Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Ari Hest

Death. Taxes. And an original Ari Hest song at the end of every week.

Those were the certainties of the past year, when singer-songwriter Ari Hest battened down for his uber-ambitious “52” project, penning a new original track per week for a faithful fan following. Now, after successfully ending the endeavor, Hest is releasing the 12 best tracks from that time span as voted by his fans in a collection called 12 Mondays. PressPass

Death. Taxes. And an original Ari Hest song at the end of every week.

Those were the certainties of the past year, when singer-songwriter Ari Hest battened down for his uber-ambitious “52” project, penning a new original track per week for a faithful fan following. Now, after successfully ending the endeavor, Hest is releasing the 12 best tracks from that time span as voted by his fans in a collection called 12 Mondays.

PressPass

Ari Hest (Photo: Courtesy Seth Cohen PR)

Like many music projects, “52” was born out of a bad relationship — only this one was with a record company rather than a lover.

“I was with Columbia Records for a few years and I was frustrated with how little they were putting out of my music,” says the Brooklyn based bard. “I figured since I was leaving anyhow … I decided to do something kind of crazy and it worked out.”

Some writers slave endlessly on a single track, but Hest was kicking out recordings on a strict deadline, which meant pressure to write, but also pressure to self-produce the track from his modest do-it-yourself home studio. While some were simple recordings on an acoustic guitar or piano, others were more in-depth.

“There were some days when all I tried to do was get a good mix,” Hest says. While Hest admits the results varied from week to week — he jokingly labeled one instrumental track “yoga studio” music — he was happy overall with most of the finished products. Of particular note is the stirring whisper of “Broken Voices,” sung over the plaintive cry of pedal steel.

Though Hest found success in such a sound, he was eager to steer clear of stagnation and often turned in a distinctly different direction the following week, which accounts for tunes like the soulful southern tones of “Dead End Driving” among the eclectic mix of tunes on 12 Mondays.

“I think when some people hear about the project they think it’s kind of monotonous, but I just felt like I wanted to outdo what I did each week. And if I was proud of something I would try to immediately try to forget about it and move on,” Hest says.

But there was also the problem of finding suitable material for his music, and that meant finding a steady stream of inspiration. In the process, Hest found himself coming out of his social shell a little bit, if only for the duration of the project. “I had to immerse myself in more social interaction than I’m comfortable with. That seemed to work out. If my life was boring one week, I would think about those other people or a feeling that anyone could experience. It was interesting how easy it was to find lyrics,” he says. “I don’t think I changed much. At the end [of the project] I was waiting to do something each week and nothing would come out and I kind of got a little depressed. I don’t know if it really changed me. I just looked at it as a specific time period.”

Even before the release of 12 Mondays, the venture has been a successful one for Hest, signing up over 1,000 subscribers to a Web site where listeners could snag each of the 52 tracks as he completed them. It also caught the attention of some artists who asked to work with him as a result. More than anything it drove home Hest’s belief that he did the right thing in bailing on his record deal with Columbia.

“With Columbia everything I made was filtered through 10 different people who talked about how it was going to fit and all this crap and it took so long. And lately I haven’t seen the proof that labels can really help me. Sure I’d like my records distributed, but I’m selling more online anyway. I’m doing the things they would do and I’m doing them quicker and more efficiently.

“Every little opportunity that comes up, I look into. I don’t think there was someone there doing that. I think they were picking and choosing what was best for the label and then thought of me afterwards. I know I have my best interests in mind and I’m not sure they did. So, I’m happy it’s over.”

• Ari Hest performs at The Barns at Wolf Trap on Oct. 23 at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.arihest.com.