Since the 1960s, acts as diverse as Etta James, Demi Lovato, the Rolling Stones, Clarence Carter and Bob Seger have made the pilgrimage to recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., to try to capture some of the region’s swampy musical magic. Dayton-based blues musician Eric Jerardi recently did the same for his stunning new R&B-infused album, “Occupied,” getting its local release at Yellow Cab Tavern in Dayton on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Jerardi has recorded albums in Dayton, Nashville, Memphis and New York during his 30-year music career. He recently discussed this studio experience, which included working with seasoned session players David Hood (bass), Clayton Ivey (electric piano, organ), Milton Sledge (drums) and Kelvin Holly (guitar), plus the Muscle Shoals horns led by Charles Rose (trumpet).
Occupied in Alabama: “It was a really cool experience, no question about it. We went down last spring and recorded. I was only in the studio for four days. We did the core tracks in two days and then we worked on vocals. We had one day left and, believe it or not, we laid down all the horns and backing singers on that one day.”
Do right by him: “I’m glad I didn’t do all the research on Muscle Shoals or watch the documentary on these guys before I went down there because I might have been a little intimidated but I really wasn’t. Those guys are so gracious so working with them wasn’t really different. We set up in one room and recorded together and that was it.”
Let the old men in: “Those guys are so fun. They just relaxed me to death. It was like we were messing around, almost. There was no professional attitude like, ‘We’ve got to get this done.’ It was nothing like that. They were like, ‘Maybe we should put it here.’ ‘Maybe we should do it there.’ ‘What do you think of this?’ ‘Let’s change this intro.’ That stuff happened instantly.”
Don’t take it personally: “When people first hear it, their reaction has been 100 percent the same, which is utter shock. My own mother didn’t even know it was me. She goes, ‘Well, what’s this?’ I go, ‘That’s me, mom.’ ‘Well, who’s singing?’ ‘That’s me, mom.’ ‘No, it’s not. Seriously, who wrote this song?’ I swear to God, my own mom sat there in disbelief. (chuckles) I had no idea I’d have created what I did but sometimes the magic happens. In all these years, I’ve never captured things like I did on this one, no question.”