Timothy Monger's first music video conjures serenity, septic-tank legend


"It’s more personal than anything I’ve ever done," said singer-songwriter Timothy Monger about his latest album, Amber Lantern, in a February 2017 interview with Pulp.

It's also Monger's loveliest album, which includes two records with his former band, Great Lakes Myth Society, and two solo LPs, 2011's The New Britton Sound and 2004's Summer Cherry Ghosts.

Though Amber Lantern came out 10 months ago, Monger recently teamed up with director Brian Lillie to produce a video for "Hayward," one of the LP's most beautiful songs. "A video is something I've thought about doing for many years, but somehow never made a priority until this year," Monger wrote on his website.

We asked Monger about the making of "Hayward," the singing septic-tank man who loaned him a canoe, and what's behind the "Surf & Turf" show he's playing on Sunday, Nov. 5, with fellow Washtenaw County singer-songwriter Dave Boutette at Old Town Tavern.

Q: You described "Hayward" as the centerpiece of Amber Lantern. What makes it so and what is the song's origin?
A: Aside from "Hayward" falling literally in the center of the album -- it's the last song on side one -- it evokes the feelings and tones I most wanted to express with Amber Lantern. There are moments of intense soul-searching and some dark turns throughout the album, but ultimately I wanted the central theme to be about hope and wonder. "Hayward" is a romance with a late-August mood and a lot of love to give. It takes place in that enchanting harvest time between summer and fall. It was inspired by a wonderful trip my girlfriend and I took many years ago to Hayward, Wisconsin, to visit her brother's cottage on the Chippewa Flowage.

Timothy Monger by Doug Coombe; Surf & Turf poster by Jenny Harley

Timothy Monger by Doug Coombe; Surf & Turf poster by Jenny Harley.

Q: Which lake in Brighton did you film it at? Was it a favorite from when you grew up there?
A: I grew up in a house bordering the expansive Brighton Recreation Area, which is a very special place to me. We filmed the band scenes at the edge of the forest behind my parents' house and the rest was shot on Appleton Lake just a few miles away. Somehow, in all our years of hiking and exploring this area, no one in my family had ever been to Appleton Lake. My director Brian Lillie and I stumbled on it rather by accident while scouting a different lake. It has now become my dad's regular fishing hole.

Q: Was the video inspired by any other music videos or films?
A: The reason I didn't make a video until 20 years into my career is probably because I just don't ever watch them. So I can't say it was influenced by anything else. I just wanted something tranquil and pastoral. I could zone out to nature programs all day and be happy!

Q: The video's credits say you borrowed the canoe from Jack Spack. Is this the same guy who cleans out septic tanks? We had a guy named Jack Spack clean ours last week -- and he came recommended to us by, like, 27 people. He's a septic-tank legend.
A: Yes, that is the very same Jack Spack! Not only is he a septic legend, but he is one the coolest guys I've ever met and a really good friend. He's also a great singer! Jack Spack prank calls me once a week. He yells, "Sweetberry wine!" and hangs up.

Q: What's the Surf & Turf concert you're doing at Old Town on Sunday?
A: The "Hayward" video and Surf & Turf have little to do with each other -- other than an affinity for water and land. It's a wonderful tradition that Dave Boutette and I conceived five years ago where I would get license to play nothing but sea chanteys and maritime-themed songs (Surf) and Dave would dig into his extensive collection of cowboy and Western tunes (Turf). Despite growing up in landlocked Livingston County, I have always had an obsession with songs of the sea. I remember hearing Dave break into an old Tex Ritter classic at a show years ago and the decision was made to unite our two disparate song banks into an annual pairing. Old Town Tavern has been our gracious host each year and the wonderful Jenny Harley has designed a set of exceedingly clever posters.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

Timothy Monger and Dave Boutette team up for their fifth annual "Surf & Turf" concert at Old Town Tavern, 122 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Free, 8-10 pm.