the new album, so for this album they decided just to be listed as a collaborating artist. I met Charity just a few years ago because of the magical Nyckelharpa. I found another Nyckelharpa player in my area so of course I had to befriend them. I went to see Charity’s band Mother Marrow play their cd release show in 2019 and immediately realized we were doing the same thing, just in a bit of a different flavor. We quickly became good friends and were inspired by each other’s music. The song “Harvest Moon” actually began its life the night after I met Charity. I was so inspired by one of their songs. Charity would send new songs they were working on to me and when I’d listen to them, in the back of my mind I would be thinking “gosh … this is Sun and Moon Dance.” It only made sense to invite them to join in the creation process and to bring their magic to the project.
Lydia is one of my best friends and a phenomenal singer/artist. We walk a very similar path spiritually. I know that when I have a song that I feel needs her on it, that she will put her heart into it. If she’s not feeling the song, she will absolutely tell me “Nope.” haha Lydia made her first appearance on a track from the previous album, Spirit Walker, that we co-wrote together. “Circling Jera” is one of my favorite songs from that album. You can expect to hear from her again in the future for sure.
Bobby Sant is a brother who lives in Sweden. We met in 2021 through our Galdrastafir work. I loved the stavs he was creating. I felt they were coming from a really pure and sincere place. He in turn really liked the stavs that I was creating and supported my music. We connected through the hellhole that is facebook and realized we had much in common on our spiritual paths and how we viewed the world. He invited me to sing on some of his songs. The first track he sent me was a song called “Galdr” from the project Skugga. When I heard this song for the first time, I was blown away at how beautiful and powerful it was. When I went to record the vocals for it, the best vocal performance I’ve ever done came out on that track. I knew what he was doing was something special. Our collaborations come effortlessly. Though I’ve not met Bobby in person yet, I have the love for him of a brother. I cannot recommend enough for you all to go and listen to his work. He is a master song weaver.
ev0ke: Re:member includes eight songs. Which was the most difficult, but ultimately most rewarding, to write?
CW: Oh gosh … All of the songs were so rewarding to write, but there are two that were a bit difficult to do for various reasons. “Evergreen” is a bit of a heavy song. That song was written at 3am one night after I received a phone call that a friend who was another dear friend’s partner had suddenly died. I know the pain of losing a partner so it was heavy on my heart. I got out of bed, lit the altar and sat with my drum for a while talking to the deceased friend. The words of the song came to me as I was sitting there.
The other song that was difficult to do was “Healing the Mother.” That song was inspired by a Galdrastafir I did for a woman whose sister had breast cancer. The phrase “healing the mother” kept coming into my head over and over again. I was fixated on this idea. How do we heal the mother? I wrote the original lyrics from the perspective of a woman who was singing to their daughter. The song came from a really pure place and I even went to an elder woman whom I respect to see if the words I wrote were ok for a woman to sing. I had originally wanted Lydia and Charity to sing the song, but they were both hesitant. One day Lydia just flat out told me that she would not sing it. I was sitting there panicking because I had this idea in my head that the song was going to be sung by a mother. I even went to another friend and asked if they would like to sing it and they basically said no. Lydia basically told me “you are writing from the perspective of a woman and you are a man. Why don’t you sing it from the perspective of a male?” I was bummed, but she was absolutely right. Even though the song was coming from a pure place, it needed to be sung from the perspective of a man. It was to be a song of atonement and freeing of the female spirit from the bonds that men have placed on women for thousands of years.
ev0ke: You play a number of instruments on the album, including nyckelharpa, hardingfele, and even antlers! Where did you learn to play these instruments? And how did you decide which to feature in Re:member?
CW: I learned to play them by teaching myself. I’m not a master of any of them by any means (especially the hardingfele), but I can make my own music. That’s the best way that I learn. It’s hard for me to play other people’s music so I just make my own.
The songs kind of tell me which instruments they want based on the feeling I’m trying to convey. Each instrument has their own voice and feel to it. You don’t want too much or the songs become cluttered. I try to say more with less.
ev0ke: Where can people find your music?
CW: The best way to support the music is definitely through our Bandcamp. You can also listen to the albums through all the major streaming services such as spotify, apple music, etc.
I have an istagram: @skald_rowansman
And a facebook page.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
CW: As far as Sun and Moon Dance goes, there are three new albums that are in the works. Charity and I have begun working on our first album together. Then there’s a less serious, more traditional Scandinavian folk album in the works that will be mostly Halling dans and Polskas. Then there’s another full length album planned that I’ve already started writing for as well.
Aside from that, I’ve been collaborating with Bobby Sant on songs for a project from Sweden called Skugga and some of his solo work. Expect lots of collaborations between Bobby and I. I think that’s pretty much it for the time being.