A number of factors combined to push Philadelphia’s Rosu Lup in a more personal direction on its forthcoming sophomore album, The Ranger, from which the song "Young Love" is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Oct. 24).
Since the ethereal folk duo's 2016 debut album, Is Anything Real, Josh Marsh lost has father after a long battle with ALS, while a very close uncle of bandmate Jonathan Stewart's passed way. "There was a lot that went on in this season of writing," Stewart tells Billboard. "There were a lot of relationships in our lives changing, a lot of very personal things. That's what we wanted to be able to reflect in songs."
That's particularly true of the gentle and wistful, brass-accented "Young Love," which Stewart says was inspired by Marsh's pending divorce.
"It's about being in love with somebody for a long time and then trying to remember what it was like when that was very new," Stewart says. "The content of the song is about Josh specifically being in a relationship that's crumbling, but trying to remember when it was all the really good stuff. People naturally change and evolve and hopefully they evolve together but that's not always the case. He and his wife tried to make it work for a long time, but it's just not there. They fought for it, which is very honorable. So ['Young Love'] is [Marsh] yearning for that great beginning again."
The Ranger is also more sonically robust than its predecessor, something the duo had in mind when it went out to Los Angeles to work with producer James McAlister, who plays drums with Sufjan Stevens and The National. "I think the first record, when we looked back on it a few months after it was done, we thought, 'Hmmm, that doesn't feel like what we wanted it to be,’" Stewart acknowledges. "So on this new record we tried to stay as close and honest to ourselves as possible. [McAlister] had a lot of ideas and brought in a lot of sounds and textures and colors to really flesh these [songs] out. To work with someone of that musical caliber and experience, who can say, 'Hey, we can do something with your songs,' was incredible."
Stewart and Marsh are already writing a new record, but they're also looking forward to playing The Ranger's songs on the road after its Nov. 8 release. Rosu Lup, Romanian for "red wolf,” becomes a tet for live shows and has scheduled release concerts on Nov. 14 in Philadelphia and two days later in Burlington, Vt. After that, Stewart says, "our hope is that we can get some opportunities to open for larger acts, which we've done in the past. We'd really like to be on the road more and playing. You work all this time to put something together — it's been a year and a half on this [album] — and we want to get out and play and see how people hear it and engage. Hopefully that's what's ahead now."