With nearly half a million album sales to date and over a year since his last proper album, anticipation is at a fever pitch for Ace Enders’ upcoming disc When I Hit the Ground (Drive-Thru Records/Vagrant). The project comes on the heels of being the famed front man for alt-rock innovators The Early November, followed by 2008’s individual online offering The Secret Wars and spearheading a cover The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” for VH1’s “Save the Music” foundation (backed by members of Blink 182, Chiodos, The Starting Line, The Rocket Summer and many more).
“My outlook on music right now is I’m really psyched,” offers Enders of the remarkable streak that’s led him to this second solo endeavor (and first split available via both digital and physical contexts). “I’ve literally watched the whole indie/alternative scene change right in front of my eyes from the time I first started until now. When you turn on the radio, I hear everybody I either listened to on the underground growing up or people I’ve played with. And I’ve also found our fans growing up right alongside of us, which really helps us all stay on the same page.”
Outside of connecting with his current crowd, When I Hit the Ground is indeed an album destined to expand the ambitious entertainers’ audience. Not only did Enders leave every last drop of energy on the creative canvas, but he explodes with gut-wrenching honesty and unparallel relatibility, wrapped around contagious choruses and chord structures.
“I think old school bands like Jets to Brazil influenced me to have integrity in what I’m doing and to play music for the right reasons,” notices Enders, simultane-ously citing that act and Jimmy Eat World as stylistic muses. “They didn’t sell out and it’s not about looking cool, making money or trying to capitalize on some rock star image. Nowadays you have these young bands who get into music simply so they can party, and I’m not knocking partying, but it’s not what I’m based around. It goes a lot deeper than the surface stuff.”
Take for instance the lead single “The Only Thing I Have (The Sign),” which chronicles Enders’ coming of age voyage with heart on sleeve transparency. “It’s about the journey I’ve been on the last couple of years in comparison to the dream I had when I was young,” he explains. “It’s basically a metaphor for everything you want to do in life-the ups and downs of the journey- and admitting to being a little confused and lost. But it’s seriously all good. Things are awesome on my end getting ready to release this record and I hate to sound like a complainer!”
Though Enders runs the emotional gamut from heartbreak to hope, he certainly sees the glass half full across the infectious title track, which initially addresses hitting rock bottom, but then picking up the pieces to hit the ground running. There’s also the unavoidable sing-a-long “Take the Money and Run,” which alludes to the high octane approach of his days in The Early November.
“I’ll always appreciate that band- what happened and what we went through- but we started so young and our minds wound up in different places,” he contends. “We had a six year span of being a professional touring band all growing up and going in different directions in the process. I can’t blame anything but the fact it was time to go our separate ways and everybody’s much happier now. We all still hang out and catch up on stuff, but it was just the right time to end.”
Given the amicable split and Enders’ continued interest in the material, he’ll continue performing a handful of that act’s tracks in concert. But he’s also excited to unveil a brand new band of backers dubbed A Million Different People (think the Ryan Adams & the Cardinals dynamic), who appear on both the album and the singers’ live dates (unless he’s doing a solo acoustic show).
“With the shows, we try to make it so you can take something away from the night, whether it be the vibe or something really specific to remember,” Enders confirms of the collaborative experience with A Million Different People. “People spend their hard earned money on a show and we take that very seriously. We have a good time and have a great dynamic, but we also have a message to send and we respect our audience. Hopefully they’ll leave knowing that we appreciate every second of our time together and that they’ll leave with something positive.”
Thus far the troupe’s earned tremendous fanfare on tour, especially alongside the lauded likes of Angels & Airwaves and Hellogoodbye. The experience of joining such prominent bills led Enders to see many familiar fan faces, but also expand the listening pool well beyond his original audience. Adds Enders: “We’ve played a lot of really big rooms that were sold out every night, plus both of those band’s fans were really friendly and receptive.”
But more than merely packing out venues and attracting throngs of attention, Enders seeks a sincere connection with those he meets along the way. He views When I Hit the Ground as a prime catalyst for that exchange and hopes it will ultimately be recognized for its personal risks and artistic strides.
“I would like to see it ultimately help people, that’s my number one goal,” Enders verifies. “And after that, I want it to be looked at like something I put a lot of effort into. I actually recorded three albums this year, but this is the one coming out because I didn’t want to just release anything. It’s gotta be the right one and I hope people recognize it as the piece of art it’s intended to be.”