Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks, hailing from his family's farm in central New York State, is fast establishing himself as an authentic original, Americana artist with an old soul. His deep, beyond-his-years lyrics and melodies, raw, soulful vocals, and powerful live performances have attracted an ever growing number of devoted fans of all ages, selling out shows throughout the US.
As a folk/blues singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth at local farmers markets, open mics, and iconic New York venues like Caffe Lena, the Towne Crier Cafe, and The Bitter End, Sawyer seemed an unlikely match for reality tv, but quickly won over broad audiences with his genuine delivery and unique arrangements of classic songs, going on to win season 8 of NBC's The Voice.
Fresh from that whirlwind, Sawyer went forward with the release of his major label debut, A Good Storm, with Republic Records, an impressive blend of soulful Folk, blues, and rock, entirely written or cowritten by Sawyer. His 2016 A Good Storm Tour included 62 shows across the US.
For 2018, Sawyer has once again gone independent, the highly-anticipated Hide Your Ghost sheds the high gloss major label treatment, and stays true to Fredericks honest and elegantly stripped down style, a self-described free range folk, incorporating elements of blues, roots rock, and jazz with live instrumental arrangements throughout.
The music that Im writing and releasing is really mirroring who I am and where I am at that time in my life. Its easy to perform songs when theyre very true. So says JD Eicher, the Youngstown, OH-area born and bred musician who is set to release The Middle Distance via Rock Ridge Music on May 6, 2016. Im really glad that my career has taken the longer, scenic route, because the music Im writing now has a certain truth to it that Im not sure I would have found otherwise.
The Middle Distance marks the first album Eicher will issue since sunsetting JD Eicher & the Goodnights, the moniker used on the trilogy of titles, The Shape of Things, Shifting, and Into Place, released previously. So why put The Goodnights to bed? Eicher explains: The truth of the matter is, not a whole lot has changed. There will still be a band. But the name shift felt natural with the very personal nature of this new music and the very strong desire to simplify.
Eicher has noted that the common themes running through his previous three releases are love, hope, and acceptance. Common sense would call for speculating whether there is a common thread that ties together the ten songs found on The Middle Distance. Not a premeditated one, he is quick to clarify. I really wanted to just sit down and write the best songs I could, saying what I needed to say at the time. Its more of a journal entry/diary-type approach this time around.
With that as a forward, the first chapter of Eichers aural journal begins with nearly one minute of U2-ish guitar that sets the sonic table for the album opener, This Heart, in which he sings, All my fears, all my worries, are alive and well inside this heart. Eicher expounds, This whole record - and definitely that song is moodier, and theres a lot of internal struggle, internal processing. When you hear the song title, This Heart, it sounds like its gonna be a love song, but its really more about coping and figuring out how to get past whatever youre dealing with in that moment.
Songwriting and superb singing are at the center of each track on The Middle Distance, exemplified by the lyric line Maybe weve been trained to wash, rinse, and then repeat and the heavenly falsetto vocals found on Be Well, a song which sounds like it would fit perfectly into Death Cab For Cuties catalog. An audio oasis to the overall moodier sound of the record is refreshingly felt when the soundscape lightens up for the bouncy The Little Bit, which musically and lyrically has a Jason Mraz vibe to it, most notably on the playful line, I didnt write any lyrics for this part of the song
everybody relax. Eichers songwriting gravitas shines in the more serious selections - Not Everybody Runs, a sonic commitment to, well, commitment; Not Afraid, in which abstract fears about our dreams not coming true, relationships going wrong, internal struggles and pressures, letting your guard down and being hurt, and failure are all tackled; and Man of Faith, in which Eicher espouses the somewhat ambiguous supplication: And Im pretty sure my heavens just the answer to my questions.
Far less ambiguous is how much Eichers Rust Belt upbringing seeps into, or serves as, the foundation of his songwriting. I think it definitely affects the music, he affirms without hesitation, even in the way I approach touring and my overall work ethic with songwriting and recording. Theres a world-wariness that comes out of this area that gets into the songs. I think theres a realism that comes out of
this part of the country, too, and I think that gets in there as well. Its no wonder that Pittsburgh, not far from his hometown of Youngstown, has embraced the performer and his music as their own.
With his band, The Goodnights, Eichers soaring and graceful pop-rock songcraft garnered favorable comparisons to Coldplay, Keane, The Script, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. Alternative Addiction named the group one of the top 10 unsigned bands. Virgin America Airlines used one of the bands songs in the teaser for the airlines movie, Departure Date. Live, JD Eicher & the Goodnights shared the stage with such diverse and respected artists as the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Train, Maroon 5, Hot Chelle Rae, Pete Yorn, Anberlin, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Kelly Clarkson, Cartel, Sister Hazel, and Matt Nathanson, among many others.
Now facing a new morning with the added weight of offering up The Middle Distance with just his name on the album cover, does Eicher like the way the shape of things have shifted into place (to borrow a phrase from past album titles), both personally and professionally?
Yeah, definitely. I do feel a lot more firmly-rooted. I feel like theres a lot less doubt. I know who I am a lot better than I used to, and a lot of my life is starting to make more sense. Im married now. Weve got a house. The real world stuff has come together in a really meaningful way. And my musical life mirrors those sentiments as well. This was the first time I felt comfortable producing a record on my own. I knew how I wanted it to feel, start to finish.
For those reasons and more, its fair to say The Middle Distance is destined to take JD Eicher even farther than where hes at today. That prospect makes it a near certainty that his steady pace to the top will likely result in him experiencing the musicians equivalent of a long distance runners high.