Album Release Show
54 1/2 E. San Francisco St. #7
Thursday, December 21, 7 pm
$5-$10 suggested donation.
When Santa Fe guitarist Nathan Smerage left his rock band Venus and the Lion late last year, he went on the hunt for a radically different project. He spent the better part of 2017 composing acoustic guitar ballads, and emerged with nine songs inspired by classic ragtime music. “It was on my bucket list that I wanted to make a solo guitar record,” Smerage says. “Just guitar, no other instruments, no overdubbing. It was terrifying.” This summer, Smerage recruited local musician Luke Carr to help him record the album over two days at No Land art space. For the official launch of the album, titled The No Land Sessions, Smerage returns to the gallery to replicate the raw energy and unique acoustics of the recording. The album release show is at No Land on Thursday, December 21 at 7 pm. The gallery will ask for a $5-$10 donation, and The No Land Sessions CDs will be available for $10.
“What can you do with just a guitar?” says Smerage. “That’s the question that kicked off the project, a little over a year ago.” He’d recently graduated from the Contemporary Music Performance Program at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where he formed Venus and the Lion with three other students. As Smerage began composing songs for the solo album, he worked with former SFUAD professor and sound engineer Jason Goodyear to produce demos. “I was living across the street from Jason. Every month I would write a song, go to his place and record it. He was my coach,” Smerage says.
Smerage visited No Land for the first time early last summer, and re-imagined the art space as a makeshift recording studio. “I remember Nate walking through the gallery and snapping his fingers to check the acoustics,” says No Land Co-Director Jordan Eddy. “He was hearing something that we couldn’t, which was fascinating.” Smerage describes the space’s resonance as “wooden” and “old-timey”—a perfect complement to the ragtime-inflected soundscape of his compositions.
Smerage and Carr sprung into action in July, recording about ten takes of each song in two eight-hour sessions. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done something like that,” says Smerage. “Usually any record I’ve worked on, we’d spend months to years finessing it. With this one, Luke was like, ‘Put down what you need to, and that’s it.’” The result is a 30-minute album that Smerage calls a perfect wind down after a long workday. It’s a world away from the electric grooves of Venus and the Lion, and part of a larger musical evolution for Smerage. “I’m challenging myself to become a master of my own instrument,” he says. “I want to really put my voice into it.”