“Fortune favors the bold.” Corey Stapleton tells Montana Living he practically wears this motto on his sleeve, having gone through quite the life path after serving in the military and then in political office, both as a state senator and Secretary of State. For Stapleton, you’d think this is all small potatoes compared to his true passion: music. The fact that music works in such a freeing way for the former senator couldn’t be more evident on his band The Pretty Pirates’ debut outing, Sea Change, as each song boasts the same mentality as an untroubled ocean surface, just as the album’s title indicates. There’s no strife to be found in the calming melodies and effortless guitar parts here, and for some, all of this music business might be seen as a giant leap for the veteran and former politician. For Stapleton, however, this was always just the next step.

Sea Change arrives at a perfect point in Stapleton’s life: having had the extra time mid-pandemic to pursue more than a fleeting foray into the therapeutic act of songwriting, Stapleton quickly found himself with an entire album’s worth of songs on his hands. Enlisting a great team to help his novice intentions reach expert heights, it wasn’t long until the proof began to make itself known. Listeners will instantly connect with the magic within Sea Change as each song lifts melodies in subtle and unheard-of ways straight from Stapleton to the audience; there’s never a sense of urgency, but the certainty of each song feels well-known before any words could even meet the music.

The album opens with a relaxed guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a beach; “Sea Change,” the album’s namesake track, states its intentions right out of the gate. The lyrics tackle the immense pressure it takes to go through change, and with this song having been written in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, there’s an instant relatability to the prose. Other album highlights include “Make This Work,” “The Darkest Part,” “Mosaic,” and album closer “New Me.” Each of these songs scratches a new itch within Stapleton’s songwriting toolbox, with “New Me” functioning as perhaps Sea Change’s greatest overall achievement. “Flying above the earth sometimes, it’s hard to remember why I was afraid to leave behind this little place I called mine.” An absolute gut-punch of lyrical mastery, and the accompanying music is as tight as it’s ever been on the album, crescendoing from guitar and piano to electric bravado with nothing but ease. The nostalgic longing and duality that penetrates Sea Change’s twelve tracks culminate in the final track perfectly.

So, is Sea Change the giant leap some will make it out to be? I’m not sure I agree. Past politicians have had plenty of involvement in the arts, with some coming from the entertainment industry to politics and some going vice versa. Corey Stapleton seems pretty confident in his path to not much consider his overall legacy just yet, and it’s refreshing to see someone just glad to have a piece of music out in the world. Let the future write itself, let’s just focus on writing today.

Sebastian Cole