Chris DuPont believes the right live album includes an eclectic mix of original and cover songs recorded in a venue and a studio.
The Ypsilanti, Mich., folk singer-songwriter melded these two sounds together for his new live album, “Live in A2,” which dropped May 19.
The 12-track live album features six songs recorded during a June 4, 2016 show at The Ark and another six recorded during a studio session at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor, Mich. Each side of the LP represents a different live feel for listeners.
Side A incorporates the intimacy and energy associated with hearing DuPont perform his classic tunes – “Evergreen Waltz,” “Winterfox” and four others – in the 400-seat acoustic and folk music venue known as The Ark.
“I hope it’s a fun listen,” said DuPont while traveling back from a May 12 show in Denver. “I hope that it gives people the type of energy and affirmation that they might get at a live show because for better or worse I really strive for polish.”
Side B provides a sweeping studio sound to recreate magical renditions of “Dearest Julia,” “Long is the Road” and four other tunes, including covers of a 1978 “Sesame Street” song called “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” and a 1963 Bob Dylan classic, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Tracks for Side B were recorded at Solid Sound, a local recording studio.
“We booked up Solid Sound to do something like a Daytrotter,” DuPont said. “It’s live, but it’s all in front of nice microphones, and we could do multiple takes if we wanted. That was kind of the idea and dream behind it.”
While assembling tracks for “Live in A2,” DuPont admits two of his songs, “Winterfox” and “Long is the Road” are among his favorites. Originally included on his 2013 “Anxious Animal” LP, DuPont aimed to recreate an epic and cinematic feel for the live version of “Winterfox.” He also breathed new life into “Long is the Road” from his 2011 album, “Lay No Claim.”
“That’s one of my oldest songs, and I’ve wanted to give it another chance now that I feel like I’ve changed as a performer,” he said. “I love the cello line it in. I think it’s just heartbreaking.”
DuPont credits singer-songwriter Brendan James as his inspiration behind “Live in A2.” In 2013, James released a live album called “Playing Favorites,” which features solo piano acoustic versions of his songs as well as some covers.
As a fan of “Playing Favorites,” DuPont wanted to base his first live album on a concept instead of following a traditional approach.
“I always thought that it would be a fun thing to make a live album that has an idea behind it, and it’s more than just asking your listeners to buy your songs again,” he said.
Brendan James isn’t the only musician who’s inspired DuPont to grow as a musician. DuPont’s grandfather and father ultimately laid the foundation for him to seek a professional career as an accomplished singer-songwriter and guitar player.
“My dad is a fabulous guitar player,” he said. “From a young age, I was just fascinated with the guitar and wanted to get my hands on one. My dad is a vocalist, too, and has a similar vocal makeup to me, but my grandfather, his dad, had this big old Johnny Cash baritone. His voice was very big.”
While growing up, DuPont combined his love of playing guitar with a fascination for studying music theory and writing lyrics. He initially studied music at a community college in Grand Rapids, Mich. and later transferred to the University of Michigan to study recording.
After moving to Ann Arbor, DuPont met several local musicians who inspired him to grow and expand as an artist. Today, he plays regularly with wife Betsy King (vocals), Luke Jackson (drums), Christina Furtado (cello) and Katie Van Dusen (violin).
“I just try to always put on a cooler show, and I do a lot of different things,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m just a studio musician, and I play electric guitar and keys. I’m interested also in synthesizers and beats and soundtrack music. I’m trying to be a little braver now with bringing in all those influences.”
Those influences are likely trickling into new material for DuPont’s next album. These days, DuPont is compiling voice memos and notes, listening to music and reading voraciously to get ready for life after “Live in A2.”
“It might end up being a couple of shorter albums or a couple of long EPs or I may just mash it all together, but I’m definitely wrapping my head around what I want to do next,” he said. “I think the next body of work is going to have a little more groove element to it.”