Chris Bathgate ends hiatus with tour dates, a new EP
Grand Rapids-based singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate drew national acclaim with his 2011 release “Salt Year.” But he says the pressures of touring life and national exposure made him consider “throwing in the towel.”
“At some point, I kind of took all the pieces of my life apart and examined them closely and put them back together again,” Bathgate says. “I got to that moment where thinking about being a touring, performing, recording artist … came up. And I looked at it really closely and decided to get back to work.”
Bathgate returned to the public eye this month after a four-year self-described “hiatus,” announcing that he’ll release the new EP “Old Factory” next month. He’s also embarking on tour, including dates this weekend in Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids.
For an artist who’s been repeatedly described as “melancholic,” “Old Factory” feels like a turnaround. The lyrics are more upbeat and nature-inspired, the musical tone is warmer and the songs are more up-tempo. Bathgate insists that he’s not as morose in real life as any of his older material suggests.
“(Writing ‘Old Factory’) wasn’t necessarily a shift in my personal outlook on life, but it was definitely an artistic shift where driving rhythms were more interesting to me at the time,” he says.
Although Bathgate mostly stayed away from the stage during his “hiatus,” “Old Factory” isn’t the only musical project he worked on during that time. He’s also been slowly assembling a debut record with the band SKULLLS, which he describes as “a more collaborative project,” although he’s the group’s singer, lead songwriter and producer.
He also scored friend Susan Shattuck’s documentary film “From This Day Forward,” about her father coming out as transgender. Bathgate describes the four-month scoring process, during which he composed original music in addition to contributing previously recorded material, as “really intense.”
“I spent more time in the studio than I’ve ever spent,” he says.
The release of “Old Factory” will put Bathgate back in the national spotlight; the EP was announced with a track premiere on NPR’s website. But Bathgate says he’s learned from his experience after the release of “Salt Year.” He suggests that he wasn’t “emotionally prepared” for the heavy touring schedule that followed. Tour dates promoting “Old Factory” are sparser, and Bathgate says he better understands the “element of self-preservation that’s required” before getting in the tour van.
Bathgate’s says he’s also being more guarded with his emotions this time around.
“There were actual consequences to some of the things that I was singing,” he says. “Press would hit, and I’d get contacted by people in my personal life. There’s a boundary that shifts, and I think you have to make a call on how much of your personal life or your personal experience or how much of your true, inner self you give the public access to.”
With those lessons under his belt, Bathgate says he is ready to move forward. He says he hopes “Old Factory” is just as successful as its predecessor.
“I think we can reach more people,” he says. “My hope is that it reaches the people who’ve been waiting and that it perks up the ears of some people who’ve never listened before.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
8 p.m. Thur.
316 S. Main, Ann Arbor
7 p.m. Fri.
Hanson Theater, Benton Harbor
9:30 p.m. Sat.
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids