Remember when “happy” used to be a good thing? Back before it became chic to be “dark and moody” and the whole existential angst thing got way out of control? Well, apparently it’s okay to be happy again.
Save The Humans is Ian Eskelin’s first solo venture in ten years and his first release on the Inpop label. Co-producing the record in LA with the Wizardz of Oz (Avril Lavigne, Jason Mraz), Eskelin spent a good twelve months massaging the ten song project into one of the tightest and brightest alt-pop offerings in recent memory. Majestic hooks, honest sentiment, expressive instrumentation and a disarmingly upbeat outlook combine in a way that makes Save The Humans imminently original as well as immediately accessible.
“I really wanted to write a project with ten potential radio singles,” Eskelin says. “I wanted it to be that musically charged and that happy. It has a bit of humor and a bit of introspection, but it never turns cynical or moody. It’s very positive all the way through. That’s just where I’m at in my life. I’m content. I’m eager to express my faith. I’m happy.”
That happiness rides shotgun in the humorous lyrical approach of songs like “Taboo”(which challenges the PC notion that faith should be barred from the public square), “American Idle” (which asks us where our treasure really is), and the title track, “Save The Humans” (a reminder that the greatest need in the universe is in our own souls). But it finds deepest expression as a fusion of passion and contentment in the sparkling remakes of beloved hymns “The Solid Rock” and “I Love To Tell The Story,” and in the soaring worship of the original praise tune “Magnify.”
“’Magnify’ is about not holding back any longer,” Ian explains. “It’s expressing a desire to magnify God with every part of your being. A lot of these songs talk about glorifying God with your life. In the past I’ve written some songs that were catchy but that were still ‘throwaway’ in terms of importance. I started the writing process for this record by really assessing where I was and what was important to me and what I believed and wanted to say, and all of that led to a much bolder, straightforward outpouring of faith than I’ve ever written before. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve done a lot of growing up as a follower of Christ and as a human being since my last record, and this collection of songs shows that.”
Ian’s marriage in 2000, the recent birth of his son Aiden, and a touring hiatus which allowed him to sink his roots more deeply into a local community of believers are all cited as influences that led him to the place where he is now—a place where over-the-top expression (as in the expansive retro-groovy opener “Shout”) and quiet introspection alike (as in the pop lushness of “Into Your Arms Again”), both result in renewed commitment and surrender.
“Having a son helps you to figure out real quick what’s important to you,” Ian observes. “It’s amazing how much one little person can impact what you think about when you sit down to write. I kept thinking about the day when he’s old enough to listen to my music and understand what it’s about, and I realized that more than anything, I want him to see my desire to glorify and honor God with my life and my music. And then I realized that’s what I want everyone else to get out of my music too. I don’t want to mess around with songs and concepts that don’t really get to the heart of the matter. In the simplest terms, this project is about losing the world but gaining our souls.”
For all the disarming gravity of the subject matter, Save The Humans remains an infectious, radio-friendly bonanza of solid writing, melodic creativity, and stellar production. An extension of Ian’s own buoyant personality, the material is tailor-made for massive airplay, festival gigs, large arenas teeming with thousands of fans, and car stereos in summertime.
“These are melodies and lyrics that I would enjoy singing whether I’m in front of five people or 25,000 people,” Ian explains. “And it’s the first record I’ve made that I actually enjoy sitting down and listening to over and over from top to bottom. I do a lot of driving around town, and this seems to be pretty good driving music!”
Ian’s recording career began in the early 90’s with a solo project that spawned hit singles and hinted at what was to come. Two years later, he re-emerged as the frenetic frontman for one of CCM’s more legit rock outfits, All Star United. Over a span of eight years, 20 countries and 1,000 live shows, All Star became something of an international underground legend even while achieving rampant radio success across a number of genres with their tongue-in-cheek musings and instantly accessible hooks. Now, with Save The Humans, Ian marks his return to solo recording with a heightened level of artistry, maturity and purpose.
“I used to spend a lot of energy trying to write the next big thing—even trying to be the next big thing,” Ian says, “but now I’m satisfied just making music that’s rooted in my faith and flows from my soul. What I’m finding is that people connect on a deeper level when you give them something personal and real to connect with.”