There is a sparkle in Anthony Green’s eyes as he enters one of the rooms located underneath Detroit’s iconic St. Andrew’s Hall. Green will be headlining tonight’s performance for the ten-year anniversary of his debut solo album, Avalon, later in the evening, but right now he’s hoping to stretch.
“When I’m out with Circa [Survive],” he begins,” I have a lot more time on my hands. I’m involved in every part of the day on this tour, so finding time for myself can be a bit tricky. You need to make the most of the moment when it presents itself.”
Green is no stranger to the concept of using one’s time wisely. During the few short weeks between Circa Survive’s last tour and the start of his current solo run, the thirty-six-year-old songwriter managed to finish and release another record, Would You Still Be In Love, which hit the internet without warning. He claims the surprise release was born out of a desire to try something different, but fans who’ve heard the album know it’s no significant departure from the sound Green has honed for his solo albums over the last decade. Over the course of nine tracks, Green sings of love, loss, sex, death, and his battles with mental illness. It is his most raw release to date, playing like a private concert for you and you alone with limited accompaniment and just enough reverb to get under your skin. He’s proud of the record, though he would never say it outright.
“I think it came out well,” Green says in response to a compliment, his eyes and mind already focused on exercise. That is as self-aggrandizing as he gets.
Would You Still Be In Love opens with “Vera Lynn,” a song that references and takes its name from a famous English vocalist who rose to popularity during the Second World War. The chorus pay homage to two of Lynn’s iconic hits, “We’ll Meet Again” and “The Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.” Green claims listening to these songs helped him have a breakthrough in his understanding of himself, and ultimately lead to the realization that he is bipolar.
“I had been listening to those two songs a lot when that song came to me. Initially, I was in a writing session, and when I’m in those situations, I don’t force [my creativity] to come out. Instead, I said, “You know what? Let’s just put on some music and soak it up.” So I head to YouTube and discover a very low-quality recording of “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square In 1940″. I was like, fuck. I was looking at the lyrics of that and “We’ll Meet Again,” and I was like “I want a song that sounds like this thematically.” Like “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square [In 1940]” is about meeting someone for the first time, and I love how the same energy is in “We’ll Meet Again,” only now it’s about the last time you’ll ever see someone. Listening to those songs had me wrestling with all of this emotion. If it’s the last time, you’ll see me or the first, what’s better? What’s better? It’s the same thing! It’s the same visceral thing; it’s just pushed in different directions.”
He continues, “It was through trying to realize that similarity that I learned I was bipolar. And it was during the creation of that song when I was like, this song is about being okay with the fact that you’re paranoid. You know what I mean? Yeah, you’re paranoid, it’s okay, you have to fucking trust that it’s okay that you’re feeling this way because it all goes away. Even the good stuff. And so, it was intended to be a love song about a person and a romantic feeling, and it just ended up being almost a love song about being bipolar and that it’s okay. I wanted to call the record Bipolar Love Songs, but I’m thrilled I didn’t because it came out on the same day as that Kanye record where he makes a big deal out of it.”
Emotion, precisely that of love and loss, runs throughout Would You Still Be In Love. As Green continues to discuss the album, the conversation turns to the sexual tension at the heart of “Why Must We Wait,” one of the record’s later tracks.
“I love that feeling of being taken away from yourself when you’re in that moment,” he says, referring to intercourse. “And I do find myself writing about it a lot. I think that sex and lust is something that is so universal and is such a… People are always like, “where do you get your inspiration from?” And it’s sexuality. Sexuality and the confusion and the relationship with it it’s such a beautiful thing, and there’s vastness there. It doesn’t necessarily have to do singularly with some pornographic idea, but that feeling of surrendering yourself to the moment. I’ve always wanted to write a song that celebrated my feeling at that moment, and “Why Must We Wait” is the closest I ever got.
Green’s knack for capturing human emotion and translating to a song has rarely felt more realized than on his new album, but it’s certainly nothing new. His life, including things otherwise left unsaid, has been the source and motivation for his songwriting for nearly two decades. 2016’s Pixie Queen, Green’s previous solo album, was described in a 2018 Substream interview as having been written as a message to his wife. When asked if the new album follows suit, Green pauses his exercise just long enough to answer.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m trying to send her a message, necessarily, this time. I feel like I was trying to get her attention with Pixie Queen and then when I sort of didn’t, I was like, in that place where I’m the person who didn’t get the attention they wanted. So then I wrote that record. That’s what Would You Still Be In Love is. Would you still be in love if you spent ten years writing records for somebody it maybe doesn’t resonate with? That maybe doesn’t give a shit? On the flip side, are you still going to be in love with somebody who you spend over ten years with who all they do is write a bunch of records for you but don’t clean the fucking house the way you wanted them to or they don’t do the thing you wanted them to do? I think that overkill, trying to make this thing that was trying to save my marriage, ended up producing Would You Still Be In Love because I was maybe in a position where you go 50/50 with somebody, I maybe went 70 and then had some resentment about it.”
Not more than five seconds pass before Green confesses, “That is how I get through everything, though. I don’t answer to anything. Do we have a problem? I write some music.”
As his stretching resumes, so does conversation around the album. “A Little Death” was a song I almost didn’t put on the record. I recorded it once; then I changed some lyrics. Even after that, I was like, “is this too much?” I went to my producer, and he was like, “fuck no, dude. Go listen to Lil Uzi Vert sing about sex, and the way he likes to sing about it and tell me if your shit is too much.” He was right.”
One has to wonder how Green finds time to do as much as he does. He’s currently the frontman of both Circa Survive and Saosin, as well as a wildly successful solo artist who is known to moonlight in the mysterious rock group known as The Sound Of Animals Fighting. He tours more than half of any given year, and any time not spent on the road is lived at the home where he has a wife and four sons, none of whom have reached their teens years quite yet. He also writes and releases music with all the groups mentioned above, in addition to hopping on any offers to lend his vocals to friends’ records that may arise.
Speaking to his work ethic, Green claims to set aside time for himself while home from the road to focus on developing new material. At some point each day he leaves his house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and visits a local park, or similarly quiet place, where he can write and seek inspiration. Sometimes he brings his guitar, but other days he chooses to listen to music and explore.
But musicians cannot create in a vacuum. Eventually, material needs to be played for an audience, and lately Green has found a perfect crowd right in his hometown.
Green says last summer he discovered an open mic at M.O.M.’s, a bar and restaurant located in downtown Doylestown, which provided the perfect opportunity for him to try out new material without worrying about fan reaction. “I can’t go there anymore,” he says with a laugh. “At least, not after this story comes out.”
“The first time I discovered it, I borrowed a guitar and went on under an alias. The next week, I used my name because nobody there knew who I was. Nobody listened to the shit I put out. Everyone at that open mic night was just there to play and listen to other people playing. I wrote “[You’re So] Dead Meat,” “Little Death,” “Why Must We Wait,” “When I Come Home,” all of those songs, working them out at that open mic night. I would go there, work it out, and then weeks later I would go later to L.A. or Colorado or whatever and play a little solo show where I would work it out more in front of people that I knew. It was the most fun I’ve had writing and a terrifying feeling while performing. It was great.”
In all his time attending M.O.M.’s open mic nights, Green claims his true identity has never been uncovered. “I see this woman in town, and she only knows me as the guy who does open mic nights.” He grins before adding, “She still has no clue.”
A sudden knock at the door informs us that Green will soon need to leave and meet with his VIP ticket holders, each of whom paid a premium for a time with him and early access to the venue, along with other perks. The conversation has focused so heavily on Green’s recent activities that the reason for the evening, the ten-year anniversary of his first solo album Avalon, has hardly been mentioned. Green laughs while acknowledging this fact and briefly switches gears to say that the tour is going well. Backed by members of Good Old War and a collection of golden balloons spelling out the album title, he has been serenading crowds across the country to rapturous response while revisiting his debut solo release. That album has always held a special place in Green’s heart, perhaps because its success was proof the world would accept him at his most unraveled and revealing, and he revels in the opportunity to play it once again.
As he begins to discuss the teenage relationship that laid the foundation for what became the songs of Avalon, Green is struck by the notion of identity and how it relates to certain places. For him, Avalon is more than just a spot on the map. Avalon is a place where a few pivotal scenes in Green’s life played out before he knew how valuable they would be, and every time he finds himself there once more he’s reunited with the idea of who he was back then. Though thirty-six now, he can recall the way he felt more than half his life ago in vibrant detail, and he’s more aware than most of its deceptive power.
“It’s funny to think about how long you can hold on to that image of being that guy,” he says with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. “It’s comforting to think of ourselves in this individuality, in this individual sense of the word. Like, okay, if you find yourself on this road, then that’s where you are. That’s not where you are. That’s where your sense of self that you have manifested is grounded. So it’s easier for you to find it there, but this thing that we think we are is an illusion. This thing that you think you are, this person that I think I am so that I can function in this society is not real. And it’s malleable; it’s paper thin. Everything I love and hate is a decision that I’ve made to live in the world, but if I needed to, I could deal with the nights cold even though I’m a summer guy.”
He continues, “If I needed to, I could get comfy with eating anything every day. I could adapt. We are so adaptable. Our personalities, our minds. If there was the most beautiful woman you’d ever met in your entire life and she seduced you and brought you away, I guarantee you she could start getting you to love science fiction, or she could get you to start loving the color purple and all you wear is purple now because Sophia got you to love it. And we allow that to happen all the time except for certain moments when we hold on so tight. If we learned how to always be like that, like a little kid going along with it, we would be happier. And in a true sense of the word, not in an unbalanced sense where someone else needs to be sad. We would see the yin and the yang of things and be okay with life going at its own pace.”
Another reminder from the doorway about his waiting fans is received with a nod from Green that says the conversation is about to end. He briefly mentions his excitement to visit South America with Circa Survive in September, as well as ambitions to create “something groundbreaking” with the group’s next release, which he has been writing for the past sixth months. “I have this vision for songs in my head that I’ve never had for a Circa record,” he says. “I have lyrics that are… I want to make this record important. Right now there’s no label; there’s no nothing. I don’t want to wait around until the band needs money and then be motivated by that. We just took this trip together that ended with all of us on a beach together in Hawaii. We were looking up at the stars, and we talked about the new album. We talked about making music together, and we talked about our purpose together on this planet, and it made me realize that the band is too important to me to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. I want to take a step back from what we… I want to take a little step out of, away, so we can solely focus on making this beautiful art piece of music. Something that is not just something to sell on tour. I don’t know whether it’s a song or if it’s an EP or an album, but I have this thing that needs to come out for Circa Survive that’s been brewing in me, and I know it’s been brewing in all of them because that night on the beach in Hawaii, I saw it. In everyone’s eyes, I saw this record. I heard the melodies. I felt the feeling that is coming from when it’s completed, and it’s the most important thing the band is going to do until whatever we do after that.”
A follow-up is asked, but the door is already closing and Green is off to greet the first fans at the venue. Hundreds more filed in soon after, and before long The Shelter is filled with individuals sharing memories and singing along to songs that changed everyone’s lives. Through it, all Green can be seen wearing a smile so wide it reflects the bright lights hanging over the stage. That probably wasn’t where he saw himself a decade ago, but you can tell there is no place he’d rather be.
Substream photographer Molly Hudelson caught the final date of Anthony Green’s Avalon tour in Asbury Park, NJ on August 5. Photos from that performance can be found below: