Boston-based indie-folk singer-songwriter Spencer LaJoye (they/them) is set to release their new album, Shadow Puppets, independently on February 16, 2024. After a recent name change, Shadow Puppets is their first full-length album under their new name. Childhood memories, family patterns, shame, and desire form a cast of colorful characters in this 12-track tale of a formerly closeted queer kid from Southwest Michigan. The album was produced, engineered, and mixed by Chris DuPont in Ypsilanti, MI, and is a clever, synth-guided and lyric-driven departure from some of LaJoye’s more universally anthemic offerings.
“I decided the album should be called Shadow Puppets because so many of the songs seemed to capture shadows from my past in sort of whimsical, friendly ways,” LaJoye explains. “When we make shadow puppets, we need a little distance from the light source in order to make a shape that makes sense; if we’re too close to the flame, we just cast a big daunting shadow. I think it’s the same with our relationship to our personal pasts. With a little distance, shadowy shapes become clearer and more manageable.”
LaJoye plans several singles in advance of the album release. The first single and title track, “Shadow Puppets,” will be released on November 17th, and the song premiered a few days prior at Glide Magazine, who praised LaJoye’s “…rich storytelling and lush folk… With vocals that are warm, inviting, and heartfelt, Spencer sets the stage for what’s to come with vivid lyrical character studies that feel autobiographical but also representative of both ourselves and those we have known.” Single two, “How Are You,” a nod to the realization that we all become like our parents in some ways eventually, will be released on January 12th, with the song premiering the day before at Under the Radar. “Someday You’ll Wake Up Okay,” a message to LaJoye’s younger self that things eventually turned out okay, is the third single, and it will be released on February 9th, with the song premiering two days prior to that at Chorus.fm.
Joining LaJoye (who played acoustic guitar, some piano, and some violin on the album) and DuPont (who played electric guitars, synths, and some piano on the album) were Billy Harrington on drums, Katie Larson on cello, Sav Buist on violin and viola, and Spencer Mackey provided guest vocals on one song. Buist and Larson arranged the strings.
LaJoye is a classically trained violinist with a proclivity for Broadway vocals, and a student of Americana music with a theology degree hanging in their studio. They’ve been writing and touring their own autobiographical folk-pop music for over a decade, but the virality of their 2021 anthem “Plowshare Prayer” secured them a permanent place in hearts and households across the world, as well as a peculiar career as a veracious songsmith with an unshakeable pastoral presence.
LaJoye has a lengthy catalog of recorded music documenting their journey from Christianity through disillusionment, the earliest EP of which won the 2014 WYCE Jammie Award for Listener’s Choice in Grand Rapids, MI. However, after coming out as gender nonbinary and finding peace as a post-Christian, LaJoye changed their name and released Remember the Oxygen, a four-song EP featuring the Denver String Machine with arrangements by China Kent. The collection includes two songs that won LaJoye a place among the winners of the 2021 Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition.
After appearing as an official showcase artist at Folk Alliance International 2023, LaJoye released Plant a Piano, a solo EP of vocally theatrical piano ballads about decay, change, and beauty. As LaJoye’s first effort following the highly anticipated and mammoth studio recording of “Plowshare Prayer,” this stark piano EP was an invitation for eager listeners to get up close and personal with LaJoye and the craft of one song by one voice.
Charming and banter-heavy, LaJoye’s live performances at theaters, listening rooms, church sanctuaries, backyards, folk festivals, spiritual conferences, and queer clubs keep diverse audiences laughing one moment and weeping the next. With a coy smile, a wink to the back row, and carefree expertise, LaJoye spins their crystalline vocals through a loop pedal while strumming a weathered acoustic guitar. “I don’t believe in much anymore,” they announce to teary-eyed audiences, “except a little bit of everything. And you. And me. And that art can change the world simply by making us feel something.” LaJoye already has some tour dates on the books (see below), and more will be added to promote Shadow Puppets. Fans eager to see LaJoye live are encouraged to check their website and follow them on social media to see updates on tour plans.
“After my previous anthemic releases under this new name, I’m really trusting my audience members to expand with me into heavily autobiographical queer territory with this project,” LaJoye says. “My goal with these songs is to offer some character development for myself after a couple years of releasing music that has felt like a raising of the curtain on this ‘new me,’ so to speak. Previous projects have said, ‘Here I am! My name is Spencer!’ This album gets into the nitty gritty of my past, and I think my audience is going to rise to the challenge of plunging into the detailed depths with me.”
Spencer LaJoye 2024 Tour Dates:
February 21 – 24: Folk Alliance International, Kansas City, MO
February 28 – March 3: Listening Room Festival, St. Petersburg, FL