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Year of change adds depth to David Wax Museum's album, hometown show

The past year has been a busy one for the husband-and-wife musical team behind David Wax Museum.

There’s the brand-new album, “You Must Change Your Life,” which will be released Friday on Nine Mile Records and celebrated in a hometown show Saturday at the Southern Café and Music Hall.

A new recording studio in the couple’s Charlottesville backyard, completed in March, has established a safe space for following the muse, nurtured a sense of community connection and offered David Wax and Suz Slezak a chance to look back at what they have accomplished together so far. And a new sense of perspective and gratitude is shaping their future after a health scare threatened to take it all away.

The backyard studio still feels like a newly opened gift.

“When I look out the window, I feel a tangible connection to all the songs we’ve done over the past 16 years,” Slezak told The Daily Progress. “We’ve actually been able to perform some small shows there. The concrete guy we used turned out to be a cello player, and now he comes out to our shows.”

Having a new musical home base is a treat for Slezak, Wax and their two children, ages 9 and 6. “Most of our lives we’ve spent traveling all over with our kids,” she said.

The children were part of the first video filmed in the new space.

“The first music video we made last month, all of their friends were in it,” Slezak said.

Wax said the new album, which includes work written before the pandemic, is a deep source of pride.

“We feel it’s our best work yet on this record,” Wax said of “You Must Change Your Life.” “One of the reasons it feels so exciting is it’s a culmination point of the sound we’ve been chasing for the past 16 years.”

The album’s musical journey examines “radical change and transformation,” Wax said, “and these moments when we knew things had to change. And the trepidation.”

Slezak said her husband is in his element singing songs that reflect his love of the Beatles, Paul Simon and Mexican folk music, “with a little [Bob] Dylan thrown in there.” There’s also a change of theme on the album when “David sort of references going through the experience of his first major health scare,” she said.

After a deeply satisfying creative period, it was time for a holiday break. While the family was spending Thanksgiving with Wax’s parents, he collapsed while exercising at their home.

While waiting for doctors to determine and explain what had happened and what the future might hold, Slezak said, the family had to face “the reality of losing him, or losing our ability to perform.”

Wax is feeling better since his seizure-like episode, but he hasn’t been cleared to drive again yet. Processing everything remains a work in progress, they said.

“I feel great, and I’m able to exercise again.” Wax said. “I’ve just had the hardest time writing since it happened. I was in the most productive period of my life before then.”

He decided to embrace the pause his illness required as “an excuse to slow down and recalibrate — a period to rest and get ready for this release.”

Slezak has noticed a difference in her own writing as well.

“I’ve been doing a lot of prose writing, and I feel like my writing has really changed,” she said. “Grief can be so consuming. Once we got the all-clear from David’s doctors, I felt a literal weight off my shoulders.”

Wax and Slezak are proud of “You Must Change Your Life,” and they joyfully look forward to what Slezak, with a chuckle, calls the “pure terror and pure hometown joy” in Saturday’s show at The Southern.

“We’re bringing in our full six-piece band,” Wax said. “It’s our dream-team lineup we’re going to bring to our hometown show.”

Slezak said the prospect of singing and playing their new songs in front of friends, neighbors, their children’s teachers and friends’ parents has them feeling “proud, excited — and nervous.”

“We really built it as a journey,” Wax said of the new album. “It starts out with a bang. It’s got all the singles to get your attention and build your trust. Then it gets really deep.”

Wax finds delight in the realization that the new album already is a triumph. He often thinks of a quote from a book by famed producer Rick Rubin: “Success can only be measured and found in the privacy of the soul.”

“We’re wrong to look outside ourselves for validation of success,” he said.

Saturday’s show begins at 8 p.m. For tickets, which are $20 at the door and $18 in advance, go to


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