Spencer Douglas Wharton Opens Up About His Upcoming Release
Spencer Douglas Wharton can attest to the fact that a lot can happen in 365 days. A year ago, Wharton wrote the titular track of his upcoming solo album Moonlight Devotee, and nothing has been the same since. In the midst of getting sober, falling in love, and getting a new job, Wharton decided to put all inhibitions aside in pursuit of completing his first solo album – and with the release of the single “Moonlight Devotee” this past Tuesday, we get a taste of what he’s been cooking.
Wharton, who has been a member of Denton rock n’ roll group The Infamists for six years, had been playing around with the idea of releasing a solo album for about half that time. “Some of these songs are really old,” he says of the album’s content, sourcing some material back to 2015, and a few songs earlier than that. After writing “Moonlight Devotee,” however, Wharton felt renewed in the pursuit of creating even fresher content for his first release. “Writing that kicked off a creative streak, and I wrote three more [songs] to compliment that track. And for me, that was the moment when I realized I had to complete the album,” he said. The song was a catalyst, the rock that started an avalanche. For his creative process, the most important part was just getting started, and staying committed to the process – even when that process was difficult.
At the beginning of the demo process, Wharton was four months sober and completely self-loathing. The temptation to slip back into drinking made the journey difficult, but the album itself, he says, is a triumph over his addiction to alcohol and to “being sad.” But, through the difficult times, Wharton believes that this record saved his life: “I’m the most in tune with myself I’ve ever been.” Wharton lost his father, who was also a musician, at age sixteen – and his father is the reason he’s a musician today. His father’s influence, as well as the musicians they both listened to and loved – Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Gordon Lightfoot – have an immense impact on Wharton’s writing style. “Everything’s come full-circle,” Wharton said of his last year.
Wharton brought on a wide cast of musicians and friends to help him hash out his musical concepts, musicians who he insists are “way more talented than me; probably too talented to be playing on this record for free.” The string arrangements and horn sections are played by producer and ska musician Eric Daino, with drums by MNKR and Samus David Jr. member Hagen Hauschild; the record also features four female solos and plenty of background vocals. Wharton joked that the best parts of the album are those that don’t involve him – but the emotion and soul behind the songwriting could not have come from anyone else.
The single is a beautiful ballad to someone who’s meaning for Wharton has since changed, but regardless of relationship, their role in his life as a sobering agent is one of the utmost importance. The song combines simple songwriting, of the likes of Tom Petty, with the lush orchestration of the Eagles – but a sound and voice that is all Wharton’s own. Give it a listen on his bandcamp, and keep an eye out for the Moonlight Devotee’s release in August.
Header image courtesy of Jackie Marie Brown