Chris Stalcup has shared bills with Lucero, Shooter Jennings & The Georgia Satellites so credibility as a rocker has always been intact. Downhearted Fools is the Atlanta rocker’s second solo release on DirtLeg Records, and it has become evidently clear that the Atlanta native knows how to write a song, and more importantly, knows how to write a song about what’s real.
Stalcup’s stint with his old band Chase Fifty Six, and his debut solo record, Dixie Electric Company, led the hard-charging singer/songwriter to get the wheels spinning as a rocker earning valid opening gigs and interest from respected indie press. But even through these successful projects, Stalcup had only one foot in music, and the other planted safely in a two-decade spanning career in advertising. But as he began to write the songs that would become Downhearted Fools, he took a leap of rock & roll faith.
After corralling some of Atlanta’s premier musicians, he threw caution to the wind, and quit his day job, embracing a lifelong dream, but also a new set of anxieties and risks—like how to pay the mortgage on a touring musician’s income. “I finally pulled the trigger to where I could hit the road and concentrate on music full time,” Stalcup says. “Just faced the fear head on and went for it.”
“I’ve always been taught to follow a more traditional work ethic,” he continues, “to put my nose to the grindstone and work hard at a job. So it was a shock to my system, and those close to me, when I struck out on this new path.” It’s a move that took guts. And—coupled with his new life on the road—it has been a driving force inspiring the new album.
Glide is premiering the new album’s title track “Downhearted Fools” (below) a ragged rocker that burns with electricity and hard charging vocals that echoes the Drive by Truckers at their most “Saturday night.” Stalcup offers a set of well worn pipes that speak years beyond his album count, giving the artist a sense of integrity and poignancy. Stalcup offers his unique insight to the penning of the composition below…
Passion meets purpose—it’s a good way to describe the essence of what’s driving Chris Stalcup and the Grange’s sophomore record Downhearted Fools. Theirs is a sound like a bonfire raging behind some small-town dirt-road shanty, of a band valiantly laying bare its soul while everyone dances wildly, moonshine drunk in the Southern night. Stalcup and his band channel Gram Parsons-influenced Stones tunes like “Honky-Tonk Women” and “Wild Horses,” occasionally coming off like a collaboration between Son Volt’s Jay Farrar and Drive-By Truckers’ Mike Cooley. The songs are deeply authentic and unapologetically Southern.
“”Downhearted Fools” is about finding yourself newly single again at a much older age than before, and about facing the realization that you’re going to have to get back out into the world and start dating again,” describes Stalcup. “When you look in the mirror and see yourself now vs. before, you think about who you are and how you look, and it can take a beating on your confidence. So it’s an anthem about realizing that with age comes wisdom, maturity and confidence. Whereas a younger man may have more physical prowess, an older man has hopefully learned a few tricks along the way and knows “how to win her heart.” The song comes from that, and from talking with a good friend whose wife just left him after being married almost 30 years—he and I were talking about our relationship difficulties, and he says to me, “I guess we’re just a couple of downhearted fools.”
“Musically, this track speaks more to the more aggressive, rock & roll side of my nature. I had been writing a lot of more laid back tunes lately and with all this going on in my life, I felt fairly pent up. Since I quit my usual method of dealing with life’s more difficult experiences by drinking myself to oblivion, I grabbed an electric guitar instead of the usual acoustic and just beat out these chords transferring all my anger, frustration and aggression into the song. To me, it’s a throat punch to all the bullshit coming at you daily, and the idea that we all have the power to overcome it by looking at our strengths instead of our weaknesses and regrets.”
Writing “Downhearted Fools” was really refreshing—I had no preconception of anything for the song, I just had this emotion to get out. I hit a G chord as hard as I could, and pushed my amp to talk back to me a little. I felt like I had to keep it as simple as possible, so I found a melody with a basic chord structure. I wanted to put as much emphasis on the lyrics as possible—just let the chords and melodies support the message. I had a feeling the song would find its power in the groove that the band brought to it, and it worked out that way. While we were recording, we ran this song maybe two times. We’d been working it out on the road, and when we hit the studio, there was this instant, magical moment where we captured the vibe and rather than beat the life out of it, we called it done and moved on. For me, the beauty is in the moment with this song. The band poured such a groove into it that you have to be careful not to run it down too far and lose that. Recording live and having stereo electric guitars pounding out that intro made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little. It felt like we were all stepping into a ring and strapping on our gloves, ready to take on the world.”