Gjenny Records—the indie label brainchild of Caamp’s frontman and songwriter, Taylor Meier—celebrates their first signee, Sam Filiatreau, premiering “Wrecking Ball” from his forthcoming debut LP. The Louisville, Kentucky native wields Appalachian traditions and ’70s vinyl influence to deliver timeless lyricism for a modern world. As a homegrown songwriting talent, Filiatreau’s perspective is unalloyed, and Meier is determined to preserve that.
Taking cues from heroes like John Prine, “Wrecking Ball” employs self-deprecating humor within a simplistic structure to deliver his message with relatable ease. Without saying too much, the artist’s stripped-back styling elicits a certain unifying nostalgia—even the empty spaces still brim with emotion.
“This is the first song we decided to cut when we got into the studio,” says Filiatreau. “It set the tone for the old-time country feel we were trying to inject into this record. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a nod to the old time music I’ve always been so drawn to. To me ‘Wrecking Ball’ is the perfect metaphor to describe someone who never gets it right and who therefore always questions their value.”
Looking to My Morning Jacket as hometown heroes by the time he was in high school and watching Houndmouth rise from his native turf made Filiatreau’s far-flung dreams more tangible. At 16, he dropped out, moved out of the family home, and joined a rock band. However, he dedicated most of his free time to travel to area festivals, absorbing what he calls “sad mountain music.” With a few shows here and there and plenty of home-tracked demos in-between, the artist’s progress felt steady. A reckoning came at the end of a long-term relationship that sent Filiatreau inward—honing his songwriting through introspection.
Burned out by playing in a local rock band for seven or eight years, Filiatreau hopped on a Louisville house concert lineup on Valentine’s Day 2019 to play a few acoustic songs. He was just a friend of a friend who took an open slot between Meier and fellow Caamp member Matt Vinson, touring the Midwest together with solo side projects. A conversation after the show ultimately led to an invitation for Filiatreau to join them on a Caamp tour and eventually to making a solo album. Meier and Vinson brought Filiatreau to a cabin near their stomping ground of Athens, Ohio, to capture the magic they heard in his live performance.
“Taylor, Matt, and I went up there for three days and disassembled this living room and got it the way that we wanted it. We brought a bunch of instruments and worked out the songs there,” says Filiatreau. “I’d sent them some home demos to give an idea of some of the songs we might do. But when we got there, I just started playing songs for them, figuring out which ones were ready. We slept there, then woke up and would hang, or we’d go swimming, play some songs, take a break. It was the first time I’d been able to take my time, even though three days isn’t a lot of time. We were living with the record.”
In those three days, the trio—Meier played drums and Vinson, bass—expertly crafted eight songs embodying their experience. Filiatreau’s partner, Maggie Halfman, arrived on the third day to provide harmony vocals to complete the collection.
“I don’t have a theme, other than it is honest and not trying too hard,” says Filiatreau. “I feel like whenever I’m writing songs or music, I’m trying to find that fine line of doing something well, but also not taking it too seriously. To me, this record feels loose and fun. I feel like we captured exactly what was going on [at the cabin].”
After experiencing incredible success—sold-out tours, hundreds of millions of streams, and chart-topping radio residencies—since Caamp’s 2016 self-titled debut, Meier is dedicated to bringing other artists along for the ride. With success came a shift in focus as a broadly appealing band that resulted in By and By (2019). Gjenny Records is Meier’s bespoke approach to releasing music. The independent label appraises with gut feeling over data, maintaining the invaluable strength of a handcrafted creative process and the power of a keen ear.
Of the new label, Meier explains, “I like how Caamp used to be and I love the intricacies of releasing music without a ton of science or analytics behind it. I like how free and how truly independent things were.” He continues, “So much good stuff gets buried because people don’t have the right contacts or connections, so I started Gjenny Records just so I could put out people’s stuff and give them a shot at some daylight.”
Listen to the exclusive premiere of Sam Filiatreau’s new song “Wrecking Ball” below. His self-titled debut is due June 1 via Gjenny Records.