Jeff Caudill – interview
If you write a song for a movie and it doesn’t end up being used, why not make the movie in your mind instead? Nick Quantrill catches up with Jeff Caudill to talk about his new concept record, Reset The Sun.
If you’re going to write a road record, you’ve got to have some miles on the clock. Jeff Caudill’s a punk rocker who has travelled across the United States and Europe with his band Gameface, but there’s always been an earthier side to his music, an underlying Americana sound which has manifested itself through a fusion of power-pop and country rock. It’s a side explored via numerous albums and side-projects, so all things considered, it maybe sounds like business as usual with new EP, Reset The Sun.
“I’m always chipping away at some type of project,” he says, explaining that the record is a labour of love. “Many years ago I was asked to write a song for a movie. It was the first time I tried anything like it. I made a cheap demo and gave it to the movie executive, and of course, I never heard from him again. I never saw the movie but I imagined what it would look like if I had written it. So the challenge became to write my own movie. I started recording it around five years ago, but then Gameface was asked to reunite for Rev 25, Revelation Records’ 25th anniversary fest and we got serious about playing together again. It did mean it was a few years until I got back to this one.”
The EP consists of six interlocking tracks and the influences are maybe what you’d expect from someone brought up on the sounds of Neil Young, Jackson Browne and The Eagles. It’s brought up to date via touchstones like Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell and Lucero, though there’s no disguising Caudill’s unerring gift for planting a hook, the influence of his home in California. If the sounds on Reset The Sun aren’t a huge departure from what’s gone previously, the lyrics certainly are.
“I had always written about my life, so Gameface songs were like diary entries,” Caudill explains. “That’s how I write. That’s what I use music for.”
The storytelling thread marks a shift away from the directly personal. It’s a tale of redemption and the power of starting over, messing up again and trying to roll with the punches. “It was kind of liberating to write a song as an observer. It’s about a guy who neglects his relationships. He’s not a bad guy, or at least he’s just not aware of it. He packs up and leaves town, feeling like the victim and living on the road for a while making questionable choices. It takes time but he finally begins to take responsibility for the way things have gone. He wonders what would happen if he came back home. Would he be forgiven? What would he have to do to gain back the trust of the people he’s wronged?”
It’s a recurring theme in Caudill’s work. “No matter how far away you go,’ he says, ‘you can always come back.”
The sense of the EP being a mini-road movie is augmented with each track receiving a handmade video to accompany it, a clear focus on the aesthetics of the release. “I feel like the art is just as important as the music. Every time I travel, I make sure to take a lot of pictures from the car. I like how the world looks through a dirty windshield. I really went retro with the record sleeve and the rest of the album artwork. There’s even homage to the old Columbia Records 45rpm vinyl labels. The entire package came out exactly how I’d hoped.”
The EPs’ release has been timed to tie in with Record Store Day, an exclusive release, fittingly on sunburst vinyl. The punk spirit is never far away, though. Talking about how it came about, it’s something he attributes to the hard work of Revelation Records. “I don’t have a steady band so I had to take it upon myself to get the rest of it done. I’m really fortunate to know a lot of talented musicians and engineers. I’m just glad it’s happening. Some things just need a bit of time and patience to see them through.”
Reset The Sun is released 22 April 2017. You can find Jeff Caudill on Facebook.
All words by Nick Quantrill. You can read more from him in his LTW author archive.