Monday, March 25, 2019
– Chuck Mead, once a member of BR549, will be out with a solo disc in late June.
"Close to Home" is out June 28, 2019 on Nashville independent label Plowboy Records. The 11-song release is the follow-up to Mead's first Plowboy release, 2015's "Free State Serenade." Recorded at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Studios in Memphis, the album was produced by Memphis recording engineer and producer Matt Ross-Spang.
"It's probably the least-country record I've ever made," Mead says, "but at the same time, it's really a country record."
Over the course of the late '90s and the 2000's, he recorded seven albums with BR549 and spread the gospel of neo-traditional country music around the world.
Mead subsequently released three solo albums and served as the Musical Director/Supervisor/Producer of the hit Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet" and the companion CMT dramatic series, "Sun Records." The time he spent in Memphis during the production of the TV series led to Mead's change of recording venue for his new album.
"I really delved into the Memphis music scene when I was living there for four months," he said. "I wanted to get as many local Memphis musicians to play in the series as possible. I got to know a lot of people in the scene, and I'd known producer Matt Ross-Spang for quite a while. When the 'Million Dollar Quartet' show was on tour, we came through Memphis a couple of times. At night, the cast would record at the original Memphis Recording Service (better known as Sun Studios) and that's where I first met Matt. He was very young but was the head engineer and really brought the old studio back into shape. I started hanging out with him, and he kept talking to me about cutting a record in Memphis."
By the time Mead was ready to record, Ross-Spang had earned a reputation as one of the top engineers and producers in the Americana and roots music scene, and had moved from Sun to Sam Phillips Recording, the Memphis studio built by Sun Records head Phillips in 1960. Ross-Spang has worked with John Prine, Jason Isbell and Margo Price. He notched the Grammy for engineering Isbell's "The Nashville Sound" and co-produced Price's debut, "Midwest Farmer's Daughter" and sophomore effort "All American Made" and engineered Prine's "The Tree of Forgiveness."
"I've recorded in some cool Nashville studios like the Quonset Hut, RCA Studio B, and The Castle," Mead said. "But there was something almost supernatural about working at Phillips. You could feel Sam's spirit."
"Matt wanted me to make a bigger record," Mead said, "something that was out of my box, and I was all for it. So I turned it over to him and he took things in a direction I didn't foresee."
The opening song, the hillbilly rocker "Big Bear in the Sky," is "Johnny Horton fronting the Sonics," according to Mead.
"The song is based on a Miꞌkmaq Indian folk legend about the Ursa Major constellation," Mead said. "I wanted it to be a Johnny Horton-style history ballad. I had recorded an earlier version for an anniversary album for the German reissue label Bear Family Records, but it wasn't quite where I wanted it. I wanted to rock it out in the studio and Matt pushed me to take it to an entirely new level."
"I really wanted to make a record that was a little bit different from what I had been doing," Mead said. "Looking back, I really have done that on every record I've made, because why make the same record every time?"