Jeremy Fetzer is the co-founder of Nashville instrumental outfit, Steelism. He also started Fetzer Design, specializing in album art including Grammy-Award winning and Grammy-nominated projects for Jason Isbell, Boz Scaggs, Delbert McClinton and Bobby Rush. Jeremy released a new solo record today, June 19th. Phases is more than just another ep from the multi-talented guitarist, songwriter, art designer and new dad, Phases is the first full release for his new Fetzicon imprint label through Nashville’s Thirty Tigers. I say the first “full” release because a couple of months ago Jeremy released “Mendocino”, a single featuring one of his guitar heroes, Duane Eddy.
Ana Lee: Congratulations on everything, Jeremy! A new ep, Fetzer Design, a new baby and a new venture called Fetzicon with your long-time partners in releasing music, Thirty Tigers. First of all, I have to ask you what it was like and how it came to be that you recorded with Duane Eddy, an 18-piece orchestra and part of Steelism in Portugal!
Jeremy: Thanks Ana Lee! So, it goes back to about 8 years ago when I was introduced to Duane Eddy and his wife Deed at a Nick Lowe-Tribute Sirius Radio event I was playing in Downtown Nashville. Duane & Deed couldn’t have been kinder and it was a thrill to meet the real-life character from my Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel LP. As an instrumental music lover and guitarist, Duane is an absolute hero. And he’s also a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famer, a Musicians Hall of Famer and has sold millions of instrumental records. Fast-forward to last year, I was working on this new instrumental I was calling “Mendocino” which was nearly wrapped up, except for the lead melody line. I kept hearing this Duane Eddy-esque baritone guitar sound on top of it. I reached out to Charlie McCoy, another studio legend that Steelism had recently working with on the ism record, for Duane’s contact. I hesitantly sent the track and idea to Duane and it turned out he remembered me and loved the track! And he’s also a fan of Steelism. Then I realized wow, I need to book a session to get Duane Eddy to play on one of my original instrumental recordings… and the nerves kicked in.
I got some time at The Butcher Shoppe Recording Studio in Germantown, owned by the late great John Prine. The studio has an incredibly cozy and vibey feel to it. Duane Eddy turned up with his Gretsch and Fender Twin Reverb, plugged in, and it instantly sounded like him! It was hard not to smile and laugh the entirety of the session… my face hurt when I got home. It’s been a blast getting to know Duane over the past year and hearing his endless rock n’ roll stories… Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones… they all loved Duane!
Once Duane’s guitar was on the tune, Jon Estes (who co-produces all Fetzicon recordings with me) & I realized we had to do strings now too. We wanted a full-orchestra sound, so we found a company that was able to do that in Europe. Estes wrote the score for it and we had a 20-minute block of time where they performed a few passes of it and sent us the tracks. We were able to tune in via live-stream and chat with the conductor. It was a trip.
Once the recording was wrapped-up I sent everything over to my friend and regular collaborator Jeremy Ferguson at Battle Tapes, who just won the Grammy for engineering ‘Best Rock Album of 2019’ and he mixed “Mendocino.” We did it in stereo as well as in mono, as an homage to Duane’s late 50s hits. The mono mix is currently only available on the 7-inch vinyl and sounds glorious!
Ana Lee: Fetzicon is a new label distributed by Thirty Tigers. Can you tell us about it and why it’s important to have a home for instrumental music in Nashville?
Jeremy: I started Fetzicon as a new instrumental label imprint and creative outlet for myself. The vision is for the label to bring in new instrumentalist collaborations and release a regular series of singles and EPs. I’m really gravitating to short-form releases these days, as full-length albums can be creatively stifling with our ever-growing short attention span and shrinking budgets. And there are so many musicians I want to work with in this town that I think would really enjoy making an instrumental single.
Instrumental music is such a big part of the music we play in my home whether jazz, ambient, surf, or R&B and also a big part of Nashville’s studio musician history with groups such as Area Code 615. And we have some of the iconic 1960s instrumental artists still living in this area like Duane, Charlie McCoy, & Steve Cropper. I also find that instrumental music can be the best for the mind during anxious times, which we are also all feeling these days. I find it to be the best escape for listening as well as the most fulfilling to make.
Ana Lee: Phases is out today and it’s a four-song ep, but Mendocino is not one of them. The ep does have a pretty different feel, more clean guitar tones and a dreamlike quality to it. Which is matched visually in the video for the song, Tell us a little about the ep and the video for Phases.
Jeremy: “Mendocino” is absolutely a stand-alone track with Duane Eddy and the first of a regular series of collaborative instrumental singles I want to release with Fetzicon.
After wrapping up the first single, I started working on this other set of tunes to occupy my mind while we were waiting for our first-born. I wanted the instrumentals to be hypnotic and calming as I prepped for the next big life chapter. I also recently acquired a Moog and began borrowing other analog synthesizers from friends, which set a tone for this collection of recordings. Tinkering with synths can be very meditative. My recording process always begins with the same team of co-producer Jon Estes and drummer Jon Radford, but with these tunes I spent most of the time in solitude at my home studio building soundscapes around them. The vision was for my electric guitar and the synthesizers to work together as one and at times get lost as to which is which. I was listening to a lot of Brazilian composer Antonio Jobim as well as Johnny Greenwood soundtracks and Brian Eno ambient recordings at the time. My daughter was born shortly after to Eno’s Music For Airports, which now just reminds my wife of being in labor so I probably can’t play that one at the house anymore.
The music video for the “Phases” title-track single was made by Jason Lee Denton, who beautifully crafted his own travel footage with some surreal surprises to the flow of the music. All of Jason’s work is stunning and I think he perfectly executed the escapist and ethereal feel of the track.
Ana Lee: Lastly, I wanted to wish you a Happy Father’s Day, your very first! I also wanted to ask you about Steelism. You know I have been such a huge fan of your work with Spencer Cullum, Jr., who also plays pedal steel with Miranda Lambert, along with everyone else associated with Steelism; Jon Radford is one of my favorite drummers ever, Robbie Crowell who I’ve seen play just about every instrument in existence with a slew of talented artists around town and Jon Estes who has recently produced some artists I’ve featured on the Local Brew Hour, including Lake & Lyndale, Kashena Sampson and Skylar Gregg. Everyone has been so busy, is there going to be time for more Steelism recordings or shows at some point?
Jeremy: Thanks! Our daughter Romy is almost 8-months now - time has been moving both incredibly fast and slow in our house. The most positive part of these past unfortunate months has been all being together and watching her grow every day. Her smiles have been contagious around here. And I can’t wait to make her jam with me! Until then we just do a lot of dancing around the turntable.
We miss Steelism so much! Spencer & I are both anxious to work on new recordings and play shows when we feel it’s safe to. We’ve had a couple silly FaceTime jams, but definitely ready for the real thing. We were meant to do some shows at the new Nashville Brooklyn Bowl this summer, which will need to be rescheduled. We took a nice break from Steelism over the past year, which should lead to some new creative energy when we bring it back together. Also, Spencer made a really beautiful folk record during that time that I’m looking forward to everybody hearing.
Ana Lee, thanks so much for reaching out and always supporting my instrumental endeavors. I can’t wait to see you around town sometime soon!
Ana Lee is on middays at WMOT, and is also the host of The Local Brew Hour, which airs Sundays at 7am and Mondays at 7pm on 89.5 WMOT and wmot.org.