Track Work: The North Country, ‘The Cross We Bear’

By Teta Alim

D.C. folk-rock ensemble The North Country has a new single from its forthcoming album, "There Is Nothing To Fear."
D.C. folk-rock ensemble The North Country has a new single from its forthcoming album, "There Is Nothing To Fear."

On its forthcoming album, D.C. folk-rock band The North Country meditates on the instability of youth — particularly that special time in young people’s lives when they’re old enough to be adults, but not quite sure how to grow up.

“I think that’s probably the most recurring theme — just having the modern experience of being young and trying to figure out who you are and what you’re doing,” says Andrew Grossman, 28, the band’s lead singer and songwriter. He says the record touches on the experience of “being in your mid-20s and not having a goddamn clue.”

thecrosswebear“The Cross We Bear” is the first single from The North Country’s There Is Nothing to Fear, out April 20. The Columbia Heights-based musician describes it as a montage of images that reflect an experience. The song begins in a dream, with Grossman’s wistful talk-singing coaxing it into clarity, and crescendos with a cheery burst of instrumentation and rousing harmonies.

Grossman says the rest of the album sounds similarly “rich and lush,” rooted in Americana rock with hints of psychedelia. He extracted his lyrics from his own life, with a particular interest in recognizing the beauty in the mundane. “There are a lot of lyrics in this album that try to take very simple, seemingly meaningless things, and show that there’s some actual inherent beauty in them,” he says.

The songwriter cites Paul Simon as an influence, as well as one famous Colombian writer: Gabriel García Márquez. The late author of One Hundred Years of Solitude was a “big influence in how I was writing these lyrics,” Grossman says. “He will often take something very mundane and simple and show its significance.”

García Márquez’s magical realism comes through in Grossman’s songwriting, particularly when he combines ordinary memories with rosy instrumentation. “We’ll call it psychedelic realism,” he jokes. “Let’s go with that.”

The band’s songwriting process involved “fooling around on instruments” and a lot of drafts, Grossman says. Overall, the process could take about 20 minutes or several months. “I like to think of writing songs not as deciding what a song is going to be, but listening to what the song tells you it should be,” the musician says.

While Grossman has been involved in music since high school, the band has undergone plenty of transformations, with a change in drummers and the addition of saxophonist Jonathan Parker. But the fluctuating lineup hasn’t soured Grossman on music-making.

“There’s just a lot of really great creative energy in this city right now that’s very stimulating and also really motivating,” Grossman says. “D.C. is a very ambitious city, so it drives you. A lot of people are very driven in this city, in the music scene and outside of it.”

The North Country plays The Beehive on Jan. 30.