Over the past few years, Gabe Dixon changed almost everything. The Nashville-based troubadour focused on starting from scratch following the release of 2011’s One Spark. He parted ways with his longtime management and record label Concord Music Group, and he began feverishly penning ideas. However, the one thing that didn’t change was that honest, heartfelt approach to songwriting that countless fans fell in love with when he first emerged in 1999.
“I started writing a lot more than ever before,” he recalls. “I had so many songs, and I was really thinking about some weighty subjects—mortality, what’s important in life, and the value of love. In many ways, the music was about learning how to be in a committed relationship, leave immature ways behind, grow, evolve, and move on from habits that aren’t necessarily who you are anymore.”
With a clean slate and the biggest batch of songs yet, he entered The Smoakstack recording studio in Berry Hill, TN with producer Paul Moak [Mat Kearney, Third Day] in early 2015. He wanted to embrace what came most naturally and build a raw and real body of work.
“I wasn’t interested in making an album with any sequencing or anything on-the-grid,” he affirms. “I wasn’t interested in just handing over my songs to somebody. I wanted to go in with musicians and get performances that were inspiring and inspired and take it from there. Paul was completely on the same page. What results is an album that feels very natural and almost folk-y at times. I went a little off course on One Spark; I didn’t trust myself. I learned to trust myself, and the sound of Turns To Gold is the most representative of who I am. It’s warm, laidback, acoustic, and live.”
In the past, Gabe would play primarily grand piano. However, on Turns To Gold, he performed all but one song on an upright piano. This choice conveyed a different energy. He and the musicians cut everything to analog tape with no click track. In keeping with his newfound independence, he also launched a PledgeMusic campaign—another first—the day he began recording. Exceeding the goal within less than two months, he offered fans a distinct vignette into the creative process.
“I love this way of doing things because it puts me in the driver’s seat creatively, and I can retain more ownership of the project,” he says. “I could do whatever I wanted, and that was inspiring. It also encouraged me to connect with the fans even more. That was incredible.”
The album opener and first single “Holding Her Freedom” coasts between a shimmering piano melody, organ swell, guitar rumble, and heavenly vocal performance from Gabe. It also conveys a cinematic narrative.
“It’s a story about a woman who has been burned by love, and she’s afraid to let herself be vulnerable and fall in love again,” he explains. “She’s figuratively holding her freedom like a cage. That same ‘freedom’ keeps her trapped and unable to love again. I was glad to write a song with a little story to follow.”
Elsewhere, “That Redemption” begins with a bombastic groove that slides towards a spirited refrain bolstered by bluesy guitars and handclaps. “It’s about someone flying too close to the sun in a mythical sense,” he continues. “Their values are in the wrong place. They’re not treating people the way they should be treated. It can’t go on forever, and they’re going to get knocked down.”
“The One Thing I Did Right” pairs a soft piano melody with one of his most soulful performances on the album for an undeniable ballad. “It’s about my wife and remembering what’s most important in my life,” he says. “It’s a tribute to her. She’s a constant in a world that seems to be always changing around me.”
“I hope when people listen to the album, it makes them feel,” he leaves off. “Music has moved me so much. I want to do the same thing for others.”