There is something almost magnetic about a good sad song. According to science, that irresistible attraction to songs that make us a little teary eyed comes from our brains' penchant for nostalgia. When we hear sad songs, we think of better times, and in turn actually end up happier than we were before. There's also a great deal of catharsis in listening to this music, something that Wesley Geiger is intimately familiar with.
A Dallas native, Geiger moved to Los Angeles to attend college, a move that left him feeling a little wistful. "I was out in California trying to create my own world and make friends, and that can be a pretty lonesome process," says Geiger. "It tends to take me a lot longer to develop friendships, and having to be okay with being on my own was lonely. There were a couple of romantic endeavors that didn't really pan out like I wanted them to."
Whether or not his experience in California was ultimately good, it certainly has resulted in some excellent music. Wesley Geiger's first full-length album, El Dorado, is deeply influenced by both the experience of traveling through the Southwest and the desert landscapes that he encountered while making the long drive from Dallas to Los Angeles. When you listen to El Dorado, you can almost see the stereotypical cacti and tumbleweeds that you see when you think of the Southwest.
The title of the record is, of course, an homage to the legendary lost city of gold, a topic that is truly fascinating for Geiger. "It's this enduring thing," he says. "People still think it might be out there." When driving through Eldorado, Arkansas, though, Geiger saw a strange juxtaposition between a veritable paradise of gold and silver, and the tiny, two-horse town. In this comparison, it is also clear that El Dorado was very much a period of growth for Wesley Geiger, a time when he wasn't exactly sure where he was going to end up. Which makes for excellent music.
Like the lyrics, El Dorado's sound is an interesting blend of two wildly disparate music scenes -- Los Angeles and Texas in the 1970s. While the sound is clearly reminiscent of the singer-songwriters that came up in Los Angeles in the 1970s, like Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, the album is still very much Texan. Once El Dorado had been tracked, Geiger discovered '70s outlaw country in a particularly interesting turn of fate. "I had never listened to Waylon Jennings before, which is kind of embarrassing," admits Geiger. "But after learning about guys like Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, I was really interested in exploring the common ground between what was happening in L.A. at that time and in Dallas."
The record is very much a Dallas album, though. Geiger recorded El Dorado with producer Beau Bedford, a former member of Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, at a small cabin in Flower Mound. For Bedford and Geiger, this short drive outside of Dallas was a way to leave reality and really focus on making the record turn out exactly as they had intended. When he wasn't recording at the cabin, Geiger was laying down tracks at Bedford's home base, Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas.
Despite the heavy sprinkling of country music, Geiger is hesitant to label his first record in the genre. "I get so careful about saying the word 'country music' because it has all these associations with things that I just don't want to be associated with," he says, clearly referring to the infectious virus that is bro-country. "I like to think of it as a pure country record. There's no dollar signs with this record, at least not positive dollar signs."
He does, however, have hope that this sad reality might be changing. Considering the success of artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, Geiger sees a movement toward a more authentic, traditional approach to country music, specifically songwriting. Each of Geiger's lyrics are artfully crafted, and ultimately, still incredibly sad. Which isn't something that he really has a problem with.
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"Don't you kind of relish sadness, at least occasionally?" he says. "I think a lot of it comes from what you've been through, or even what you haven't. I watched a documentary about Townes Van Zandt, and he's like the supreme master of the sad song. He never really had a hard life at all, but he loved the blues. It's like he went out of his way to find misery to stir up real emotions in himself. At the end of the day, I don't have anything to complain about, but the idea of being happy all the time just doesn't really appeal to me."
Still, though, there is much for Geiger to be happy with when it comes to El Dorado, and it's pretty clear that he's happy with how the record turned out. Geiger doesn't have any immediate plans for touring just yet, but you'll undoubtedly start to see him pop up on stages (and Best Ofs lists) across Dallas in the very near future, starting with his album release party at the Kessler Theater on Friday, alongside Somebody's Darling and the Orbans.
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