As we approach the end of another week, we are wrapping up with with a variety of exciting new singles. Kicking off, Cameron Mitchell is back with it’s fun and melodical Country music that has the Nashville stamp all over it.
Since moving to New York City twelve years ago Mitchell has become one of the city’s most active musicians, racking up more than 1,400 gigs at home and abroad. His new album Maspeth puts that road-warrior spirit to good use, with Mitchell playing multiple instruments — including guitar, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, banjo, and bass — while writing about his marriage, his past relationships and a life spent on the move. He also nods to his influences, including songwriting legends Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Tom Petty and John Hiatt.
Named after the street of his Brooklyn apartment, Maspeth looks to Mitchell’s own life for inspiration. “The Sound of Music” is a kiss-off to a former flame, while “Promise Not to Leave” takes its source material from he and his wife’s wedding vows. “Let Me Tell Your How” was written in the wake of Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland’s death, and “East Side to East Side” tells the story of the singer’s move from Providence (where he played baseball at Brown University) to New York in 2005. Together, the 11 songs tell the autobiographical story of Mitchell’s past, present, and future, pointing him toward a solo career that’s as active as his sideman schedule. From waltzing piano ballads to overdriven roadhouse rockers, Maspeth shows off the full range of Mitchell’s musicality, nodding to everything from classic country-rock to ’90s grunge in the process.
Born in the Bay Area and raised in North Carolina, where he took up the guitar at age 14, Mitchell first made his mark on New York’s Americana community as a member of The Barnstorm, a party-rock cover band with an international touring schedule. Started in 2008, the Barnstorm has grown from a three-piece acoustic bar-band to a full six-piece outfit playing private gigs around the US and in Europe and for sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Masters. Members of that band appear on Maspeth, as does longtime collaborator Carrie Welling. Even so, Mitchell’s full-length debut is mostly a one-man project, recorded at a pair of NYC-area studios — including a storage-unit-turned-DIY-studio-space above a hockey rink in Queens — with only a handful of helpers.
The album’s striking cover art is the work of visual artist Michael Trinsey, who created a custom-made abstract sculpture at Mitchell’s request. The piece now hangs on Mitchell’s wall. Look for Maspeth on iTunes and Spotify on July 12th. Mitchell will play an album release show at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City on July 19th.
In addition, Mitchell sit with the magazine to discuss his new single and more!
Hi Cameron, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hey! Nice talking to you again. I’ve been doing well. Still strumming away in Brooklyn and excited about my new album release.
Can you talk to us more about your song “The Sound of Music”?
That song came from the idea of using the original musical version as a bit of inspiration for my tune – both lyrically and melodically. But shape it into a relationship story about a breakup.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Yeah, in a way. A previous relationship ended, in part, due to my pursuit of a music career. So my response, “so long, farewell, this is the sound of music, if you couldn’t tell”, just was the perfectly sardonic send-off. Then the rest was just a fun test to see how many silly references I could get in. It’s also a 1-chord chorus – which is a first for me and something I’m oddly proud of.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
Great idea! I hadn’t thought of doing a video for that song specifically, but now that you mention it, I may as well run with the idea of parodying the actual play.
The single comes off your new album Maspeth – what’s the story behind the title?
The short answer is: it’s the street I live on. The longer answer is: it’s the place where I worked on much of the album – writing, tracking, and mixing. I came to really like the word – how people had a hard time saying it – often times getting it tongue-twisted. The word Maspeth references an old creek that separated Brooklyn and Queens. There’s a surprising amount of history almost everywhere in this city.
How was the recording and writing process?
The recording process was pretty “DIY”. I’ve recorded a lot of my own music in the past, but not to this scale. I used a few different recording spaces, depending on what instrument I was tracking, but I would usually haul my equipment to the space. It was done quite piecemeal and over a period of about 14 months. I have never spent more time on a project.
The writing and recording process happened somewhat simultaneously, which I think is a nice way to approach recording. If you enter the studio with X amount of songs, by the time you’re done, you usually have twice as many, because you’re in that moment and inspired to write (and finish) songs quickly. So you get a combination of songs that have been in the hopper for a while and songs that are written and recorded not long after inception. Sometimes those can be the best ones.
How did you get to balance your Country and Grunge influences into one or did one style shine out the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?
Hmm, interesting question. Well, I think I can only say that I learned to play guitar in 90s and then learned pedal steel 15 years later. The sound combination is somewhere in between, I suppose. I think my songwriting is quite country, but my voice can’t do a lot of the things those country singers can do. So with me being raspy, it ends up sounding more like grunge. It’s a pickle.
What aspect of marriage and relationships did you get to explore on this record?
Almost all the songs are somehow about either marriage or past relationships, so I was able to write about the good and the bad. This is probably my first set of songs where I felt comfortable embellishing and fictionalizing around a true event. I sometimes write too literally, so I tried to make up characters inspired by the relationships I had been in. “I Told All My Friends” is an example of that – started off as my one-sided POV of a guy dating a girl, but then I realized it would be a much more fun song with the female perspective. Carrie Welling sings that part, and does a great job of playing it up.
Any plans to hit the road?
I have a busy summer coming up playing guitar and singing in my party rock event band, The Barnstorm. We’re all over the place right now – even going to Italy twice this summer. I’m also playing a couple local solo acoustic shows in Manhattan, along with my release show in July. I’m lucky to play a lot of my gigs close to home, so while I do travel, I also get to sleep in my own bed quite often.
What else is happening next in Cameron Mitchell’s world?
Well, I’m having an album release show Wednesday July 19th at Rockwood Music Hall. I’ll have a great band with me that night, and I’m really excited to bring these songs to life – outside of studio monitors.