Wyatt Easterling
'Goodbye Hello'

 by Johanna B. Bodde

Wyatt Easterling
'Goodbye Hello'
(Phoenix Rising Records, 2014)

Wyatt's BIO:

Growing up in Chapel Hill, NC, Wyatt Easterling released his debut album, 'Both Sides Of The Shore', on Moonlight Records (Warner Bros.) in 1981. With his album tucked under his arm, he moved to Nashville and began striving to make his way in the music business in whatever way he could. While looking for another record deal, he wrote for various song publishers. In 1990, he became head of A&R for Atlantic Records Nashville.

That same year, he wrote and sang on "This Time I'm Takin' My Time" for Neal McCoy's album 'At This Moment'. This collaboration launched more than two decades of gold and platinum winning releases with Wyatt Easterling acting as songwriter, producer, executive and / or session player.

Wyatt's partnership with Miles Copeland's (The Police & Sting) Bugle Publishing Group and Firstars Management occupied him in the late '90s and early 2000s. Leaving Bugle / Firstars, Wyatt's next step was to work on his own, writing songs like his title track for Dierks Bentley's chart-topping, million-selling album 'Modern Day Drifter', followed by his own critically acclaimed album 'Where This River Goes' released on High Horse Records on May 4, 2009.

"In Nashville, there's nothing a songwriter likes better than a co-writer with a broken heart." A quote Easterling laughingly coined. "You can really mine that for great stuff."
The songs and performances on 'Goodbye Hello' are rich with wisdom, acceptance and optimism. "I must say it's the most personal album I've recorded to date." Easterling's career has been full of chart-topping songs including cuts with Dierks Bentley, Joe Diffie, Billy Joe Royal, Paul Thorn, Neal McCoy, Sons of the Desert, Robbie Hecht, and others but these days, Easterling is embracing the life of a troubadour, focusing his energy on bringing his music and his stories directly to his audience. "Playing for new audiences reminds me why I fell in love with music in the first place."

"I've known Wyatt since he was a teenager and even helped him make his first album way back in the 80s, so a few years ago, I was delighted to hear that he'd stepped back over to the other side of the microphone after years of success as a writer and producer in Nashville! Even as a youngster I loved his songwriting and smooth vocal style but now he has matured into a legitimate triple threat - producer, writer and (this 'and' should be in italics for emphasis) performer. 'Goodbye Hello', is a peerless collection of songs sung with quiet conviction and effortless style." (Don Dixon)

Wyatt tells about the making of his ALBUM

The studio
Back in September of 2012 I went into my friend Bill McDermott's Dog Den Studio in Nashville with the intent of doing some guitar / vocals on a new batch of songs. Being old hands at recording we made sure that each song was structurally sound and exactly how we wanted them before we set up the first microphone. I'd never worked with Bill on a production and the outcome was so pleasing that I decided to spend a little more time and energy to record more tunes. At that point I didn't have any grand designs on recording a new album and more than anything else, I simply felt a need to chronicle the songs I'd written over the past couple of years, some by myself and some with my favorite co-writers.

As this collection of guitar / vocals grew, the idea of turning them into an album began to take shape. Sometimes you just have to be open to the possibilities and, besides, we were having so much fun, why not go for the mother lode. There was no question I needed a new CD and a voice in my ear kept asking me, "If not now then when?"

The production
Bill and I are both seasoned record producers (Bill's arranged more number one charting songs than he can count and I've racked up more studio hours than I can remember with such artists as John Michael Montgomery, Paul Thorn, Neal McCoy and Keith Urban, to name a few), so it was important that we agree to check our  egos at the door and allow the songs to take us where they needed to go. I'm in awe of Bill's sense of music, and his production is world class. I can honestly say this album would not exist without Bill McDermott.

Recording an album is an all-encompassing process. You're holed up in a windowless lab for days on end creating what you hope will be well-received music, all the while learning to trust the mad scientist in the room pushing all of the buttons and pulling the levers, or in this case, my producer Bill McDermott. We spent six months finishing out this album. Between recordings, we talked about the different artists we admire, great bands and albums, songs and production styles. We drank our weight in Starbucks coffee and shared war stories about life on the road and in the studio and of course the latest gossip on Music Row... and we laughed a lot!

The making of the title
The creative process is such a curious beast. As I was mulling over what song should be the title track, I found that none of them could speak collectively for the others. I went through the process of picking through the lyrics for that all-inclusive line that would express what the CD as a whole was about and again found myself stumped and at my wits' end. My dear friend and co-writer Jennifer Smith suggested that perhaps I was too close to see it. She pointed out that to her the songs were about endings and new beginnings, and with that she promptly said how about 'Goodbye Hello' as the title? That resonated with me.

I've gone through some major life changes in the last few years and have relearned for the umpteenth time that life is about learning to accept change and to embrace it. The sooner you learn to accept it and deal with it, the smoother your ride's going to be. This bigger picture began to come into focus and it dawned on me that these titles were written throughout these various personal upheavals and that these songs are indeed about change, some good, some not so good, some happy and some sad, people coming and going, songs about living and one or two about dying; yes I'd say 'Goodbye Hello' pretty well sums it up.

The talent
My years in Nashville have given me so many friends that wield huge talent and this little endeavour allowed me to call on many of them to bring their touch to these songs. As I mentioned earlier some were co-writers and some brought their voice. Paul Jefferson, Robby Hecht, Celeste Krenz, Jason Eskridge and Lisa Brokop are some of the finest singers in the world, and I get to have them with me for all time on these recordings. My musician friend Catherine Styron Marx, Brian Fullen, Mark Hill, Jeff King, Bill McDermott, Dan Dougmore and Jim Horn all played with such finesse and once again proved why they're world-class musicians.

To quote Bill McDermott at the last, "If you can hand someone your CD without saying a word or offering any apologies... cross your arms and just give 'em a nod... well, then you've done something that perhaps folks will talk about".

Wyatt's TRACKS

1. "Why Did It Take So Long?": Co-written with Paul Jefferson, who also sings backing vocals and plays djembe. A joyful, uptempo opener: "I think we always knew we were more than friends". Great playing by the full band in what is just a perfect country song.

2. "That's What I Said": Co-written with Drew Womack and Deanna Jordan. Tempo slows down a bit. Lisa Brokop and Jason Eskridge sing backing vocals. Funny thing with these songs is, that they could easily be recorded by any good successful country star. Wyatt sounds exactly like one of them, by the way.

3. "If A Tree Falls": An absolute highlight on this album and my favorite song! "If a tree falls and no one hears it going down does it make a sound?" and then the breathtakingly beautiful bridge: "The stars never lined up for us / I hear you're getting married soon / When I'm alone at night I still remember you in all my prayers / And I send you my love". Amen to that. Lisa Brokop adds her delicate harmony vocals and Dan Dougmore plays pedal steel on this emotional song.

4. "A Shot In The Dark": Co-written with the great and talented Robby Hecht, who also sings backing vocals. Another highlight, second runner-up. DeMarco Johnson plays a superb chromatic harmonica. "You reached for my hand in my shadow land and pulled me up on my feet".

5. "My Brand New Love": Another co-write with Robby Hecht, he and Jason Eskridge do the back-up singing here. Bill McDermott plays a Wurlitzer to fine effect. The song is pretty self explanatory, but the joy of finding a new relationship is quite infectious. Being two feet off the ground, who doesn't enjoy that?

6. "Right Before My Eyes": Wyatt explains: "This song is dedicated to two of the most extraordinary individuals I've ever had the pleasure to know. In memory of Nikki Mitchell and our dog Atticus. Thanks for showing me that all who wander are not lost." Lisa Brokup on backing vocals and Dan Dougmore plays pedal steel. The lyrics are celebrating a friend's successful end to his struggle with demons. "White feathers in the air".

7. "That Day Will Come": Celeste Krenz sings pretty duet vocals with Wyatt on this track, Jim Horn plays the flute. A sad slow ballad: "You can't tell a broken heart the sun will shine again". Very nice piano too, played by Catherine Styron-Marx.

8. "Teach Me How To Say Goodbye": Co-written with Jennifer McNary Smith and Scott Smith. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of this song collection, not everybody can listen all the way through at first attempt. Reflective and tender lyrics about saying goodbye to a parent.

9. "Help Me Find My Way": Co-written with Andy Gullahorn. Song with a very convincing, comforting gospel flavor, Robby Hecht and Jason Eskridge sing great harmony vocals. In the lyrical shape of a prayer is this perfect in the song sequence after the previous track. Another highlight, first runner-up.

10. "A Soldier Comes Home": Co-written with Robby Hecht, singing harmony vocals too in this pensive ballad, with mournful pedal steel in the background. If somebody would ask me to make a comparison, I would say that Wyatt's voice reminds me most of Glen Campbell in his prime.

11. "Somebody Prayed": Another religiously flavored song. Uptempo and upbeat, rhythmic with some revival influences and an enthusiastic pedal steel. This makes me think of songs by my friend, the late great Jimmy Adams.

The theme of this album is basically: new beginnings, not even so much saying 'goodbye', but rediscovering love and friendship, going with what works best, survival. Wyatt already picked those subjects for his previous album (I recommend purchasing
both of them!) and explores them a bit further here.

In his prior jobs he needed to know a good song when he heard one and he has been just as critical for himself, so there is not one filler and not one bad track on this album. Wyatt makes a musical statement, with songs that inspire and evoke emotions and set you to think. This is country music at its best and flawlessly played and sung and produced by all these talented folks too.

I'm glad Wyatt uses his talents exclusively for himself, as a singer-songwriter these days! He is definitely very good at it.
Written & compiled by Johanna J. Bodde - February 27th, 2015.