Interview: Riley Etheridge Jr. Talks About, ‘The Straight and Narrow Way’
With his new record, The Straight and Narrow Way, NYC-native Riley Etheridge Jr. is proclaiming a new sound.
As a singer-songwriter with a carefully crafted four-album catalog, Etheridge noticed something on a previous tours: music makes people dance, and as a performer, what’s a better feeling?
With this realization in mind, he created The Straight and Narrow Way––an Etheridge-style party record born from freewheeling recording sessions in Los Angeles, Nashville, and New Orleans.
Chock full of feel-good acoustic tracks, the record features collaborations with a host of special guests including Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins, drum legend Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty), guitarist extraordinaire Shane Theriot (Neville Brothers, Dr. John), producer Wendell Tilley and more.
So what’s it sound like? That would best be described by Keltner himself, “Steely Dan got lost over a long weekend in New Orleans."
Learn more in our interview with Riley Etheridge Jr. below, and enjoy an exclusive stream of album-standout “The Maze,” featuring Sara Watkins. The Straight and Narrow Way is available March 18th, just in time for Etheridge to hit the road with Leon Russell this April and May.
Tell us about your artistic epiphany that inspired the sound on The Straight and Narrow Way.
It was truly a result of our live shows, and watching people dance to some of the new songs we were working out. That inspiration, combined with the addition of Shane Theriot to our production team brought a fresh, funkier perspective to this record.
Can you explain your songwriting process for the album? Was it different from your earlier records?
The process was very different. Wendell Tilley, Shane and I wrote several songs together over a few weekends in Nashville, and the success of those sessions spurred us all on to write more individually and contribute new ideas. Previously I tended to show up for sessions with finished songs for consideration, but this record was more collaborative and spontaneous.
You have an impressive lineup of guest artists featured on the record.
I feel very fortunate to have players like Jim Keltner and Dan Dugmore on the record. Jim is a friend of Shane's and Dan has a close relationship with Wendell, and now has played on all four of my records.
They both approach the songs in a musical and distinctive way that only their legacy of experience can bring. We just rolled the tape and let them play whatever they heard!
You have two songs featuring Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek, can you tell us a little about how that came about?
Sara's last solo album Sun Midnight Sun has been one of my favorite records of the last few years. When we decided that "The Maze" and "Another Time, Another Place" were suited for female harmonies, recording with Sara was at the top of my list.
We had met briefly playing the 2013 Cayamo Music Cruise, and we had a connection with her management through my label Rockridge Music. As luck would have it, I was in Southern California at a time that worked for her and we were able to finish both the vocals and the beautiful violin parts in one session.
Listen to “The Maze” here:
Tell us about some of the acoustic guitars and other gear you used on the album.
The two main acoustics on the record were my Collings OM that I have been playing live lately, and an old Martin that belongs to Wendell. While we tracked the record in 5 different studios, the bulk was done in New Orleans at Fudge Recording, a studio with a great collection of vintage preamps and mics.
How does it feel to have a tour lined up opening for Leon Russell?
It feels amazing! Leon has been an inspiration to me since the first time I heard "Lady Blue" in the ‘70s, and his wonderful collaboration with Elton John and T-Bone Burnett last year is a gem. I am really looking forward to hearing him play for ten nights.
Will you do the tour with a band or solo? Should we expect a lot of acoustic magic live, too?
I will do the Leon Russell tour as an acoustic duo with Kenji Shinagawa on mandolin, and I will probably bring my Collings OM and a Santa Cruz Vintage Southerner along for the party.
Find out more at rockridgemusic.com/rileyetheridge