“I had to get back to writing, to what I know is the only thing I’m good at. Those songs became Country House."
With the release of his illuminating new album Country House, Ryan Luce explores the subtle nuance of everyday life and studies the inner dramas of fathers, sons, and daughters. Populating the album are a cast of characters that are wrestling with grief, clinging to hope, and reliving the best days of their lives. Produced by session/touring player Philippe Bronchtein, Country House is a ten-song collection that is filled with heartbreaking lyrics and timeless melodies, the work of a songwriter harnessing the power of his abilities. Pulling from classic country to modern day Americana, Luce has crafted a record that ranges from stark and desolate to lush arrangements creating a blend with his evocative lyrics into an experience of memory and emotion that you can almost touch.
“Before the pandemic I was pigeonholing myself in the themes I wrote about. I think I used songwriting as a projection on my own feelings of longing and escape and that limited my abilities" says Luce. “Writing these songs allowed me to throw away the old ghosts and achieve a caliber of songwriting and production I'd been searching for."
Unlike Luce’s 2019 debut EP California Gold, a loose collection of songs from hustling the New York scene, Country House is an artifact from his life frozen in time. ”I always dreamed of making a record where the songs are from a distinct period, as a time capsule I could dig up in 20 years and look back on someday."
Those songs came at the most unlikely of times: Luce hadn’t written anything in months. “I think a collective forcefield was blocking artists from creating during the early days of the pandemic including myself." The chips were down: his band had scattered to the wind as the pandemic began and now, stuck in his apartment, recording plans scrapped, he fought off Covid. “It took a physical toll that I didn’t see until months later, I just wasn’t myself." With the news John Prine passed away, something clicked in Luce to write with a renewed zeal. “Something switched on, I had to get back on the horse and start writing songs again. I started playing in different keys and the first song I wrote was the title track."
These new songs needed to be tried out on an audience but options were limited. “My girlfriend would hear the songs first before anyone else. We would visit each other every couple weeks and I would strive to have a song done to play for her." As the songs came, instead of self producing like his last EP, Luce reached out to Philippe Bronchtein, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with The War and The Treaty and Mickey Guyton. Luce became a fan of Bronchtein’s solo music through a chance Instagram encounter and initially reached out for help finishing the song 'Scissors.' “We had a mini brill building going, I’d write a song and send it to Bronchtein who would fully form it in his home studio. The whole recording process was through email and file transfers, no video or phone."
The album wasn’t set in stone but in amber as Bronchtein put them to the light and saw different shades to each song, making Country House a unique blend of sight and sound. From the Rawlings/Welch-esq “Prairie Sun” to Luce channeling Wilco on “Yellow Flowers" Country House encapsulates the canvas that is Americana. “In writing these songs I realized who I was again, I was still romantic, and I resurrected my hope in life."
As the completion of writing the album neared, Luce harnessed his ability as a songwriter to move beyond himself. “Most of my lyrics in Country House are not autobiographical but they encapsulate feelings I have by putting on the mask of a father or jilted lover, giving me the freedom to express the happiness, worries, and problems we go through. Taking on these characters allows me to reveal a deeper truth about myself than I normally could."
The title and opening track “Country House” is a western shuffle of memories through a husband’s loss of a wife and unfulfilled dreams. “I’ll still build that country house for you/ I’ll be living there for a while/ it’ll be there for you/ in another life/ in another life.” It’s the perfect starting point for an album filled with characters straight out of a Robert Altman film. On “Daughters" Luce crafts a rainy afternoon of a father coming to terms with his children growing up and the traces they leave behind. “Laughter in the Dark” is a throwback to the classic Nashville sound when a husband finds his wife has left him high and dry. As Luce’s lyrics deal with loss he also writes from the other side of the coin. On the piano drenched ballad “Two in Winter" a farming couple’s faith endures through a long winter. “I always felt the piano was the best instrument to embody the cold, stark season. I made it a goal of the record to have a piano song." Hope is personified in “Spring Light” as an Allman Brothers-esq ode of a husband making the odyssey home while “Yellow Flowers” is a valentine to a lover’s dream of reuniting with his partner.
Along with Phillipe Bronchtein producing and playing, Luce was joined on the record by drummer Nate Barnes (Rodney Crowell, Hiss Golden Messenger) who brings an added level of drive to the songs. Buffalo, NY’s own Carmen & Lizzy add lush harmonies on “Daughters." “This record has been all over America, with me in Brooklyn to Bronchtein in Nashville then onto Portland for Raymond Richards (Blitzen Trapper, Local Natives) for mixing and Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee, the songs have seen a good snapshot of the country."
Country House is an amalgamation of characters and feelings that comprise the human heart. Luce has built a world for you to see yourself and your neighbors, to recognize the plight of humanity: the joys, the heartbreaks, and the faith that another day will come. “Making this record was forged out of my own desire to heal myself through song and I hope that Country House is that to anyone who listens."
Describe your image