By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"Matt's always been the same, always into rockabilly and country," Deatherage says. "Just being his friend, he got me into all of that stuff. Then we started playing together in The Collyers, and I had to learn the stuff. I wanted to sing, and that's what I reached for: Hank Williams. I was 18 when I decided to do that. I wanted to be the frontman. I wanted to sing and write my own songs. Being Matt's best friend, of course, watching him do that, I was like, 'I wanna do that too.' He helped me along."
To get back to that time and those songs for Dream Upon a Fallen Star, he needed some more help. Deatherage credits Slowride's Dan Phillips for gently forcing him to make an album that included every single aspect of his songwriting, from country to rock to jazz to blues to whatever else happened when he picked up a guitar and began playing. They began working together in 1999; "It was more like a hey-I've-got-a-studio-in-my-warehouse sort of thing, and we're friends, and let's record it," Deatherage says. The resulting album included most of the songs that eventually ended up on Dream Upon a Fallen Star, but once it was finished, so was the label (13 Recordings) that was supposed to release it. The recordings with Phillips were eventually scrapped, but the ideas that came out of those sessions are what hold Dream Upon a Fallen Star together.
"The Calways was a little more rock, the Tom Petty sort of rock and roll, that sort of thing," Deatherage explains. "But when we started recording with Dan, he was like, 'You know, we just need to record Todd music--like, everything.' Because I write in all different styles of music--jazz and blues and country, rock. 'Just do all your songs, and put them on one record.' Just make it an eclectic mix of something. So that's what we started with Dan, and then we just kind of did it over again. I like it a lot better. I feel comfortable with what I'm writing, because I don't have to be worried if it's in the right genre, or if it doesn't fit in some category.
"The songs on it [Dream Upon a Fallen Star], some of them are very old," he continues. "Some of them are seven or eight years old. Some of them are some of the first songs I ever wrote. Stuff I could never fit into anything else. Before we started recording, Dan and I sat down, and I must have recorded about 40 songs, everything I've ever written. We put it down, with just me and my guitar, and then we listened and picked the ones we thought would work the best for what we were trying to do. I think the newest song is maybe a year old. Which I guess would be two years old, considering it took a long time to get out."
It took even longer than it might have because Summer Break Records, the label that released Dream Upon a Fallen Star, offered to have Deatherage re-record the album with Matt Pence at The Echo Lab in Argyle. For once, it was a wait that was worth it, because the extra time gave Deatherage a chance to fill out the album with guest appearances by the Old 97's Rhett Miller, percussionist Joe Cripps, fiddle player Reggie Rueffer, Centro-matic's Scott Danbom and Pence, Hillyer and Cowboys & Indians' horn player Jim Lehnert, among others.
While Deatherage was happy to have a chance to put out the best album possible, all he really wanted was for it to be in a store or a stereo. Not in a studio.
"People were starting to disbelieve me that the record was ever going to come out," he says. "After two years of saying, 'It's going to come out in March,' people were just like, 'Yeah, whatever.' At the end, I was just saying, 'Soon. Soon. Soon it will come out.' Everything happens for a reason, I guess they say, but I'm a very impatient person. Guess I have a reason to be, too."
If anyone has a reason to be impatient, it's Deatherage. He's only 25, but you'd assume he's at least a few years older, due to the fact that he's been playing around since he was 15, standing onstage at Schooner's with Hash Brown. He's allowed to be impatient, because he's already been waiting too long.
"The thing is, is that everyone has seen me play for so long, I think they just write me off sometimes," Deatherage says, laughing. "You know? They're like, 'Oh, Todd. I've been watching him since he was 15 or 16.' It's the opposite effect. Either you're the child prodigy, you know, where, like, everyone watches you for the whole time. And then this other way, where they're just like, 'Ah you're old news,' and they'll pop in every once in a while just to say hey, so if something ever happens, they knew you way back then." He laughs again, and stops for a second. "It's cool and it's not."