It seems for many artists there’s a moment of satori, that flash of enlightenment espoused in Japanese Zen Buddhism that marks the point of no return, not to be confused with the western concept of having an epiphany, of course, as satori results in nothing less than an irreversible enlightenment.
That’s the sense of Bellefonte native Coleman Rigg’s self-titled debut album, which marks his first steps into the solo artist landscape, a challenging place to be for sure, but also a place marked by an undiluted vision and the opportunity to blossom into the blessings brought forth by self-actualization.
“It’s my first release as a solo musician, and is really my first push for myself as a musician, and the first project that I had total control of,” Rigg wrote in an email. “I started playing in bands in high school, played solo acoustic in college, played on and off in a few cover bands post college — and all of those have been great projects for me, but have always lacked the artistic control and vision I’ve wanted ... so I decided to do it on my own.”
The album is extremely well-produced, which is not to say it’s over-produced. It’s just smooth, and it hints at all kinds of different influences which seem to appear, disappear and reappear on a song by song basis. For example, when I heard the first few bars of the opening track, “Just a Man,” it seemed like I was in for a rockabilly album, and the song rocked for sure, but the second track, “Puzzled at Your Door,” mellowed things out as Rigg crooned to a lover about her indecisiveness.
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Rigg’s voice is awesome. He prods a bit and works his way into deceptively melodic deliveries of his phrases, never overdoing it, never stretching beyond what he’s working with. It’s a throwback approach, like he’s manning up and delivering some tough messages to people who may have hurt him, or are even currently hurting him, but he’s telling them how it’s going to be. There’s a little bit of Lou Reed in there too, mashed with just enough hooks to survive a pop-music designation, but not so much that there’s not depth and some significant darkness.
In short, Rigg delivers a complex, legit set of songs that draw from a variety of influences and showcase his talent as a lyricist and melodist.
“One of my greatest strengths is my voice,” Rigg said. “Aside from my voice, I like to think I offer a refreshing, confident take on original music — both in my songwriting and performances. Of how I write my songs, I think my music is unique and stands out, but not in a way that it alienates some audiences, or a way that is too hard to ‘get.’”
The album showcases Rigg’s clear awareness of how all of the sounds work together as well as the quality of his words, melodies and chord structures.
For example, in the somewhat mournful “Missed You Tonight,” Rigg opens with the lines, “Sing me to sleep/Cause my daydreams aren’t working hard enough anymore.” There’s a lot in that line, and that’s what’s going on throughout the album. His lyrics are poetry, and are accentuated by the music in which the lyrics are delivered.
“My songwriting has always been a mix of storytelling about myself, and storytelling based on my observations about people and society,” Rigg said. “Lyrically, I often weave in and out of the two subjects, sometimes even in the same line. Tonally, my songwriting mixes seriousness/emotional tones with whimsical and inconsequential tones as well.”
With album in hand, Rigg is more focused than ever on taking his songs on the road, and is looking for places to perform his music, whether that be in Philly or anywhere within driving distance, because, as Rigg explains, connecting with others and seeing how his art impacts others is something he really enjoys.
“Performing is such a joy for me,” Rigg said. “I feel like it gives my art the best opportunity to resonate with others. When I perform, I like to be as well rehearsed and as professional as I possibly can, and this allows me to put on the best performance I can, but to also enjoy it as it is happening. I rarely find myself ‘thinking’ while performing and am usually in an entirely different head space.”