Friday, May 17, 2019
– Former BR549 mainstay Chuck Mead is going back to playing for tips.
But only for the record release festivities in Nashville.
Mead, who releases "Close to Home" on June 21, plans to do six shows around Music City between June 18 and 23 including Robert's Western World, where BR549 used to play for tips and recorded a live disc there.
"I thought instead of trying to choose where to do my record release party," he said, "I'd play more than one my favorite venues in town. It just so happens that because I luckily live in Nashville with so many great honky-tonks around, that I could do five days' worth. Come down to one, come down to all of them and hear the new record. And still, don't let the tip jar hit you in the ass on the way out."
Honky-Tonk tour dates are:
June 18 American Legion Hall Honky-Tonk Tuesday, 9 p.m.
June 19 The 5 Spot, 6 p.m.
June 20 Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge, 7 p.m.
June 21 The Nashville Palace, 6 p.m.
June 22 Grand Ole Opry, 7 p.m.
June 22 Robert's Western World, 10 p.m.
June 23 Grimey's, 1 p.m.
Over the course of the late '90s and early 2000s, BR5-49 (and later BR549) recorded seven albums and spread the gospel of neo-traditional country music around the world, garnering the band a CMA Award for Best International Touring Act and three Grammy nominations.
Mead's whirlwind tour of Nashville is in support of an album that he actually made in Memphis. The 11-track disc is a Memphis-spiced hardcore country set recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studios and was produced by Memphis recording engineer/producer Matt Ross-Spang. Out on Nashville independent label Plowboy Records, it is the follow-up to Mead's first Plowboy release, 2015's "Free State Serenade," and his fourth solo album overall.
"It's probably the least-country record I've ever made," Mead admits, "but at the same time, it's really a country record."
Mead, who serves as the Musical Director/Supervisor/Producer of the hit Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," filled similar roles on the companion CMT dramatic series, "Sun Records." The time he spent in Memphis during the production of the TV series led to Mead's change of recording venue for his new album.
"I really delved into the Memphis music scene when I was living there for four months," he said. "I wanted to get as many local Memphis musicians to play in the series as possible. I got to know a lot of people in the scene, and I'd known producer Matt Ross-Spang for quite a while. When the 'Million Dollar Quartet' show was on tour, we came through Memphis a couple of times. At night, the cast would record at the original Memphis Recording Service (better known as Sun Studios) and that's where I first met Matt. He was very young, but was the head engineer and really brought the old studio back into shape. I started hanging out with him, and he kept talking to me about cutting a record in Memphis."
By the time Mead was ready to record, Ross-Spang moved from Sun to Sam Phillips Recording, the Memphis studio built by Sun Records head Phillips in 1960. Ross-Spang has worked with John Prine, Jason Isbell and Margo Price. He engineered Prine's The Tree of Forgiveness; co-produced Price's debut, "Midwest Farmer's Daughter" and sophomore effort "All American Made"and notched the Grammy for engineering Isbell's "The Nashville Sound" (as he did for 2015's "Something More Than Free").
"I've recorded in some cool Nashville studios like the Quonset Hut, RCA Studio B and the Castle," Mead said. "But there was something almost supernatural about working at Phillips. You could feel Sam's spirit."
"Matt wanted me to make a bigger record," Mead said, "something that was out of my box and I was all for it. So I turned it over to him, and he took things in a direction I didn't foresee."
"I really wanted to make a record that was a little bit different from what I had been doing," Mead says. "Looking back, I really have done that on every record I've made, because why make the same record every time?"