Singer-songwriter Will Sheff has been leading Okkervil River since the late 90s, but Nothing Special, due out October 7 on ATO Records, marks the first time he’s ever ventured into solo album territory.
Okkervil River drummer Travis Nelsen, with whom Sheff had already parted ways, died in 2020. According to Sheff, part of the impetus for the album has to do with “grieving for him, grieving for everything my friends have lost, grieving for the rock and rock and roll myth, and trying to open my eyes to a more transcendent reality.”
Even though he’s operating under his own name on Nothing Special, Sheff won’t be going it alone. The album will include his Okkervil River bandmates Will Graefe and Benjamin Lazar Davis, as well as a raft of other friends, including members of Dawes, Death Cab for Cutie, Fruit Bats, and Bonny Light Horseman.
The recording represents not just a musical shift for Sheff but also a lifestyle change, and maybe even the adoption of a new personal philosophy. He began working on Nothing Special after moving to L.A., abandoning drugs and drinking, and deciding to follow a more spiritual path in his life. He even adopted a dog along the way.
Part of the record was inspired by Sheff taking in the glory of the region’s lakes, deserts, and mountains. Musically, a period of close listening to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Bill Fay, and King Crimson informed the songs Sheff wrote for the album.
The first single is “Estrangement Zone,” which arrives with an arresting video overseen by director Johnny North. Sheff stated, “I think of the Estrangement Zone video as a kind of magical spell the crew and I were trying to cast – a parable about endings and beginnings happening simultaneously.”
The singer will also be taking the record on the road, with his tour kicking off on October 7 at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetary in Los Angeles and wrapping up in Portland, Maine on November 21. See the full tour itinerary.
1. The Spiral Season
2. In the Thick of It
3. Estrangement Zone
4. Nothing Special
5. Holy Man
6. Like the Last Time
7. Marathon Girl