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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Sea power: Will Evans humbled, inspired by near-death experience

    Will Evans (C.J. Favino)

    “All My Relations” is one of the finest tunes in Will Evans’s estimable career. Released digitally and with a video on Thursday, the song melodically embodies all the heart, spirit and wonder typical in the Westerly-based songwriter’s work.

    It was a genuine burst of inspiration — but Evans is pretty sure he doesn’t want to repeat the process. After all, he nearly died. In fact, he thought perhaps he HAD died.

    Last April, Evans, the one-time frontman for Barefoot Truth and a well-established solo roots musician with three solo albums to his credit, hit the Atlantic off Weekapaug’s Panic Point for some paddle-boarding. A longtime avid surfer and environmental activist, his plan was to enjoy the sun and water and clear his mind through one of his favorite activities.

    “The water was really cold, but I didn’t fully put on my wetsuit, just pulled it over my legs. The waves were pretty mellow out and I’m fairly confident in my abilities, so just thought I’d get a little sun,” Evans remembers. “Then a set showed up on the horizon about three times the size of what I’d been experiencing. I was caught completely unaware. It was already breaking 100 yards away, which is an indication of how powerful it was.”

    ‘A sense of peace’

    Evans didn’t have time to pull on the rest of his wetsuit. He gripped his paddle and had just wrapped his arms around his board when he was slammed with whitewater. The paddle broke in half and the board was ripped from Evans.

    Still a good distance from shore and stunned, Evans says he was “by myself and my suit was filled with 40-degree water. I panicked and started to hyperventilate.” He still had to endure the washing machine-tumble of two giant following waves, and Evans says, “Everything dimmed and then suddenly got bright. I was breathing intensely, and I absolutely felt the nearness of death. I didn’t think I could make it in.

    “Everything slowed and I tried to go to a calm place and accept my decisions. I looked forward to reuniting with my relations. I was on my back and it’s like they say. It was all very beautiful and gave me a sense of peace. If that’s how I was going to go, it was doing something I loved. I was being taken back to the earth and the mother. That’s a nice way to go.”

    Gradually, Evans realized he was doing backstrokes and still breathing and somehow arrived back at the beach.

    “I just sat there a while, trying to recover,” he says. “I was extremely humbled and grateful and embarrassed. It occurred to me in all seriousness that maybe I HAD died and was on the other side. Or this was some sort of reincarnation experience.”

    Mother Earth has a way ...

    Thoughtful and soft-spoken, with a gentle sense of humor, Evans is a musician extremely active in philanthropic causes — the sort of artist who doesn’t seem to require the occasional dose of Humble. He has long utilized humankind’s connection to the planet as a major source of not just musical inspiration but also a guidebook for Life Itself — a sort of practice-what-you-sing guy.

    Yet “All My Relations,” with beautifully evocative lyrics respectively addressing the unpredictability of existence, the beauty of family and friendship and the ongoing nature of existence beyond our earthly awareness, is in its way an affectionately cautionary tale suggesting Mother Earth has a way of surprising us.

    The bridge of the song is particularly resonant in its depiction of his thoughts at a critical moment in the water. It says:

    Over the world, hope it hovers, like a lighthouse lonely song / One day we wake up in a league of lovers, and we'll fight against our wrongs / For if we were led here and our lives were fated, as if guided one by one / Shall we meet again, will our souls be mated after the burnt-out sun?

    Life lesson

    “The song didn’t come immediately, but not long after — and it’s one of those that wrote itself,” Evans says. “For me, the whole thing was like I needed that lesson for some reason and needed to translate it into song because music is how I make sense of things — it’s how I process stuff emotionally.

    “(In the song) I’m trying to suggest it doesn’t have to be my experience, but that life hits you like a wave — metaphorically or not. I was NOT prepared at that moment. I learned that we try so desperately to control each situation and it takes nature to sometimes let us know we’re not in control at all. I’m reminded to find gratitude in little things.”

    “All My Relations” was also a catalyst for a new album called “After the Burnt Out Sun,” which will be available on March 3. In addition to the paddleboarding experience, Evans explores a number of themes such as pain, the joy of family and fatherhood, love, lust, anxiety, fear, peace and faith.

    Business strategy

    In strategic anticipation, Evans has divided the songs into three distinctively thematic and advance-release digital EPs, each of which has three songs. The first, “Spirit,” came out in December and addresses, as Evans says, issues that are “higher and greater.” The second, “Mountain,” concerns “home-related and family-type music.” The final EP, “Ocean,” is “a little more frantic and stylistically diverse” and consciously infuses hip hop and soul music.

    “What we’re doing with the EPs is to test the algorithms,” Evans says. He laughs resignedly. “People don’t even buy music anymore, so the goal is to garner streams and build some interest and hopefully interest people in the entire catalog as well as ‘After the Burnt Out Sun’ as a complete work when it’s available. Since 10,000 songs are added to Spotify every day, we thought we’d try to split it into three sections, extend the release and give all the tracks a chance to get ears on them.”

    Evans admits the realities of the music industry are trying and that it can be draining to create and realize the mathematics of the business make it very hard to earn a living.

    “Sometimes when I finish a record I’m emotionally and financially exhausted and I don’t know if I’ll do another one,” he says. “But, with ‘All My Relations,’ I was moved to go forward, and I hope it moves others. When I play the song live I try to go back to the water and remember the fragility and the mortality and the gratitude. I try to convey that, and I can feel the audience reciprocate that feeling. That’s the magic of music. It’s emotional and powerful and it helps us stay deeply connected.”

    To see and hear

    Who: Will Evans

    What: Digital single and video for his new song “All My Relations”

    When and where: Streaming now on YouTube

    For more information: www.willevans.com

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