Despite having a background in soul music playing drummer and singing for Durand Jones & the Indications, Aaron Frazer surprisingly describes his newest album Introducing… as Americana.
“It’s hard for me to just pick one genre, and of course, I owe so much to soul music, but for me on this record, there’s enough other DNA in there, that it becomes something else and I think Americana is the easiest, cleanest way to sort of encapsulate the range of sound on the record,” Frazer tells American Songwriter.
Frazer is undoubtedly right about the intentional yet effortless diversification weaved throughout the entirety of his debut record. From the 2000s hip-hop inspired marching band feel on “Can’t Leave It Alone” to a bolero-influenced sound on “Have Mercy,” in conjunction with his invigorated retro sound, there’s no shortage of listening pleasure.
As to how this piece of work came together, fans can thank the production talent of Dan Auerbach, also known as the lead vocalist for The Black Keys, and his Easy Eye Sound label.
The two spent time prior to joining forces in Auerbach’s eclectic Nashville studio sending each other music, playlists and distinct fragments of songs that they liked in order to build a foundation for the four-day whirlwind to come of concentrated, intense, on-demand songwriting for the record.
This go-with-your-gut technique was an idea proposed by Auerbach which Frazer admits helped him shake that hindering instinct for perfection, which seems to creep up at the prospect of any creative endeavor.
“Dan really wanted to get me to a place of a midpoint between the intuitive side of music that we both love. These sort of dirty 45s, where kids save enough pennies to get an hour in the studio and blast it out, and you don’t always have the time to labor over every single detail,” Frazer says. “And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, the Curtis Mayfield, Smokey [Robinson] and his A Quiet Storm era, where stuff is just exquisitely arranged, it’s so well thought out.
“That’s a hard balance to strike. But I think a way you can get to that point is by putting a little bit of time pressure on yourself and being like, ‘Look, here’s the days, let’s just try to get it. Let’s try to get it done. Let’s see what happens if we just sort of let go,’” he adds.
Letting go turned out to be a beautiful unfettering of Frazer’s songwriting abilities, namely on raw and socially-charged tracks like “Ride With Me,” “Bad News” and “Done Lyin’.”
Frazer explains that tapping into the happenings of the world around him for inspiration is nothing new, but in fact an integral and equally organic part of his process. Artists like Gil Scott-Heron, Bob Marley and others, he finds, influenced his candid style of writing.
“We could sit here all day, talk about great political writing, but it’s like you don’t have to choose between writing a great song and pointing out the world as you see it, or wanting justice as you see it.”
In addition to solid songwriting is the experimental yet carefully crafted sound which Frazer achieves through collaboration with musical veterans like members of the Memphis Boys, who backed legends such as Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield.
Even with so many different musical elements and lyrical topics crammed into a standard 12-track album, nothing on the record feels forced or out of place. The tracks balance the heavy with the light in an effortless manner, which leaves listeners wanting more but settling for the replay button.
Despite working on a new album with Durand Jones & the Indications, Frazer teases the potential for more solo music by admitting he’d like to work with some country artists in the future. The prospect of that unpredictable crossover begs a very serious question: Will Frazer someday uproot his Brooklyn abode for a spot down on Music Row?
Introducing… will have to hold us over while we eagerly await the answer.
Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen