As Dan Israel sings in the final song of his new album “I don’t care anymore if I was ever in style,” but the hearty following that he’s built up over 17 albums and decades making music would disagree.
“I’m not a household name, but I have this nice following of some dedicated fans who really like what I do, and most of them are here in Minnesota, but there are some scattered around the country and even overseas a little bit,” he said. “It’s imperative that I keep putting out music. I’m not the world’s greatest singer or I’m not the world’s greatest guitar player. The one thing I kind of feel like I’m pretty good at is writing songs and the only way to get those out is to make records.”
Israel is celebrating his newest record, Seriously, at a release party on Friday, Nov. 4 at the Hook & Ladder Mission Room (2010 Minneahaha Ave. S., Minneapolis). General admission tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
Most of the newest record was written during COVID, and the lyrics make it pretty easy to tell that; in the opening stanza of the last song, The Hang of It, Israel sings: “Hey, I’m getting out of the house, I’ve been crazy as a loon, I’ve been quiet as a mouse.”
“One of my friends pointed out the whole second half of the album is songs about running away, escape,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence. That was on my mind a lot: feeling trapped, feeling stuck, and not able to do what I wanted to do during that time. And it made its way into a lot of lyrics for sure.”
Seriously is Israel’s fourth full-length studio album since 2018, with an EP – Late at Night – that came out in 2021. His volume of songwriting has increased since he left his job as a proofreader working for the state legislature.
“It’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t have a day job,” he said. “I don’t even write songs all the time. But I definitely went through a somewhat prolific time during some of the pandemic, at least when I pretty much had nothing else to do.”
Backing Israel is his usual band of drummer David J. Russ and bassist Mike Lane. For this album, he added a “ringer” in guitarist Steve Brantseg, who plays with the notable bands the Suburbs, Bash and Pop and Phones, and adds another layer to Israel’s Americana-esque vibe.
“Its been really great adding (Steve) to the band,” he said. “Everyone kind of had a little bit more collaborative input on this album. Even though I wrote songs that the amount of arranging was done as a group effort, and I really appreciate what they brought to it.”
Israel’s lyrics also show candor about mental health, which he leads off the record with in Happy For Now:
“Yes, I could beat myself up, today,
Think of the reasons that I don’t make, the grade,
Yes, I could find some kind of failing, in everything that I do,
“I know so well just how to bring myself, down,
I know the thoughts that change a smile to, a frown,
You know I tend to take the long way around, instead of just through.”
“The first half of the album is mostly about finding some contentment and happiness in this life that I’m in right now,” he said. “I went through a lot of years of not being especially happy person. I’m grateful to have my family and friends, then to support me, you know, I’ve got a lot of really, really good things to be happy about here right now. Happy for now, at least.”