Nashville or bust
Clear Blue 22
Jasmine Schwader, lead singer for Clear Blue 22, is feeling a little stressed out about the band’s upcoming trip to Nashville.
“I swear I feel like I could throw up right now,” she says.
Together four years, Clear Blue 22 is a modern country band made up of Schwader, drummer Dave Block, vocalist and guitarist Paul Reyes and bassist Don Simpson. Augmenting this core group at various shows are, among others, lead guitarist Rex Stenzel, keyboardist Stan Prentice and harmonica player Jimmy Ruggiere.
This won’t be the band’s first trip to the country music mecca. Set to record a CD in Reno last year, Block received a call from Paul Jefferson, inviting Clear Blue 22 to come to Nashville and record at Jefferson’s home studio. Clear Blue 22 had opened for Jefferson’s band, Hilljack. Though they were not completely aware of Jefferson’s stature before arriving in Nashville, the band members jumped at the opportunity.
“We were just shocked when we got there and found out who he really is,” says Reyes.
The band was expecting Jefferson (who wrote the Aaron Tippin hit “That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You") to just produce the record. He also began pitching songs he thought might be right for Clear Blue 22.
Jefferson wrote roughly half of the songs on the record, in collaboration with various co-writers, including Kent Robbins, who wrote a song that the Judds recorded, and former Go-Go’s members Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey. All these tracks can be considered “original” songs for Clear Blue 22, as none of them had previously been released by other artists.
Working with Jefferson also allowed the band to tap Nashville players like pedal-steel player Bruce Bouton (who has played with Ricky Scaggs) and Jefferson’s Hilljack band-mate Porter Howell.
Working with these Nashville pros didn’t overwhelm the band, however. Schwader claims that they merely enhanced what was already there.
"[The CD] is like the best of us because somebody could see our vision and add to it,” she says.
Most of the songs on the CD are mid- to up-tempo rockers, broken up with a few slower songs, including “This One’s For What’s His Name,” a Porter Howell/ Hunter Davis-penned waltz. Reyes takes over the lead vocal duties from Schwader on four of the disc’s 12 songs. The disc is as polished and professional-sounding as you’d expect from something to come out of Nashville. And, surprisingly, there’s no noticeable disparity in quality between the songs written by Clear Blue 22 and those written by the pros.
Next week, Clear Blue 22 returns to Nashville, this time to attend the CMA Fest (formerly known as Fan Fair).
“It’s the largest gathering of country music fans and artists,” says Block.
In advance of their arrival, the band is being advertised on a billboard in downtown Nashville.
“We are so excited to go down there because we haven’t seen it yet. We gotta go and take pictures in front of it,” says Schwader.
The band hopes the trip will result in a step forward.
“We’re doing four showcases around that area downtown for record-label executives, distributors, management, agents,” says Schwader.
While Block admits there is major-label interest in the band, he is reluctant to be too specific about the details. But Schwader puts it simply: “We’re hoping to quit our day jobs soon.”