February 2020 was supposed to mark a turning point for Chicago rock band The Million Reasons as they released the new video “If Not for the Fire” and played a show at Martyrs’, both introducing lead singer Taylor Brennan as the newest member of the pack. The fivesome — Brennan, along with Colin Dill, Jason Cillo, Mike Nichols and Ken Ugel — also dropped four new songs.
But then COVID hit.
After weathering the next two years writing new music, revamping and rejuvenating some pre-COVID tunes and creating a new home for the four songs on that 2020 EP, The Million Reasons found a “Haven.”
“At the high level, it’s about one’s journey through highs and lows, no matter the obstacles, no matter the duration of the tumult,” said Brennan, who was responsible for most of the lyricism on the album. “Haven is the place where you finally feel safe. The place where you finally feel home. The place where you finally feel better. The place where you finally feel like ‘you.'”
The culmination of two years of remote creation — during which bass player Nichols moved away to be replaced by Denis Cheng for most live performances — the 11-song release captures the spirit that built momentum for The Million Reasons before the pandemic, while also exploring new musical ground.
Brennan said “Haven” includes some of the most personal songs he’s ever written, springing from struggles he and the band were experiencing at the time. Psychological highs and lows, frustration with communication and the trials of remotely crafting music while also trying to gel as a band are woven through the album.
Intermittently injecting pop and progressive vibes into the classic-rock songs, the music written and recorded by Cillo, Schaumburg’s Ugel, Lake Bluff native Dill, Nichols and Cheng drives the arena-ready sound of both the new and revamped tunes. And while the pieces fit together like a puzzle, each has its own story to tell, hitting listeners in different ways, from the dancing guitars of the sunny “1985” to the beautiful and heart-wrenching “No North Star.”
“I got into playing music to try and connect with people the same way that reflected how my favorite artists have always made me feel,” Brennan said. “I hope my lyrics make people feel seen and understood. I hope someone hears ‘If Not for the Fire’ and asks themselves ‘What lights me up? What inspires and excites me?’ And then they go get it. I hope people hear the love songs and think either ‘I have this, I’m so lucky,’ or ‘I won’t settle for anything less than how this guy feels for his person. I’m going to live that way.’ I hope people hear ‘Shine On’ and want to run through a wall.”