By Shannon Carlin
For S. Carey, nature is like a religion. As a kid, the Eau Claire, Wis. native took family vacations out in the wilderness, spending time in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Yosemite National Park. He learned about John Muir, the 19th century naturalist and writer who helped expand Yosemite and lay the groundwork for the entire national park’s system in the United States.
It was Muir’s work as a preservationists — he founded the nature preservation society, the Sierra Club — that inspired Carey to write his latest album, which pays tribute to the natural beauty he had seen as a child. More importantly though, Carey’s love of nature allowed him to create the album he always wanted to make.
His first solo record, 2010’s All We Grow, was released by accident, pieced together using songs Carey had written over a span of two years while on the road with Bon Iver. Even his place in that band was happenstance. The classically trained percussionist learned how to play all of Bon Iver’s songs in two weeks and was able to show off his hard work for the band’s leader and fellow Wisconsinite, Justin Vernon at a local show. After hearing him play all of the percussion parts and the vocal harmonies, Vernon couldn’t say no to him, signing him to the band that very same day.
As a Midwesterner, Carey says he works at his own pace, which is a nice way of saying he works slowly, giving himself time to take things in. Carey often spent his breaks while recording at Vernon’s Eau Claire studio in the woods fly fishing. “It calms you, puts you in a relaxed space to make better music,” he explained. Carey’s laid back attitude is part of the reason why the album’s content spans such a large period of time — from the singer’s childhood excursions in Arizona to becoming a husband and father. Carey’s debut came out nearly five years ago, and he’s slowly, but surely been working on the follow-up ever since.