While contemplating his next CD, Brad Colerick found himself drawn to story songs — traveling tunes dancing with acoustic instruments, and folk ballads painting sepia-toned visions of Southwestern vistas, Midwestern prairies, and the ramblers and life gamblers who crisscross them. On the surface, that might suggest he’s fixated on the mythos of a particular region or place. Digging deeper reveals that the Nebraska-raised, California-based songwriter is dealing with the shifting geography of the heart.
“For me ‘Tucson’ is not so much a place as a symbol, a state of mind,” he explains while discussing the title track, composed by his friend, Dave Plenn. “My grandparents retired to Arizona from Nebraska; now my parents have followed in their footsteps. It’s a transitionary time in all of our lives. But I have this strange feeling that I’ve lost a point of reference, or that I’ve just turned down an unfamiliar road.”
After hearing Plenn perform “Tucson” at Wine & Song, the weekly songwriter showcase Colerick launched four years ago in South Pasadena, he realized he’d found the touchstone for his next album. Each week at Wine & Song he workshopped original songs that cohered around the emerging theme of time’s passage. The talented cast of characters appearing on this record includes Herb Pedersen, April Verch, Steve Hanson, and former Johnny Cash bassist Dave Roe who have all sat in with Colerick on various Wine & Song nights and other performances.
“One thing I learned the hard way is to always woodshed the songs. Playing them in your living room by yourself is a totally different experience from playing them with other musicians and listening through the ears of a live audience. That’s where doing this weekly hootenanny has been so valuable for me. ”Most of the 11 songs were recorded out in Drasco, Arkansas with producer and guitarist, Charlie White along with some production assistance from California-based, Ed Tree.
The natural imagery and resilient characters of songs like “Late Winter Snow,” “The Hands of Time,” and the bluegrassy “Brakeman’s Door,” hark back to his Nebraska roots. Even after more than two decades in the Los Angeles area, where he runs his DeepMix music supervision company, Colerick still identifies strongly with the Midwest.
“I’ll always be a flatlander at heart,” he says. “I love California and being part of the singer/songwriter community here, but I don’t think I’ll ever disconnect from that place where I come from. The geography and the people tend to seep into my songs and characters. That’s just who I am.”
Nowhere is that more evident than in “This is What I Do (Mighty Keeper),” a melodically uplifting song whose gentle assessment of choices made and missed is couched in his hometown’s daily rhythms. And then there’s the lightly rocking “Blue Horizon,” with its sober depiction of old friends’ paths diverging. It presents a poignant bookend to “Tucson.”
“This feels like a real storytelling period in my life,” Colerick says. “I guess I’m coming to grips a little more with the fact that we’re all aging, and life is moving to a new phase.” For Colerick, this unanticipated turn toward Tucson, has resulted in a rich and captivating musical journey.
BRAD COLERICK FINDS NEW STATE OF MIND IN ‘TUCSON’
Singer/Songwriter’s Fourth Solo Album Follows Life’s Turns