The irony of David Ramirez’s latest album “We’re Not Going Anywhere” is that he and his band did the opposite in recording it: They went somewhere.
The Austin-based singer-songwriter and bandmates traveled to rural Maine in the dead of January this year to work with producer Sam Kassirer at his Great North Sound Society near Parsonfield, Maine.
In a month where many Austin musicians are at home and thankful for temperate winters, Ramirez, who performs in Waco on Friday, was in an 18th century farmhouse blanketed by snow and cold, appreciating the change in geography.
“I love destination records. You’re isolated and get to focus on the music,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to work with Sam Kassirer and that’s where his studio happens to be.”
The somewhat removed location provided a bit of distance from the pro- and anti-Trump rallies that accompanied the president’s inauguration that month. Still, several songs in “We’re Not Going Anywhere,” most notably “Stone Age,” address the country’s troubled political climate from the perspective of the Houston-raised Ramirez, whose family has Mexican roots and connections.
Kassirer and the change in locale also brought about a change in sound for Ramirez, a shift closer to a brighter-sounding pop with synthesizer and edgier guitars than the organic, rootsy Americana of previous recordings that highlighted Ramirez’s personal, emotional songwriting.
“There’s a sparkly sheen to (“We’re Not Going”) — that’s kind of the idea to it,” he explained. “I didn’t grow up listening to sad folk artists. I listened to The Cars when I was 10 years old and played their “Greatest Hits” album until I about wore it out.”
Journey and The Police also were in that playlist of youth and their energy and open sound made their way into “We’re Not Going Anywhere,” as did Kassirer’s suggestion that Ramirez produce some songs with fewer words and more band.
The new directions energized Ramirez, who’s looking forward to touring in support of the album, which was released Sept. 8.
“I was listening to the record yesterday. It’s all still really new and fresh for me,” he said. “We’re going to have to rehearse really hard to get it down.”
Part of the need to rehearse comes from a new band lineup forced by life changes. His drummer left to become a barber while his bassist moved to California after he and his wife had a baby. Ramirez, however, is not going anywhere.
His Friday night show at Common Grounds, with Nashville folk-pop singer Molly Parden as opening act, brings him back to family in a couple of ways. There’s the family of Common Grounds staff and fans, whom he grew to know over several years’ worth of shows there, and there’s the family of his younger sister Natalie, a Baylor University grad who presently works at the World Hunger Relief International farm in Waco.
“It’s time to celebrate. I love collaboration a bunch and this is a kind of a party,” he said. “I’m really stoked to come back.”