Louis Prince’s debut album Thirteen is out today. The creative project of musician Jake McMullen, Thirteen draws equal inspiration from the lush, ornate world of jazz while recalling the intricate work of Like minded auteurs like Sandro Perri, Nicholas Krgovich, and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar.
This week, Louis Prince shared a beautifully shot live video for the single “The Number Thirteen.” The video was shot just months ago at the beloved Nashville music venue The Basement East, which was badly damaged during this month’s devastating Tennessee tornado event. People can watch the video on YouTube and find links to donate to disaster relief efforts orchestrated by Gideon’s Army and Hands On Nashville in the video description.
An Orange County native at birth raised on a diet of Frank Sinatra, Tom Waits, the Beach Boys, and the Christian music that came with a religious upbringing, McMullen was inspired to pursue music after seeing someone play guitar in a shopping mall: “I was like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest fucking thing in the world,'” he remembers.
For Thirteen, McMullen teamed up with close friend and musician/producer Micah Tawlks to chart a sonic path influenced by his interests, ranging from Ethopian jazz, to the works of jazz masters like Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. “It’s a lot of music without words,” he explains regarding the sounds that inspire him. “Lyrics don’t get to me as much as playing the piano does.”
Besides embodying a nod to the Ethiopian tourist economy slogan “13 months of sunshine,” the title of Thirteen draws from both superstition and tradition: “It feels unlucky, and I like that,” he explains. “I like going against this strange thing that humans treat as voodoo—I want to embrace it.” McMullen explains that the album as a whole represents an attempt to “turn the mirror and examine myself,” and there are evocations of personal pain tucked away into the fluttering woodwinds of opening track “Ten Sprites,” which addresses McMullen’s parents’ divorce and the conflicting feelings about the nature of family that emerged as a result.
“Families are such a weird thing,” he opines. “We’re born into it and responsible for each other. I have a strange issue with commitment, in which I can’t let anybody into my world because it will fuck with making music. If someone else comes in and I wind up falling in love, my music will suffer. I know it’s an irrational fear, but I can’t write it off.” Questions surrounding his own religious upbringing abound, while first single “Half Acres” returns to themes of commitment and validation over sparse synths and twinkling ambience. “The question in the chorus is two-fold,” McMullen explains regarding the song’s central query (“Is it gonna happen for you?”). “Am I ever going to get over this lack of commitment, and does love mean anything to me? Am I willing to try to find it?”
“I want people to care about what I do,” McMullen continues while discussing the essence of creation and what it means to him—and he quickly doubles down on the inquisitiveness that makes Thirteen such a striking listen: “Is it wrong to want that? What is success, and does it mean anything to me?” Although he might have to answer that last one for himself, Thirteen is inarguably the work of a personal triumph—an exciting new voice in indie, colliding fascinating stylistic tics with a yearning to belong in this world that listeners will doubtlessly find relatable.