When he wrote the songs for his recently released album pocket knifeSinger-songwriter Carter Beckworth wasn’t thinking of the lockdowns, closures, or any of the other disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It hadn’t even started yet. But the moment he started recording it, as the pandemic was in full swing, the lyrics took on new meaning.
âIt really changed the meaning of the songs for me, especially ‘Begin Again’ which is the last song,â said the Santa Fe-based musician. âIt’s like an apocalyptic story. It was written with that kind of literal imagery. The song begins with “At the end of the world, the tops of the trees caught fire”. When the pandemic hit it was like the end of the world and nothing stuff like that was going on. But life as we knew it was over. Within a week, we were living in a different world.
Corn pocket knife, Beckworth’s fifth studio album, is far from a foray into the doldrums. It’s an introspective, intimate and extremely listenable album about hope, change, love, loss and relationships. It’s the kind of album you can listen to all day long and never tire of its laid back style.
The opening track, “Down the Mountain,” practically requires listening while driving, with lyrics about the smell of diesel drifting through the pine trees. And “Alibi” is a song for anyone who has ever experienced the effects of unrequited love.
âI wrote this with my friend Drew Womack,â Beckworth says of âAlibi,â the sixth track on the album. âHe’s in a group called Lonestar. We wrote it in about an hour. It was very collaborative and, I think, encompassed things that we had both experienced in our relationships, the central theme being that while the person I’m writing about doesn’t care at all, I do. would sacrifice for that person, even if that makes me foolish.
Beckworth, who is 34, writes songs about real people and expresses his feelings about them in the lyrics. The album’s penultimate track is named after his wife, Jillian, and was released as a single in July. The full album, independently produced by Fred Mollin, was released in September.
âNow that you’re in my corner, they call me lucky as they come,â he sings over âJillianâ. “I hope I never have to know what it’s like to find love again.”
Beckworth, a lawyer by profession and musician, met his future wife in 2006 while they were students at the University of Mississippi. They dated other people but were part of a circle of friends.
âNeither of us really fit into Mississippi, and she and I both transferred to the University of Texas at the same time and remained friends,â he says. âShe left for New York afterwards, and we didn’t speak for a few years. Then she contacted me one day and asked if I wanted to come visit her. Three months later, we returned to Texas and lived together in Austin.
The Beckworths moved to Santa Fe during the pandemic.
âWe lived in Colorado. Jillian is in the hotel business. When the pandemic hit, she was fired. Our lease was up, and we were ready to leave Denver anyway. We already knew Santa Fe and New Mexico in general pretty well, so we knew we loved it. I happened to have a job opportunity here and grabbed it.
Beckworth’s previous album, Express yourself (Cypress Creek Records), released in 2017, and he’s been writing like crazy ever since, amassing over 30 or 40 songs. He shared them with Mollin, who also produced Express yourself and Beckworth’s previous effort, 2013 Humble heart. Mollin urged him to return to the recording studio. But create pocket knife would be a once in a lifetime experience because, as Beckworth says, “you can’t say it was made in the same place”.
And it had everything to do with the pandemic. They started recording last spring.
âIt was really amazing how it turned out because no one was in the same room at any time,â he says. âAll the musicians who played there are in Nashville. What would happen was the guitarist would drop their part and send it to the bassist, and it was kind of recorded together. I did my voice here in Santa Fe at the Kitchen Sink Recording Studio.
But why call the album pocket knife? Beckworth, with her wavy light brown hair, cut long enough, doesn’t look very comfortable in a suit and tie. It’s hard to think of him as a lawyer with a background in intellectual property law and estate planning. But he does look like someone you can turn to when you need a sharp blade (for utility purposes, of course), and he won’t disappoint.
âTo me, a pocket knife is something you would use all the time if you have it,â he says. âI had all these songs that weren’t used. When we got them all together, it turned out to be something that, at least for me, I really enjoyed listening to all the time. But I would never have realized what those songs were worth if I hadn’t put them in physical form.
The album’s release coincided with the September birth of Beckworth’s first child, a girl.
âIt’s really interesting because listening to some of these songs makes me wonder if I would have written them any differently today, now that I have a child. I question some of the truisms of some of the things I have written. But if I hadn’t arranged to release the album before it got here, it probably never would have come out.