HANCOCK — With the May 8 release of his second album, “Halfway to Wonderland,” Chris Ross will be well on his way to meeting a major goal.
“In the end, I want to be known as a songwriter,” he said in a recent interview at his home in Hancock.
The 10 original songs on “Halfway to Wonderland,” as well as the 11 original tunes he released last year on his widely acclaimed debut album, “The Steady Stumble,” will earn Ross the recognition he covets among music fans who hear the recordings.
He wrote the songs on “Steady Stumble” over a two-month period of intense creativity.
“This time, I knew I wanted another record in a year,” Ross said. “The plan was to write slowly over a year. It didn’t happen.”
He said a busy summer performing and promoting his first recording didn’t allow the down time he needs to write.
“You need to get in the zone because it’s a really personal thing,” he said of his songwriting style.
Two songs on “Wonderland” — “Maybe It’s Me” and “She Never Stays Gone” — were written soon after Ross recorded his first album in Nashville in April 2011.
That was followed by a four- to five-month drought, Ross said.
“I wasn’t pushing myself to do it,” he added. “I presumed it would work itself out.”
Last October, he traveled to Nashville, not to record, but to enjoy the city and do some writing. At least, that was the plan.
Back in Maine last November, Ross came to a startling realization.
“I have two songs, and I want to make my second record in March,” he lamented at the time.
With that, he wrote “Your America” and was pleased with the breakthrough in his writing process, believing the song signaled a string of new songs to come.
“Fallin’ Apart” and “Lost in Love” followed in early January. He added “Mostly Sober” to his list of new songs, but in February, the outlook was cloudy.
“I already booked the studio for March 26, and I had six songs written,” he said. “It was becoming stressful.”
He then took a few weeks off from playing gigs to concentrate on writing before heading to Nashville to record.
“A week before leaving, I was spending a lot of time angry at myself, trying to write six to eight hours a day and having nothing come of it.”
He shifted his thinking to focus on making a record and what it needs in terms of songs.
“It needed something with energy, something with wheels,” he said. “I sat down and said, ‘Write a fun song.’ It turned into ‘Jack and Jill (Bottom of My Grave).’ It’s not from personal experience, or someone else’s experience. It’s freeing, where you get to invent a story.”
He arrived in Nashville four days before he was scheduled to go into the studio. He wanted 10 songs on the new recording, but had written only eight.
“I was going a little insane,” he said. “I was considering putting a cover song on the record, but it would feel like a filler.”
He then completed “You Oughta Be,” a song he had started in October while visiting Nashville.
“Now, two days before going to the studio and I needed one more song,” he said.
The day before his scheduled studio date, he wrote “I Lied.”
“I wrote that song and exhaled like I’ve never exhaled before in my life,” he said. “I don’t want to do that to myself again, but we’ll see.”
Most listeners will never know the painstaking process that produced the songs on “Halfway to Wonderland,” but old fans and new listeners alike will applaud the results.
The songs on “Wonderland” offer 10 more examples of Ross’s exquisite lyrics, his soulful voice and the first-rate studio musicians who record with him.
“This is a thicker record,” Ross said of his new work.
Indeed, the addition of a B3 organ and backup vocals on “Fallin’ Apart,” as well as a lot more from fiddler Tammy Rogers adds density to the music.
For information and links to songs from the new record go to www.chrisross.net.
What: CD Release Party for Chris Ross’s new recording “Halfway to Wonderland.”
When: Friday, May 18, at 9:30 p.m.
On Sale: “Halfway to Wonderland” is sold at Pat’s Pizza in Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, Chummies in Ellsworth, Bull Moose Music stores, Global Beverage Warehouse in Ellsworth and iTunes.