As a veteran singer-songwriter, Mark Dignam is no stranger to recording. But when it came time to make his new album, Re-Build, things just didn't feel quite right. "I'd been struggling with this record for a few years, on the sound and what songs were going to make it in, and I got so frustrated with it," he says. "I just went into the studio and said, 'Fuck it, guys, is there any way we can just bring in a crapload of people, a couple of kegs of beer and just do it?'"
The resulting record, which was recorded in one night, is an unusual hybrid of studio and live album. They did bring in an audience — there are hoots and hollers and sing-alongs — but, unlike many live albums, which can sound like fuzzy copies of a concert experience, Re-Build give a sense of really being there.
"It's where I feel best, in front of an audience," he explains. "Studio work, I find it a grueling process. It often sucks a bit of the life out of what you're doing." And since Dignam wrote the record during one of the hardest periods of his life — his divorce — it seemed especially important to record in a way that would stay true to the raw emotion of the songs. "I don't know if I'd do every album like that," he says, "but [it worked] for this one."
Despite the circumstances under which many of the songs were written, Re-Build is not just a set of bleak sob stories. Through the record, Dignam dips in and out of palpable heartbreak ("I Thought That Love Would Win" is particularly wrenching), but the record is ultimately a hopeful, thoughtful collection of barn-burning folk-rock, which often hits home. "It's very much to me about real moments and real things," Dignam explains. "People say, 'You're kind of like a sociologist with a guitar.' It's always about the real world, essentially."