Erik Kase Romero steps away from the soundboard and up to the mic on solo album, ‘how to be still & still be here’

Date:

PC: Hundred Yard PR

Recommended Tracks: “susquehanna,” “new england,” “prized,” “still”
Artists You May Like: The Front Bottoms, stillhungry, Idle Wave

Growing up just a few short miles from the culturally significant music city of Asbury Park, NJ, a hot bed of jazz pioneers such as John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor through the big band era and, of course, contemporary Jersey icons like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, music is in singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Kase Romero‘s DNA. All these years later, despite his quarrels with the current system, he is still consistently creating art… still consistently surrounded by art. With producer credits for artists such as The Gaslight Anthem, The Well Wisher, and Lorde, he has established himself as a reliable industry maven. He is also an active recording and touring member of rock band The Front Bottoms, primarily consisting of Brian Sella and Mat Uychich.

Stepping out on his own, his gripping and emotional new album how to be still & still be here is out now.

how to be still & still be here is a multi-faceted mix of genres including country, Americana, and alternative rock. It is also his first real venture into crafting a project that is exclusively his. Modeled after the troubadours he grew up listening to and studying, such as Jackson Browne and Neil Young, Romero sometimes found himself fighting back against what certain songs were truly meant to become, but ultimately found his way there.

“I went pretty deep into the writing process and gathered a handful of musicians and collaborators,” he said. “Since it’s my own stuff, I needed some objectivity and other people involved to keep it from it just being me losing my mind… judging myself. I intentionally didn’t have anyone work on anything too much before we go together. We just experimented with them. We let it be like, ‘However this is going to go with all of our brains together is where it’s going to end up,’ and we developed the material in that context. For me, I didn’t have to carry the burden of having the identity be so open-ended.”

That uncertainty carried over into the basic singing aspect as well. “I record people for a living so even something like… singing, on a record, after hearing hundreds of singers, you hear yourself back and you’re like, ‘Well, this is a mind f***,” he said. “I was able to make a lot of progress in that regard… in terms of figuring out what I like about my own voice. Finding ways to be empathetic to myself.”

“I think I’m in a place where I just feel the most inspired to write about things that I care a lot about,” he continued, on the content itself. “Things that occupy a lot of my bandwidth.” Songs like “susquehanna,” about a defining childhood memory on the Susquehanna river, “maria,” a note of apology to his newborn daughter, and “selling it,” diving further into pitfalls of the current musical landscape, offer unique perspectives into intimate thoughts and moments from his life.

“What I feel like I like about susquehanna’ is that the context is interesting… there’s that banjo the whole time and the chord changes are pretty classic,” he said, diving into the overall musicality of the record. “Then, the sound of that piano in the beginning feels like it comes from a more experimental indie rock vocabulary, which is kind of the music I work on all the time. I liked kind of marrying these worlds of a bit more… f***ed with experimental sounds with more traditional Earl Scruggs type banjo… acoustic guitar and petal steel.”

“new england” is, musically, the antithesis of the record. It is also, easily, the most contemporary sounding, containing surf-rock and indie pop elements in both the instrumental and vocal delivery: “So I stay highhhhh and separate myself… from the satireeeee supplied by someone else to kill more time and keep my mind from clarity or hell/ So I stay highhhhh, I stay high.”

Even with its more pop-oriented feel, the track was not written as a contradictory “gotcha!” moment paired with “selling it,” though Romero says he was unsure about including it on the record. “Anytime anyone has said that any song is speaking to them… I’m a little surprised, and I’m like, ‘Well, why?,’ he said with a laugh. “All of it is very personal to me, but sometimes things that I care about, other people don’t care about as much. And that’s ok. I just wanted it to feel authentic.”

One of the thing he is most vocal about is the need for the installation of fair and true systems for the modern artist… a point he touches on in “selling it,” but offered an unequivocal and uninhibited explanation of his thoughts here. “I think streaming, in its current state, feels like there’s still something to be figured out in terms of how to make it more accountable and egalitarian for artists,” said Romero, who has ‘Please download Tidal’ in his Spotify bio. “I don’t know if there’s any form of streaming that I think, ‘That’s the right way to do it,’ I just feel like Spotify, in my opinion, seems like they’ve made an effort to do it in the most sinister way possible.”

He elaborated, pointing out that even Taylor Swift isn’t immune from Spotify’s penny pinching for artists, but that the platform signed a nine-figure check for a certain outlandish podcaster. Therefore, while his music may still be on the platform, perhaps as a show of solidarity with his colleagues and friends, Romero is attempting to lead even a few away from its grasp.

Outside of the seriousness of that topic, understated highlights of the project include “prized,” a musically unresolved plucky bluegrass-type track with Romero’s most deceiving, and stunted, melody, and “still,” the country-rock ballad fit for adult contemporary radio that is almost surely the mission statement of the project. The latter, with a rare and well-executed instrumental fake out fade that leads to the final 30 seconds of jamming, features biting, deep-seated excerpts of Romero’s inner dialogue surrounding mental health and simply just moving through daily life: “Now I’m spiraling, wondering how to exist and… I’ve realized we got no say in the contradiction/ I’ve never been brave enough to disappear/ But I’m learning how to be still and still be here.”

“That line was kind of just… a mantra that I latched onto early in the process,” he said. “I knew I wanted it to be at the center of the album. I just think I’m a type A. I overthink things… I find myself ‘overlogicing’ things to a point that may be destructive. I think that’s something that the more and more I come back to… trying to learn how to be present, to accept things for what they are, I don’t know if I know how to do it, but the process of seeking has been very therapeutic and healthy for me.”

Stream how to be still & still be here on Spotify.

Follow Erik Case Romero on social media:
Instagram // Website // YouTube 

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