Home to Roam, Brent Stewart’s ninth album will be released on CD and digitally on April 6. You can hear songs from the record live at album release shows April 6 at the Varsity Center in Carbondale, Ill, and April 7 at Evangeline’s in St. Louis, Mo. Check out a sneak peek of three songs from the record on Bandcamp and read the story behind the album below.
About a year ago, I played a show at the Varsity Center in Carbondale, Ill. with a few friends to celebrate the release of two new albums. Dan Tejada and I had been playing together for about eight months at that point and I had a list of friends in mind to ask to play with us at the show. Fabulously enough, they all said yes! So, Dan and I, along with Kyle Triplett, Tobias Merriman and Andrew Staff played a really fun show in front of a packed audience that was filmed and broadcast by WSIU public television.
And that show was the beginning of what would become my new album, Home to Roam.
Actually, a few years earlier, Kyle Triplett and I had been playing gigs together around Southern Illinois. I wrote a few songs for us that fit better with the style of music we were playing, but when I moved to Madison, WI in 2012, those songs sat on the shelf as I wrote what would become Haze. We pulled a few of them out of mothballs for the Varsity show, to sit alongside songs from Haze and The Restlessness. They were songs that were always destined to have a laid-back sort of feel like the early three-piece bands of Elvis and Johnny Cash on Sun Records, or Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes.
After the Varsity show, I knew that I wanted the sound of that acoustic band to be the next record. So, that fall, Dan and I huddled in the basement of my fiancee’s house and tracked 15 songs. We took them to Mike Lescelius at Misunderstudio. Songs that I had written for Kyle and I were joined by other stray songs in that same vein from over the years and a few newer ones. As we started the sessions, other songs like “Home to Roam,” “Lotto Ticket” and “Some Things You Don’t Miss Until They’re Gone” showed up at the last minute and I tracked them and sent them over to Mike.
To get that woody, upright thump, we asked Nate Graham to play bass, who also did all the artwork for the record. Then – one by one – Toby, Kyle and Dan added their magic. One other big influence on the sound of the record was Dan Hicks. Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks – swinging folk/ jazz with dual fiddle and two female vocalists – their Last Train to Hicksville album was given to me by my eighth grade English teacher. I didn’t just want my voice on the album, I wanted other voices to give the songs more depth.
That’s when I saw a video online of Rattle and Dags, a band that Kyle’s wife, Melissa, plays bass in and also has two other fantastic vocalists, Jessica Pease and Amy Etcheson. I knew Jessica from working on an album of our mutual friend Robbie Jones years earlier. So, I asked and Amy and Jessica both said yes to singing on the album. We were all a little nervous when they walked in the studio, not knowing what to expect. But, very soon, everyone was blown away.
The song list went from 18 to 13 and Home to Roam was finished. It’s fragments of memories from my growing up in the small town of Murphysboro, Ill and it all adds up to be a love letter to my growing up in Southern Illinois, with the contradictions you feel while living in your hometown and in leaving it. Two songs that are really the signposts of the record are the title track and “Some Thing You Don’t Miss Until They’re Gone.” I literally wrote “Home to Roam” while driving back to St. Louis from Southern Illinois. I dictated it to my fiancée while driving. When we got home, I picked up my guitar and finished the song. “Some Things” was the last song written for the record, late in the recording.
So, here it is. A record made for sitting on the porch and reminiscing with friends on a cool spring or fall day, with a glass of tea or can of beer in hand. It’s always exciting to move forward, but it’s also fun to look back every once in awhile to see how far you’ve come. And some things you don’t miss until they’re gone.