Americana Highways brings you this premiere stream of The New Old-Fashioned’s album Big City. The album was produced, engineered, and mixed by Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company in Dayton, Ohio, with additional production and engineering by David Payne. It was mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering in Nashville, TN.
All songs were written by M. D. Payne Jr except “Drink and a Prayer,” which is by K. Montgomery. Album design and layout is by Brian Stephens and Marshall Norman.
Musicians on the album are Tom Blackbern on bass and vocals; Kent Montgomery on guitar and vocals; Matt Oliver on drums and percussion; David Payne on vocals, guitar, and Wurlitzer; Patrick Himes on Hammond Organ, steel guitar, optigan, and percussion; and Paige Beller on vocals on “Drink and a Prayer.”
The title track, “Big City,” opens the album with a seductive number and sets the stage for the EP to unfold. “I Don’t Want to Lose My House,” confronts a genuine thread of fear in the social order. “Drink and a Prayer” takes things up a notch with some upbeat, although perhaps flimsy, optimism at securing a waning relationship. “Little White Stickers” closes out the EP with some grandeur in the arrangement — about little white stickers and a stick figure family on the back of the van that give life some personal meaning, somehow. The EP is a concept album, and the concept is making it through the difficulties of modern life in some of its most disheartening forms.
We chatted with David Payne on the EP. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: There’s an American spiritualism in your work. How does life in Ohio impact your songwriting?
David Payne: Our new EP, Big City, and our last full length Smalltown, Midwest, USA are both from the same batch of songs. These songs in particular were very impacted by where we live because they’re almost all observations of the people around us during these recent challenging and divisive times. Southwestern Ohio is an interesting cross section of rural and urban folks of all kinds living fairly close together, but also not spending enough time with each other to understand one another very well. Also, a lot of people’s families came here originally for work in the many manufacturing plants that just aren’t here anymore. So, that lack of understanding coupled with the economic stress can make both intercommunity and personal relationships difficult. That’s where the majority of these songs are coming from.
AH: You all have been playing music together for a long time. What keeps you inspired? How do you feel like the fabric of the band was strengthened or stretched during these sessions?
DP: We’re best friends, and those friendships started before we started the band. So, it goes deeper than just the music. I think that’s had a big impact on our longevity as a band. We’re also part of a really inspiring and encouraging music scene here in Dayton and that keeps pushing us. We have an amazing loyal fan base that has grown every year we’ve been doing this and they keep coming out to the shows! That’s probably the thing that makes us want to stay at it the most. The fact that even a modest number of people want to hear our songs is truly inspiring and we’re very grateful for that.
I’d say what has strengthened us as a band during these sessions is that we really believe that we’re still doing our best work and getting our best response from fans, even after ten years as a band. What’s stretched us thin is just life and getting older. Most of us are married now and/or have careers outside of music and I have a daughter at home. So making the time to devote to the band is a greater challenge than it once was. But we’re keeping at it somehow. Having very supportive families has gone a long way in that regard.
AH: What happened between your last record and this new EP? Any life events that inspired songs?
DP: Well as I mentioned previously, this EP and our last full length are companion pieces. A couple of the tracks from the EP were recorded during the sessions for Smalltown and the others were written during that time. But between then and now… BOOM! Pandemic! So, obviously that’s effected our live shows and it pushed the release date for the EP way back as well. It also slowed down our normal writing cycle because we were getting together for rehearsal a lot less during that time. It did inspire a song or two that will probably end up on the next record down the road.
AH: Do the songs have any sort of thematic elements that weave a thread between them?
DP: Yeah, all the songs on this EP and the previous full length are written from the point of view of different people with varying view points, living in Smalltown, Midwest, USA. Stories about the way they view the world, personal hardships, and their various relationships, both personal and with the larger community. I was trying hard to understand how different types of people around me viewed things and in turn, hopefully help someone else do the same.
AH: How did you write the song “(I Don’t Want to) Lose My House’?
DP: While we were making our last full-length album, Smalltown, Midwest, USA, I was headed south on route 4 into downtown Dayton, Ohio. I was on my way to Reel Love Recording Co. where we were tracking with long time producer, organ player, and friend, Patrick Himes. On my drive I saw this billboard that caught my eye. On a mostly blank, black, canvas, was a woman’s face. She had a look that was equal parts terrified and sorrowful, and in bold red letters read the words, “I don’t want to lose my house.” And at first I thought, “Wow, that’s heavy.” The more I thought about it, the heavier it seemed. Not only was this a problem facing our neighbors, but it was a large scale enough problem to have some sort of organization spending advertising dollars on it.Then that day, while the tape rolled on someone else’s overdub, I wrote “(I Don’t Want To) Lose My House.” A song that could’ve very well fit on Smalltown. So, that one, along with a few more that could’ve also been on the full length became the follow up EP, Big City.
AH: What’s next for The New Old-Fashioned?
DP: We’ll be playing a few shows this winter, and then more in spring, in support of the new EP. 2022 will also mark 10 years since the recording and release of our very first, self-titled, record. So we’ve got some big plans for a special 10th anniversary reissue and some shows to go along with it.