It does my heart good that one of the best songs of 2014 is named after a small Indiana town. But it's more than just a name: Strand of Oaks' "Goshen, '97" on last year's HEAL was released by Bloomington label Dead Oceans, and written, of course, by Timothy Showalter, who was born and raised in Goshen.
HEAL was an exercise in rock-and-roll catharsis, a true blue masterpiece that rewards multiple listens. We've written extensively on it since its release (and you can find that writing here). But in this space, we'd like to let Showalter talk about why he loves Indiana, and how that bleeds into his songwriting. Strand of Oaks headlines Saturday's Hops and Flip Flops block party at Daredevil Brewing Co. in Speedway.
"I spent 18 years in Indiana, around that. I get confused if it's Indiana, or if it's my parents, or something. As I move forward, I think about it. I just was home visiting family maybe a month ago. It was a situation where I ran into a lot of people that I knew. I don't get home much, and I saw my parents' friends who have known me since I was a baby, cousins, aunts and uncles. I was like, 'Oh, wait a second!' This is not just my family. It's something about genuine interest in things, in other people. I know there's all kinds of people everywhere, but just from someone who has lived in Philadelphia, which is a place I love, but it's a slightly rougher existence here. I think because it's a bigger city, and there's so many people on the East Coast, you kind of become isolated and a little bit more withdrawn, just to protect your own space, perhaps. But I think it's hard as a performer, and maybe as a person, and as a songwriter, there's always Indiana in there because I don't feel that way. I'm the guy out of place because I'm trying to talk to everybody.
"Yesterday I was walking with my wife in my neighborhood, and some guy recognized me from being in the band. That really doesn't affect me that he knows my band, but the thing that I like is that I got to talk to him for a little bit. I was like, 'Ah, human connection! Human interaction! This is great!' It's not empty chatter. That's how I want to write these songs, and have my relationship with my fans.
"We were in Belgium, and we play really great shows there, and every time we play there someone inevitably comes up and is like, 'Everyone was so happy and hugged each other and got really into it!' And I'm like, that's what I want to do! I don't want to have people with their arms crossed, and not connecting with one another. And I want to connect with them.
"I don't think Indiana people have anything to prove. We're like, 'Yeah, we're from here.' I was just out in San Francisco, and obviously San Francisco is not of this Earth, prettiness-wise. But I'm like, I go to Lake Wawasee in May and go on a boat ride. I like that, too.
"It seems like physically I'm further away from Indiana than ever because I'm moving around so much, but getting a little older -- all kids run away from themselves to try and become individuals at certain ages, and I've already gone through that, I'm done with discovering myself -- I really like getting a bit older and having perspective. Like, I like where I grew up. I like that it sounds like Indianapolis [is great]. Both of my brothers live there, and they have wonderful lives there.
"I love that part in Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut where there's the 'fake' group of people -- because it's all about grouping and bokonon and whatever -- and there's the Hoosier lady [Hazel Crosby, who is talking about how] they're all Hoosiers. I know Vonnegut brought that up because that happens everywhere! I was in Athens, Greece, and someone was like, 'Ah, I'm from Indiana!' And I'm like, "Where you from?' And they're like, 'Kokomo!' And I'm like, 'I'm from Goshen!' I don't know if that happens with people who are like, 'I'm from upstate New York!' 'Oh, I'm from Manhattan!' ... People want to talk. They want to have commonalities and things. I'm glad I have that centerpiece [of Indiana].
"I want to talk to everybody. But if I see my uncle, and this guy saw me in diapers, you can't be mysterious and arty and cool. You can try, but I don't want to be that way. I like art, I like consuming culture and I don't want to be like a non-cultural person, but also some of the most artistic and creative people I've ever met are some of the realest and [most] normal people I've ever met at the same time. We don't all have to sleep in the place that like, Darth Vader slept or whatever. I think this is reaching in on something that I'm also working on with this next record of connectivity. I learned that from touring so much this year, what people are longing for maybe, and not getting. It's sad, but also hopeful, because yeah, it happens. I get all the time kids coming up -- especially kids, nobody my age does this -- 22-year-olds will be like, 'Hey, I sent you an email on Facebook or whatever.' And I don't check stuff, so I'm like, 'All right. Well, what did you want to say?' And they're like, 'Well, you didn't write back.' And I'm like, 'We're talking right now. Let's not talk about phones right now, how about that? Let's have a conversation.' "
This interview has been condensed and edited.