MOTHERFUCKER!’ The man can’t get the motorboat started, jumps into the adjacent boat, and vigorously pulls on the motor cord again. ‘HOW THE FUCK IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?! STUPID SHIT BOATS!! ALL OF THEM!!!’ He tries the boat next to it, and then the one next to that. Eventually, he manages to bring the fifth boat to life, and with a professional smile, he heads towards Gertjan Van Hellemont and his brother Sem. ‘Here you go gentlemen. See you back in an hour.’ - ‘Are you sure it won’t break down in the middle of the lake? We have a plane to catch in a couple of hours.’ - ‘Of course not, our boats are top of the line. They never fail’. Gertjan and Sem step into the boat, not entirely reassured, and begin to sail.

It's February 2024. The brothers have just listened to the fully mixed new album in Kevin Ratterman's studio in L.A., and to celebrate how happy they are with the result, they've decided to float around Pyramid Lake, an hour north of L.A., just before flying back to Belgium. As agent Cooper once said, alongside his famous quote about the douglas firs in Twin Peaks: ‘Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen’.

L.A. is a dream place for Gertjan. Because it's incredible how many of Gertjan's favorite artists have walked around there, maybe even eaten and drunk in the same places as he has, and recorded beautiful albums there. Fleetwood Mac, The Band, Ray LaMontagne, Elliott Smith, Feist, Bob Dylan, HAIM, Beck, Ry Cooder, Eels, Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, Gram Parsons, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Bridgers, Tom Petty… The list is endless. And it can't be any different, the magic of that place, and the spirit of all that timeless music, resonates on the new Douglas Firs album.

Gertjan's love for that American roots and indie folk music can once again take center stage on Happy Pt. 2, the new album by Douglas Firs, with a prominent role for Bart Vervaeck's wailing pedal steel. It's been a while. Since 2015, when Douglas Firs secured a place in Studio Brussel's De Afrekening and Vox on Radio 1 with some singles from The Long Answer Is No, and on the stage of Pukkelpop, when it really started for Douglas Firs. Then came Cactus Festival, Dranouter, Down The Rabbit Hole, Here Comes The Summer, Boomtown, and a whole bunch of other festivals and clubs in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland.

Happy Pt. 2 reconciles classic songwriting, as Gertjan has learned from his influences, with a spacey and contemporary sound, thanks to Wietse Meys' ethereal saxophones, Senne Guns' adventurous synthesizers, and Kevin Ratterman's canyon-wide mix. He was also responsible for the sound of the albums Hinges of Luck (the Spotify count of "How Can You Know" is currently at 9,673,029), and Heart of a Mother.

Never say never, but Gertjan never wants to work with anyone else again. When he heard the sound of My Morning Jacket and especially Ray LaMontagne's album Ouroboros, he knew for sure: that's how Douglas Firs should sound. With a love for solid songs, but very much of the now. Or as the brief sounded for the bridge of "Magazine": I want it to sound like Neil Young, but if he’s on a spaceship to Mars.

The previous two albums were mixed in Louisville, Kentucky, but meanwhile, Kevin had moved to L.A., where Gertjan had never been. He managed to convince his significant other that mixing an album goes much better when you can adjust things on the spot, in the room, when you can communicate face to face with the mixing engineer, so not much later, Gertjan and his brother Sem were on a plane to L.A., and a little later in a white Ford Mustang convertible (the car rental company made a mistake), heading to the studio where Leslie Feist had just finished her Multitudes album.

The road to Happy Pt. 2 was long and eventful, but the album is here, and it stands for a new beginning. That couldn't be any different after Heart of a Mother, the album overloaded with superlatives by the press about the death of Gertjan's own mother and the birth of his son, immense sadness and equally great joy at the same time. But how do you follow up such an album?

Gertjan saw a photo of Lukas Turcksin and knew. Happy Pt. 2, that had to be it. An album about finding happiness again after deep sorrow, but without letting go of that sorrow. Realizing that it will always be there, but that it doesn't necessarily have to take over all the time. Because life is so much more than that. So we have to start over again and again.

To start a second time / Wouldn’t that be grand / I’ve known you for a while / I wanna go again

So focusing on today and the future, but without forgetting the past, because it can also be wonderful to look back, to the day you met your love for example, as in "Let’s Go Back to That Day".

Oh, every time I look at you / This feeling grows inside / It makes me want to say / Let’s go back to that day

Things are going well in Gertjan's life, so there's room for fun and hope on the new album. Lust for life. He's in love with his partner, whom he finds so beautiful that she could be in a magazine, and yet she's with him.

And my God, look at you / You’ve got the prettiest face that I have ever seen / You could be in every magazine / But here you are / And we’re alright / Yes we’re alright

Relationships are complicated, because how do you make sure everything is just right?

No one will beat us at this silly game we play / No one will hear us when we ask help along the way / But I know we’re trying all just to get it right / All just to get it right

No matter how hard you try, your head will never be able to change what your heart feels, a message supported by 16 string players from the Budapest Art Orchestra in Hungary:

Lazy heart / You never think it through / You play the part that no one asked you to

If something goes wrong, do you always have to talk about it?

Honey, we don’t have to talk about it / In fact I’d rather we won’t / I can see that it hurts / I can feel how it burns / Honey, we don’t have to talk

Because when you talk about it, you might not always say the right things...

I meant what I said / But I’m sorry I said it / You don’t have to forget it / But honey, let’s move on

With a lot of humor, but also empathy, Gertjan sings about everyone's life. How complex, beautiful, and sad it can sometimes be. There are twins on the way, which makes him immensely happy and scared at the same time, and his mother lived half a year too short to witness the birth of his first son Georges. And that will always be heartbreaking.

We thought his hair would be pitch black / But you should see him, he is blonde just like his dad / Do you remember that old photo where I’m crying? / Well I can tell you, he looks exactly just like that / I miss you

Happy Pt. 2. An album about starting over again, without letting go of the past.

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