Singer-songwriters need self-imposed deadlines, according to Jerry Castle, and he admits going to the extreme when it came to his latest release, South Holston.
Castle booked the studio and musicians he used to create the album before 70 percent of the songs were written. He had two weeks to complete the material, but during that period, he embarked on a 10-day acoustic tour of Texas and California. Even so, by the time Castle returned home to Nashville, Tenn., the songs were mostly finished.
“The reason I went to such an extreme is that I just needed it,” Castle explains. “I needed to be in the studio, immersed in the process of recording an album as a means of feeding my soul, tuning out some extremely difficult stuff in my personal life and channeling my energy in a positive manner.
“It’s important to me to be prolific at this point in my career, and I’m hopeful that everything will work out in a manner that enables me to keep up my current pace.”
The pace of the South Holston sessions, which were tracked in East Nashville, was quick, and the pre-recording process was efficient and effective. Castle, armed with an acoustic guitar, would play a song for the backing musicians, who made a chart that they passed around. After that, everyone convened in the studio kitchen, where Castle strummed the song again while the others followed the chart. Then they’d come up with a collective game plan and start recording the song together.
“With only having two days to track,” Castle says, “we were able to capture some really spontaneous stuff.”
Castle gives credit to co-producer Chad Brown for bringing in musicians who would be up to the task of recording live in the studio.
“He probably knows my music better than anyone else, and I really trust his judgment when it comes to the talent of players,” says Castle. “He has never said someone was right for a session and been wrong.”
Three songs included on South Holston — “Write My Own Ending,” “Life Gets Better” and “Road Less Traveled” — are from past Castle efforts, and including them was influenced by the positive reaction those tunes received during his tour for 2013’s Desperate Parade.
“I think that part of being an artist is about doing it for yourself, but it’s also about doing it for the people who support what you’re doing,” Castle explains. “If a song that you created resonates with your audience, it’s your job to give them what they want, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t always done that.”
Recording a cover of the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth” for South Holston (due Aug. 26) was “totally off the cuff,” Castle recalls. He and his backing band had just nailed the 10th song for the album, “Open Up Your Eyes,” and Castle wanted one more tune. But after two days of recording (and 20 takes alone of “Eyes”), he sensed that “no one had the energy to slog through another half-finished original.”
Then Castle remembered a conversation over lunch that day in which multi-instrumentalist Russ Pahl and upright bassist Dave Roe talked about their love of California country music. So Castle started strumming the chords to “For What It’s Worth,” without anyone else knowing what song he was playing until he sang the first line.
“Everyone joined in, and we got the take the second time around,” Castle says. “I think the fact that the song came out of left field helped to contribute to what I think is a cool and unique version of the song.”
And without blowing his deadline in the process.
— By Chris M. Junior
Jerry Castle on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Aug. 22: Southern Grounds Social Club — Senoia, Ga.
* Aug. 23: Tin Roof — Atlanta
* Sept. 6: Plush — St. Louis
* Sept. 13: Hi Tone — Memphis, Tenn.
* Sept. 20: The North Door — Austin, Texas