As pandemic spring turned to pandemic summer, Lehigh Valley-rooted singer-songwriter Jay Carlis released Here We Are, a contemplative but ultimately poppy and uplifting collection of songs about finding one’s place in the world.

This week, Carlis discussed the album, and his creative background, in an appearance on the Philadelphia music podcast 25 O’Clock.

He describe his formative years to host Dan Drago, speaking of a circle of friends carrying acoustic guitars everywhere they went, settling in for pickup song circles for hours on end. “We learned so much from each other, and pushed each other,” Carlis recalls. “And that’s really when I learned to play.”

Flash forward almost 20 years to the pandemic lockdown, and Carlis talks about his latest exercise in pushing himself — picking up a loop pedal to jam along to when he couldn’t get together with his bandmates in The Barrell Fires.

Carlis also talks about Here We Are, and how its songs reflect ongoing shifts in the world around us — something he’s been seeing since the Bethlehem of his youth struggled through the initial decades in the wake of its shuttered industry. “Mack Trucks left, Bethlehem Steel was gone…and you could see the downtown trying to figure out what it was,” he recalls. With even more upheaval in 2020, Carlis writes songs about characters coming to terms with a changing world, learning to let go of the past and go with the flow of the present, with songs like “Change My Mind” culminating in that true-happiness-lies-within realization.

Listen to Carlis’ chat with Drago on 25 O’Clock below, stream Here We Are, and grab a download of the project on Bandcamp.