True to its provocative name, the New York launched, Phoenix based band Broken Poets has been breaking exciting ground on the indie modern rock scene over the past six years. In many ways, however, the band’s founder, singer, songwriter and guitarist Tim McDonald is a throwback to an era when lyrics were king and fans craved songs that pierced the soul and could change the world. One critic said it best about the tunes McDonald brings to life with his Broken Poets partner, classically trained Russian pianist, keyboardist and vocalist Lana Antropova and a revolving series of top sidemen: “Soulful poetry turned into song, rock & roll and introspection all in one.”
Perfectly reflecting this vision, their fourth full length CD Everything In Nature is centered around and dedicated to promoting a more global consciousness about our relationship to nature and ourselves. Putting their money where their mouth is, McDonald and Antropova are donating 50% of the profits from the recording to three major organizations: NDRC (Natural Resource Defense Council), Greenpeace and the human rights organization OXFAM. For this release, Broken Poets incorporated the style and expertise of session drummer Russ Phaneuf to complete their new sound.
Broken Poets’ 2006 release Optimism in E Minor enjoyed a successful college radio campaign, with medium to heavy rotation at over 140 stations nationwide and peaking at 13 on the Most Stations Added chart. The band’s previous album, Reincarnation, was released by Haden’s Ferry Records via City Hall distribution, and earned solid airplay and critical acclaim. Several years after building a large East Coast following via gigs at Big Apple hotspots like the Gaslight, The Bitter End and Arlene’s Grocery—with early band members, well known sidemen Keith Lentin and Jonathan Mover (Fuel, Alice Cooper, Aretha Franklin)—Broken Poets currently enjoys a devoted following out West. They recently performed at the legendary Whisky-A-Go-Go, Molly Malone’s and the Key Club, and have opened shows for Seven Mary Three, James McMurtry, Ian Moore and The Court & Spark.
While Reincarnation took listeners on a spiritual journey through the many facets of one man’s life, Everything in Nature finds McDonald digging deep into his personal philosophy and contemplating life’s deeper meanings. “I like to joke that as a songwriter, I am prone to thinking way too much,” he says, “but I grew up with my older brother and sister force feeding me all the great singer-songwriters from the 60’s and 70’s who were also very contemplative writers. I think the standards for lyric writing were much higher in those days, and even though I didn’t really ‘get it’ back then, I guess it set the bar high for the songwriter and storyteller I would become.
He continues, “The questions that inspired Everything In Nature were, what is life about? What am I doing with it? I started looking at nature and it hit me that plants and trees start off with seeds that simply evolve into what they’re destined to become. We’re the only living things on the planet that can question how we grow and because of that awareness, we need to take responsibility for both ourselves and nature. That initial idea spurred most of the songs on the album, and I feel grateful that I was able to write good songs from this idea that our place in the world involves a commitment to preserving the natural world. Every project I’ve launched with Broken Poets seems to draw from a different theme within my personal philosophy.”
The album title comes from a key line in the opening track “Love For What’s Real,” where McDonald sings, “Everything in nature has its own will.” That track, like many of his songs, are written in six-eight time, which he calls “uncool yet cool” compared to most rock tunes that are composed in four-four. “To Dream Of Another Life” is another six-eighter that was inspired lyrically by listening to classic Bob Dylan. Dylan finds his way into the title of another provocative piece, the anti-misogyny track “Last Resurrection of the 1st Bob Dylan,” which playfully addresses the legend’s many creative incarnations.
McDonald released his solo debut Looking For Aldous Huxley in 2000; the song “Welcome To My Life” was selected for a Clear Channel compilation disc that also featured the superstar bands Everclear, Third Eye Blind and Our Lady Peace. While he is Broken Poets’ chief philosopher, singer and songwriter, the band’s provocative, hard hitting sound draws from the symbiotic creative relationship between his musical sensibilities and those of Antropova, whom he joined forces with in NYC in 2000.
“Lana has an amazing ear for writing great melodies and hooks,” he says. “I’ll play her a song and she’ll take it to her piano and create dynamic sounds and harmonies I would have never thought of. She’s always been a great sounding board and has helped me take my songwriting to the next level since the beginning. More than ever, the songs we’re performing now have the true feel of our guitar and piano camaraderie, and as a result, Broken Poets is stronger than ever musically.