Tell us about yourself and your music
I started young. My Mother was an amazing pianist with a wide repertoire, and hearing her play daily instilled a love of a broad range of musical genres. But my father and Uncle were baseball fanatics, particularly for the St. Louis Cardinals, and had me playing baseball from a young age. There was always a tug of war between time for baseball and time for music because Pop insisted there was ALWAYS time for school, studies, and chores. The school came easy so both Mom and Pop pushed me.
I put my first band together at 14 and began performing professionally, and I continued doing so for the next 20 years, with the exception of the two years 19-21, when I was drafted. Though I was in college and on the “Dean’s List,” my class was the first to be denied college deferments and the last year there was a draft call. In fact, my local draft board called only me, no others drafted that summer of 1972. That was to change the course of my life.
I learned to write during those years and recorded about two albums of original material. I put it all away at 34 to care for my new bride. She was in need of healthcare and stability, neither of which she had ever enjoyed. Using the small GI Bill assistance of the time, and regular performances, I had attended five universities and possessed a broad range of studies. I was very good with tests and scored sufficiently high to gain employment with a very large corporation, which provided the needed healthcare and stability. I went on to attend another four universities using the company’s tuition plan, gaining a couple of degrees and several more diplomas along the way.
Eight years later, we were surprised with boy/girl twins. Two years later we lost my wife to illness and I took on the role of single Dad. I was a particularly involved father and submersed myself in the role. Three years after my children left home, they discovered cassette copies of some of my music from 30 years earlier, digitized it, and set about convincing me that my writing was important and I should return to writing and recording, which I did summer of 2015. Since that time I’ve written over 300 songs to date, along with poetry and prose, and recorded four albums with my boys, and currently recording albums I’ve written for solo performance.
The music I write for Usry & Sons is mostly Neo-Classic Rock. There are ballads, but the general feel is Neo-Classic Rock. It’s reminiscent of Clapton, Cream, The Beatles, Hendrix; music from the late 60s, and early 70s. There are cuts that may remind one of Steely Dan, perhaps even a few of the Big Hair bands from the early 80s, or New Wave bands of the late 70s, but mostly the Classic Rockers. I have written music more along the lines of Yes, some even relate Romantic and Modern era composers, and there are those who hear my Jazz influences, particularly Weather Report and Return to Forever, but this fourth album is solidly Neo-Classic Rock, in my opinion. Perhaps that why it’s titled Changing Course, which is also the title song.
Talk to us more about your latest release
I had been writing again a little more than two years and had recorded three albums and tracks for another three with the boys, all while still working at my corporate career. Both boys had started their own businesses and had become very busy with them, so I was beginning to write more for solo application, but still had ideas for songs that I thought would fit the boy’s strength. Both are known as Monster Musicians because they are so incredibly talented and just great on their instruments. I had written the third album specifically for them, to focus on their talents. This album was straight Neo-Classic Rock, with emphasis on the poetic lyrics, which are more specifically directed at social, political, emotional, and relationship issues and subjects.
It seems to me that after more than two years of writing and recording again, I had begun heavily falling back into my old lifestyle, which is a bit different than how I had lived the past 30 years. Admittedly, my lifestyle was always a bit different from my corporate friends and colleagues, but I had returned to the lifestyle of the writer and musician I had been in my youth. In doing so, I believe my writing and poetry became much better, getting the musical idea across more concisely, and telling the story more poetically while getting the point across. It’s better art.
Changing Course tells the story of my shift from career corporate manager and technical expert to being a true writer and musician. My children and my young singer/songwriter colleagues who performed at singer/songwriter festivals with me noticed the lifestyle and overall demeanor change and began calling me Bohemian. I also decided to retire from my corporate career of 34 years, even though I had not planned to retire for many more years. Retiring provided more time for writing and recording (I usually worked 60 plus hours weekly due to my expertise), even though the income dropped dramatically. But retiring also seemed to release me, and push me further.
Don’t Ask Why addresses our current political and social problems, while Seek to Understand addresses relationships and our habit of assumptions. It’s like Heaven tells the story of my deep love for my wife. You’re Not Alone supports the ideas of inclusion and acceptance of those in the LGBT community. Find Your Place stresses the belief in oneself and is a good rocker musically, as are all these songs. But there are some ballads to round out the listening experience.
What inspired you to write this release?
The story, the background, the fact that like a few of the old Westerns, where a gunman had retired years earlier, led a quiet life, but was called back into action to right a wrong, my children did the same to me. I actually listened to their argument which they steadily improved over the course of a couple of months, until they convinced me that I would be denying them a valuable and important legacy. A legacy within me that had yet to be written or recorded.
I had written quite a lot of essays and letters for them, so they were familiar with my writing and enjoyed my insights. But when they heard my old songs and poetry, they were convinced I had so much more within me waiting to get out. I hadn’t thought about it. I was satisfied with the career I had in my youth, and satisficed with my life choices; particularly satisfied due to the birth of the specific humans born to my wife and me at the specific time they came. Raising them was the highlight of my life.
I therefore actually took my instruments from the closet, along with some of my old writing, and began working. It took some time to regain my chops, musically and writing, but it came along steadily and I’ve become a bit prolific. The result to date is this fourth album, Changing Course, which brings a number of timely subjects and issues to the surface and provides support for our friends struggling with social issues that leave them disheartened. The album covers important issues of the day, issues that should be heard, which inspires me to write the album and to write this release.
Describe the writing and recording process
Many triggers place me in a mindset to write, sometimes simply the thought that the subject should be covered. But once I begin, it’s not unlike school or work assignments. I have a song to write, so I work at it, musically and poetically. I use what I’ve learned over a lifetime to craft both the music and the poetry.
I never make an effort to write a hit. I’m unable to find motivation for such a task, and I find no real interest in the pursuit. I’m working to address a specific issue with the poetry while searching for an interesting progression musically, and then a melody that fits the progression. The poetry (aka lyrics) must fit the meter of the melody which must fit the progression. Unlike our current political situation in the USA, I’m always quite willing to work across the aisles on these three major issues, even when it means a compromise, for the goal is a finished song with great music and lyrics that specifically addresses something and inspires.
Any plans to release a video?
Any plans to hit the road?
Usry & Sons IV, Changing Course, is being released on October 9, 2020. Being in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have no plans for live concerts. We do plan to perform the album with a live broadcast on some future date, and I’ll host a live Facebook (FB) Video Release Party on October 9, 2020, at 8:00 PM EDT (20:00) on our Official FB Fan Page, facebook.com/usryandsons. We will play the album, discuss the songs and recording experiences, future plans and upcoming release of our 2nd and 3rd albums, as well as a single titled JuJu Le Mew.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
We are a family band that writes and performs Neo-Classic Rock. We concentrate on well-written music with poetic lyrical content addressing current social and political issues, as well as content dealing with relationships and emotions. We offer a community, a virtual village of thoughtful reflection and sharing. In our village, we work to bridge divides and entertain with our recordings.
With our band, listeners have the opportunity to experience interesting music, performed by Monster Musicians, and featuring poetic lyrics that touch the soul, with melodies that stay with you. You’ll catch yourself humming and singing the songs days after listening, and you’ll return for more.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I got into Weather Report, Heavy Weather, again the other day. It had been a while since I had given it a listen. Always good for the soul. That caused me to pull up Return To Forever, Romantic Warrior, and I was delighted. But truthfully, I write often and make an effort to practice, so listening time is infrequent these days. I love hearing John Batiste, thinking of current artists and do listen to various current artists from time to time, but seldom recall their names.
Who are your biggest influences?
Ray Charles, The Beatles, Dwayne Allman, Nat King Cole, George Gershwin, Stravinsky, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchel, Little Richard, Yes, and a host of black spiritual performers, but especially my Mother.
Tell us about your passions
Family and close friends; I’ve changed the course of my life, throughout my life, to assist and support the family and close friends. Perhaps this is my strongest passion, but I was raised to stand up for others and for what I know is true and right. I took the lessons to heart and that passion has grown over the years. It kept me in hot water during my two years in the US Army, and it caused my corporate career many setbacks, but my parents instilled a passion within me to stand up for others and for just causes. That passion spills into my poetry and songwriting, and I hope that I express it through my vocal interpretations; I certainly make the effort.
This is why I write about social and political issues, and why I deal with emotions and relationships in my writing – it is my passion. I’ve written essays, stories, research papers, and poetry addressing these issues and subjects since I was a teen, so it has been my passion for a lifetime. I could mention conservation, habitat protection, actively working to reverse rapid global climate change, leaving a much smaller footprint, demonstrating that huge wealth held by very few is counterproductive for everyone – including those holding the wealth, that businesses and corporations with their main goal as maximizing profit is counterproductive to societies and those businesses, that the only reason for business is to provide useful products and/or services to societies – regardless of profit, that expecting to force one’s belief system or ANY specific belief upon another is absurd, that racism is absurd and utterly wrong, that judging others on their sexual orientation is absurd, and that these absurdities are harmful to everyone – including those practicing such… I could list these items and more as things for which I do have enormous passion, but really they’re all covered under the umbrella of taking a stand and actively standing up for what I know to be right and true.
Of course, one must have a passion to search for truth and understanding, and a curiosity about nature, societies, philosophies, history, the universe, and the specific scientific disciplines that reveal the truth, and do the research in order to understand enough to use such passion effectively. It is counter-productive to form and exercise passions on a subject or cause when the first one fails to understand the truth behind such a subject or cause. Propagandists use those who fail to do the research. They intentionally fan the flames of such misunderstandings to maximize passions, then use the unsuspecting to support their harmful and false causes, often harmful to those tricked into supporting with passion the propagandist narratives. We see a lot of that these days.
What else is happening next in your world?
Well, during this Covid-19 Pandemic the boys are busy with their businesses, taking classes, getting their practice in, working out, and taking precautions to avoid exposure to Covid-19. We stay in touch and share tracks, always encouraging one another.
I will mostly be practicing shelter-in-place, limiting my outings, and using masks, gloves, social distancing, and other relevant scientific research to avoid exposure to the virus, and certainly to avoid passing the virus to anyone else. The costs for “herd-immunity” is simply far too great, but by limiting exposure we kill the virus as it requires a host to live. Hopefully, vaccines will be developed that will have long term effectiveness, and we will then be able to return to some normalcy.
Until then, I’ve been writing quite a lot, mostly for solo applications, and I’ll continue to do so. I’ve begun recording these songs and musical pieces, along with living video performances. I’ll continue to pursue this solo adventure as Bohemian, the solo representative of Usry & Sons, and offer the products of Bohemian with Usry & Sons products.
As for Usry & Sons, we’re planning the re-release of our 2nd and 3rd albums, and we have tracks recorded and will record more tracks remotely from one another, with hopes of being able to record together soon. We hope to be able to release our 5th album shortly after the first of the year. Stay tuned to our FB Fan Page, Usry & Sons, for more information. We also have a FB Fan Club/Group, Usry & Sons, so by all means please do follow us; we enjoy sharing our journey with everyone – it is our honor.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Usry & Sons
Connect with Usry & Sons
Website: https://usrysons.bandcamp.com/releasesFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/UsryandSonsInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/usrysons/channel/?hl=enTwitter: https://twitter.com/UsryAndSonsYoutube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjmJ8lAwmwbzbo8IO_jv12A
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- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjmJ8lAwmwbzbo8IO_jv12A
- Website: https://usrysons.bandcamp.com/releases