Years before Carl Broemel joined My Morning Jacket -- the Grammy-nominated, globetrotting rock band featuring his guitar playing, saxophone solos, harmony singing, pedal steel riffs, and songwriting support -- he wrote his very first songs in his Indiana bedroom.
From the start, he was a multi-instrumentalist with a singer's gift for melody. A sideman capa-ble of handling a frontman's job. As his guitar-playing career blossomed, Broemel continued writing songs of his own, carving out a personal, introspective sound that reached beyond My Morning Jacket's sonic landscape. With his third solo album, Wished Out, he merges articu-late, pensive songwriting -- including ruminations about science, love, the passing of time, and the grind of the artistic struggle -- with some of the most energetic, rock-inspired songs to date.
"I wanted to get things moving," says Broemel, who remembers playing shows in support of his 2016 solo release -- the critically-acclaimed 4th of July, full of daydreaming guitar tones and soft dynamics -- and hearing the quiet crash of glass whenever his fans tossed beer bot-tles into the clubs' trash cans. "My songwriting can be very mellow," he adds. "I love that mood, but I needed more balance this time around. I needed more energy! Wished Out is all about the yin and yang."
Broemel recorded Wished Out at his newly-constructed home studio in Nashville, tracking many of the instruments alone before reaching out to several friends -- including Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), Russ Pollard (Everest, Sebadoh), and My Morning Jacket bandmates Tom Blankenship and Bo Koster -- for help. He worked in spurts, taking short breaks to drive his son to school and longer breaks to hit the road with My Morning Jacket. With sunlight filtering through the studio windows during his days at home, Broemel steadily whittled his new album into shape, pulling triple duty as Wished Out's producer, engineer, and frontman along the way.
From the harmonized guitar riffs and deep-seated grooves of the kickoff track, "Dark Matter," to the McCartney-worthy pop textures and densely-stacked vocals of "Out of Reach," Wished Out finds Broemel picking up the pace without sacrificing his love of melody. Hooks are every-where, hidden in the dreamy, California folk-rock of "Malibu Shadow"; the percussive, psyche-delic punch of "Starting from Scratch"; the stoned, stuttering rock & roll swagger of "Rain Check"; the show-stealing guitar solo that stretches itself throughout the second half of "Wished Out"; and beyond. A heavy reader, Broemel found inspiration in the scientific writings of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the work of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and the anthropo-logical essays of Loren Eiseley. The result in an album whose melodies go down smooth, but whose lyrics unveil new layers with each listen. It's a thinking man's rock & roll record...or is it the other way around?
Songs like "Dark Matter" and "Out of Reach" take a turn for the metaphysical, with Broemel examining his own place within the cosmos. Meanwhile, "Second Fiddle" tips its hat to Ronnie Lane, George Harrison, Art Garfunkel, and other sidemen who've have balanced solo careers with their dedication to a larger, busier band. [For Broemel -- an in-demand instrumentalist who's toured with Ray Lamontagne, recorded with country icon Wanda Jackson, and become an integral part of My Morning Jacket's engine over the last 14 years -- a song like "Second Fiddle" feels particularly poignant, offering a first-hand perspective of rock & roll life in the pas-senger seat.]
Throughout the writing process, Broemel worked with drum loops and other programmed beats, looking to instill a strong sense of movement into his songs. He wrote at home. He wrote on tour. He wrote during an inspirational trip to Malibu, where he rented a quiet cabin above the Pacific Ocean and emerged several days later with "Malibu Shadow" and "Starting From Scratch." The result is a tracklist whose diversity reflects the many influences, instru-ments, and commitments of its own creator. With its mix of guitar muscle, rock & roll grit, left-field pop punch, and lyrical wit, Wished Out sheds new light on a team player who shines just as bright when he's calling his own shots.
In September 2014, Nashville-based instrumental outfit, Steelism, were introduced to a national audience with the release of their debut full-length album, 615 to FAME. The record, featuring ten original instrumentals and one cover, became a calling card for the band's versatile yet distinct sound, drawing influence from film score composers like Ennio Morricone and '60s instrumental acts like Booker T. & the M.G.s, The Ventures and Pete Drake. With their latest effort, ism, Steelism offers a more holistic listening experience, inspired by mid-century modern design, early Brian Eno productions and 70s film scores. They also introduce featured vocalists into their instrumental canon for the first time. The result is a refreshing sonic palette with an invigorating twist on the Intoxicating Sounds of Steelism. "We pieced together ism like a visual mid-century modern design - an array of vibrant colors and tones aligned together while constantly striving for minimalism, even as the production grew."
ism, was co-produced by guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, pedal steel player Spencer Cullum (together known as Steelism) and Jeremy Ferguson (Lambchop, Tristen, Andrew Combs). Tracking began on November 9th, 2016, with the divisive results of the U.S. Presidential election just in. Respite was found through the creative process while holed up at Ferguson's Battle Tapes Recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The usual Steelism rhythm section, Jon Radford (drums) & Jon Estes (bass), and Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on keys are heard throughout the record. Legendary "Nashville Cat" studio musician Charlie McCoy (Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde) on vibraphone & harmonica and a lush string quartet provide the finishing instrumental touches.
"We began recording ism the day after the election results rolled in which created a tense atmosphere right from the get-go. We depended on Steelism to be our escape. The new rule for the sessions became that a musical part or performance was only successful if it made you laugh or feel cool! Which instantly helps filter a lot of ideas out."
Steelism's inception was motivated by Fetzer & Cullum's desire to explore musically, taking chances with writing and performance that they otherwise couldn't backing other artists. With ism they continue this exploration. Elements of David Axelrod, AIR, & Pink Floyd were noted in the production of the opening track, "Re-Member". On "Eno Nothing", Fetzer's piano and fuzz steel melody were inspired by the melodic phrasing of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk while put to a driving rhythm. The work of film score composer Lalo Schifrin, Serge Gainsbourg circa Histoire de Melody Nelson and the 1970s German Krautrock movement also inform the sonically rich tone of the record.
Fetzer and Cullum say the vision for ism was to curate a listening experience similar to that of a film soundtrack. To bring this vision to realization, they wrote 3 songs with vocal melodies to compliment the instrumental compositions. Fellow Nashvillians Tristen, Ruby Amanfu, Andrew Combs & Jessie Baylin, who appear as featured vocalists on the album, were then brought in as collaborators. Tristen finished the lyrics that Cullum had started for "Shake Your Heel", a song about overcoming modern anxieties. Amanfu provided the words for "Roulette", a tune inspired by John Barry's legendary James Bond scores and Fela Kuti recordings. Combs, a longtime friend and writing partner of Steelism, penned the lyrics for "Lonely Game", which ultimately evolved into a duet with Baylin in the style of Lee Hazelwood's LHI recordings.
"We wanted to keep the record 100% Nashville from the studio to the musicians and singers. We were even fortunate enough to enlist "Nashville Cat" Charlie McCoy who helped put the city musically on the map in the 1960s and had an instrumental group of his own known as Area Code 615. Nashville is currently evolving culturally and is going through some growing pains at the moment, but it continues to be a creative mecca and collaborative atmosphere for all us."
Steelism's ability to combine a diverse assortment of sonic flavors in a way that feels fresh & cohesive has always been a staple of the band's sound. It's there with 615 to FAME as well as with their 2012 EP The Intoxicating Sounds of Pedal Steel & Guitar and 2015 EP, The Drawing Room Vol. I. ism casts an even wider net, yet the marriage of the various elements offers a more articulate listen than previous releases, presenting a more refined & mature Steelism sound. The implementation of vocals on the album flows seamlessly with the instrumentals and those components compliment each other rather than juxtapose. If ever Steelism provided a soundtrack to life, it is with ism.
ism was released June 23, 2017 on Steelism's own label imprint, Intoxicating Sounds, distributed by Thirty Tigers.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, hailing from Canton, Ohio, and pedal steel player Spencer Cullum from Essex, England met while touring the U.K. with Nashville singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose. Quickly realizing they were cut from the same cloth, they bonded over a shared love for classic film score composers like Ennio Morricone and '60s instrumental acts like Booker T. and the M.G.s, The Ventures and Pete Drake. They started writing between sound checks and Steelism was born. They have backed a wide array of artists such as Carl Broemel (of My Morning Jacket), Wanda Jackson, Johnny Fritz, Rayland Baxter, Andrew Combs, Ruby Amanfu and others. Their debut full-length, 615 to FAME, was released in September 2014 on Single Lock Records (founded by founded by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Will Trapp).
"...some of the most quirky, vibrant and enjoyably eclectic music emerging from Nashville in decades." - American Songwriter
"Great instrumental rock and roll, sadly, has become a lost art, but Steelism is resurrecting that tradition and adding new chapters of its own, and while they may not have a singer, they certainly have great things to say." - Ben Tanner, Alabama Shakes
"As it developed, country's innovators learned from jazz, mixed in flavors from soul, and got a kick from early rock 'n' roll. The debut album by the guitar duo Steelism doesn't simply tap into all of these flavors; it also demonstrates how they blend and complement each other." - Ann Powers, (NPR Morning Edition)
"[Steelism] sounds like, Duane Eddy, Don Ho, Santo and Johnny, Ennio Morricone, Caitlin Rose and Kraftwerk...The eclectic instrumental score for a cinematic road trip." - Rolling Stone Country
"...on the reverently and cleverly titled 615 to FAME...they just may have single-handedly reinvented instrumental pop music for a new era." - Steve Leggett (All Music)
"Guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and steel player Spencer Cullum lead a crew of underground Nashville's best instrumentalists to create some of the most lyrical lyric-less music in a generation." - Nashville Scene, Best of Nashville Issue