805 Songwriter Round Up w/ Glen Phillips, Adam Topol, Sean Watkins, Johnny Irion

805 Songwriter Round Up w/ Glen Phillips, Adam Topol, Sean Watkins, Johnny Irion

Thu 6.22.17

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

$15.00

Tickets at the Door

This event is all ages

Adam Topol
Adam Topol
He’s sat behind the drum kit for everyone from Eddie Vedder, Joey Santiago, Ziggy Marley and Jack Johnson to legends like Jimmy Cliff and David Gilmour. He has explored Afro-Cuban rhythms and percussion via Ritmo Y Canto, dabbled in dubby electronic reggae with Culver City Dub Collective and to the far edges of soul-jazz with “Blue Painted Walls In Faraway Places”. He has never made the same record twice. So is it a surprise that Regardless of the Dark is his first album as a front man? Stepping out from behind the drum kit to create a collection of songs that can stand alongside those of his peers? At least a little bit, because it nearly didn’t happen. Playing alongside so many great musicians had made coming up with his own material all the more challenging. He threw his own first record out because he wanted to go back and do it again until it felt right. The final result is this ten song voyage from “Brazil” to “Reno”. It took nearly three years to record the album – on the road on a laptop, in random studios on off days, and at home in Topol’s garage in Venice, CA. Focusing less on rhythmic based songs as in previous projects, Regardless of the Dark aims at narratives and lyrical storytelling about life in the northern Nevada and California mountains. Traveling the world with great songwriters and artists also helped plant the seeds for this batch of songs to come to life. The sound of the feel of the album is influenced heavily by hours spent on the road reading books and listening to music, hearing other people tell their stories over and over. The literary influences can be heard throughout. The works of Junot Diaz, Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle all provided their own kind of inspiration here. The album opens with the Lee Scratch Perry/Congos inspired groove of “Brazil,” about people living their lives on auto-pilot, a song partially inspired by Vonnegut’s Timequake. “Crystal Bay” is a murderous allegory about the circular nature of life, warning that things we do will always catch up to us. The ramshackle sea shanty of “The Captain” describes the remorseful title character as a man who willingly sinks his own ship but refuses to go down with it without an attempt at forgiveness. Always buoyed by the presence of good friends and collaborators, Topol has assembled a number of talented musicians to flesh out the instrumentation here. “Hollow,” was recorded in Barcelona with The Pinker Tones, and sparkles with castanets and melodica. Dengue Fever’s David Ralicke lends his horn work to “Lemon Yellow” and “Brazil,” while “Crystal Bay” was recorded in East LA with the help of Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco. Mason Jennings lends his talents to a number of Topol’s songs including additional vocals, guitar and keyboard work on “The Captain” as well as the album’s closing track, “Reno.” At its base, Regardless of the Dark ruminates on a sense of place, and how leaving your roots behind can help you discover that they were what made you unique in the first place. Likewise, as his own musical roots stretch out well below the surface, on this record Adam Topol has shown he can tell stories and weave melodies alongside the best of his mentors and peers.
Johnny Irion
Johnny Irion
John Irion is a rocker in and out of time. There's something kind of timeless in the way he wrings out the sweetest melodies and deeper passions of both '60s Californian rock and Guthrie-era folk, and something so timely about the way he does it – there's a reason Bernie Sanders asked him to sing at a rally in his sometimes-home of Santa Barbara. Best known for his folk explorations with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie, including their recent Wassaic Way produced by Jeff Tweedy, and his latest rock venture with US ELEVATOR, which Will Hermes of Rolling Stone Magazine praised for its "songs that are hand crafted as lovingly as the jeans on the back of After the Goldrush," Irion has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting artists across the folk-rock spectrum, from his uncannily Young-Nilsson-esque voice to his melodic and lyrical mettle. Iron has just wrapped up a solo record, Driving Friend, with members of Dawes, Wilco, Nicki Bluhm, and The Gramblers, due out this spring. He will be joining SON VOLT for their spring tour.

These recent years have been a long and exciting road for folk-rocker John Irion, who joins Son Volt on their spring tour with his springtime solo album Driving Friend --- and the ride just keeps getting better. Working members of Dawes, Wilco, Nicki Bluhm, and The Gramblers on his newest effort, Irion keeps good musical company, and looking back on his works, it's easy to see why. Best known for his folk explorations with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie, including their recent Wassaic Way produced by Jeff Tweedy, and his latest rock venture with US ELEVATOR, which Will Hermes of Rolling Stone Magazine praised for its "songs that are hand crafted as lovingly as the jeans on the back of After the Goldrush," Irion continues to expand his musical range. With his uncannily Young-Nilsson-esque voice to his melodic and lyrical mettle, Irion is one of the most exciting artists across the folk-rock spectrum

"Songs that feel as lovingly hand-crafted as the jeans on the back of After the Gold Rush."
- By Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

"Irion's dreamy vocals and dazzling guitar work."
- John Sollenberger, Pasadena Weekly
Glen Phillips
Glen Phillips
Glen was for thirteen years frontman and primary songwriter for the multiplatinum-selling alternative rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket, whose hits include “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean,” “Good Intentions,” and “Fall Down.” (The band formed in Santa Barbara in 1986—when Glen was sixteen—and signed with Columbia Records two years later.)

After Toad’s breakup, Glen launched his solo career with the 2001 CD Abulum, for which he was praised by Nashville’s Rage Magazine as “one of the premier pop songwriters of his generation.”

In 2003 Glen was commissioned by Titanic director James Cameron to write the song “Departure,” featured in Cameron’s IMAX film Ghosts of the Abyss. Glen also performed in 2003 on albums by The Ataris and Sean Watkins.

In 2004 Glen released his collaboration with Grammy winners Nickel Creek under the name “Mutual Admiration Society,” on the Sugar Hill label.

[An] eleven-track marvel … shaded with plenty of subtle nuance that shimmers in all the right places. Phillips’ voice has never sounded better.
—The Music Box

In 2005 Glen released Winter Pays For Summer on Lost Highway Records, with appearances by Jon Brion, Ben Folds, and Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello & The Attractions.

Whether they're power pop tunes with catchy choruses or restive waltzes, the songs on Winter Pays for Summer are smart, honest and, ultimately, hopeful. And that's, as one song puts it, ‘a lot to be thankful for.’
—USA Today

In 2006 Phillips released Mr. Lemons on his own Umami label.

After opting for a lush and refined sound on his last record … Phillips spins the production knobs to zero on his third solo record. [Its songs] … are chiefly built around Phillips’ honey-dipped voice and a lonely guitar, throwing a bone to the legion of fans that prefer his lone-man live performances.
—Amazon.com, Editorial Review

In 2008 Glen released his concept album about space travel, Secrets of the New Explorers.

Secrets … is a brilliant piece of music … The songs are beautiful, and the closing track “A Dream” is sparse loveliness at its finest, reminding the listener once more why they came to fall in love with the music of Glen Phillips in the first place.
—HybridMagazine.com

In 2009 Glen released the first album by, and began extensive touring with, his new supergroup: Works Progress Administration (“WPA”). The group is a collaborative which also includes Sara and Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek), Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), Luke Bulla (Ricky Skaggs), et al.

The crisp geniality of progressive bluegrass and the polished heartache of modern country both have a home in WPA.
—The New York Times

In praise of the group’s musical diversity and the success of its eclectic lineup of talent, the Washington Post review notes, simply, “WPA is proof there's no solid formula for making the best music.”

***

2013 brought the release of “New Constellation,” Toad The Wet Sprocket’s first new studio album in fifteen years, a perfect return to form for a band whose trademark combination of lyricism and brainpower has magicked legions of admirers into truly undying fans.

Older, wiser, and with a newfound hopefulness that wasn't there in their younger days, Toad deliver [in “New Constellation”] an uncluttered and thoughtful next step of their ongoing songcraft.
—AllMusic
Sean Watkins
Sean Watkins
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sean Watkins has long been known for his work as one-third of the Grammy Award-winning Nickel Creek and, more recently, for helming, with sister Sara, the itinerant, genre-hopping Watkins Family Hour ensemble. But in the last year he has more assertively – and impressively – taken on the role of solo artist. What To Fear is a follow-up to 2014's acclaimed All I Do Is Lie, which had been Watkins' first solo effort in nearly a decade, ten years that had been jammed with collaborative projects and a herculean amount of touring. On his own, Watkins displays tremendous warmth and soulfulness as a singer, a refreshing candor and humor as a lyricist, and prodigious skill as an arranger. And he doesn't merely stick with the familiar: On What To Fear, he bolsters an acoustic lineup with a rock rhythm section, bringing drama and drive to these new tracks while keeping intact the emotional intimacy of all the stories he is telling.

As a writer, Watkins deftly juggles the observational and the autobiographical, convincingly taking on the personalities of others – a stalker, a preacher, a cynical newscaster – and then juxtaposing them with a voice that is clearly his own. Watkins' singing unites disparate narrative threads; he's disarmingly honest and sympathetic, no matter whom the character he is channeling might be. Similarly, he has managed to take the work of his acoustic collaborators - -the gifted young Northern Californian trio, Bee Eaters – with the robust bass and drums combo of Matt Chamberlain and Mike Elizondo.

The title track starts off in a deceptively simple way, just Watkins' plaintive voice and acoustic guitar, before the band kicks in, bolstered by a dreamy, Mellotron-generated string section. It's ominous, compelling and surprisingly topical. Watkins could be echoing the words of an evangelist, a sensationalist newscaster, or a fear-mongering political candidate. Watkins quips, "I kind of lucked out with that. I started writing before all the campaign stuff was happening. But something like that is always happening."

Conversely, "Last Time For Everything" is "a mostly true story, from back in my early to mid twenties. The concept of 'a last time for everything' – a friend of mine said that once and I thought, there must be a song with that title. There wasn't any song that I could find so I wrote it. The first thing that comes to mind with a phrase like that would be something like 'the last time you saw someone' but that felt cheap and sentimental. I wanted to celebrate the other side of it, the things that you are never going to do again and be grateful for that, the mistakes from the past, analyzing what you've done and sussing out what to keep and what to let go."

Watkins began composing these new songs as he toured in support of All I Do Is Lie and prepared to hit the road for the first time with Watkins Family Hour, a project that until then had mostly stayed rooted at Largo, the group's favored venue in Los Angeles. Watkins initially envisioned the album as an acoustic string-band session and reached out to the Bee Eaters, a trio he'd become acquainted with after participating in bluegrass camps they conducted in Northern California. Bee Eaters are lead by Tashina Clarridge on violin and her brother Tristan on cello. Simon Chrisman plays hammer dulcimer with them, and his instrument gives both a percussive and melodic underpinning to several of these tracks. But, as Watkins' songs developed further in the writing stage, he realized he also wanted to employ a rhythm section, and called on his friends, bassist Elizondo and drummer Chamberlain, who each boast a lengthy list of credits, from hip hop to rock to jazz. Says Watkins, "It's mind-blowing how good they are."

Watkins' original idea was to cut tracks separately with these two groups of musicians. But he found himself with a few days of studio time and decided to record the same four songs with both lineups and then determine what configuration worked best for each tune. What he discovered was that these two approaches weren't mutually exclusive. By combining elements from each session he came up with a unique sound, one that helped define, in a larger sense, where Watkins himself had arrived as a solo musician. As he explains, "I wanted to highlight where I come from musically, the strings and the solos and I wanted this album to more guitar oriented than my last one. I wanted this record to highlight my musical strengths but without getting to comfortable. I really enjoy music that it is, at once, satisfying and surprising. So this record is my attempt at approaching that balancing point between reaching forward and experimenting musically while also celebrating where I come from with regard to the acoustic, bluegrass side of the spectrum."

Unlike most of his peers, Watkins has been a performer for more than 25 years. He was a mere 12 years old when he played his first gig in Nickel Creek, with sister Sara on fiddle and Chris Thile on mandolin, at a San Diego pizza parlor. The trio's star ascended quickly; within a few years, a progressive bluegrass following grew into a large mainstream audience. Its 2002 album, This Side, garnered a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy. Since then, Watkins has released discs with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman as the duo Fiction Family and with fellow guitarist Glen Phillips as Works Progress Administration, an eight-piece band featuring a stellar lineup of fellow L.A. session players. He also managed to release three solo efforts along the way. The Watkins Family Hour began as an informal event at Largo, where Sean and Sara could carouse on stage with an ever-changing group of like-minded friends. A core group of musicians became a regular part of the festivities, including pianist Benmont Tench, bassist Sebastian Steinberg and singer Fiona Apple. Together they recorded The Watkins Family Hour disc last year and took their convivial show on the road. What To Fear includes guest-star turns from Sara, as well as Tench, Steinberg and Petra Haden. In fact, the instrumental "Local Honey" was originally written as a kind of Family Hour theme song, for the live show and the group's podcast.

Having friends and family on board has long been a hallmark of every Watkins project. He's also been regularly invited to record and tour with many other musicians, among them Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett. But What To Fear is all about Sean Watkins himself, front and center, as his songwriting matures and his persona as a solo performer blooms.

"For the longest time I didn't feel comfortable in that role, "Watkins admits. "I loved being in bands. But now that I've done songs that I really like-- I'm proud of my last one, and even prouder of this one --that makes a big difference when you're traveling solo, stepping on stage by yourself. It's fun to go out on stage – anything is possible. It's gone from feeling daunting to being hopeful and free."

-- Michael Hill
Venue Information:
SOhO Restaurant and Music Club
1221 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA, 93101