Steve Gulley recently left the band Mountain Heart to begin a new band effort with Phil Leadbetter and Alan Bibey. Grasstowne, as the new band is called, is currently in the studio working on a CD to be released later this summer. In the midst of all this change, Steve is also releasing his first ever solo CD, Sounds Like Home. I was able to catch up with Steve via email while he was in the studio listening to playbacks of mixes from the upcoming Grasstowne release. With hushed keystrokes he answered a number of questions I had for him about his solo CD.
The CD is set to be released on April 17th. It was held up a little to intentionally give more time to promote it to radio and retail properly but it will be available nationally then.
The press release from the label indicated that this record was to be traditional bluegrass in orientation, but I asked Steve what the mix was of traditional songs, originals, gospel and secular would be.
A little of all the above. However, it is a very traditional recording by choice. I hand – picked every song and hoped to reflect a little insight into my musical upbringing and heritage. I recorded some songs that were performed and recorded by my dad’s band, The Pinnacle Mountain Boys, in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s. I also recorded 4 songs from the old “red book” hymnal and some original songs that I wrote or co-wrote are also included. I also recorded “The Grand Tour”, the old George Jones tune and “My Elusive Dreams” which I did as a duet with my wife, Debbie. Just a lot of songs that are close to my heart.
With this much care taken in song selection I wasn’t sure Steve would have any favorites, but I had to ask.
I love them all but two songs that were extra special were, “Nearer My God To Thee” which I did with my dad, Don, and my good friend and a real hero, Doyle Lawson. Also, the duet with my wife, Debbie. She’s a great traditional country singer and performs on the shows at Renfro Valley, Ky along with my dad. Both these songs gave me a chance to let people hear Dad and Debbie nationally. I’m so proud of them both.
The list of musicians on this record reads like a who’s-who of bluegrass, but Steve tells me there is a core ensemble that brings a cohesiveness to the overall sound of the record. That group consists of:
- Tim Stafford: guitar
- Jason Moore: bass
- Adam Steffey: mandolin
- Ron Stewart: banjo
- Randy Kohrs: dobro
- Tim Crouch: fiddle
For the most part, the band was essentially the same on all but about 3 or 4 songs. I cut a couple of songs with most of my former bandmates in Mountain Heart. On the others, we added special guests like J.D. Crowe, Russell Moore, Dale Ann Bradley, Jeff Parker, Shawn Lane, Vic Graves and others.
Steve said the CD took roughly 4 months to complete due to a busy touring schedule with Mountain Heart. He started work on the CD several months before deciding to leave the band, but was very grateful of having his former band mates on the recording. While the guys from Grasstowne aren’t featured on the recording, he says they will definitely be performing songs from the CD at Grasstowne shows and have already worked some of the tunes up as a band.
I wondered how making a solo project like this compared to recording a band project. Steve just finished Sounds Like Home and is currently finishing the new Grasstowne CD so he’s in a great position to comment.
I wouldn’t say it was easier or harder than doing a band record. It was just different. In a band situation, you have several people who get to voice opinions or share thoughts on the various stages of making a record. On a solo record, you have more individual freedom but you also have to make some decisions without the sounding board of a band. It can be a double – edged sword in some ways but I really enjoyed making this record. I’d never really had that much freedom before and the creative outlet it afforded me was refreshing.
Steve also expressed a great deal of appreciation to all the people who helped him bring this project to completion.
I’d just like to say thanks to Randall Deaton at Lonesome Day Records for the oppotunity and engineer Mike Latteral for going way above and beyond the call of duty to make this project sound the way I envisioned it could. And of course, to all the musicians who made me sound much better than I deserved. Thanks guys!