Bill Deasy back in the regular music groove
From 2000 to 2009, Bill Deasy released nine albums, seven as a solo musician. Then came more than three years of silence from the usually prolific Oakmont resident.
“It's a function of my life,” Deasy says. “I got my first day job (director of the Allegheny County Office of Special Events) and that definitely changed the dynamics of my creative life.”
“Start Again,” the new release, will be unveiled April 26 at a sold-out concert at the Oaks Theater in Oakmont. Deasy admits for a time he suffered from a mild case of writer's block. When the music and lyrics started to flow again in 2012, the tenor of the compositions were different than his recent solo material.
“I think by stepping away from it and disassociating myself in a way from music, hearing other people's music while working at concerts for the county, that kind of re-inspired me,” he says. “It helped me to clear my head, and, ultimately, it led me to revisit my initial inspirations, the roots of my music and why I first wanted to make music. It gave me a new perspective and re-charged my batteries.”
Deasy's most notable achievements came with the Gathering Field, the local band that received national acclaim for its single “Lost in America” in 1996. But “Start Again” predates that work. When Deasy emailed an MP3 of the new song “Heaven's Gate” to Gathering Field bassist Eric Riebling, the response was immediate.
“Eric said it reminded him of a Shiloh song,” says Deasy, referring to the band he led that won the Graffiti Rock Challenge in 1991. “And that was a really good sign because I was trying to return to how it felt to write and perform and make music when I was much younger and the whole world was wide open and everything was kind of fresh. It was a good sign that Eric heard it that way.”
Youth — or a relative youth — played another role in the making of “Start Again.” Deasy enlisted Chris Parker of the City Dwelling Nature Seekers to produce, engineer and arrange the new record. Parker, who drums and plays guitar with CDNS, brought in his bandmates Lee Hintenlang and Matt Booth to perform.
“Chris is a real force to be reckoned with,” Deasy says. “I think he's a special musician. He has a talent that's unusual and rare for someone his age.”
It is still a Bill Deasy album, so there are certain touchstones present: honeyed vocals, literate lyrics, ingratiating melodies. It's also an album that makes no bones about its influences. The first two songs on the release, the title track and “Heaven's Gate,” are notable in that they evoke one of his musical heroes, Van Morrison.
“The whole record is consciously intended as an homage to Van and Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen,” Deasy says. “All the great songwriters from the ‘70s who blew my mind and shaped my style.”
Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.