SIlas Nello releases his new record with parties at Spinster Records and Three Links this weekend.
Silas Nello wears vests, silver rings, feathered folk hats and striped shirts — but he's not playing the role of a Southern folk rock musician. You can tell when you're around him that he's comfortable in his skin. He also has the air of someone who knows things are finally falling into place.
Nello has spent the last 15 months writing, recording and preparing to release Out of the Light and playing shows every weekend. Soon, he'll embark on his first Midwest tour.
Dallas Observer: You and your band have a specific look. How did you choose it?
Shop cheap and look good. You see a lot of bands, and you can see that they’re trying to dress a certain way, if they want a uniform. I guess we’re fortunate enough to have the same style. I think we all have an understanding that as much as we love music and it’s our passion, it’s also a job. You don’t go to work looking like shit.
Do you find that because you’re a musician you must brand yourself with your music?
I think so. Originally, the first thing I ever put out a few years ago I did under my first name, Jarod Reece. Whenever I started branding Silas Nello, about a year and half ago, it had the same response I expected. Because no one understands what that name is. It’s my actual name — it’s my grandpa's and great-grandpa's name — so it worked.
How long have you been playing music? What brought you to where you are now?
I started playing guitar when I was 12. I went to Florida and Kansas for a little while but came back to Texas. Dipped out for a few years to write. Which got me this.
Where do you gather your inspiration when writing?
This record was inspired by a certain chain of events, of two people who are very close to me. The lives that they had and I have had in the past seven years. When I went into the process of writing this album, it was very much a narrative. I took all these ideas and created one character because I wanted it to remain anonymous. I wanted people to be able to relate to the songs. So if it’s sung in first person, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about you. The entire record Out of the Light is just a journey. There’s a lot of stories in there. Even the track listing tells a story.
Explain the artwork on the record.
The artwork on the front was a big part of it, too. It’s very dreamscape, it’s blurry, and a combination of photos that was done by J. Schaefer. He’s a visual artist.
Who inspires you musically?
That’s ever-changing. I’m a big fan of a ton of people, but I never feel anything I write is necessarily meant to sound like them. Imitation is one thing, but emulation is something different. That’s what good art is built upon. Take something you love, and go past that. The phases I went through while working on this album, I got into Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parson, Harry Nilsson, and one of my favorite records is Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. That record has meant a lot to me. Live, we always come off more aggressive than in the recordings.
Dallas is booming right now, but musicians often leave for Austin, Nashville or California. Do you plan to stay?
I’ll stay in Dallas. At some point, depending where the road takes me, I wouldn’t mind spending my time in other places. The one thing I’ve encountered since I kicked this project off is that every time I’m going to Austin to play a show, the people in Austin are trying to book Dallas shows. So the best thing you could do for a three-and-a-half-hour drive is trade time in between shows with bands. There’s a lot of oversaturation in places like Austin, Los Angeles and New York City.
Yeah, and Dallas is great because you also have Fort Worth and Denton within 45 minutes of each other. That’s a completely different scene, city and crowd. We played at the Folk Festival in Denton, and it was awesome. One of our best shows. We play out in Denton pretty frequently because we do well out there. Fort Worth is the same way. It’s a different city, but all considered a part of the DFW Metroplex.
What's your favorite song on the new record?
That’s a hard question. That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is. Nobody wants to answer that. I’m a big fan of "Mystical," the last track on the album. It wraps everything up and brings the whole story into perspective. It lets you, if you took the time, to figure out what the whole record's about and means to you. I also love "Rosie #2." It evokes so much emotion and happiness, but the lyrics are the opposite.
Why did you decide to produce vinyl records rather than cassettes or CDs?
J. Schaefer and I signed and numbered the first 100 copies that are white vinyl. So Hand Drawn Records is a pressing plant, as well as an independent record label. So I actually got to watch my records be physically pressed and stamped. It was really cool to actually pick it up and see it. I won’t ever press CDs again, not independently. There’s just no use for them, unfortunately. They just get thrown away.
You’re lined up for a Midwest tour. Why the Midwest rather than one of the coasts?
We head out on tour Aug. 22-27. Hand Drawn Records sent out a couple of the same guys before on the same run. They already hit these radio stations and venues, so they’ve already started to gain a following on that route. So that’s the plan.
Tell us about the record release parties this weekend.
July 28, it’s going to be a vinyl and digital release at Spinster Records. We will have a listening party with Wesley Geiger and Jenna Clark from 7 to 9 p.m., sponsored by Black Feather Whiskey. So you’ll be able to get the record there. The next day, at Three Links, we are having a Hand Drawn showcase. That’s who’s putting the record out. We will be playing with Brandon Callies & The American Revival, Cut Throat Finches and Heart of the City.