Nashville, Tenn. • Singer John McCauley of the rock band Deer Tick figured out how to turn his pain into something positive.
McCauley used the Rhode Island-based band’s latest album, “Negativity,” to unleash some of the frustrations and struggles he has had over the past couple of years into a polished and refined sound that mixes country, folk and rock.
His father was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and McCauley was struggling with substance abuse. The album includes several references to McCauley’s experiences, as painful as they were.
“People take comfort in knowing either A, somebody is going through something similar to what they went through, or B, somebody’s got it worse off than they do,” McCauley said during a recent interview. “I am guilty of both of those things when I listen to music.”
Now he says he’s cleaned up and feeling excited about the future. McCauley and singer Vanessa Carlton are planning a wedding at the end of December, just before the band is scheduled to start a European tour.
The couple recorded a duet on the album, called “In Our Time,” which McCauley wrote about his own parents.
“We met through Patrick Hallahan, from My Morning Jacket. He introduced us after I went on Vanessa’s Twitter and said, ‘Hey, VC, let’s get a beer,’ ” McCauley said. “I had just figured out how to use Twitter, so I was really proud of myself.”
The band recorded the album with producer Steve Berlin, from Los Lobos, who pushed the members to focus on instrumentation and added new layers to their songs without losing the rawness for which the group is known, McCauley said.
“This is the first record that we’ve put out where we actually rehearsed every single song on the record, so we’re actually kind of proud of this one,” McCauley said. “We go out onstage every night, just a little bit more aware of our surroundings and what our equipment does than we have in the past.”