Let’s Meet: Strand of Oaks

Tim Showalter invites listeners to experience inner peace

Strand of Oaks treated KUTX listeners to a sneak preview of his new album, Miracle Focus, with a live performance in Studio 1A. With soaring synthesizers and driving dance beats, the new music might sound like a significant leap from the heartfelt heartland rock of earlier releases. But a closer listen reveals many of the sonic elements and themes of self exploration that have come to define Tim Showalter’s musical journey.


Strand Of Oak releases Miracle Focus on June 7th via Western Vinyl

Congratulations on the new album! The new music is a big departure from your previous work, trading a more traditional rock band for synths and drum machines. What prompted the change?

I totally understand the sonic departure my fans and listeners may experience but for me this sound feels as natural as peanut butter and jelly. I think if you listen to my entire catalog all the sonic ingredients for Miracle Focus can be found in all my records.  I just decided to fully commit to a sonic concept that I’ve been dreaming of making for most of my life.  I learned to embrace the moment and not be so beholden to set narratives of who I think I am or what others may expect of me and just channel the language of my heart into music.

And forgive the nerd out moment, but there are actually very little drum machines on Miracle Focus.  My co producer Kevin is an unbelievable drummer and besides a few moments those are all real drums just heavily manipulated and produced. I just want to make sure Kevin gets props for his olympian level drumming!  I think it makes for quite a unique sound.  

Your music has always been fairly personal, often revolving around specific people and places from your past. The songs on Miracle Focus don’t seem to share those same kinds of firsthand stories, yet they somehow feel even more intimate. They play like an invitation to a personal revelation. An offer to share a thought, feeling, or state of mind with the listener. How did you arrive at such a different perspective when writing and composing the songs for this record?

Great question.  These songs may be more personal than any others I’ve written.  In the past my lyrics seemed to be reactionary to whatever particular event, trauma, emotion, big thought that needed to be released from my anxiety prone mind onto music.  It was deeply therapeutic but I just think after eight records I needed a more productive approach not only to the message I was trying to convey to the listener but also in my own personal growth.  I listen to a lot Ram Dass and he often says that therapy sometimes can be “rearranging the furniture in your prison cell”.  For me that resonated deeply with my creative and spiritual life.  

Miracle Focus is extremely personal because it documents the small steps I’ve taken towards balance and finding peace in my own life.  I am someone that LOVES to talk and process my thoughts through words.  With Miracle Focus, I found a connection to a divine energy that brought so much peace into my heart but at the same time is very hard to eloquently describe.  That’s why the record is so meaningful to me because the songs serve as my translator for that blissful place.  My deepest hope is that whoever listens may use the record as manual in their own life to perhaps find some of that too.  

Have there been any unexpected challenges/opportunities with taking such a different approach to your music?

I knew from the beginning of making this record that it might come as a big surprise to some but honestly I made these songs with so much love and pure intentions that the results or success of the album truly was never a concern.  Its hard to describe but I guess it felt like I got a call from the universe, answered phone and tried my best to deliver the message.  Being a 41 year old rocker making a spiritual synth opera might be perceived as a challenge from the music biz but from my hearts perspective it was the greatest opportunity of my life.  I also need to say that Oaks fans from my experience have some of the coolest taste in music out there so I definitely think they’re ready for challenge! 

When you were here, you mentioned that KUTX host Jody Denberg played an important part in the new record. How did he help? 

I love this story.  I was on Twitter being my usual self, which is in a perpetual state of oversharing.  I was talking about an impending Austin winter storm a few years back.  I grew up in Indiana with tornadoes so I’m forever nervous about the weather.  Anyways, out the blue I received the kindest message from Jody.  He said some very nice calming things but also included a short but extremely powerful mantra.  I was just beginning to open my heart to more spiritual activities and this came at an absolutely perfect time.  Not only did that message help ease my fears about the winter storm (which actually didn’t happen) but that mantra I’ve said thousands of times since Jody sent it.  It was like I finally had words that could vibrate the love in my heart the same way my favorite songs do.  The essence of praying.  I believe if you train yourself to live in the moment and keep your antenna raised to search out goodness that you’re gonna (excuse the pun) tune into the universal radio station!  Jody gave me that small gift that then would kickstart a wonderful period of growth and actually be the first steps towards making Miracle Focus.  This record wouldn’t exist in its form without Jody’s compassion.  

Tim Showalter played Hoosier in the FX Sons of Anarchy spinoff, Mayans.

We’re excited to claim you as part of the Austin music scene! When did you move to Austin and why did you decide to call it home?

I absolutely love it here.  My wife and I moved to Austin about five years ago from Philly.  We experienced a very sad time in our lives and just decided, in a moment of deep grief, that we needed a change.  The first time I ever visited Austin years ago I instantly felt something in my soul that connected me to here.  Far beyond the tangential things but it just felt like I belonged here.  The smell in the air, the invigorating power of the heat, the water, so many things.  There is a mystical energy here that I believe I always felt but never could put into words.  I know I sound pretty out there, but I mean it with all my heart.  Since we moved to Austin my creative mind felt activated in a way I never thought it could be.  I became a painter here, started an acting career and wrote two of my most realized records here.  I’m sure this experience is often felt by many others too.  Again, it’s tough to describe some of these thoughts but I will never be able to properly express the magic that I’ve found living here.  My wife and I feel so blessed to share this community with everyone.  

Do you have a favorite Austin music experience?

Way too many to mention.  But right when we moved down here my wife and I would go to Pedal Steel Mondays at Sam’s Town Point.  Just a handful of devoted listeners and some of the best music Ive ever heard.  Going to those concerts made my wife and I feel like we really lived here.  Wonderful memories.  My current favorite Austin experience is being a proud member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center.  I don’t really go out much at night because we get up super early but we go the Wildflower Center every weekend.  To experience the seasons and growth cycle is so beautiful and cathartic.  When I stroll the gardens on a sunny Saturday with my wife, there’s literally nowhere else on Earth I’d rather be.  

You’re celebrating the new album with a big tour kicking off at The Parish here in Austin on June 21st. We noticed that you have just as many dates in Europe as you do here in the States, is that a standard Strand of Oaks tour? 

My road dog days might be behind me.  I will always love playing concerts and the joy that live music brings but at this point in my life I try to avoid being away from home for too long.  We’ve got some great shows coming up this summer though and I want to make them as meaningful and fun as I possibly can! 

Are there any big differences between touring here versus abroad? How about your set up?

To put it simply,  we are a much bigger band in Europe these days..  I’m grateful for anybody that comes to my shows but we definitely have a larger following and even headline some amazing festivals over there.  I still am always hopeful that my American audience will come around again. I’m currently in the process of trying to find where they all went!? Kidding…kind of….HAHAAHA!!! But seriously…if you’re out there come on out this summer!  It’s gonna be one hell of a party!

Thanks for sharing your new music with us! Is there anything else you want us to know about? 

Thank YOU!  Having a supportive and incredibly cool local radio station is a gift.  The positive impact on culture is immeasurable and I’m thrilled to call you all friends!  

Hmmmm…anything else?  It would be super cool if everybody reading this would carve out a quiet moment in their day and put on the song “Who am I” by Nina Simone.  Just sit with the song and let it all soak in.  I guarantee you will walk away a better person.  Music is MAGIC and bless you all.

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