For Armon Jay’s third and latest solo effort, aptly titled The Dark Side of Happiness, the burgeoning auteur took matters into his own hands, writing, recording, arranging, engineering and producing every song, and playing virtually every instrument at his home studio in Franklin, TN.
On his new album, Armon has turned his crisis of faith – all that anxiety, frustration, neuroses, self-doubt and compulsive behavior – into art, yet another step on his ongoing artistic journey. The Dark Side of Happiness isn’t just personal but offers an intimate glimpse into Armon’s own inner conflict, a quiet record with subtle dynamics, but emotionally raw.
“Some days, Depression is real life for me, and other days it isn’t. Most days are somewhere in the middle, which can be the strangest. This album explores all of the above.”
Armon spent nearly 14 hours a day for two months recording the album, barely getting any sleep. “As heavy lyrically as the album is, it was the most fun I’ve ever had making music,” he insists. “I woke up every day with a feeling of purpose which felt right. It felt good.”
Working with mixer Zach Hanson from Justin Vernon’s April Base studio outside of Eau Claire, WI, where Bon Iver albums are made, proved to play a major role in how it turned out after Armon recorded “in the box,” using UAD interface and plugins. “I credit Zach with bringing that analog warmth to the album,” says Armon, adding kudos for Jeremy Larson, who recorded and arranged the strings for three tracks (“Lighthouse,” “Break the Habit” and the title song) and Abby Gundersen, responsible for the violins on “Stay Grounded.”
The last two years have been the most successful yet for Armon Jay’s ascendant musical career. As a member of Chris Carrabba’s Dashboard Confessional, he toured and recorded with the band on its first studio album in nine years. Songs from his first two solo albums earned a number of song placements, including “Edge of the Dark” (from 2013’s Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed), which garnered syncs in Criminal Minds, So You Think You Can Dance and Salvation, while “Better Off Without” (from 2015’s Del Rio) ended up in 13 Reasons Why, Nashville, Heartbeat and Set It Up, among others.
“In the end, I love life and believe it’s precious,” Armon insists. “There is always something to look forward to, even on my shittiest days, when the mood swings hit. I allowed myself to go to some dark places on this record, but the purpose was to try and work through them as a temporary residency.”
In The Dark Side of Happiness, Armon Jay offers his own glimpse of a life filled with hope, not quite a final destination, but a path towards further growth, artistic and personal.