Calvinist theory 

Photo: Samantha Lamb

Album titles can mean anything, really, be it an inside joke, a catchy turn of phrase or nothing in particular.

In the case of Norman singer-songwriter John Calvin’s latest EP, Without Wax, the title reveals everything.

“The name came from a conversation I had with a very wise acquaintance at a bar here in Norman. The word ‘sincere’ comes from ‘sin,’ or ‘without or lacking,’ and ‘ceras,’ roughly as ‘wax,’” Calvin said. “As an artist and an architect, he told me a story about Greek sculptors. When a sculpture had an obvious problem, these sculptors would cover the flaws with colorful wax. Wax was basically a quick-fix. It shrouded imperfections. It turned a special piece into a falsely perfect product. Therefore, to be sincere, you are without wax … even if it isn’t always pretty, perfect or reflects what perfectionist images you have in your head.”

And so making the perfect John Calvin disc meant being far from perfect.

“I am proud of this album because it is, for the most part, simple and sincere,” he said. “Most of my recordings before this point were lacking in depth, in my opinion. Not that Wish Alloy was a bad record — it was lacking a cohesive factor and was, in a large sense, chaotic.

Without Wax was a way for me to write songs regardless of my abilities or knowledge of songwriting, and open up a little more on tape.”

A swell of collaborations and time spent listening to locals like Camille Harp, The Damn Quails and John Fullbright shaped Without Wax musically.

“Honestly, this album is a product of dipping myself into the Red Dirt and folk scene,” Calvin said. “I found myself listening to lots of ambient and instrumental hip-hop tracks to keep myself from being too influenced, but it happened too late.”

Even as he releases Without Wax Thursday at Kamp’s and kicks off a tour in support of the record with Oklahoma City folk outfit Young Readers, he’s already got his sights set on recording his first proper full-length album, due sometime next year.

He’s sure there will be plenty of change between now and that not-yet-determined date — a feeling with which the ever-growing artist is all too familiar.

“Lyrically, Without Wax is about achieving the means to move about in the world, about the fears of living, the near-constant re-evaluation of oneself, and being honest,” Calvin said. “Like I said, this is something I wrote
to be sincere. These are songs about my life, not songs I just wrote.”

Hey! Read This:
Camille Harp interview   
• The Damn Quails interview  
John Fullbright interview   

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