American Authors Strip Down “Nice and Easy” with Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath

American Authors (Photo: Cory Ingram)

After a lengthy hiatus, following the 2019 release of their third album Seasons, American Authors kept touring, and writing then released a follow-up EP Counting Down at the beginning of 2020, their final release before the world inevitably shut down. Once the pandemic hit, the band, burned out from touring, went their separate ways, locked down, and barely spoke for nearly a year.

Regrouping by the end of 2020, American Authors, now a trio, ended up writing 12 songs in 12 days, including the summer anthem “Nice and Easy.”

“It was a time to just do stuff for me, and take time for myself, and I think we all felt that way,” says singer Zac Barnett. “We were all starting to do our own little projects and work on separate things, so we took that time and had a moment to really digest everything that’s happened over the year and look over where our lives are today, where we’ve come from, and where we want to go.”

By October 2020, everything went topsy turvy for the band. They had just parted ways with Island Records, and James Adam Shelley parted ways with the band after they decided to move forward as a trio with Barnett, bassist and keyboardist Dave Rublin, and drummer Matt Sanchez.

“At that point, we were moving forward with this new lineup and we had this new energy, so we decided to get together and work on some songs,” says Barnett, who invited Rublin and Sanchez to his place in Los Angeles so they could hang out and reconnect. Their gathering resulted in six new songs, all recorded at Barnett’s makeshift home studio in his converted garage, armed with a laptop, set of speakers, Apollo interface, and a decent condenser mic. In November, the band wrote another six tracks in six days.

Of the dozen songs written, “Nice and Easy” was a standout, and a return to American Authors more upbeat, ’90s rock they grew up on. Longtime fans of Sugar Ray, Barnett decided to call frontman Mark McGrath to get him involved.

“Mark’s the man,” says Barnett. “He’s amazing. We grew up on Sugar Ray and thought ‘how sick would it be to get Mark,” so I reached out to him and boom, he came over. Mark cut his vocals in that same studio that we recorded.”

The band recently re-recorded a stripped-back acoustic rendition of the track, arranged around banjo and guitar, showcasing a more folk side to the song, which Barnett calls a reminder to slow down and “get back to the basics of living life to your full potential.”

Feeling the electricity during their 2020 sessions, with everyone writing, recording, and producing everything themselves, was something American Authors hadn’t felt in a long time. “It was this new energy,” says Barnett, “this new freedom that it was just us working on this, and no one else. It really sets the tone of just getting back to high energy music, to what people know and love about American Authors, and because we produced it ourselves, we’re really able to make it sound modern, cool, and super fresh.”

The break was a necessary one since the band barely took a break from recording and touring since the release of the 2013 hit “Best Day of My Life.”

 “We never really stopped getting in the studio writing, so we needed to take this break, separate, and go over where we’re at, where we want to go,” says Barnett. “We wouldn’t have the body of music that we have today, and all the awesome stuff that we have coming out in the near future just wouldn’t be here now.”

On autopilot, Barnett says he wrote by himself for the first time in seven years. Now, as a trio, Barnett says the new dynamic in the band is freeing.

“Once we found the new dynamic, with the group of just the three of us, it was so cool, because then we were all bringing in these ideas,” says Barnett. “It was more fun to bring in individual ideas and work on those and tweak them. Nobody knows us better than us.”

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