Honest vocals, great lyrics, and an easy groove are the backbone of The River South’s first full-length effort, Follow the Light.
Featuring live performances from Austin local legends Jai Dillon and Gabriel Rhodes, Follow the Light was recorded in just a few days in October of 2017 at Austin Signal studios. Austin-based recording artist Shawn Pander produced the album using his own band as the rhythm section and singing the backup vocal parts himself. Zildjian artist Adam Marcello of Katy Perry fame flew out from Ireland to play drums for the session.
With dense lyricism and an impeccable production from Pander, songwriter Krister Axel is able to combine the bleeding heart of Ryan Adams' country soul with the pop precision of Feist while hewing a new space for himself in the fields of roots music.
Axel and Pander’s Follow the Light is a monument, a moment in time between 3 old Los Angeles friends (Axel, Pander, and Marcello) with massive talent in a top-notch analog studio with some great studio musicians. Magic was bound to happen.
Axel has performed with many acts throughout the years, most notably Cheyenne Kimball (MTV) and Whitestarr (VH1), and has a personal catalog of album releases spanning 2 decades. These 9 new songs offer a timeless commentary on the divide between city and country with themes of both melancholy and optimism. Krister Axel is at his very best when his baritone voice splits the difference between Tom Waits and Bruno Mars.
I got called to sit in with Shawn last year at Austin City Limits on the Tito stage. We had a great time, of course, and Shawn happened to mention that he was starting to produce a few albums in the local Austin scene and that he was good at it. We listened to some stuff. He was right.
Plans were made for me to come back out to Austin the next year and do an album with Shawn producing. I spent the next 12 months getting my songs together, and that turned out to be the secret sauce. But then 2 weeks before I left, I wrote Follow the Light and that seemed to help pull everything together. The oldest song on this record is A Little Dying which some of my old California fans might remember from my glory days in Los Angeles. I would say I wrote that song circa 2002. So on this recording there is a 15 year old song, a 2 week old song, and everything else in between. Bust mostly these songs were all written on my childhood piano in Ashland, OR which was shipped out from the east coast a few years back.
Adam Marcello played drums for me on Permanent Friday Night, which was my first solo full-length album. We were friends from playing in the LA band Paper Sun together. We toured a little bit but that was just before he got picked up by Katy Perry and eventually became her MD for 10 years. But Shawn kept in touch with him and asked me if I would consider buying Adam a ticket to come out from Ireland to track with us. Uh, OK!
So yes, we recorded this album live in 5 days never having been in a room together; but Adam and I had chemistry from back in the day, and everyone had heard the songs already, so either we were just good or we all got a bit lucky. Either way, I am proud of this album and I hope you enjoy it.