After a decade-long break, veteran indie-rocker Krister Axel enlists top producer Shane Leonard to elevate this expression of pride and self-determination into a melancholic roots-folk anthem perfect for fans of Ray LaMontagne. Krister Axel brings the easy folk vibe of Southern Oregon to the streets of Paris, where he once busked as a child on the steps of Sacre Coeur, singing the songs of James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and The Grateful Dead.
Now, twenty years into adulthood, Krister has a beautiful wife and family, a career as a music blogger, and a firm handle on his artistic core. This song was written after the birth of his first child - daughter Adeleia - and encapsulates some of the wonder and joy of parenthood, while also exposing the vulnerability of being needed and the emotional freedom of early childhood. With contributions from rising star Courtney Hartman on hollow-body guitar and vocals, and a who's who of Eau Claire session players, this new single from Krister Axel is his best project yet and marks a resurgence for Axel's signature blend of heart-on-a-sleeve lyricism and moody, soul-inflected Americana. Weightless Heart bears the mark of Shane Leonard's indie-pop aesthetic with a live-tracked session and a prominent hand on the Mellotron.
Vocals: Krister Axel
Acoustic guitar, vocals: J.E. Sunde
Guitar, vocals: Courtney Hartman
Bass: Jeremy Boettcher
Drums, Keyboard: Shane Leonard
Piano: Ben Lester
Production: Shane Leonard
Sound engineer: Brian Joseph
Mix: Shane Leonard
Mastering: TW Walsh
Below, you can read about the experience of making this recording. Working with Shane was an absolute pleasure. Shane Leonard's previous production work for Anna Tivel and her amazing, award-winning album The Question has received a lot of attention in recent days.
Just a Bunch of Musicians, Making Music. - A Few Days in Eau Claire with Shane Leonard
Shane Leonard has built himself a wonderful musical community in Eau Claire, and I was lucky enough to spend a few days with him. The team: Brian Joseph the sound engineer, Courtney Hartman on guitar and vocals, Ben Lester on piano and lap steel, Jeremy Boettcher on supersized bass, and Jon Sunde, also on guitar and vocals. Shane plays drums, and together they create a sort of roots dream-team ensemble, ready to back any songwriter with a song or group of songs ready to go. I found him both through the record label that put out his latest solo project, and also through the music of Anna Tivel whose entire album The Question was produced in the same way, with the same players. I had a song ready to go, I sent it to him, and he liked it. Simple as that. Weightless Heart is a song I wrote about my daughter a few years ago, and I was thrilled to have it recorded with such a great group of players. I think it turned out really nice.
So, we will have a song mixed and mastered, eventually, and I will make a lyric video for that and post it here when ready. But for the moment, I wanted to share the photos I got from the trip. I just invested in a high-end camera for making commercial 360 photos (that's a whole different story) and I am really glad that I brought it along. Most of these shots are with the Nikon 1.4G 50mm, but a few were shot with a Nikon 2.8D 28mm, on a D750.
Eau Claire is a wonderful place to visit, and I have always loved Wisconsin in the Fall. It is just a gorgeous place to be. On the day I arrived we took a quick tour of the studio.
And a few more shots of Brian's house.
On the 2nd day, all the musicians showed up.
We did a few takes, ate some delicious sandwiches, did a few more takes, and a track was born. Every one of these performers is a very talented, down-to-earth professional that was there to do 2 things in order: do a great job, and have a great time. Shane wrote the arrangement, we made some changes to the original song, and together we simplified and reworked until it all felt right. He was an absolute pleasure to work with, but also wasn't afraid to push me in the right direction when necessary.
And for the last hour or two of the session, we were in the midst of a lightning storm. That felt like a sign. :)
This, to me, is what music is all about: bringing talented people together, making art, and having a good time. We did all that. Many thanks to Shane, his wife Michelle, Hive Studios, & Brian and Becca Joseph - you were wonderful hosts and I hope to see you all again soon.
photo credit: Krister Axel, shots of Krister by Ben Lester & Brian Joseph.