To celebrate the May Day online release of its fifth studio album, Supernova, Atlanta-based folk-rock-pop quartet Girlyman is offering an exclusive free download of "Empire of Our State," the album's first single that is making its premiere on my blog at The Huffington Post.
(Listen to the song here and download it below.)
" 'Empire of our State' is about changing the form of a relationship in a radical way -- so that instead of the heartbreak involved in a traditional breakup, you can actually become closer," explains Greenstein, whose songwriting credits are listed on seven of the 13 affecting songs on Supernova.
"In other words, if you honor the change that's happening in a relationship, and don't deny it, you have a chance to enjoy each other even more -- even if that means not being together in the conventional sense."
While some damaged star-crossed lovers might not quite buy into that sentiment, "Empire of Our State" includes another universal message that can apply to all walks of life.
Well, I guess I know a thing or two about hell /
It's when you lose your fire /
You go back to the same old well /
Without the same desire
"Having Emily Saliers sing with me on this song was a total thrill, especially because she's been one of my greatest songwriting influences," says Greenstein, who wrote her first song ("Of Mice and Men") at the age of 14.
Girlyman, the genre-bending band with the gender-bending name that was conceived in 2001 and born in 2002, received support from the Indigo Girls as far back as 2004, when Amy Ray signed them to her indie label (Daemon Records). Friendships and mutual admiration developed, and they began appearing onstage with the Grammy-winning duo while serving as an opening act on several Indigo Girl tours.
Since then, Girlyman has climbed steadily while displaying musical versatility and stunning three-part harmonies.
All multi-instrumentalists, the other original members are Doris Muramatsu (soprano), Greenstein's chum from their grade-school days in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, and Nate Borofsky (tenor), a guitarist from Massachusetts who met the other two while attending Sarah Lawrence College.
On Borofsky's website as the band was forming, Girlyman's resident funny man answered the question everybody was asking:
"Well, I've always been a little girly, and Tammy's (Greenstein changed her first name to Tylan in 2004) always been a little manly, and Doris has been ... well, girly. Plus we love Hans and Franz, and we love speaking with German accents, so it seemed a nice fit."
As their popularity grew, the band officially added Po' Girl drummer JJ Jones in early 2010 to beef up its sound while reaching bigger audiences through such prestigious events as the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival (where they'll return this August) and this month's tour through the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Supernova, which will be available as a physical CD on June 19, offers a metaphorical glimpse into the hearts, minds and souls of a band that has been through the emotional wringer of crumpled relationships, professional upheaval and inward reflection. Of course, nothing was more traumatic than the news Muramatsu received in late 2010, when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
As Muramatsu endured a series of blood transfusions and chemotherapy, she was transfixed by a song written by Borofsky that turned out to be the title track with her lovely lead vocals. The definition of supernova, Muramatsu says she learned, is a dying star that "gives birth to new stars."
That served as a motivational reference point while Muramatsu's cancer went into remission nine months after her diagnosis.
Girlyman has used that experience as a personal and career catalyst, providing a rejuvenation that they hope will only make them stronger individually and collectively.
While their lyrics continue to explore dark themes, the four members of Girlyman are getting to enjoy the view from the bright side of town.
Download "Empire of Our State" from Girlyman's new album Supernova.
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