There’s the gently jangling production of Jamie Candiloro; the singer’s spiritual lyrics, rooted in his Christian faith and a synthesis of other beliefs; and the appearance of vocalist Rachael Yamagata and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck on three tracks: “Supernatural Fire,” “All That I Wanted” and “Holy Water Tears.”
But there are bigger, albeit unseen, influences at work here, says Kowalczyk, 42 — his three daughters and baby Paul, born in August.
“With every kid, there has just been a deepening of my humanity, because there’s no more of a feet-on-the-ground moment than having a child,” says the family man, who plays Café Du Nord in San Francisco today.
Fatherhood has forever changed him as a writer. “There’s the beauty of it, the extraordinary depth of it, and all the challenges of it,” he says. “The fact that you’re taking care of these vulnerable creatures, these new people, is amazing. And when I listen to the music, particularly in my solo career, I can feel that change.”
Some lessons Kowalczyk has learned from his children are visceral, “Little Prince”-metaphysical.
“They bring you back to that place of innocence — they’ll just glance at you, and you’ll get this feeling of purity and joy that’s so inspiring,” he says. “And it makes you want to get back to that place, however you do it. For me, it’s through music, and that’s been a lot of my life — just trying to cultivate that joy again.”
It’s one of the reasons he works with the charity World Vision, helping provide clean water for kids in Africa.
Dad gets constructive input from his oldest daughter, Anna, 12, already taking drama classes. At home in Connecticut, he played her and her 9-year-old sister every “Flood” demo and carefully weighed their opinions.
“If they like it, they’ll tell me — they’re really honest,” he says. “But a big tell-tale sign that I’ve done well is when I catch my eldest just singing the melody around the house.”
In return, Kowalczyk has taught his offspring to follow their artistic passion, no matter what. That philosophy led to his departure from the hugely successful Live in 2009.
After two decades together, he says, “I just wasn’t having fun anymore. So I decided to make a radical change, grab an acoustic guitar and make a solo record. And immediately, I felt reinvigorated. I did what I needed to do to get that mojo back.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $30 to $35
Contact: (415) 861-5016, www.ticketweb.com