For the bulk of his career, acclaimed artist, writer and producer David Hodges has found success in the collective work of helping collaborators to shape ideas and messages into songs — as part of the 2000s hitmaking rock outfit Evanescence, as a hitmaking songwriter and with co-writers on more than a dozen of his own solo projects.
As an early member of Evanescence, David Hodges co-wrote many of the songs on the group’s 2003 debut album Fallen, including the top five Billboard Hot 100 smash “Bring Me to Life.” After leaving the group before Fallen was released, the two-time Grammy winner has spent the better part of the past two decades cementing himself as a key element in the creation of numerous hits, writing on Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You,” Ed Sheeran’s “2 Step” and “Afterglow,” Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” and “There’s a Place for Us” and Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More.” He’s also worked with Celine Dion, the Backstreet Boys, Daughtry, Jason Mraz, Avril Lavigne and more.
But on his upcoming, 23-song, two-part double album, The Unattainable/The Unavoidable (out Friday, Sept. 15), Hodges tenders frank vulnerability as he unveils more than ever of his own recent journey.
With The Unattainable/The Unavoidable, Hodges unflinchingly traces his love-loss-love story, excavating every turn of emotions along the way. On the album’s first half, The Unattainable, songs such as “Waves” and “The Man Who Makes Mistakes” chronicle Hodges’ divorce, while The Unavoidable features songs including “Still Be You” and “You Go First” that focus on the early embers of healing and embracing new love.
“When I’m working with artists to develop a whole album, I’m always thinking of sister songs on a record,” says Hodges, who is managed by Lucas Keller’s Milk & Honey and published by Kobalt. “They may not have the same instrumentation or be next to each other on a record, but there’s something that links these two songs together in a broader perspective. So as this album was coming together, it kind of naturally fell into these buckets of going into a valley and coming up from a valley.”
The project’s fulcrum and title track, which Hodges wrote with Drew Kennedy, serves as a musical bridge connecting the two sides of the project. Kennedy presented the idea of writing and positioning lyrics that tell one story when read straight through but tell the opposite story when read in reverse. “At the end, we had this finished piece of art, and you look at those lines differently when you see them in the context of how what comes before, what comes after it,” Hodges says.
He wrote “I’m Around” with Donovan Woods, about the willingness to still support an ex-lover, as he sings, “I might have left your life/ But I didn’t leave town.”
“There’s so much detail about a specific moment,” Hodges says. “That’s what I love about this project — it’s not just about a breakup. This song is about six months after the breakup, you’re still healing from the wounds, but there is also still a real love and care for each other that supersedes current feelings.”
“When it comes to you, emotions flow in twos/ Yellows to saddest blue,” he sings in “Emily,” one of Hodges’ seven solo writes on the album, and a track inspired in part by the Pixar movie Inside Out.
“In Inside Out, Joy is yellow and Sadness is blue and one of the lessons in the movie is that as you grow up, your memories are rarely just one emotion. This song is about thinking back on the relationship, and it’s not all blue and not all yellow. I felt like that song captured a sense of feeling like, ‘We can still look back fondly on some of that stuff, but all of it’s gonna have a bit of a blue tint to it.’”
Overall, the process reminded Hodges of his love for full-length projects, even in an era where streaming and social media places the focus on individual songs.
“I miss the focus on album-making, because the single is the driver for so much art. It’s a unique challenge to have such a finite space to work in. Especially in pop music, when you crack the code, it feels great to make something compelling within this small framework. But making this album reminded me again how much I like long attention spans. When Olivia Rodrigo’s “Vampire” first released, a buddy of mine was asking me about it and I was like, ‘I’m going to try my best to wait until the album is out to hear anything beyond “Vampire,” because I want to know what each of these songs mean in the context of the bigger story she’s telling.’ I don’t know Olivia or if she is drawn to that long-form storytelling — but artists like Billie Eilish, Adele, Ed Sheeran, you can tell they are thinking in terms of this longer storytelling. I love to embrace a whole piece of art.”
Though Hodges is one in a lengthy line of hit songwriters to also issue their own albums — including recent offerings from country songcrafters Lori McKenna and Ross Copperman — he notes the new album is also a heartening prospect for his fellow songwriters.
“I love my job of songwriting, of helping artists tell their stories,” Hodges says. “But it’s also personally rewarding for me to have a body of work that I can say is really mine. I’ve been surprised by how many songwriter friends of mine have reached out to me and said, ‘I’ve been sitting on a collection of songs for years and watching you put out your own music reminded me that I should, too.’ I would love for every songwriter to put out their own music as well; it becomes a calling card for you as a writer, too.”