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As with 2012's engrossing Mr. M and 2016's staggering FLOTUS, Kurt Wagner's openness to unexpected collaborators to give his thoughts and feelings the shape they need was central to the creation of This (is what I wanted to tell you). In the summer of 2017, Wagner re-met Matthew McCaughan, who has spent the last decade drumming for the likes of Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger. McCaughan told Wagner he had been adventuring inside the world of rack-mounted analogue synthesizers and asked if Wagner might send some vocals to which he could compose. They became instant musical pen pals, with Wagner sending him a cappella takes of new song ideas and McCaughan dispatching long-form synthesizer pieces for inspiration. McCaughan eventually headed to Nashville, where, together, they put a band behind the songs, using pedal steel and piano and the harmonica of Nashville legend Charlie McCoy to color in the spaces of these black-and-white sketches.