With her new album on the horizon — the follow-up to her outstanding 2016 release Oleander — Skylar Gudasz hits the road for a run of dates to share some of her new music.
Late last year Bitter Southerner debuted the first song from that upcoming record “Play Nice”, a lyrically cutting song harkening thoughts of the type of men who say things like “you’d be prettier if you smiled.” Gudasz sets those types of statements ablaze, writing from a place of rage, and not holding back a bit lyrically. With her beaming voice layered over a smooth grooving bass and drums, it makes each vocal line all the more exhilarating to hear.
Your ears perk up with with lyrics like “you can’t tell right from wrong /so I had to write it down for you in a fucking love song /I ain’t no fool and I ain’t naive” and make you dig deeper as Gudasz is just getting going.
As for the direction of her new album as a whole, she says “Play Nice” is a nice introduction.
“I feel like my first album was a narrator watching the world and saying, I can make space for you” says Gudasz. “And this new album is a narrator who is not afraid to be held, someone who is taking up space: emotionally, sonically, physically. “Play Nice” is definitely an entry into that.”
For many people outside of North Carolina there’s still a “Who is Skylar Gudasz?” reaction when her name is mentioned. Then you see her resume and bio, which is littered with names like R.E.M., Wilco, Teenage Fanclub, Hiss Golden Messenger, Big Star, Superchunk, Ray Davies, Cat Power, Songs: Ohia, Bon Iver, and the list goes on. Of these, she’s either performed alongside with members of, sang backup, toured with, recorded at, or paid tribute to. It all circles back to her beaming voice and sense of harmony one way or another. Now the focus is on her music.
Gudasz started writing her new album just as Oleander was set to come out. Oleander was anticipated for some time, and was years in the works, so it makes sense that she was ready to move forward writing even as that album was seeing the light of day. For Gudasz the songs started to flow out as she spent time on the road reflecting on the songwriting process as a whole. She challenged herself to think about the performance aspect of a song along with the basics like what makes a good song in the first place. The recording of the album was just as much of an experience.
“Making a record is a wonderful, brutal experience, and every time feels like walking into the most glorious fire or taking a leap into the deepest water” says Gudasz. “At its best it’s transcendental – at its hardest it is futile and painstaking. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world.”
While recording part of the album at April Base (the Wisconsin studio founded by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) Gudasz mentions there were a few feet of snow outside and it was colder there than it was near the South Pole. Polar Vortex? It must have been.
Being snowed in led them to drink a lot of coffee and experiment with her music, at one point isolating the drums and piano on different levels of the house, connected only by headphones and focusing in on musician intuition.
“The snowstorm really set the scene for the drama of the record.” says Gudasz.
Other parts of the record were recorded across North Carolina at Arbor Ridge Studios, Goth Construction and Fidelitorium in a process that took about eight months. The lead single “Play Nice” was recorded and co-produced by Ari Picker (Lost in the Trees) at Goth Construction Studio.
With shows coming up at Charleston Pour House, New Brookland Tavern, and Savannah Stopover Gudasz will be performing as a trio, with keys, synth, electric guitar, drums and of course a lot of singing. Catch her at one of these dates for more of a glimpse into Gudasz’ sophomore album.
March 6-Charleston Pour House (Charleston, SC)
March 7-New Brookland Tavern (Columbia, SC)
March 9 -Stopover In The Yard @ The Grey (Savannah, GA)