When she wrote her last album, 2017’s Map & No Direction, Beth Bombara admittedly lacked a clear course to follow, and around that time, the St. Louis-based singer-guitarist got to a point where she fell out of love with music.
Getting together with a new group of musicians helped restore her self-confidence and renew her joy for music, and Bombara feels that her new album, Evergreen, represents “the other side of that climb” from those depths.
“The doubts did creep in,” she says about that rough period. “I thought, ‘Am I supposed to be doing this? Am I even good at this?’ ”
Touring with her new band in support of Map & No Direction “brought some creative energy,” Bombara says, and during soundchecks, they’d work on new material.
“I would say, ‘I have this lick in my head. Let’s jam on that,’ ” she says. “We had started doing two new songs toward the end of the touring: ‘I Only Cry When I’m Alone’ and ‘Tenderhearted.’ It was nerve-wracking doing those for the first time, but I was really encouraged by the crowd response to those songs. It gave me even more confidence to keep working on the other songs.”
When it came time to record “I Only Cry When I’m Alone,” “Tenderhearted” and the other eight songs on Evergreen (released Aug. 9), Bombara wanted “a little outside energy,” so she asked John Calvin Abney — a friend of hers and husband-bandmate Kit Hamon — to play piano, harmonica and co-produce the album. She sent Abney demos of the material, and a few days before recording commenced, Bombara, Abney, bassist Hamon, guitarist Samuel Gregg and drummer Mike Schurk rehearsed to see how things fit together.
“It really just clicked,” Bombara recalls. “A lot of it was off the cuff for [Abney], integrating what he was doing with what the band was already doing.”
In the studio, Bombara and her band did an average of five takes per song, usually with everyone playing together live and with minimal overdubs afterward.
“That is my favorite way to record,” she says. “You can nitpick things so much, and when do you say it’s really done? You can keep going back and perfecting something. There’s a fine line there in the studio. I’d rather go in and capture something that has a vibe. There are parts in there that I didn’t mean to play, and maybe I missed a note.
“The point isn’t to be perfect. The point is to do something with a group of people and create this thing that captures a time and a place with the people who are involved.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Beth Bombara on tour (schedule subject to change):
Aug. 22: The Pageant — St. Louis
Aug. 29: Knuckleheads Saloon — Kansas City, Missouri
Sept. 30: The Evening Muse — Charlotte, North Carolina
Oct. 25: Pianos — New York
Left to right: John Calvin Abney, Mike Schurk, Beth Bombara, Samuel Gregg and Kit Hamon