I Roam Album Notes

Last June, I took a flight to Utah and travelled alone to all five of its national parks. I learned a lot about myself on that trip, much of it unexpected.

For most of my adolescent and adult life, I've felt a persistent call to adventure—and despite my interest in people and affection for my loved ones, I've often felt a call to solitude. I've given up trying to figure out the reason I am this way—I know that I enjoy the simplicity and realness of nature, and often need time off from the parts I play in others' lives. At one time, I was able to imagine the possibility of someday scraping out an existence as a vagabond—part of me always wanting to escape from wherever I called home into the rest of the wide world.

Utah was everything I'd hoped for and more. Arid land stark and still and magnificent. Vast rolling desert broken by monstrously beautiful stone beasts reaching defiantly toward blistering blue skies. I hadn't left the country, but I felt as if I'd found another world. The song "Zion" attempts to capture just a shadow of the awe I felt during my days in Zion National Park. But something surprised me even more than the landscape.

On my second morning in Zion, I met a mellow and friendly couple who gave me an extra pair of the neoprene boots I'd foolishly forgotten to pick up in the park town earlier, enabling me to complete the famous Narrows hike through a slot canyon stream. Later that afternoon, I traversed those very Narrows alongside an animated guy I'd met earlier atop the precipitous Angels Landing overlook. He was a healthcare worker who served a reservation community in Arizona, and he was traveling solo like me. The following morning at Bryce Canyon, I befriended an older couple who approached me at the start of my hike. After seeing my camera, Bruce told me, "you look like a guy who knows where he's going." He was right of course—a chronic planner, I'd downloaded a GPS map of a loop through the most scenic parts of the canyon. I became their unofficial guide for the morning, and they treated me to lunch at the park lodge afterward. At the end of our time together, they even said I'd be welcome to visit them anytime in their home state of Arizona.

It seemed that, despite my every intention for a solo trip, I was making friends along the way, helping and being helped by others, telling them my story and listening to theirs.

After a brief stop in Capitol Reef, I spent my final days of the trip in Moab. On my first day I hiked Arches. Other than some polite greetings with strangers, I went alone. On my last day I watched the sun rise over Canyonlands National Park. Sitting on a ledge obscured from view to other park visitors, of which there were few at that early hour, the peace of solitude finally gave way to an overwhelming loneliness. Just silence and stone. I missed my loved ones. I missed the green woods and gurgling streams of Pennsylvania. For the first time in my life, I truly missed home.

***

My last EP, What I Become, was an attempt to express introspections as simply and honestly as possible, and the sound of that project reflects that goal. By contrast, I Roam attempts to capture something much greater than myself—the awesome beauty of Utah, my renewed faith in the goodness and kindness of strangers, and the undeniable pull toward home and the ones I love that I discovered in myself as a result of my going away. It's a little funny—I think people often go on an adventure to change themselves. I went on an adventure just to realize that I'd already changed. Undoubtedly I'll feel the call to adventure again soon, but next time I won't go it alone.

Michael LaBella is an independent folk songwriter from Pennsylvania who has performed extensively in the northeast US since 2018. In 2020 he released the self-produced solo EP, There's a Morning. In 2021 he released his first LP Appalachia and a followup EP What I Become. His latest project, I Roamreleased May of 2022.

Michael takes after the sentimental acoustic style of classic American songwriters including James Taylor and John Denver, and writes about his own experiences of love, sorrow, friendship, nature, spirituality, and growing older. Above all else, he values sincerity and hopefulness in his songwriting, and compassion and community in his performances.