Nashville singer-songwriter Carey Ott, who recently signed a publishing deal with IMAGEM, will be releasing his newest album, Nocona, on Friday, September 9. The album features contributions by a group of Nashville friends and stalwarts that includes Will Kimbrough, Cage The Elephant co-founder Lincoln Parish, and Dualtone recording artist Rebecca Roubion.
Ott, who grew up in Ottawa, Illinois, moved to nearby Chicago in the mid-90s where he fronted the band Torben Floor. The group recorded albums with esteemed engineers Steve Albini and Brian Deck and toured nationally before calling it quits in 1999. The breakup allowed Ott to concentrate on his solo career, which found him relocating to Nashville, and has yielded a series of acclaimed recordings that include the Uncut Magazine-acclaimed 2006 album Lucid Dream (released by Dualtone Music). Ott’s songs have been featured in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and The Gates, as well as the feature films The Killing of John Lennon and 37.
Nocona is inspired by a sleepy North Texas town of barely 3,000 people, is a collection of ten songs – co-produced with Neilson Hubbard – that play like a roadmap through an amalgamation of emotions and themes. Nocona (No-koh-nah), a Comanche word meaning “The Wanderer,” refers both to a small town in Texas and a song that Ott co-wrote with fellow Nashville musician Ryan Culwell, who was actually born in Nocona, Texas, a town which Ott has never visited but feels a spiritual connection to.
Glide is premiering Nocona in its entirety below, an album that full captures the essence of a complete singer-songwriter whose music plays into the minds and hearts of even the most jaded listeners. Ott offers Paul Simon’s melancholy & harmony, while bringing the compositonal relevancy of Wilco. While clubs might be the current home for Ott, he’s due to be playing alongside the likes of Ray Lamontagne and Josh Ritter in bigger rooms. Nocona served as Ott’s White Ladder (David Grey’s 1998 breakthrough), and the time has never been more fitting. Check out below what Ott himself has to say about the new recording, his Nashville connection and his favorite albums this years so far….
What type of record would you describe Nocona as? What records from your listening past would you also categorize in a similar way and what do you hope the listener will get out of Nocona?
Nocona is a tapestry woven together after all the songs were created individually. I’ve read somewhere that Van Morrison always made his records like that; one song at a time, not thinking of the album until all the songs are calling out to be grouped and put out to the world as sort of a thematic collection. I’m writing and recording songs at home all the time. Then when an album starts to coalesce, I can feel it and follow my intuition. All of Nocona started at home in my basement studio. It’s fun seeing where it all leads from there.
The LP features quite a few notable contributions as well – how did you decide to have other people on the record – what was the process like?
Having been in Nashville 10 years, I’ve become infinitely better at collaboration. When I got here I was more like Sting or Prince, a bit megalomaniacal. I only wrote alone. Now I’m way more of a team player. I still write alone but I think more like a producer. These days I’m more like a Mark Ronson or a Don Was. I enjoy bringing talented people in and letting them do their thing. I’m good at it. I find I’m usually thrilled with talented people’s natural instincts. Don’t over-think it. Will Kimbrough played what he felt. I don’t tell guys like Lincoln Parish what to play. Neilson’s (Hubbard) the same way. I feel lucky to have them on my stuff.
As a songwriter – what makes an ideal song for you and does it come more easily in times of distress or anxiety?
Each song is totally unique. They’re like children. I like to find the song that wants to be written on that particular day. Sometimes it’s joy, sometimes it’s grief, but if it’s honest it’s all valid to me. I used to think I had to have the blues to write something real, but I don’t think that anymore.
What songs on the new album came together the quickest and which ones did you labor over the most?
Most of these came pretty quick. I tend to trust the quick ones more. “We Are A Circle” took weeks of finagling. “Speed Of Love” poured right out nice and easy. The easy ones seem to come from a purer place to me. But some, like “Flash Fires” and “Cosmic Joke,” didn’t really move me as much until we got in the studio and got the musicians and Neilson involved. Collaborating with Neilson and the musicians really elevated all these tracks. You have to trust your producer. I have a lot of trust in Neilson.
Can you talk about your connection with Nashville and how the area influenced you as an artist?
Nashville is where I came to make my first solo record (Lucid Dream) after Torben Floor (my longtime Chicago band) broke up. I got an education my first five years in Nashville. Nashville is a unique place; very dynamic, ever-changing. I played Bluebird Cafe a bunch and got into the writer’s rounds. That’s where you go around the circle of songwriters and tell your stories behind the songs. I learn so much doing those writer’s rounds. Chicago is a great music town as well, but very much its own scene. Nashville may as well be Mars compared to Chicago. I love Nashville, but it took some getting used to. If I wasn’t in Nashville, I’d probably have stayed in Chicago. I’m not much of an L.A. or New York kinda dude.
You’ve had your music placed in quite a few films, ads and television shows. What advice can you give to other singer-songwriters looking to get their music featured in different multi media formats?
My advice is to find your champions; those people (besides your immediate family) who get what you’re doing and want to promote you and get people excited about the music. Success follows excitement, not the other way around. It’s a good idea to keep those people around and encourage them and appreciate what their energy and excitement brings. I couldn’t have done any of this without my champions.
What are you listening to these days – your favorite albums of 2016 so far?
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger
Carey Ott – Nocona
If you curate your own festival – who would you choose to be on it?