Colerick lets go of ‘Emerging Artist’ label
November 12 Benson Theatre show will celebrate new album release and the video premiere of Lost Bird (Zintkála Nuni).
The first time Southern California-based singer-songwriter Brad Colerick heard himself referred to as an emerging artist, it made him laugh. He wondered how long it might be before he fully emerged. After independently releasing six solo albums, he now claims to be just that. He is responding to requests by longtime fans for a compilation of their favorite songs from his catalog. Emerging Artist, due Nov. 12, 2023, gathers material frequently requested at his concerts, plus personally meaningful tracks from each of his previous albums and four new recordings. Themes of hope and community stitch together the collection — uplifting reminders of what has drawn listeners to the prolific Nebraska native’s music and shows since he released his album Cottonwood in 2006.
A handy sampler of Colerick’s oeuvre thus far, Emerging Artist is essentially structured chronologically. Discerning listeners can trace the development of his melodic, observant songcraft — from the existential questing of Cottonwood through the bluegrass-inflected storytelling of 2009’s When I’m Gone to the more seasoned character sketches of 2021’s pandemic-produced Hope Street. “Storytelling is interesting to me,” Colerick notes. “I tell stories out of necessity because the music leads me down a path. I don’t ponder it very much; it just happens.”
Case in point: “Paper in Heaven,” a poignant ballad from When I’m Gone that was seeded by a question from his young son: “Daddy, is there paper in heaven so you can write your songs?” “My son uttering that line just led me to the story,” Colerick recalls. “It is partially fiction but based on a beautiful thought he found for me.” Likewise, a real-life “Bachelorette Party” aboard a 6 AM flight to Kansas City provided zesty source material for what he ultimately fashioned into a lighthearted paean to staying open to life’s surprises.
Before recording his songs, Colerick often tries them out at Wine & Song, the weekly showcase for local and touring artists he’s been hosting in South Pasadena for 14 years. The series has become the hub of a supportive community of musicians, songwriters, and fans. Onstage, Colerick — the so-called Nighttime Mayor of South Pasadena — is a cheerfully engaging presence, bantering with audience members and sharing stories between numbers. He also tests the songs out at the Jacaranda Veranda — a concert series hosted by music impresario John Antich, who suggested the idea of a compilation to Colerick and provided the spark to move the project forward. Antich helped select the songs included on the album and served as Executive Producer.
The 18 songs on Emerging Artist are delivered in warm folk-country arrangements and peopled with vivid, relatable characters such as the heartbroken railroad man of “Brakeman’s Door” and the song scribbler of the anthemic “This Is What I Do (Mighty Keeper)” (both from 2014’s Tucson); the average Joe worrying about lingering drought and “The Big One” (from 2018’s Nine Ten Thirty); and the bewildered 3-year-old forcibly relocated to Manzanar during WWII in the taiko drum-propelled “Manzanar (Yuki)” (from Hope Street). Even Jesus makes a memorable appearance as a kindly migrant worker in “Juarez” (from 2007’s Lines in the Dirt), a popular fan request at Colerick’s shows.
“I certainly think there’s an element of hope throughout what I do,” Colerick acknowledges. “Even ‘Manzanar’ and ‘Little Bird.’ I mean, ‘Little Bird’ is a very troubling story, but I try to turn it around a bit at the end: ‘Little Bird, lost but not alone/ You’re not alone.’”
“Little Bird” one of the new songs on Emerging Artist, was inspired by the true story of a Lakota infant orphaned at the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota and subsequently adopted by a Nebraska politician and his suffragette wife. Reportedly abused by her adoptive father, Zinkála struggled as a young Native American woman in a white world; she died at 29 and was buried in a pauper’s grave. On the recording, a native flute and handmade Lakota drum musically set the tone of Zinkála’s tragic life. “She must have felt so lost for most of her life. But when she was flown from California back to South Dakota and reburied at Wounded Knee,” Colerick says. “that reconnection with her people is what ultimately moved me to write her story.”
He likens “Little Bird” to a sequel of “Manzanar” in that both songs are “stories of injustice.” As with “Manzanar,” he teamed with animator and frequent collaborator Scott Feldmann to make a video for “Little Bird” called Lost Bird (Zinkála Nuni) in which historic photographs and silent film footage of Zinkála scroll behind animated scenes of the Lakota Ghost Dance. It debuted in September before several screenings of director Riley Keough’s film War Pony at the University of Nebraska’s Ross Theatre. It’s the fourth video Colerick and Feldmann have developed for Colerick’s songs; they have also created videos for witty Wine & Song regular Chauncey Bowers and L.A. jazz guitarist Greg Porée.
Colerick anticipates more such collaborations moving forward. He stops short of saying he won’t make another CD, but Emerging Artist marks an inflection point in his career as the CD format wanes and he focuses on digital releases and mixed-media projects.
It’s one more change in a volatile industry dramatically different from the one he encountered after writing his first song for a high school music theory class at age 16: “Song for an Old Friend,” which conveys the detailed sense of place, humanity and heartfelt storytelling that more deeply imbues his later work. It first appeared on Aurora, an album he recorded with fellow singer-songwriter Gene Klosner, and remained a frequently requested staple of his live shows until he stopped playing it many years ago.
Now, as he prepares to celebrate the official album release and video premiere Nov. 12 at the Benson Theatre in Omaha, he’s closing Emerging Artist with a new live recording of “Song for an Old Friend.” It’s a gift to the longtime fans and community that have found solace and joy in his music, and a closing of a circle as he stretches into new realms of storytelling — as a seasoned and fully-emerged artist.
Where: Benson Theatre, 6054 Maple Street, Omaha, NE 68104
When: Sunday, November 12. 4:30pm (doors open at 3:30pm)
Tickets: $20 at www.bensontheatre.org
# # #
HOPE STREET CREDITS
1. SHATTERCANE - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead vocal; Larry Marrs, backing vocals; Charlie White, electric guitar, bass; Kenny Loggains, drums. LYRICS
2. STORIES THAT WE TELL - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals; Nicole Gordon, backing vocals; Phil Parlapiano, accordion; Guillermo Guzmán, bass; Nick Vincent, drums. LYRICS
3. MANZANAR (YUKI) - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead vocal; Chihana Onishi, resonator guitar; Isaku Kageyama, taiko drums; Guillermo Guzmán, bass; Nick Vincent, drums. LYRICS
4. MY ROOM- Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals; Phil Parlapiano, accordion; Guillermo Guzmán, bass. LYRICS
5. FIRELINE - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals; Jul Big Green, vocals; Steven O. Hanson, banjo; Tim Fleming, pedal steel; Guillermo Guzmán, bass; Nick Vincent, drums. LYRICS
6. ROAD TO FREEDOM - Brad Colerick, lead vocal; Sam Robbins, backing vocal; Dave Ristrim, dobro; Herb Pedersen, acoustic guitar; Bill Bryson, bass; Tom Sauber, fiddle; Patrick Sauber, mandolin. LYRICS
7. TIME MACHINE - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead vocal; David Plenn, electric guitar; Guillermo Guzmán, bass; Nick Vincent, drums. LYRICS
8. LEONA'S LOVE - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals; Tim Fleming, pedal steel; Guillermo Guzmán, bass; Nick Vincent, drums. LYRICS
9. OUT OF THE BLUE - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals; Steven O. Hanson, banjo, mandolin; David Plenn, electric guitar; Guillermo Guzmán, bass. LYRICS
10. SANTA ANA WINDS - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead vocal; Dave Ristrim, pedal steel; David Plenn, electric guitar; Guillermo Guzmán, bass. LYRICS
11. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL - Brad Colerick, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals, whistle; Steven O. Hanson, mandolin; Greg Porée, nylon string guitar; Guillermo Guzmán, bass. LYRICS
All songs by Brad Colerick © 2021 Colerick Music (BMI), except “Shattercane” by Brad Colerick/Charlie White © 2021 Colerick Music/Daddy Chuck’s Songs (BMI).
“One of a baker's dozen of acts to watch in the folk community around the world”
— Billboard Magazine
“Colerick's stories are worth hearing… His warm, sunny, homey tenor brings alive the characters, places and relationships in these 11 songs.”
— Associated Press
“[Tucson] is easily one of the best independent Americana albums released in 2014”
— No Depression Magazine
★ Top 5 Euro-Americana chart
★ Top 5 Folk-DJ chart
★ Finalist at Kerrville, Falcon Ridge, Wildflower, Sisters, and Rocky Mountain songwriter competitions.