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Austin's Dayglow on '80s sitcoms, Mr. Rogers and making music that uplifts people

Austin indie-rock artist Dayglow, also known as Sloan Struble, in the Austin360 studios on Feb. 18, 2020, shortly before he headed out on a tour cut short by the pandemic. “I'm excited. It just feels like a new chapter starting,” he said last week about his new album and 2021 tour plans.

Before Sloan Struble left for his 2020 tour, he unearthed an old volume of poetry that belonged to his great-grandmother. 

The chart-burning pop wunderkind also known as Dayglow found the collection at his family home in the Fort Worth suburb, Aledo. He was searching for something to read on the bus as he shuttled between sold-out dates supporting “Fuzzybrain,” a sunny collection of buoyant pop songs he wrote during his senior year in high school. 

Things did not unfold as planned. 

A few weeks later, on the way back from Chicago, heading home from a tour canceled by a pandemic and an uncertain future, he read a line from the volume that resonated with him: “So my friend, you just remember, every year has its December.”

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He thought about how life has seasons. It felt like an apt metaphor for the moment. When he returned home, he wrote the track “December” in “maybe 10 minutes just sitting at my Wurlitzer,” he said during an episode of Austin360’s streaming show the Monday Music Mashup. “And (I) just felt like this relief and new perspective on this year of solitary confinement.” 

The track is one of many soothing tunes that coax the listener to shake off the darkness on Struble’s new album “Harmony House,” a gloriously retro collection of upbeat therapy pop that includes the viral sensation “Close To You.”

Now spring has sprung, the pandemic is easing in the U.S., the album drops May 21 and Struble is feeling “super stoked,” he said. 

“I'm excited. It just feels like a new chapter starting,” he said.   

At 21, Struble is not a “wise old man or something,” but he’s also no longer the high school kid who wrote “Fuzzybrain.” 

“I've grown up a lot and changed a lot,” he said. “And I think a cool thing about my music is, (the songs) are kind of just like time pieces of who I am at that time. So I think listeners will get to experience me growing up not just as a person, but also as an artist.”

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Struble initially conceptualized “Harmony House” as an imaginary sitcom about his life, which had taken a strange turn with the smashing success of “Fuzzybrain.”

“It kind of felt, you know, like ‘The Truman Show’ or something, or like I'm being watched,” he said. “I'm just a normal person, you know, living my day to day life. And suddenly, people really cared what I had to say. And it took me some time to process that.”

At the same time, Struble had been listening to a lot of yacht rock and immersing himself in the soft piano pop of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He liked the musical interludes and theme music of classic sitcoms like "Cheers."  

But the Dayglow sitcom is not centered on a Ted Danson-esque aging womanizer and wacky barroom hijinks. Instead, Struble takes inspiration from another well-known TV personality, Fred Rogers, who for three decades spread a message of kindness and compassion with his preschool show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”   

“He had one of the coolest approaches to making content and media,” Struble said. He says today’s content creators can learn from the way Rogers incorporated the audience as a character in his show. 

“There's this really new, like, emphasis on accountability in your platform, which I think is a really amazing, awesome thing,” Struble said. “I just want to make sure that the way that I use my platform uplifts people.”  

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A lot of today’s music seems “very ego boosting,” he said.  

“It's fun to pump yourself up, but it seems like we're getting a lot of that and I want my music to kind of feel more communal, like it encourages you to love your neighbor, you know, in a very pop way.”

Next week, Struble will bring his feel-good pop sounds to “Austin City Limits” as he tapes an episode May 25 for the show’s 47th season. 

Though he’s already put in spots on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the upcoming “ACL” appearance feels “really, really surreal,” he said.

“I can't really wrap my head around it. I feel like I'm gonna play and walk away and still not think that it happened,” he said.  

Playing the storied Austin TV series has been a “dream of mine for I don't know, I guess my entire life,” he said.  

“I just assumed there's no way it could happen. It just feels so unattainable.” 

Now it will be his first live show after a year off.  

“('Austin City Limits') is pretty iconic, and pretty scary. So I'm kind of scared to be honest, but I'm excited,” he said. “It's gonna be cool.”

Fans can tune into the live stream of the show at 8 p.m. May 25 on acltv.com