Deep Gold’s is an instantly identifiable voice. The Maine-based singer-songwriter is a dark and sultry crooner, quietly grinding the vocal gears a la Leonard Cohen on “Everybody Knows” or Bob Dylan circa Time Out of Mind. There’s a gravelly, slow-burning richness to his delivery that can mesmerize with a howl or a whisper, not to mention a subtle, fatalistic wisdom well beyond the enigmatic twentysomething’s years.
Deep Gold recorded his debut album at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville, where Alabama Shakes famously recorded their breakthrough record Boys and Girls. Jonothan Estes, the producer, recorded the core tracks to tape, giving the music a rich, authentic sound. He also arranged three-piece horn and string sections, which added some lush counterpoint to Deep Gold’s sparse, moody songs.
The songs on the debut have a wide thematic range. “Don’t Worry” manifests as a proverb. “Hot Dogs for Sale” gets inside the head of a tube-steak vendor in the throes of an existential crisis. And the satirical “JFK” imagines the young president’s ghost haunting the White House and all subsequent commanders in chief.
Deep Gold’s lyrics are unadorned, direct and often rooted in potent imagery. “I can almost see the pastures / They’re rollin’ underneath the open sky,” he sings on “Rain,” “I can almost hear the nighthawks / With their haunted and relentless cry / Oh how I wish that I could be there / Before the land turned to dust.”
Though he admittedly doesn’t listen to much music (preferring to draw inspiration from either personal experience or classic American authors with “a strong sense of dramatic story and moral reckoning”—writers like John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams and James Baldwin), Deep Gold holds Randy Newman in the highest regard as a songwriter, and also acknowledges the impact of a holy trinity of iconic artists—Waits, Cohen and Dylan—on his aesthetic.
The name Deep Gold means many things to its creator. It’s the color of the guitar he plays, a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top. It reflects the honeyed tone of his voice, and also hints at something precious that’s been unearthed, like gold from a mine, a once-buried nugget of truth or beauty now revealed in song. It also invokes his publishing company, The Golden Door, an image taken from the inscription at foot of the Statue of Liberty.
“My grandfather gave me a gold coin when I was a kid,” Deep Gold explains. “His parents were killed in the Holocaust, but he survived and escaped to the U.S. after the war with absolutely nothing. He was one of the millions of immigrants to pass by that statue en route to Ellis Island, and he really lived the American Dream… It’s a story of suffering, and of America—one that has really shaped me. It has a lot to do with who I am and my mission in music.”
Deep Gold has since fastened the gold coin his grandfather gave him to a chain he wears around his neck every time he plays a show. “With Deep Gold, I feel like I’m getting closer to the truth in my voice and songwriting,” he says. “No matter how specific I make song, whether it’s about the ghost of JFK or somebody working at a hot-dog stand—I hope that, in the end, there’s a revelation people find in it about the world or themselves.”
Deep Gold’s self-titled debut is out Sept. 28.