[All images courtesy of Tim Cheesebrow]
In today’s world of social media and instant gratification, it can be hard to remember what is truly important in life. Finding honest music is one way to remind yourself daily of what you live for, and Tim Cheesebrow, a singer-songwriter from St. Paul, Minnesota, is here to help you find it—and find out how writing your own can help you, too.
According to Tim’s bio, he “started writing songs at 15 as a way to make sense of the world. He studied the craft in earnest while getting his degree in classical music composition, and cemented his style while volunteering at a monastery and school near New Orleans.” Now, Tim “has six full-length solo albums under his belt, a published book on songwriting (Songwriting for Wellness: Using Music to Heal the Mind), and is showing no signs of slowing down” in his career.
Tim “looks to music as a source of healing and puts that magic to work at each performance so listeners leave with more than they expected to find” as he “[brings] audiences with him to explore concepts of family, self-doubt, depression, hope, grief, and the many facets of love” in his music. The songs in his latest release, The Well Traveled Unknown, “focus on [Tim’s] personal struggles and aspirations as a young parent and artist trying to remain positive in the face of depression and the influence of an increasingly strange and divided world.”
The first track of The Well Traveled Unknown is titled “Big Life.” It brings us right into the album with a pleasantly twangy guitar riff, followed by Tim’s classically clear vocals. The pronunciation of each lyric is clear, allowing the vocals to really shine: “Love hard anyways, and don’t ask why/You can see by the memories sitting on my shelf/You’ve gotta brace yourself/It’s gonna be a big life.” The instrumentals are steady and smooth, a nice match for Tim’s silky, country-style vocals. The paralleled beginnings and endings in the instrumentals are a nice touch and allow the track to feel complete.
The guitar parts in “It’s Now” further illustrate Tim’s classical training. This track has a nice swing to it with groovy instrumental lines and stylized vocals that will definitely get stuck in your head with a listen or two. Each little touch added—a fill here, a tap there, and even vocal nuances—serves a purpose to make this song even more lively. The upbeat tempo and vocals on what seem to be the higher end of Tim’s vocals make this a great summer song and a wonderful addition to The Well Traveled Unknown.
The percussion in the introduction of “Do Right By You” is very catchy, a great into to the track to get right into its theme. With smooth country vocals, this track mixes styles in a way that’s really pleasing to the ear. I could easily hear this on the radio while driving down a beach road; it’s the definition of a summer chill-out song with a deeper meaning. The phrasing of the lyrics is very well thought out, allowing emphasis where the song needs it, or backing off when that works better. “Do I see your scars as part of some bigger plan?/What do I do/To do right by you?”
The bassline of the fourth track of the album,”Life Unplugged,” stands out to me. The decision to bring it up in the mix was a good one, as it parallels Tim’s voice nicely. Although the bass part was relatively simple, it was enough to provide a solid backing for the rest of the song. It would be great to see more bass in some of the other tracks in The Well Traveled Unknown, as the low end adds a lot of depth in this track.
The meaning behind “Life Unplugged” is one that many people need to hear in today’s social media-centered world. “Gotta keep connected, or so they say/’Cause no one likes to wait/A little light blinks its way into my brain/Gotta check my mail to make it go away/When do I get a break?” Just for the meaning alone, “Life Unplugged” is one of the stand-outs of the album and a song that should be mandatory listening for the younger generations.
The vocals in “Honesty” aren’t my favorite when compared to many of the other tracks in The Well Traveled Unknown, as they lacked the effortless pitch I came to expect from Tim. I did like the instrumental lines, but the two didn’t fit as flawlessly as they could have; something felt missing, possibly on the low end since the vocals were up higher. The lyrics did still showcase Tim’s songwriting ability, but they were harder to pick out and enjoy alone in “Honesty.”
The light country feel of “16 Summers” is classic in the best way. Within one listen, the song will be added to your summer drives playlist—I can guarantee it! Although the lyrics are repetitive, this is not a flaw: Like in many poems, the repetition of lines serves to emphasize meaning in certain lyrics, but also to provide a comfortable audio experience. The flow and sounds of the words themselves are also pleasing to the ear: “These moments seem to go so fast/Wish I could make them last/Like the look on your face when you dipped your toes into the lake.”
“How Are You Doing Today?” brings a lighter feel to the album as a whole with its delicate guitar introduction. Serving to show off Tim’s classical training yet again, the base instrumentals are deceptively simple-sounding, allowing every part of the song to shine through in its own moment. The quiet energy of this track is placed perfectly to break up the momentum and style of the album in the best way. Serving as the album’s quiet moment, “How Are You Doing Today” provides the time and mental space to reflect on the album so far.
The tempo change between “How Are You Doing Today” and “Make a Memory” is very effective and refreshing. The addition of horns makes this track fun and very different from the rest of the album, but also one of my favorites. The instrumentals were very full without being overwhelming, amplifying the energy found in Tim’s vocals. I wish the vocals were slightly higher in the mix at points, but that didn’t stop me from joining in on the fun, interactive elements of “Make a Memory.” I’d love to experience it live!
“Here I Stand” brings us back to the core aesthetics of The Well Traveled Unknown in a great way for a second-to-last track. The instrumentals provide a solid platform for Tim’s voice to soar without being dragged down by too much in the other parts. Although the notes were on the higher end, Tim stayed pitch-perfect, never wavering on the long holds.
“All You Are is Enough” is the final track of The Well Traveled Unknown. Much like “Make a Memory,” this song brings up the tempo and truly packs a punch. The decision to end the album with a high energy song definitely pays off with “All You Are is Enough.” Listeners will be sure to remember the hard-hitting rhythms and inspirational, feel-good lyrics: “If we stand up for each other like the rising of the tide/Singing all you are is enough…” Tim’s music makes it easy to feel good about yourself and make sure everyone around you feels the same!
To learn more about Tim’s music or listen for yourself, connect with him:
***Like all of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post***