A Special Evening of 805 Songwriters in the Round Ft. Johnny Irion, John Goodwin, Tim Bluhm (of Mother Hips), US Elevator
1221 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This event is 21 and over
John Irion is a rocker in and out of time. There's something kind of timeless in the way he wrings out the sweetest melodies and deeper passions of both '60s Californian rock and Guthrie-era folk, and something so timely about the way he does it – there's a reason Bernie Sanders asked him to sing at a rally in his sometimes-home of Santa Barbara. Best known for his folk explorations with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie, including their recent Wassaic Way produced by Jeff Tweedy, and his latest rock venture with US ELEVATOR, which Will Hermes of Rolling Stone Magazine praised for its "songs that are hand crafted as lovingly as the jeans on the back of After the Goldrush," Irion has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting artists across the folk-rock spectrum, from his uncannily Young-Nilsson-esque voice to his melodic and lyrical mettle. Iron has just wrapped up a solo record, Driving Friend, with members of Dawes, Wilco, Nicki Bluhm, and The Gramblers, due out this spring. He will be joining SON VOLT for their spring tour.
These recent years have been a long and exciting road for folk-rocker John Irion, who joins Son Volt on their spring tour with his springtime solo album Driving Friend --- and the ride just keeps getting better. Working members of Dawes, Wilco, Nicki Bluhm, and The Gramblers on his newest effort, Irion keeps good musical company, and looking back on his works, it's easy to see why. Best known for his folk explorations with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie, including their recent Wassaic Way produced by Jeff Tweedy, and his latest rock venture with US ELEVATOR, which Will Hermes of Rolling Stone Magazine praised for its "songs that are hand crafted as lovingly as the jeans on the back of After the Goldrush," Irion continues to expand his musical range. With his uncannily Young-Nilsson-esque voice to his melodic and lyrical mettle, Irion is one of the most exciting artists across the folk-rock spectrum
"Songs that feel as lovingly hand-crafted as the jeans on the back of After the Gold Rush."
- By Will Hermes, Rolling Stone
"Irion's dreamy vocals and dazzling guitar work."
- John Sollenberger, Pasadena Weekly
John Goodwin in a songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Michael McDonald, Judy Collins, Brad Paisley, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cagle, Craig Morgan, Winger, Sebastian Bach, Betty Buckley, Mark Slaughter, Delfornics, Rita Coolidge, Crazy Heart soundtrack, Jason Reeves, Surf’s Up soundtrack, Michael Kaeshammer and countless other recording artists.
U.S. Elevator will transport you. And not just up and down but to enchanting musical places near and far. Their music is filled with loving and wily winks at the visionary forces of the 1960s and 1970s—The Beatles, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Gram Parsons, and The Hollies, for starters—and is at the same time thoroughly original, contemporary, and richly melodic.
The Santa Barbara-based band is the brainchild of Johnny Irion, musical partner and husband of Sarah Lee Guthrie. Following Sarah Lee and Johnny’s fifth album together, 2013’s acclaimed Wassaic Way (recorded at Wilco’s Loft studio in Chicago, produced by Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone, and released on Johnny’s Rte. 8 label) and two earlier solo albums, Johnny assembled U.S. Elevator as the rocking alter-ego to the couple’s eclectic and unbounded folk music.
The genesis of U.S. Elevator dates back a couple years to a conversation Johnny had with longtime friend Zeke Hutchins, who manages various acts including Deer Tick. “After we made the record with Jeff and Pat,” Johnny recalls, “Zeke suggested that Sarah Lee and I make a pure folk record without the rockier element that I bring. I took it pretty hard because I felt that Sarah Lee and I had found a sweet spot with our music. Though he agreed, he was saying, ‘Why don’t you put your rock stuff somewhere else and make a folkier record with Sarah Lee.’ So that was brewing in my head, and it opened a pathway for those tendencies to shine, in addition to being more folk-focused with Sarah Lee. Plus, I think a lot of my friends wanted to see me get back to my younger roots. They kept saying, ‘Don’t forget, you rock, Dude.’”
The next piece of the U.S. Elevator puzzle is put in place when Johnny meets Alan Kozlowski, renowned filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer whose impressive list of credits include co-producing In Celebration with George Harrison—a four-CD collectors’ edition of Ravi Shankar’s works—and producing Jackson Browne’s TV documentary Going Home. Johnny and Alan met serendipitously in the Winter of 2013–2014 when Sarah Lee and Johnny were living in Montecito, California, and their daughters attended the same school as Alan’s daughter. Not only does Alan have a studio filled with guitars but he also has a vintage 1,000-pound 24-track Studer A-80 tape machine. Johnny and Alan become fast friends.
One evening, Alan goes backstage at a Sarah Lee and Johnny concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara and invites them to his studio a few blocks away. “I have a fairly substantial collection of old guitars and other instruments that inspire collaboration and interaction, so we had a great connection around that,” recalls Alan. “Johnny talked about wanting to set up somewhere and record an album, I said I could help with some gear, and the pieces just came together. I had the Studer and another board and it was kind of like the old Mickey Rooney saying: ‘Let’s make a movie!’”
Enter bassist Nate Modisette, who played in a band with Johnny back in 1997, with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes producing. It was through that band experience, back in the day, that Johnny met Sarah Lee. By day, Nate now runs BoMo Design, a world-class company building and designing homes and high-end furniture. And one of his colleagues is drummer Erich Riedl. Add guitarist Anders Bergstrom, pianist Brett Long (who also engineered U.S. Elevator and recently toured with Sarah Lee and Johnny), and guitarist/pianist/album producer Tim Bluhm (Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, The Mother Hips), and the U.S. Elevator parts are in place.
Tim is the perfect person to produce the album. “Everyone knew Tim’s presence would make us rise to the occasion,” Johnny asserts. “He is so respected in our world and in many others. And he knows how to run a Studer! His songs are amazing, and his guitar playing is sick! Tim’s harmony singing, songwriting, and lyrical ideas make this record really cohesive. Tim was Walter Matthau, and we were the Bad News Bears.”
They first play some of Johnny’s new songs together in the Spring of 2014, at Erich’s rehearsal space, “the Riviera,” in Santa Barbara. “It’s about a mile from the beach, right on North Milpas, right across the street from a famous Mexican place, La Super-Rica Taqueria. So there was such a vibe there,” says Johnny, smiling. “I left that night thinking, ‘Wow, we might have something here.” In October 2014, “we went down and actually got Alan’s Studer, which had been in Jackson Browne’s studio. So Alan offered us the Studer and the guys in the band, mostly with non-musical day jobs, were up for the musical adventure. For the band, I wanted guys who weren’t looking at the clock and just wanted to have fun. So everybody rallied and that’s how the record took shape.”
Flash forward to February 2015, when U.S. Elevator sets up shop in Nate’s Santa Barbara cabin in Mission Hills, with that glorious 15-ips Studer and its “fierce low-end warmth,” as Alan describes it, and other state-of-the-art recording equipment. In turn, Johnny calls Alan, “the heart of the album. It just would not have happened without Alan.”
All the basic tracks are recorded live, without headphones, no less. “We just recorded each song until we got the right take on tape,” says Johnny. “And that’s where Sonos, the big speaker company came in. They basically sponsored the recording. They came and lined the house with incredible sounding speakers. We could walk around inside or in the yard and listen to the takes. I didn’t want to have a bunch of stuff to comb through. When I heard the right take, I’d say, ‘all right, we’re moving on.’ I call it the Polaroid approach. Then we’d put the tracks into Pro Tools.”
$15 in advance, $18 at door
Tickets Available at the Door