In our first ever guest post for Say It With Garage Flowers, author Nick Quantrill talks to Californian singer-songwriter, Jeff Caudill, who has just released a brand new EP, Old Blood, to tie-in with his 50th birthday.
“This record does sort of feel like taking a breath before embarking on something new,” he tells us…
It’s been a tough 18 months for musicians, but for California’s Jeff Caudill, it’s still been a productive time.
With a cancelled UK tour and enforced downtime, he set to work exploring a back catalogue encompassing 30 years of work, firstly as the frontman of punk rockers, Gameface, and then through a series of solo releases to create Stay Home: The Quarantine Editions.
Premiering the tracks on social media and even releasing one on flexi disc via the Future Vampire Club label, looking backwards helped sow the seeds to move forward. His latest release, an EP called Old Blood, was released just ahead of his 50th birthday, which is on July 10 this year.
“Old Blood is a small batch of intimate acoustic songs that I’ve written in recent years,” he says. “I wanted to release something on my 50th birthday and I feel these songs are a clear snapshot of where I’m at.”
It follows his Reset the Sun EP, from 2017, but it sounds nicely different and progressive, maybe sparser and more reliant on just voice and guitar, something Caudill agrees with.
“Of all the songs on Reset the Sun, the title track is the simplest, yet ultimately is the most immediately poignant. I spent a lot of time on arrangements for the other songs on that record, but the one that I just tracked live with an acoustic guitar hits just as hard.
‘This was a rough year for everyone and approaching 50 amidst all this puts a fine point on your mortality’
“I took this to heart while planning the recording of the new EP. It made sense in a lot of ways to keep the songs pure and simple. I keep a notebook with me and scribble thoughts and whatnot. I just keep musing until the right combination of words and music presents itself. The lyrics certainly reflect on my life up to the minute with some pretty heavy stuff. This was a rough year for everyone and approaching 50 amidst all this puts a fine point on your mortality.”
If you’ve followed Caudill’s work, you’ll hear that progression on Old Blood, but it retains the ready comfort of old favourites and familiar reference points. It’s the perfect jumping in point for new listeners.
“I had a few songs already written before I had the idea for this record: Irrational Anthem, I Know We’ll Never Know and Make Time Sleep are songs I had written for other projects. The two more recent songs, Waves and Old Blood, were written specifically for this project. I just wanted it to sound like a guy playing in a room. Just a guitar and a voice,” he says.
“I added some complementary instrumentation and some vocal harmonies, but it’s pretty minimal. I had spent almost a year in my home listening to a lot of the music I grew up on — Jackson Browne, Neil Young, CSNY, Poco, all that Laurel Canyon stuff.
“All the main tracks were done at home — some in my bedroom but mostly out in the garage, aka Ramshackle Studio. It’s astonishing what you can do with a decent microphone and a laptop these days. I sent all of the tracks to my long-time friend Jim Monroe to mix. We did one day at his studio to listen to everything and add some extra stuff, like the violin and some percussion. It was all quite simple, which is how I like it.”
‘I spent almost a year in my home listening to a lot of the music I grew up on — Jackson Browne, Neil Young, CSNY, Poco, all that Laurel Canyon stuff’
Monroe isn’t the only help Caudill received on the EP. On Make Time Sleep, the backing vocals and co-write comes from Career Woman, who also happens to be his daughter, Melody, a talented songwriter with her own burgeoning thing going on.
“I’m sure I’ve learned a thing or two from her, plus we share a lot of music with each other. A record from last year that we both love is Better Oblivion Community Center. We listened to it a lot and noticed that in a lot of songs, Phoebe Bridgers and Connor Oberst aren’t singing harmony, they’re singing in unison but in different octaves. This was our attempt at that style. I wrote the guitar part and we both wrote lyrics for it. It’s loosely about time travel and video games. Our friend Kristi, from the band The Pollen Collective, played fiddle on the recording and she just knocks it out of the park. It’s one of my favourite moments on the EP.”
Maybe new blood is the opposite of old blood in some way, but there’s a sense of energy it brings to the material and also points the way forward, something Caudill notes.
“This record does sort of feel like taking a breath before embarking on something new, but I never really know what that is going to be. I just keep pushing on and doing what feels right in the moment. I’ve have a few projects up in the air over the past few year so it was nice to just sit down and make something happen in real time. Life is long and life is short. I’m happiest when I’m making stuff.”
One of these projects is the reissue of Gameface’s Three To Get Ready, the band’s blistering 1995 set, with added B-sides and outtakes.
“I look at the pictures and listen to that voice and it’s like I’m watching another person. I’m really proud of all of the music we made and I know this record means as much to some as it means to me and the band,” says Caudill.
“It’s wild to be able to enjoy a slightly-belated 25th anniversary of a punk rock record I made when I was 25. And at 50, I feel so very fortunate to have some of the folks who were with me way back then to still be with me now and want to hear what I have to say. None of this is lost on me.”
Old Blood by Jeff Caudill is out now: buy /stream/download/limited edition vinyl.