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Chris Bathgate has emerged from his hiatus, releases first indie album in four years

Jennifer Harely
Credit Jennifer Harely

Michigan’sChris Bathgatehas gotten national acclaim in recent years, touring the country playing music and even being featured in one of NPR’sTiny Desk concerts.

For the past four years, he’s taken a little hiatus.

He stepped away from performing for a while and tucked away an EP he had, until now.

ChrisBathgateis touring again and is releasing that EP. It’s calledOld Factory

Listen to the review

The opening track to Chris Bathgate’s latest EP, called Big Ghost, is a culmination of his sound. Bathgate usually performs with a loop machine and guitar, while playing a snare drum with his spare hand. His music has space and builds, as layers are added.

Bathgate had nearly finished the EP four years ago, but a few months later he canceled tour dates and declared a hiatus.

He explained why he took the hiatus on Stateside in 2014. After that, he started slowly making stage appearances again.

“There were a few shows that I played where I felt like I wasn’t having a good time, to be really frank, and that’s a really dangerous territory when you're sharing your art, but you are doing so and it’s not satisfying for you, or there’s something that is lacking. In a way it feels dishonest. So I was sort of like, 'I’m having these feelings. I think now is the time to just take a step back, take a break,'” Bathgate said.

Bathgate is back in the game now, finally releasing that EP and touring again.

“I think the perspectives that I got from that hiatus are responsible for the sort of

outpouring of art that I’ve experienced since then, and sort of reenergized my love for

performing. I think it was necessary, and I think that quality of art that is coming fourth now is directly related to that break,” Bathgate said.

This album is inspired by both memories and by nature. One of the tracks is called Red Arrow Highway, inspired by a drive Bathgate had on that scenic drive near southern Lake Michigan’s shore.  

“I was driving with someone who I cared about deeply -- who was asleep and there had been a terrible ice storm and all the trees had a translucent shell as they get in ice storms, and it was spectacular. It was like driving through this amazing forest of sort of jeweled oaks and birches and things like that. And I was just really struck in that moment, both by the external situation, the beauty of the landscape, and by this other feeling that I was experiencing in the car,” Bathgate said.

The single off the EP is called Calvary. Like most of Bathgate’s music, the lyrics are cryptic and descriptive.

Here's the chorus:

AsBathgateexplains, “[Calvary], is kind of a little bit of a riddle.

The chorus is meant to be both earnest and cynical, and I wanted a sense of triumph from that opening line. ['Ain’t it good to be alive?'] I think the order is really important. To follow that with, ‘the wound still in your side’, it suggests something that has been overcome. It’s joyous and triumphant, but without that second line, it is not quite without struggle.”

And that kind of represents Bathgate’s approach to the EP itself.

Old Factory, more than any other album, is the most poignant artifact of my life to this point in time. Because it marks this huge shift in my ideology in the way that I thought about music, and the way that I thought about performing, or about music persona. And coming back to it, I learned more in that period of time than I ever have in my entire life. It is a huge punctuation on this long winding journey of lessons. It sums up all those experiences in five tracks,” Bathgate said.

After more than four years of being tucked away. Chris Bathgate’s EP, Old Factory has been reawakened and is being released today.

Copyright 2021 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Emily is a reporter and producer for Stateside and fill-in host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered.