"Drinking champagne, just me and the moon," sings Philippe Bronchtein on the title track of his new album, out October 5, recalling a night spent in his truck in the New Mexico desert during a particularly disastrous tour, plagued by canceled shows, oil leaks and a bad alternator. "I keep telling myself...this is the life."
After a decade on the road, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (piano/organ/guitar/bass/pedal steel/dobro/saxophone) had already easily traveled a quarter of a million miles as a sideman for artists like Quiet Life, Esme Patterson and The War & Treaty, and with his own solo project, Hip Hatchet.
Despite the career accomplishments, the romanticized ideal of a nomadic lifestyle started to fade away, replaced with an endless stream of apartment sublets and distant friendships.
"I've done so much touring, and moved around so much that home always feels kind of elastic," says Bronchtein, a dual citizen of Canada and the US. Born in Montreal, he was raised in New Jersey, went to college in Vermont, and relocated to Portland, OR, where he built a following for nearly 8 years.
Last year, he decided to make the move to Nashville to lay down roots and focus on creating his own music. "I love how songwriting & music is interwoven into everyday life here," he says. "The musicianship in the city is completely awe-inspiring. When I can keep it inspiring instead of intimidating, I have really good days."
He ditched the Hip Hatchet alias, too. "I was nineteen years old when I picked out the name, largely arbitrarily, after a novel that had struck me when I was a kid," he explains. "It felt stuck in the past, and more like a burden than anything else."
The decision to go by his given name wasn't just a re-branding effort. For Bronchtein, it was important to reclaim his own name. "The name contains multitudes. My first name is from my mother's Quebecois (French-Canadian) side. My last name is from my father's side, of Russian Jewish Heritage," he says. "There's a fetishization of authenticity, particularly in the world of 'Americana' music, that I was always concerned with. As I got older and more comfortable in my own skin, the moniker felt like something I was hiding behind rather than embracing. It feels more honest to continue putting out music under my own name than trying to conform to some image of what an American songwriter should be."
Much of 'Me and the Moon' was written while touring around the country, and the songs play like the pages of a well-worn travel journal, full of sketches, contemplations and the passing thoughts that result from hours spent in solitude.
"It's nostalgic music, and I tried to reflect that sonically as well," Bronchtein says. He stripped back the instrumentation from the full-band sound of his last album, playing most of the parts himself, and tracked the vocals in single live takes, with the lyrics always at the forefront.
"The hiss, the reverb, the textures - everything is there to make you feel like you're swimming through memories," he says. "I wanted everything to feel like it was being remembered rather than experienced."
'Me and the Moon' will be released on October 5, 2018. For more information and upcoming tour dates, visit: http://philippebronchtein.com