Stream Jeffrey Silverstein’s How on Earth EP and Read the Stories Behind Its Ambient-Folk Songs

Jeffrey Silverstein

Photography ALEX KOCHER

Readers over at our parent site may remember Jeffrey Silverstein as the ambient-folk auteur behind this Friday’s How on Earth EP. Due out through Driftless Recordings in a limited cassette run, the five-track effort took shape during an artist residency at the Sou’wester Lodge in Seaview, Washington, as the multi-instrumentalist melded spare drum loops with mesmerizing guitar melodies and vapor-trailed vocals.

“I woke up each morning to the sound of a light rain coming down on the motor home turned recording studio I was staying in,” he explains. “After coffee and breakfast, I’d hole up writing and making demos, breaking just to make food or warm up by the fire in the main lodge. I’d talk with some of the other guests, put on a Michael Hurley record on their sound system and then get back to it.”

The following exclusive reveals the results a few days before the record’s official release, along with lyrics and a complete track-by-track commentary. Oh, and if you’re in the Portland area, Silverstein is supporting Wild Moccasins at a Bit House Saloon gig on January 30th….

This was the last tune I wrote during my residency. It’s the only instrumental number on the EP and one I really enjoy playing live. The main riff is meditative; I hope that translates to the listener. It sets the stage for the vibe of the rest of the EP and the title winds up reappearing as a lyric in “Pattern of Joy.”

“Pattern of Joy” is a reminder to keep pressin’ on and, when possible, to remember or get in tune with at least one positive aspect of your day. I think this creates a habit/pattern that can lead to joy.

As a teacher, I like to start class with a somewhat cheesy activity called roses and thorns. I kind of always expect students to hate it, but am pleasantly surprised how much they get out of it—just hearing from their community about positives and negative parts of their day/week, etc. It builds community in that way.

Hey at last
The day is done
The peace and joy
Of rovin’ on
It’s a pattern of joy
So watch it unfold
The light that’s been given
Beats the light that’s been stole

This song started as a riff on the phrase ‘have your cake and eat it too’. It taps into that feeling that even when you’re doing your best to stay healthy and balanced, something is bound to get you off-center eventually.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep heading down the path; it just means you can’t expect to keep the same levelheadedness all the time. You have to really examine all of your thoughts/feelings to get somewhere. I get super frustrated when I feel like I can’t sustain balance for long stretches and am trying to lean into that more to make change.

I want to know the truth
I want to make peace and have it too
I want to know you
I want to make peace and have it too

Jeffrey Silverstein

When my partner and I moved into our second apartment here in Portland, I noticed a sign for a non-profit next door called All Hands Raised. As a teacher, I was intrigued and knew I wanted to use it for a song title. Turns out our neighbor works for them; they work to address racial inequity in schools and provide pathways for students to living wage jobs.

In May, it was reported that there had been, on average, one school shooting per week this year. As challenging as it has been to follow, I’ve been immensely moved by the work of my own students and students across the country boldly speaking out for gun control. This song is for them.

I am also a huge believer in music education and music therapy. Writing this one gave me the idea to give a portion of the proceeds for my EP to My Voice Music, a non-profit here in Portland that engages youth in music and performance to promote self-esteem, social skills, and emotional expression.

All hands raised
To say
I am warm and brave
I am more than okay
All hands raised
Singing I am warm and brave
I am more than okay

On the last day of a cross-country trek to relocate to the Pacific Northwest with my wife and our two cats, I found out my grandmother passed. It was a strange feeling—my life entering a new phase, hers doing just the same. There was also a sense of calm, knowing she went in the company of family in her own home. I was grateful to be processing that information while staring out at the natural beauty of Oregon. I struggled the most recording the vocals on this one as I’m still finding my footing with singing. Still pretty happy with how it came together.

I hope that this finds you well
Though there’s no way I could ever tell
You’ve given so much of yourself
At least we’ve got our health