Crowfield finds needed push to produce third album
By Devin Grant | Wednesday, June 20, 2012
If you go
When: Friday and Saturday; doors open at 9 p.m.
Where: The Windjammer, 1008 Ocean Blvd., Isle of Palms
Price: Individual day tickets are $10, two-day tickets are $15
For more info: www.the-windjammer.com
As Crowfield prepares to release its third full-length album, “The Diamond Sessions,” fans of the popular local act might not realize how close they came to never getting the chance to hear the new songs.
When Crowfield released its self-titled sophomore album last year, they had been signed to a major label and dropped almost immediately, which is a strangely common occurrence these days in the music business.
But there were other things happening, as well, things that threatened to end the band.
Sitting in the living room of his West Ashley home, Crowfield frontman Tyler Mechem is blunt about the events that nearly led to the band’s demise.
“Joe was leaving the band,” said Mechem, referring to his longtime musical partner, pianist Joe Giant, “and the expectation was that the band would be done after the second album.”
According to Mechem, Giant’s passion had shifted to a path outside the band.
“We had an emotional conversation about it,” Mechem said, smiling.
After Giant announced he was leaving Crowfield, Mechem admits it took awhile for the realization to sink in.
“I didn’t take it to heart for a long time,” he said. “I was ready to sell all of my gear after the second album was finished. I’m not sure what I would have done; maybe moved out to the Midwest and forgot I was a musician.”
Thankfully, Mechem changed his mind.
“There were no big follow-up plans, but once the second album was released, the rest of the band decided they weren’t ready to say goodbye,” Mechem said. “Joe actually encouraged the band to press on. He said that his leaving shouldn’t be the end of Crowfield.”
The core members of Crowfield, which include Mechem, drummer Parker Gins and guitarist Micah Nichols, agreed to continue and eventually enlisted bassist Ethan Ricks and keyboardist Whitt Algar to round out the band.
Another factor in keeping Crowfield going came in the form of Johnny Diamond. A longtime fixture in the local music scene, Diamond managed, advised and mentored numerous locals acts up until his untimely death in November.
After the second Crowfield album was released, Mechem had lunch with Diamond, who advised that he thought the new songs were great, but that the band needed to make another album.
“He suggested that we strip it down and not try to make the first album over again, but not to let the label contract experience and Joe leaving defeat the band,” Mechem said.
“We were in plans with Johnny and producer Rick Beato to start the new album when Johnny passed. After that, the band was determined to make the album.”
Mechem reveals that he was writing the song “Change of Heart” when he learned of Diamond’s death.
“I was thinking at the time I was writing the song, ‘Man, Johnny’s gonna love this,’ then I got the phone call.”
The title of the new album, “The Diamond Sessions,” serves as a tribute to the man who believed in Crowfield’s potential outside of the bars downtown.
Listening to the new songs, it appears that Diamond got his wish for a more stripped-down and organic sound than the last Crowfield release.
The band financed the new CD through the website kickstarter.com, which lets artists outline a project and set a monetary goal.
If enough people contribute money toward the project and the goal is met, the project officially gets funded.
Crowfield set a goal of $15,000, and were delighted when fans contributed nearly $20,000.
“Going through the Kickstarter process and asking fans for money, as opposed to asking a label for money, was liberating and exhilarating,” Mechem said.
“It was us saying, ‘This is us and you, and we need help.’ Getting to the point where we could say that was a liberating experience. We can be completely honest now because we have people that like us.”
The extra money went into adding horn sections to some songs and hiring local musician and producer Jay Clifford to arrange string sections for other songs.
Fans will have a chance to hear the new music live this weekend when Crowfield plays a two-night stand at The Windjammer on the Isle of Palms.
Friday night’s show features opening band American Aqaurium, while A Thousand Horses kicks things off Saturday.