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After breaking onto the scene more than a decade ago with cooing vocals on “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” Sam Beam, known as Iron & Wine, has repeatedly redefined his music.

Known best for his lyrical imagery, Beam’s progression has been distinct, moving from the hushed twang of “Our Endless Numbered Days” and the guitar-picking Americana of “The Shepherd’s Dog” to the more layered rhythms and full band on “Kiss Each Other Clean.” Beam’s latest album, “Ghost on Ghost,” is no exception, still placing the emphasis on his songwriting but with a higher energy.

Before Iron & Wine takes the stage Friday night at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, we caught up with Beam. And, yes, his voice sounds just as sweet on the phone.

Q: You are an artist who redefines your work, and you can see that in the progression from your earlier 2000 stuff to “Ghost on Ghost.” Is there somewhere musically that you see Iron & Wine going next?

A: I don’t really know. I’m chasing something interesting, but no idea what it was going to look like. I have no idea what’s going to happen, which makes it kind of fun. 

Q: A lot of your songs feel very personal. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is anything in your life off-limits to write about?

A: No, not really. Really personal or not — it all sounds personal — so you never know if I’m telling what really happened or if I made it up. There are parts of my life that are more interesting to write about, but at the same time, nothing’s off-limits. I’m not going to give you my social security or anything. Inspiration comes from all over the place — stories that I read or were told about from other people. A lot is just pure fantasy. I’m interested in narratives, loose or specific. It’s just not a diary entry but the way I feel.

Q: What was it about this set of songs that you felt you could collect them all together? How did you narrow down the songs to include on “Ghost on Ghost”?

A: This one in particular was a little looser than the last few. In “The Shepherd’s Dog,” there was a dog included in every song. And then the record after that, there was a river. This time, I noticed I had a lot of songs with this central couple. If you try real hard, it could sound like that. A lot of different place names, and it’s this couple against the world or the couple against the town they’re in. And that made the sounds feel similar.

Q: Looking back at who you were as an artist when you released “Creek Drank the Cradle,” which is heavy on the acoustics, would you have thought “Ghost on Ghost” is something you would have ever made?

A: I wouldn’t have known how to do it. I don’t see an end. Then, I would never have felt like I was able to do that. I wouldn’t have any idea how to approach it. For me, this meant a decade worth of experience that I had. I would have loved to make a record like that. I’m not a jazz musician — I’ve picked up a lot — but at the time I knew about four or five chords. It was a fun way to spend the day. I wouldn’t have imagined I would have made the second album or the third.

Q: What’s your writing process like? I have this image of you being the kind of songwriter to carry around a notebook in your pocket everywhere.

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A: I don’t carry it in my pocket, but I have it in a satchel wherever I go. I do have a lot of notes in my phone — it all goes in the phone these days. I treat it like a job in certain ways and try to sit down for a while every day.

[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 2/27/2014 under the headline "Iron & Wine talks music, inspiration and latest album"]

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