Wonder Valley California

Telling lies and spilling whiskey on the floor

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Doug Strahan

Ronnie: Doug, we met years ago in Austin and I miss it a lot. I'm really loving this new record Sadie. Tell me a bit about how it came together…

Doug: It goes back five years I believe to when Johnny Dango and I had an acoustic residency at the Westin. Wrote Sadie over Rollin’ and Tumblin’ chords as a funky bluesy tune, but with a honky tonk barroom theme. I was also getting into the idea of writing songs around one person as opposed to several. Kept churning out tunes about Sadie. Sounds nerdy or maybe pretentious, but I was thinking each song would eventually lead to a fully developed character. It’s hard to get to the complexities of a person in a song. Wasn’t working towards a concept record or anything, just messing around. Two of the Sadie tracks were recorded with Chili Cold Blood on Cabin Sessions (recorded 2016). Rehashed those with different grooves for the neighbors’ live sets and subsequently, this record.

Otherwise, I wanted to have some straightforward country and singer songwriter “backyard” tunes, but also wanted the mix of grooves etc to still reflect the gamut we run live. 

I see our live set as several 20 minute sets, each being country-funky-blues-rock-n-roll-moody, rotate. Keeps it moving, limits any extreme jumps that could lead to schtick, and eases the task of writing setlists for 2-4 hour gigs. The record reflects this dynamic.   

Ronnie: It was just released May 12. What are your plans for the release?

Doug: We’ll follow the official release with weekly content such as remote neighbor jams and one-off videos of the songs. It will be available on vinyl, digital online everywhere, CD. 

Ronnie: What do you as a songwriter like most about the songs and do you have a favorite?

Doug: I wrote Old Footsteps after having to put down my dog, Honeybee. It was a release and a prayer to write Footsteps.  Cot’n Was Cool Rain is a co-write with Jordan Matthew Young. He sent me the music and I wrote the lyrics. That one is close to me as the painkiller epidemic hit my home area hard. I’d never written anything like Silver Alert, so I guess I’m glad that one turned out a keeper. 

Overall, I think it’s part writing what you know but also never being afraid to venture in new directions, play with song forms, etc. 

Ronnie: I'm loving "How To Crawl" and it's honky-tonk goodness. There are a few country gems in Sadie. New directions?

Doug: Thank you. An old direction if anything.  I dig country and listen to it on the regular and I enjoy writing country tunes, but I’m too all over the map to stick to one style. That said, I’ll be writing country tunes until I’m no longer able to write. It’s a constant for me just not all-consuming.  

Ronnie: Tell me a bit about "World Full Of Strangers" came about. Is it about our divided country? It has such a buttery southern vibe.

Doug: I'm pretty thrilled with how World Full of Strangers turned out--the eventual arrangement, the Emmy Lou-Rodney Crowell style vocal harmonies and the twin guitars. I wrote it as an easy going solo acoustic number, but eventually changed the vibe to really wear the Allman brother influence on my sleeve. Dave Wesselowski and I tightened up the arrangement and were sure to make room for piano and guitar solos without it feeling too long. He and Beth Chrisman sang the harmonies and are both astute at the craft of harmonies. Jon Grossman’s piano solo, to my ears, is perfect. The twin guitars--Dave Biller and I wrote those parts. Any chance I can get to trade solos with Dave Biller, I’m in! We got it in three or four takes, can’t remember. In the end we decided to not fade the ending solos--leave that choice to the listeners/DJs. 

Divided country--the world really is full of strangers. I was thinking on some amicable break ups that took place after hanging out a few times—these are the minutes between the moments. Sometimes they stick with you as in the song and are deeper than you thought. Anytime I try to write a song with an arcing political metaphor, they come out trite, but hey, I’m glad you heard a different spin. 

Ronnie : Times are tough for traveling musicians right now, how are you coping?

Ronnie: Well I made banana nut bread yesterday, ha. We’ve been staying focused--garden beds and such, listening to a lot of music, trying to exercise, and reading--with a moderate intake of our chosen vices.  Music wise, I’ve been trying to mix up the weekly social media thing--one week of live streams, one week of one-offs, and so on. All that said, I plan on keeping steady with Saturday noon (CST) shows for our friends in Europe. 

Otherwise, I’ve been staying in touch with friends and family, staying informed without being completely eaten up all day by it, and being diligent about protecting ourselves and others from us. Times are tough and uncertain for everyone. 

Ronnie: Thanks for doing this buddy, let's let folks know where they can buy it!