When Nashville-based singer-songwriter Stewart Eastham began working on his new album, he knew he wanted to put together a collection of songs that were as enjoyable to listen to as they were intriguing. He also wanted to make sure he represented just about every style of music he had always loved, and somehow make everything work together as one album. The result of that process is Dancers In The Mansion, which comes out August 12th on Long Bar Music, and contains fifteen songs teeming with everything from country rock and honky tonk, to folk, funk and roots rock and roll. The term Americana may be overused at this point, but it’s safe to say Dancers In The Mansion is the very definition of it. There is too much happening to be able to pin it down to any one genre, yet as a whole we are presented with an artist dedicated to the many corners of American roots music.
It’s worth noting that the album also marked the first time Eastham co-produced his own work. Being so closely involved with every stage of the album’s production, he was able to really craft the songs so the musical arrangements best represented his point of view. “Being so hands-on with this album, I think the snapshot it presents is closer to my personality than anything I’ve done before,” says Eastham. “While the last album was me looking inward, this one is more me looking outwards. So, in a strange way, it probably gives a better a sense of who I am and what I find interesting or moving.”
Given Eastham’s hands-on approach and passion for the songs on Dancers In The Mansion, it should come as no surprise that each song has its own personality. You can get a full sense of Eastham’s many influences on the tune “Pretty Little Songbird”, and today we are presenting an exclusive preview of it right here on Glide Magazine. With slide guitar, organ, and a gospel-like presence of background singers, the song has a distinctly Southern feel meets swaggering 70’s country rock.
At the core of it is Stewart Eastham’s soaring vocals and lyrics that feel testimonial on an almost spiritual level. Eastham shares his own story behind “Pretty Little Songbird”:
I started writing this song not long after releasing the last album. At that time it was called “Pretty Little Angel.” I had bits and pieces of lyrics and I knew the character I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t really get it flowing.
One night my girlfriend and I went out with a friend of ours who had lost someone dear to suicide. He was absolutely devastated. His pain was so raw and visceral it seeped into me. It was a very heavy feeling that sat with me for a while. It wasn’t right away, but a few months later when I sat down to take another crack at writing the lyrics, those feelings came back to me. I wrote those feelings into the song and the lyrics came together. It was at that point I changed it to be “Pretty Little Songbird” instead of “Pretty Little Angel.” I felt that more aptly captured the beautiful and delicate nature of the character (as well as the beautiful and delicate nature of life itself). Even though the impetus was suicide, I tried to leave the lyrics open-ended enough such that they could be also be applied to other situations of losing someone.
I had that song finished for maybe a year or so, but I didn’t play it much. I couldn’t decide if it should be a fast song or a slow song. Then one day my drummer Allen Jones and I jammed it over at his place. It was the first time I’d played the song for him and he started playing this big funky drum beat. That inspired me to create a more percussive rhythm guitar part and suddenly the song came to life!
We started jamming the song out with Kim Lee (my bass player) and Mark Wise (who was playing pedal steel with us at the time). The more we played the song, the more it turned into this big funky rock song. By the time it came to record, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted for the song.
Kim, Allen, and I made the rhythm as funky as possible and Jeff Rogers (lead guitar) laid down some killer slide guitar. Producer Burke Ericson brought in David Yuter to lay down some super funky clavinet and electric piano. Regina McCrary did an incredible job with the backup vocals. The way she belts it out on the bridge gets me every time!
Dancers In The Mansion is out August 12th on Long Bar Music. PRE-ORDER
For more on Stewart Eastham visit stewarteastham.com.
Photo credit: Katrena Rochell