Well known for his clever and humorous songwriting, folk singer John Craigie kicks it up another notch on his seventh studio album, Asterisk the Universe. With influence from Bob Dylan and frequent collaborator Jack Johnson, the record takes on a form that is both witty and uplifting.

On “Don’t Ask,” which first appeared on his 2018 record Scarecrow, he remains optimistic while musing over life’s changes: “That old cocoon is dead and gone / I ain’t old, baby I’m brand new.” The track gained more energy between the two albums, through performances with the Rainbow Girls in the summer of 2019.

“I still wasn’t sure when I went in the studio if I’d actually use it,” says Craigie. “I just sort of said, ‘Well, if it’s hot, then it’ll be hot.’”

Over a laid back, slinky groove, “Climb Up” champions the common man,: (“We gotta climb up / Oh, if we wanna bring ‘em down.”) Recorded live with friends in his California living room, Craigie attributes the jam session at the end of the song to the improvisational environment of the room.

“The verse starts when I start singing basically, and the song stops when I kind of give the look, and so that’s all we really had,” says Craigie. “It was really fun to just sort of see how those things fleshed out.”

A departure from Scarecrow’s singer-songwriter genre, Craigie included elements of Motown soul on Asterisk, thanks to the artists surrounding him during the recording process.

“It’s really all about who you choose to be around,” says Craigie. “I think sometimes it’s just like chemistry: you put everything in the pot, and you see what comes out. We had no idea what kind of album this would be until we started playing and the sound was there.”