It may seem obvious that a new album by a new father feature his new daughter on the cover, but it took some time to arrive at this apparently obvious conclusion.
“Forever Young” is a collection of ten cover songs somehow connected to my childhood or childhood in general that — over the course of the album — sonically and lyrically map the arc of a child’s day (morning, evening, bedtime). Nine of the ten recordings features a guest vocalist like Amber Rubarth, Emily Easterly, and Mai Bloomfield (of Raining Jane), and all of them feature contributions from amazing instrumentalists like Chris LoPresto, Misty Boyce, and Patrick Riley (of the Des Moines Symphony).
Now, if you survey the breadth of my previous fourteen releases on iTunes, you’ll note a general resistance to putting my face on album covers. Sure, I’ve done it some (I’m particularly fond of the “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” homage of “Love & Other Indoor Games”), but I generally tend towards abstract imagery (ex: two tin cans connected by a string) as metaphor (ex: marriage as communication). That resistance, naturally, extended to Maggie, especially as she had no say in the matter.
I sought out other abstract images of childhood like rattles, mobiles, and stuffed animals, but none seemed to fit. I finally resolved to use stock imagery of someone else’s baby when Abbi asked, “Well, why not use Maggie then?”
And so it is that just four months into her new life, Margaret Burton Wagner — our Maggie — has come to grace her dad’s album cover. Fitting, really, since she inspired it.
The photo was taken just a few days after she was born. I love it because you can see her tiny fingers, chubby cheeks and beautiful lips. I love it because she’s sleeping, lost in dreams where I hope these songs too will take her (and kids and kids at heart everywhere) when she listens.
The photo was taken with a Canon PowerShot using the macro lens (ergo the depth of field), then desaturated in Photoshop. The album title is in Tiffany Blue, a nod to my wife’s employer.
“Forever Young” will be released Saturday, October 2 at two very-special benefit performances:
Saturday, October 2
3pm (all-ages!) & 8pm (grown ups!)
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street (at Houston)
New York, NY 10002
Proceeds will be donated to The Fred Rogers Center and The Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood. Though neither is affiliated with the project in any way, we believe strongly in supporting their efforts towards advancing early learning and children’s media.
The complete “Forever Young” track list:
1 – Rainbow Connection (featuring Amber Rubarth)
2 – Forever Young (featuring Emily Easterly)
3 – The Only Living Boy In New York (featuring Chris Abad)
4 – Mr. Tambourine Man (featuring Bryan Dunn)
5 – You Are My Sunshine (featuring Jason Walsmith & Becca Smith)
6 – Sweet Baby James (featuring Jeff Jacobson)
7 – You’ve Got A Friend (featuring Mai Bloomfield)
8 – Golden Slumbers (featuring Casey Shea)
9 – Amazing Grace (featuring Jamie Leonhart)
10 – Moon River
And the full-size “Forever Young” album cover: