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Dive Deep into Archer Monk’s “Tumbleweed Pop” Album ‘Joy Ride Opus’

In tandem with the premiere of ‘Joy Ride Opus,’ Archer Monk takes us deep into the story behind the making of his new album.



It doesn’t happen often, but some artists have such a unique musical style that they are able to coin their very own genre all to themselves. Never mind rock, or pop, or indie, singer and songwriter Archer Monk has formulated “tumbleweed pop” with his brand new album Joy Ride Opus. Featuring twelve new songs, Monk, the pseudonym of artist T. Wold, has really hit an artistic breakthrough with this new record, and he has come up with the term tumbleweed pop to describe the album’s diverse musical style. Think of a Bob Dylan-like storyteller folk singer that leans more to the gospel side of things, along with sprinkles of alternative country, Americana, jazz, and psychedelic folk rock.

It’s no wonder why Wold became such an accomplished songwriter, given that he was raised within a very musical family that made their way as a touring act. Joy Ride Opus is Wold’s third proper studio album, and it wasn’t until he began writing and recording this new album that he really felt like he had hit his musical stride. He wrote a lot for this album, taking a very proactive approach to songwriting, writing as much as he can and then seeing where the music takes him. To assist, Wold worked with some very talented musical cohorts, including Luke Ydstie (Blind Pilot) on bass guitar and piano, Rachel Blumberg (The Decemberists, Califone) on drums, and Frank Orrall (Poi Dog Pondering, Thievery Corporation) who lent guest vocals to the track “Hey Bartender.”

In tandem with the premiere of Joy Ride Opus today, Wold joins us today for a very special guest blog as he takes us deep into the story behind the making of the album, offering insight into why this is his most special recording yet.

The Joy and the Ride Behind Joy Ride Opus:

Joy Ride Opus is a culmination of creative momentum that began in the first freaky weeks of the pandemic lockdown when I was stuck in Minneapolis on a project I could still work on despite the world apparently shutting down. I borrowed some random musical gear and wrote and recorded the EP 3 Songs and a Whole Lotta Trouble in a concrete loft on Nicollet Island on the Mississippi River under the iconic, flickering Grain Belt sign.

When I finally made it home to our cottage on the mountain in the Northern California redwoods in May of 2020, I began working on my next EP, Man with No Plan. I reached out to Adam Selzer up in Portland, Oregon, and he mixed and mastered both EPs and then just like that, it was New Year’s Day and my wife and I jumped in the freezing waters of Lake Tahoe to celebrate life and another year, and I guess I was shocked into doing another album.

Artwork for the album ‘Joy Ride Opus’ by Archer Monk

So do I record this one remotely in a hodge-podge manner like the EPs, or do I do it like the pros? Travel was still tricky, so an ‘Exile’ chateau in the south of France was out of the question, and Electric Lady Land was booked out, and Rick Rubin had evidently changed his number. I emailed Adam, and we had our first-ever phone conversation to discuss possibly working on a full album. He was all over it, like a dozen donuts.

In August of 2021, we threw down like it was a weekend All-Star Wrestling match. Adam, Luke Ydstie, and Rachel Blumberg (both fabulous people and incredible musicians in the local Portland scene) and I laid down the basics at Bocce Studio in Vancouver, Washington. We were hoping to get eight to ten songs done but ran away with twelve. At one point, Adam said, ‘This could be a double album!’ To which I said, ‘Did I just hear what you said?’

Luke and Rachel are total pros, and Adam made me feel like I was in that chateau in Marseille and frankly, I think I was. A couple of these songs, like, ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘Hollywood Choir’ (inspired by the death of David Bowie), had been kicking around for a few years, but most of them were recent surfers on this big wave of momentum. ‘A Man Needs to Fail’ seemed like a throwaway at the time, but then it turned into this strange in-the-pocket groove that was destined to begin the ride, while ‘Sugar Dance’ morphed from a folky number into a lush, soulful song that can still make me choke up.

‘Hey Bartender’ is kind of a tin pan alley old-school song, the kind I rarely write. I would never have predicted I had a song in me about a barfly who becomes a metaphor for the addiction to songwriting and the constant quest not to go homeless in the process. I engaged my friend Frank Orrall (Thievery Corporation, Poi Dog Pondering) to sing the part of the bartender, and he knocked it out of the park.

‘Lost in Time’ is a song that was more of a feel than anything else, but as the lyrics spilled out in my notebook, I realized that there’s truth buried in there. I am lost in time. I feel like I’m just starting college again, and this time I’m going to be totally disciplined in my studies and not just party. I could be wrong about this.

‘Just Another Mornin’ is one I wrote in between losing my sister-in-law and brother-in-law both to cancer within months a couple of years ago. It found new spirit as a kind of gospel piece, which seemed apropos. And the closer, ‘Hidden Doors,’ is like a song I have never written before. It’s a simple four-chord train ride through the psyche. The day in between writing the first verse and then second and third verses, I went into the redwoods and took a journey conducted by a toad.

Archer Monk in 2022, photo by Kate Schermerhorn

Transparency is the most stable currency traded these days. It blew my mind in some ways and in others, just reassured me that I was on the right path. For the instrumental jam part before the third verse, I thought I had charted out way too many measures and was wondering how to fill it and make it interesting. Then one day, I just started riffing over the top, and the words, ‘we’re in the light / we’re in the dream / it’s a joy ride / in this love machine’ popped out, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s it. The lockdown. The weirdness. The death and darkness. There may be a way out.’

From the start, I had decided to make it a joy ride and just let myself go… and make that double album the way a pro would.”

Joy Ride Opus Track Listing:

1. A Man Needs To Fail
2. Sugar Dance
3. Because Of You
4. Just Another Morning
5. Lost In Translation
6. Hollywood Choir
7. Hey Bartender (feat. Frank Orrall)
8. Lost In Time
9. Love On Layaway
10. Angel Undone
11. Love In The Time Of Drought
12. Hidden Doors