Joe Stamm said his version of country music contains rural American imagery and deeply personal songwriting.
That personal touch shows on songs from a new EP — sure to be played at the Joe Stamm Country Rock Revival Friday at the Castle Theatre with guests Lick Creek & The Bogart Jones Band.
The single "Merry Christmas from Sun Road Hill" is also new. He tells WGLT it’s not a traditional feel-good holiday song, real or not.
“I have to be careful with this one and need to make clear there is a lot of imagination used. Otherwise I might get some aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters upset at me,” he laughed. “A lot of it is made up.”
Uncle Brett’s been drinking bitching about his mrs
Aunt Laura’s in the kitchen doin’ up all the dishes
Looks like Grandma’s passed out on the couch
Someone outa take that burnin’ cigarette out of her mouth.
- From “Merry Christmas from Sun Rd Hill”
“There are tidbits and concepts in there that are certainly personal and true. But a lot of it is fabricated. For example, none of my grandparents ever smoked cigarettes. But there is something in that song that someone at any family reunion can identify with,” said Stamm.
But we’re all drunk as far as I can tell
Merry Christmas from Sun Road Hill
- From “Merry Christmas from Sun Rd Hill”
His “Songs Without a Home” EP was released in October, the title being a reference to struggling to release songs piling up over the years. Last year he finally said, "I’m needing to get where I’m releasing stuff on a regular basis.”
The EP is one three different projects he’s been working on. He hinted at a studio recording with his regular band scheduled for a 2020 release. But “Songs Without a Home” was recorded in Nashville in the same studio and with the same producer he used on a previous album. He said working with studio musicians has its plusses and minuses, but thought it best this time as his regular band might not be latching on to this set of songs.
“On the high side everything’s perfect,” said Stamm of working with studio musicians. “You go in and it’s like a factory. I mean, these guys crank it out.
“You make decisions on the fly,” he said snapping his fingers. “I’m extremely satisfied with how this came out. When I recorded 'First Saw You' back in 2017 there were a lot of the same cats in the studio and the same producer, and I was just wide-eyed. These guys are just cranking stuff out and making decisions on the fly.”
He said that experience gave him more confidence this time around and he was able to make decisions about the music he might have been reluctant to vocalize two years prior.
The downside was the “canned Nashville sound” he said can come from recording that way. It is an assembly line, and when you’re an independent artist paying studio musicians by the hour, efficiency is paramount.
“Verses the full band album coming out next summer, those are four guys who have been in a room for the last year or so crankin’ out these ideas and arrangements and parts from the ground up. Those have evolved into a blood, sweat and tears project,” said Stamm, adding it’s more of what he calls his “Black Dirt Sound.”
Back to the EP. “I’ll Buy the Beer” is an especially personal song about a friend written about a decade prior.
Hey buddy how you been
I guess it’s been awhile
I’ve been busier than hell
My ‘to do’s’ go on for miles
But don’t forget you’re the one who left
Don’t forget you’re the one who’s gone
- From “I’ll Buy The Beer”
During the recording process, he said his drummer included a soldier beat, which sparked an idea to produce a video sharing the story of a soldier who had died in battle.
“The family of Corporal Benjamin Desilets submitted and had tons of great videos and photos from Ben’s life. He was killed in Iraq in 2007. That’s been a real powerful, awesome experience to be a part of. It was truly special for me. And from the feedback we’ve gotten, it’s been truly special to a lot of people,” said Stamm.
With Christmas just a few days away, Stamm was asked what he wanted as a present this year.
“Just a few more friends,” he said after pausing for a few seconds. “As an independent musician that’s what we’re always looking for and has been my approach for seven years. When I started this band and project, we just wanted to keep moving our boundaries out, so a few more fans and friends would be enough.”
Sounds like he’s doing well so far.
“It’s going well, I’m having fun,” said Stamm with a smile.
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