Tag: Nashville TN

New Video: JOVM’s Newest Mainstay Million Miles Finds Herself in a “Girl-Meets-Boy” Driven Love Triangle in Visuals for Sultry Single “Honey”

Over the past year or so, I’ve written a bit about Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned home to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write and record her own original music, largely inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers.

Now, as the story goes, on a whim Baudry took a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here. I’m a songwriter and I’m looking for like-minded people to collaborate with.” While in Nashville, the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter wound up having chance meetings with two local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within about an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing the material that eventually became Baudry’s Million Miles’ debut EP Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s home studio in the Berry Hill neighborhood of Nashville. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the folksy and effortlessly soulful “If Only,” a hook-driven song centered around a loose, jam-like arrangement of funky, Bill Withers-ike strummed guitar, twinkling keys and gentle yet propulsive drumming and a funky bass line. While evoking the swooning pangs of meet-cute first love, the song is actually from the perspective of a narrator, who’s over it in some way, and too busy to care one way or the other — or so she tells herself. Baudry’s highly-anticiapted sophomore EP is slated for a November release through AntiFragile Music, and her latest single “Honey” is the first official single off the forthcoming EP,  and the song is arguably one of the sultriest and most soulful tracks the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter has released to date — and while still drawing from Still Bill-era Bill Withers, the track reveals an artist, who has become increasingly self-assured in her songwriting and approach, but maintaining a lived in, emotional honesty that’s rare for most contemporary pop. As Baudry explains in press notes, the song is “about unconditional love and dedication to someone, who isn’t very interested in committing in any way. In this kind of situation, no matter what, if you’re in love, you’re in love, and you’d do everything and anything to make it work, even if it means doing crazy things and losing yourself . . . ”

Directed by Tom Ewbank, the recently released video is set in an old-fashioned American diner, where Baudry works as a waitress. The video finds its protagonist caught in an unwanted love triangle, as she falls for an attractive customer, who isn’t all that interested in committing or doing much of anything. Throughout the video, Baudry self-assuredly seems to tell her love interest “look, fool, I’m dope and you need to recognize.”

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New Audio: Ron Gallo Returns with an Ironic Yet Contented Philosophy on Life in New Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman of Philadelphia-based band  Toy Soldiers, an act that initially began as a guitar and drum duo that at one point featured 12 members, before ending as a quintet. Gallo’s 2016 full-length debut HEAVY META was largely inspired by the end of romantic relationship with a deeply troubled woman. Once that relationship ended, Gallo moved to Nashville, recorded an album’s worth of material during a period that he has since considered a deeply transformative period of his life. Interestingly, Gallo initially wrote and recorded the album’s material in small batches without the support of a label — and without the intention of even making an album; however, the material he wrote wound up touching upon a number of themes within his life, including his own personal ideology on abstaining from drugs and alcohol, self-empowerment, domestication, dead and unhappy love, not truly knowing yourself and the thing that could happen to you when you don’t, mental illness from the perspective of a sufferer and an observer, and a burning almost misanthropic frustration with humanity and civilization. And yet, there’s some level of optimism.  As Gallo said in press notes at the time, “this record comes from my frustration with humanity and myself, and from my wanting to shake us all. At my core, I’m compassionate for humanity and the sickness that we all live with, and from that comes something more constructive.”

HEAVY META’s follow-up Really Nice Guys EP was released earlier this year, and the EP was a concept EP largely inspired by the previous year in Gallo’s life in which he was busy touring and promoting his full-length debut with the material being a satirical commentary on the contemporary music industry; in fact, the EP featured songs about rough mixes, (broken into three parts — iPhone demo, live band demo and overproduced, autotuned to death studio recording), the weird inability for those within the music industry to honestly admit that someone is just awful at music, so everyone winds up saying, “well, they’re really nice guys . . .” and the number of friends asking to be put on the guestlist so that you can never really make money off a show.

Slated for an October 5, 2018 release, Gallo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Stardust Birthday Party is largely inspired by a life-altering, seismic shift in Gallo’s life: as the story goes, the deeply troubled women he was with and left before writing his solo debut, had taken a trip to South America, found a healer and miraculously got herself and her life together in 2016. Understandably, such news had piqued Gallo’s interest and he began reading and searching for a more inward path for his own mental and spiritual development. Earlier this year, on a whim, he booked a trip to California for a silent meditation retreat. Despite his initial discomfort, Gallo reportedly experienced a profound experience that quickly became the answer for his existential searching — and the thematic core of the album: how inner transformation impacts both the outside world and your perception of it.

Or, as Ron Gallo says in a statement about the album:

“Stardust Birthday Party is about human evolution. Specifically, one humans evolution: mine, Ron Gallo.  That’s the name my parents gave me. Hi.
At one point, I was a very lost mid-twenties person living in Philadelphia, in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health issues and crippling heroin addiction. I was asleep. I didn’t know how to handle my life. I was also writing songs for HEAVY META – my “frustrated with humanity” album. I laugh about it all now, but at the time it all felt like an absolute nightmare. It was the perfect doorway to look inside the place I’d been avoiding forever: myself.
Stardust Birthday Party is about what is happening underneath all of this life stuff. My path inward. The details of my path are pointless because everyone’s path is different. It is about me sitting with myself for the first time and confronting the big question “WHAT AM I, REALLY?” It’s about the love and compassion for all things that enters when you find out you are nothing and everything. I think at one point I wanted to change the world, but now I know I can only change myself, or rather just strip away everything that is not me to reveal the only thing that’s ever been there. And that’s what this album is about, it’s me dancing while destroying the person I thought I was, and hopefully forever.
In the liner notes of John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme (which we pay tribute to on this album) he wrote: ‘During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.’
That’s it.  That is the pure essence of creativity. Someone embodying what they have realized about themselves and the world that surrounds them. That is why this album exists. ”

Stardust Birthday Party’s latest single “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” is an angular ripper centered around two disparate things — a relishing of life’s ironies with a bemused yet accepting smile, as though saying “well, we’re all small, ridiculous and powerless to the larger forces in the universe that will kill us eventually and that’s okay.” But along with that the song points out a larger connection to everyone and everything, suggesting that the only way the world can even begin the change is if every individual seriously take a look at their own fucked up shit. Until then, well — more of the same, I guess?

 

 

Calvin Johnson is an Olympia, WA-born and-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer and DJ best known as a founding member of Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team and The Halo Benders, all of which featured his rich baritone vocals. He’s also the founder and owner of renowned indie label K Records — and he was one of the major organizers of the International Pop Underground Convention.

Johnson’s forthcoming album A Wonderful Beast is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through his own K Records, and the album, which was recorded at Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville, TN finds Johnson collaborating with the The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who cowrote and produced the album and Michelle Branch, who contributes backing vocals on three songs. Johnson can trace the origins of his collaboration with Carney back to 2005 when the Olympia, WA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer and DJ was on a stateside tour to support his sophomore solo album Before the Dream Faded. The two kept in touch over the years, with Carney suggesting that they collaborate. Branch is best known for being a member of The Wreckers and for a solo career, and as the story goes, she lives next door to Audio Eagle Studios. Intrigued by the sounds she heard from the shack that houses the studio, she walked over to see for herself what was going on, and she wound up on the album.

A Wonderful Beast‘s first single is the swooning and urgent “Kiss Me Sweetly,” a single centered around a 60s bubblegum pop-like arrangement featuring a propulsive rhythm section consisting of a thumping, almost boom-bap-like backbeat, a funky bass line and blasts of swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar playing — but by far, the star of the song is the harmonizing between Johnson’s rich, sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal soprano, which further emphasizes the song’s swooning nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: A Q&A with Nicki Bluhm

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about  Lafayette, CA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nicki Bluhm, and although she began her career as a solo artist releasing two albums, 2008’s Toby’s Song and 2011’s Driftwood (which was re-released a year later), Bluhm may be best known for a six year stint as the frontwoman of Nicki Blum and The Gramblers, an act that included her ex-husband Tim Bluhm, with whom she also released a duet album, aptly titled Duets in 2011. Interestingly, Bluhm’s Matt Ross-Spang-produced full-length effort To Rise You Gotta Fall was released earlier this year, and the album, which is her first solo album in over six years was primarily written in and influenced by one of the most difficult and life-altering experiences of her life — a period in which she got divorced and her band went on hiatus. She then followed that with a seemingly spur of the moment move to Nashville.

Bluhm, who has frequented Music City for a number of songwriting sessions was deeply inspired by her time in the city, and how could she or any songwriter not be? After all Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire, Townes Van Zandt and dizzying list of songwriters have all claimed Nashville as a homebase at some point or another. “When I could come to Nashville on writing trips, it was just percolating . . . it was intoxicating,” Bluhm says in press notes. Around the same time, Bluhm met renowned producer, engineer and mixer Matt Ross-Spang, who was in town working on another album, and as the story goes, Ross-Spang and Bluhm quickly hit it off. “I really needed someone who was going to take the reins and have a vision for the album and he really did,” Bluhm says of meeting Ross-Spang. “My ex-husband had been my musical director, co-writer, and producer on all my records except one and I was looking for someone to step into that leadership roll, which Matt did very gracefully. I was looking for a clean slate; the only baggage I wanted to bring into the studio were the words to the songs I was singing. I wanted it to be a fresh experience; I didn’t want to even have history with anyone in the room that would pull me into old habits or ways of thinking.  So we agreed we’d record in Memphis.”

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Photo Credit: Noah Abrams
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Photo Credit: Noah Abrams

1522268571nikki.jpgRecorded at Sam Phillips Recording, the Rise You Gotta Fall sessions were primarily centered around the live tracking of a backing band of accomplished musicians that included Will Sexton (guitar), Ross-Spang (guitar), Ken Coomer (drums, percussion), Al Gamble (Hammond B3), Rick Steff (piano), Dave Smith (bass), Reba Russell (backing vocals), Susan Marshall (backing vocals), Sam Shoup (string arrangements) and a number of special guests. “We really just recorded live and we didn’t do that many takes of each song,” Bluhm says of the sessions. “The final versions we ended up with were all one take. It was really refreshing to go analog. It minimized over thinking and second-guessing; forced us all to stay in the moment and play from the heart. . . Throughout the session there was a lot of listening and trusting. Matt really spends time curating his sessions and who he decides to bring in; he knows how to keep the vibe right. What you are hearing is, as Jerry Phillips would say, ‘not perfection but captured moments in time.’” Bluhm adds, “These songs are quite personal. They are the conversations I never got to have, the words I never had the chance to say, and the catharsis I wouldn’t have survived without.”

 

“I had lost my partner in so many ways,” Bluhm recalls in press notes, “my musical partner, my life partner, my creative partner, and all of a sudden I was left on my own, to start my own engine. It was really intimidating and scary,” she says “but I had support from my management, my agent, my friends and family, and ultimately I just had this guttural drive that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was on auto-pilot, ready to move forward and take the steps I had to take to keep moving forward.” Unsurprisingly, album title track, “To Rise You Gotta Fall” is an effortlessly self-assured track that’s indebted to Memphis and Muscle Shoals-era soul, and as a result the single reminded me quite a bit of Nicole Atkins‘ Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Natalie Prass, thanks to a “you-are-there-in-that moment” immediacy and a fully-fleshed out narrator, who has the resiliency and determination that comes from living a complex, messy life, full of struggles, heartbreak, setbacks, small victories and crushing losses. And as the song points out, life will find a way to kick your ass in ways both large and small — and yet, you’ll always wind up in the exact place you needed to be at that particular moment.  

To Rise You Gotta Fall‘s second single is the aching ballad “Battlechain Rose,” which was co-written by renowned singer/songwriter Ryan Adams and as Bluhm told American Songwriter, the song was inspired by a restless night in which her mind wouldn’t stop turning with thoughts of the past, of what she could have and should have done differently, of her inability to move forward and of her despair of knowing that relationship has become a phantom limb of regret and heartache. Coming from such a personal place, the album’s material thematically and lyrically focuses on the aftermath of the messy dissolution of a longtime relationship — there’s hurt, accusations, betrayal, anger, hatred and foolishness and yet, the album’s narrator won’t let an embittering situation change her, her outlook or anything about who she essentially is. It’s the strength and wisdom I’ve seen primarily in women, who after a breakup with someone can say “Yes, it hurts. I will cry until my heart burst — and then I’ll cry a bit more. But I’ll be okay.  I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse; but goddamn it, I won’t be fooled like that again.”

I recently spoke to Nicki Bluhm via email for this Q&A, and in typical fashion we chatted about a number of subjects — from how she got into music, her influences, how her creative process has changed with her latest album, how the writing of the album has been necessary for her mental health, writing with Ryan Adams, her tour earlier this year with The Wood Brothers and much more. But before we get to that, I will remind you that Bluhm has been touring with a backing band to support To Rise You Gotta Fall and the tour includes a July 25, 2018 stop at the Bowery Ballroom. Check out the remaining tour dates below — and then one of the most fun and honest interviews I’ve done in some time after the jump.

Tour Dates 

July 13 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens
July 14 – Charlotte, NC @ Knight Theater
July 19 – Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
July 20 – Alexandria, VA @ Hamilton
July 22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
July 25 – Floyd, VA @ FloydFest
July 25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
July 29 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley

 

 

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WRH: How did you get into music — and when did you know it was your calling?

Nicki Bluhm: I started singing in the shower at a very early age…for my goldfish Ginger who lived in the bathroom. She had the pleasure of hearing me perfect ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ over many years of steamy rehearsals. Beyond that it was a very organic pathway. In my twenties I was encouraged to sing by a man I admired and respected musically and that encouragement brought me to where I am today; writing, singing and performing my songs. The sheer joy and catharsis that singing brings me is enough to know that it’s what I’m meant to be doing right now.

WRH: Who are your influences?

NB: There are so many. As a young girl growing up on 80’s radio, Whitney Houston‘s voice made a big impression and mesmerized me like no other. I studied every note she sang. As I got older I was turned on to other musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt and Sandy Denny (to name a few.) I have so much admiration for these women and the mark they have left and continue to leave on me.

WRH: Who are you listening to now?

NB: I have a habit of listening to the same records over and over and over. I started collecting vinyl in my late teens and 20’s and bought a lot of cheap records which turned out to be mostly records recorded pre 1970. I could listen to JJ Cale non-stop for the rest of my life and be satisfied. That said, I am trying to listen to more contemporary music. Some of my favorite artists right now are Mapache, Khruangbin, and Hiss Golden Messenger.

WRH: You spent a lengthy stint with your ex-husband in The Gramblers and To Rise You Gotta Fall is your first solo album in about 7 years or so. Hopefully, it’s the first of many, many, many more. How has your creative process changed since then?

NB: For the first time I went outside my comfort zone in all ways imaginable. I co-wrote with strangers in Nashville, recorded with a new producer (Matt Ross-Spang) and musicians I had never met in Memphis and basically forced myself to let go of anything familiar so I could invite new energy into what I was doing.

WRH: I’ve listened to this album quite a bit — maybe 15-16 times since its release, and what I find remarkable is that there’s an unmistakable simpatico between you, the session players and the backing vocalists. I know you had met producer and guitarist Matt Ross-Spang before the sessions but curiously, did you know any of the session players before that?

NB: First of all, THANK YOU! It’s funny, I felt that same “simpatico” right off the bat with the musicians and strangely enough I had never met them. Sometimes the stars align and fate brings you exactly what you need. That’s how I felt about this recording session and everyone involved. There is no denying it was meant to be.

 WRH: Part of the album is influenced by your relocation to Nashville. How has Nashville treated you?

NB: What I love about Nashville is that you don’t have to explain what it is you do to anybody. Everyone just gets it. That has been a nice shift for me. The only downside is that because everyone is in the industry it’s tough to develop friendships because we’re all gone on tour all the time!

WRH: Nashville has had a long and rich history of some incredible songwriters who have lived there at some point. I can’t imagine any songwriter not being in awe of the fact that Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings walked down some of the streets they did or drank in some of their favorite bars. The city is also the home of JOVM mainstay Nicole Atkins, Ron Gallo and a long list of contemporary artists — but I was curious: are there any Nashville-based artists that the rest of the country should know but hasn’t yet?

NB: Funny you mention Nicole…we are actually texting right now…haha. There are SO many incredibly talented artists in Nashville. In my short time here I have barely scratched the surface. I was lucky enough to co-write with an incredible songwriter Simon Gugala. Writing with him has been a highlight for me here so far. I also love going to Santa’s Pub for the Sunday night country set that is put on by Carter Brallier. He had a gal by the name of Emily Nenni who just put out a record called Hell of a Woman. I haven’t listened to the record yet but her live performance was impressive and I dug her voice and vibe.

WRH: The album is deeply influenced by one of the most difficult periods of your life — with the songs detailing the sense of loss, hatred, betrayal, regret and heartache that often come about after the bitter end of a long term and significant romantic relationship, and the resolve to move on as best as you could. To me, there’s a bit of a hopeful undertone — that the song’s narrators will do more than just survive, that she’d be the type to thrive no matter what. While the album is centered within personal, it’s a universal experience. Curiously, was there any point when you were writing the album, that you may have been like “wait, maybe this is TMI?” or said “I can’t wait until that SOB hears this!”?

NB: Honestly, writing these songs saved me. I can’t tell you how important it was for me to get these ruminating thoughts out of my head. It was something I needed to do for my mental health. People have different ways of coping with trauma; what helps me is writing. I had no intention of being spiteful in the process but I had to speak my truth and remain authentic to myself and my experience. Music has helped me get through so many difficult periods of my life, it’s made me feel less alone in my struggles. This record and these songs are my contribution to that sentiment. If hearing what I went through brings someone comfort, I have accomplished what I set out to do.

WRH: The album features two co-writes with Ryan Adams, if I remember it correctly. How did that come about? How was like to work with him?

NB: We became friends through mutual admiration and began working together on some stuff. There is no rhyme or reason to the way Ryan operates. Our time together was spontaneous and could never be repeated but I am forever grateful for the songs that came out of our time together. He has a way of pulling words from the ether like no one I’ve ever known before.

WRH: “Battlechain Rose,” is one of those Ryan Adams co-writes. How did the concept for the video come about?

NB: My dear friend and neighbor Scot Sax is also an incredible singer/songwriter, video producer, and everything else creative (if there is such a thing as artistic ADD he has it) and when I played him the song his wheels started turning. When Scot has a vision he executes it and that’s what he did for the music video. We were exploring the dimensions between reality and dream realms; past and future; knowing and the unknown. The contrast of color and black and white was a way to address this dynamic. The younger heart being guided and nurtured by her predecessor.  here is a lot of symbolism that is left to be interpreted by the viewer.

WRH: I saw you open for The Wood Brothers at The Vic Theatre in Chicago back in April. That was a fantastic show, too. You played a solo set in which you accompanied yourself on guitar with stripped down versions of much of the album’s material before touring with a live, backing band throughout the summer. Was it particularly difficult to re-arrange songs in such a stripped down fashion from their recorded fashion? And after playing with a backing band for many years, was it nerve wracking to be out on a stage on your own?

 NB: Yes! I could sing in front of thousands of people and not bat an eye but put a guitar in my hands and I become a deer in headlights. It was something I needed to get over; something I needed to prove to myself I could do alone. It was important for me to face that fear and get past it. I’m a pretty big proponent of doing things that scare you; I’ve been scaring myself a lot these past few years. But once you’re on the other side of fear and you see that something wasn’t so scary after all, you’re motivated to keep striving and putting yourself out there. Growing is hard and painful…not much different than the physical growing pains you had as a kid. Growing pains as an adult are more emotional but none the less real!

WRH: “Things I’ve Done” is a one of my favorite songs on the album. To my ears, it sounds as though it were influenced by Bonnie Raitt in some way — I think of “Something to Talk About,” in particular. Did her work influence anything on the album?

 NB: That was a song I co-wrote with Scot Sax (mentioned earlier) and Steve Poltz (both my neighbors in Nashville.) Bonnie Raitt is certainly a huge influence on me but interestingly enough was not on my mind during the creation process of this song. Perhaps she was subconsciously…the subconscious is powerful. What I love about her is the ease and naturalness she brings to whatever she does. It’s possible that Scot was channeling her but you’d have to ask him about that.

WRH: How was it like to tour and play with The Wood Brothers?

NB: Aside from being incredible musicians, The Wood Brothers are some of the kindest musicians I have met in the business. They took such great care of me when I was out with them and every night they invited me out on stage to sing with them which was a true honor. They are such humble and relatable humans, I feel so grateful to call them friends.

WRH: What’s next for you?

NB: Touring my ass off! It’s time to take these songs on the road and share them with the world. We’re doing extensive touring this summer in the US and will be going overseas this fall. All the while writing new songs as I continue to feel all the feels life has to offer me at this stage in my life. I’m curious to see what songs come out of me next!

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be pretty busy today, as I’ll be in Coney Island for an annual rite of summer here in New York City — The Mermaid Parade. I’m sure that there’ll be some Instagram posts until I actually get a chance to edit the photos — but in the meantime, let’s get to the business at hand, right? Now, over the past 18 months or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music.

After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers.  On an inspired whim, Baudry, took a trip to  Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here. I’m a songwriter and I’m looking for like-minded people to collaborate with.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

Baudry’s latest single is the folksy and effortlessly soulful “If Only,” and while being a fitting vehicle for her equally effortless vocals, the hook-driven track is centered around a loose, jam-like arrangement of  funky, Bill Withers-ike strummed guitar, twinkling keys and gentle yet propulsive drumming and a funky bass line and while being an incredibly self-assured track that reveals an artist who is expanding upon her sound and approach, the song evokes the swooning pangs of meet-cute first love, but from the perspective of a narrator, who is over it and too busy to care — or so she tells herself. In some way, the song’s narrator takes on a tough veneer to protect herself from the inevitable. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives and as a result, the song manages to be warmly familiar sonically and thematically.

 

New Video: The Gorgeous Visuals for Nicki Bluhm’s Heartbreaking and Tender Ballad “Battlechain Rose”

Nicki Bluhm is a Lafayette, CA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, who’s perhaps best known for a six year stint as the frontwoman of Nicki Blum and The Gramblers, an act that included her ex-husband Tim Bluhm with whom she also released two collaborative albums as a solo artist. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that her recently released, Matt Ross-Spang-produced full-length effort To Rise You Gotta Fall marks the Bluhm’s first solo album in several years, and that the album’s material was influenced by and written one the course of one of the most difficult and life-altering transitions of her life — a period in which she got divorced, The Gramblers went on hiatus and she then followed that all with a seemingly spur of the moment move to Nashville. “These songs are quite personal,” Bluhm says in press notes “They are the conversations I never got to have, the words I never had the chance to say, and the catharsis I wouldn’t have survived without.”

Interestingly, while Bluhm’s relocation to Nashville was a spur of the moment decision, it was influenced by a series of writing sessions that had her frequenting the city. As Bluhm says the city was inspiring  “because of all the songwriting going on here. When I could come to Nashville on writing trips, it was just percolating . . . it was intoxicating.” Around the same time, Bluhm met renowned producer, engineer and mixer Matt Ross-Spang, who was in town working on another album, and as the story goes, Ross-Spang and Bluhm quickly hit it off. “I really needed someone who was going to take the reins and have a vision for the album and he really did,” Bluhm says of meeting Ross-Spang. “My ex-husband had been my musical director, co-writer, and producer on all my records except one and I was looking for someone to step into that leadership roll, which Matt did very gracefully. I was looking for a clean slate; the only baggage I wanted to bring into the studio were the words to the songs I was singing. I wanted it to be a fresh experience; I didn’t want to even have history with anyone in the room that would pull me into old habits or ways of thinking.  So we agreed we’d record in Memphis.”

Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, the Rise You Gotta Fall sessions were primarily centered around the live tracking of a backing band of accomplished ringers that included Will Sexton (guitar), Ross-Spang (guitar), Ken Coomer (drums, percussion), Al Gamble (Hammond B3), Rick Steff (piano), Dave Smith (bass), Reba Russell (backing vocals), Susan Marshall (backing vocals), Sam Shoup (string arrangements) and a number of special guests. “We really just recorded live and we didn’t do that many takes of each song,” Bluhm says. “The final versions we ended up with were all one take. It was really refreshing to go analog. It minimized over thinking and second-guessing; forced us all to stay in the moment and play from the heart. . . Throughout the session there was a lot of listening and trusting. Matt really spends time curating his sessions and who he decides to bring in; he knows how to keep the vibe right. What you are hearing is, as Jerry Phillips would say, ‘not perfection but captured moments in time.’”

“I had lost my partner in so many ways,” Bluhm recalls in press notes, “my musical partner, my life partner, my creative partner, and all of a sudden I was left on my own, to start my own engine. It was really intimidating and scary,” she says “but I had support from my management, my agent, my friends and family, and ultimately I just had this guttural drive that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was on auto-pilot, ready to move forward and take the steps I had to take to keep moving forward. When the album finally comes out it’s going to be like setting a caged bird free.” Unsurprisingly, album title track, “To Rise You Gotta Fall” is an effortlessly self-assured track that’s indebted to Memphis and Muscle Shoals-era soul — and as a result the single reminded me quite a bit of Nicole Atkins‘ Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Natalie Prass, complete with a “you-are-there-in-that moment” immediacy and a fully-fleshed out narrator, who has the resiliency and determination that comes from living a complex, messy life, full of struggles, heartbreak, setbacks, small victories and crushing losses — while pointing out that life will always find a way to kick your ass and it will always push you towards wherever you need to be at that particular moment.

The album’s second and latest single, the tender ballad “Battlechain Rose” was co-written with Ryan Adams and as Bluhm told American Songwriter, the song was inspired by a restless night in which her mind wouldn’t stop turning with thoughts of the past, of what she could have and should have done differently, of her inability to move forward and of her despair of knowing that relationship has become a phantom limb of regret and heartache.  “Battlechain Rose” is arguably one of To Rise You Gotta Fall’s standout tracks as the song’s arrangement is roomy enough for Bluhm’s effortlessly soulful vocals to simply and earnestly express the heartache at the core of the song — and by far, it has some of the most gorgeous imagery I’ve heard in quite some time. In some way, the song sonically and thematically nods at Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and the oft-mentioned and sadly forgotten Sandra Rhodes solo album Where’s Your Love Been as the sense of loss and ache is both palpable and familiar.

Directed by Scott Sax, the recently released video for “Battlechain Rose” is an incredibly symbolic vision, unsurprisingly centered around the lingering ghosts of a relationship that has ended in an embittering and confusing fashion and its lonely aftermath.

New Video: Nashville’s Sundaes Specializes in Scuzzy Take on Dance Floor Friendly Pop

Sundaes is a recording project fronted by a rather mysterious New York-born, Nashville, TN-based multi-instrumentalist and producer, influenced by early aughts indie rock,  blues and genre assorted hits of all eras, as well as Steel Magnolias and the work of Lana Del Rey. The band made their live debut back in the spring of 2015 with two sold out sets at the Chelsea Hotel Storefront Gallery — and adding to a growing profile, “Walk My Street,” appeared in the soundtrack of that year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, Spotlight.

Last year saw the release of the Nashville-based act’s self-titled debut EP, and their latest single “Pretty Wife” is the highly anticipated follow up to their EP. Sonically, the act employs the use of arpeggiated synths, blasts of strummed guitar, thumping, tweeter and woofer beats, a sneak and infectious hook and breathily delivered vocals. Sonically speaking, the Nashville-based act’s latest single will likely bring to mind Black Moth Super Rainbow, NVDES, Bottoms and others — but with a mischievous, dance floor friendly accessibility.

Featuring cinematography by Monique Juliette Baron and choreography by Amanda Hameline, the recently released video for “Pretty Wife” stars Sundaes dressed as a ballerina wearing a crown with several other dancers. As Sundaes explains in press notes about the video’s concept: ” I’d been watching the Kirov’s performance of Swan Lake on YouTube a lot around the time I was thinking about video ideas. It’s amazing how ballet dancers take something that requires such precise, intense discipline and make it appear so delicate and effortless. I love how much emotion they can express with the softest gestures. I wanted to do sort of a dreamy modern ballet gone awry. Somewhere between Tchaikovsky and Rocky Horror; equal parts ‘Waltz of the Snowflakes’ and ‘Sweet Transvestite.'”