The singer/songwriter who you likely know from his songs that have been featured on such television shows as Dawson’s Creek and Roswell and various films has just released the Western & Atlantic EP. Working with Colin Killilea (Pocketknife), Marwan Kanafani (City Breathing), Erik Olsen (DiLego’s longtime writing partner), and Gregg Williams (Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow), the result is a stroll back to the Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell sound that intrigued DiLego as a child. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider Rolling Stone dubbed him “alt-country’s next poster boy.”
“Just this morning I was watching ‘Walk the Line’ [the 2005 biographical drama about] Johnny Cash,” he said when asked about his decision to gather all the players in a studio and record Western & Atlantic live except for minimal overdubs. “It is only in today’s era that having recorded everyone live [while the players are] together means anything. In the history of music, that was just the way you recorded things.”
Not that DiLego is that far away from the roots of country. After all, he and musical partner Bree Sharp have a loyal following for their folk, alt-country duo Beautiful Small Machines. In fact, the duo’s recent cover of a banjo version of MIA’s “Paper Planes” was just selected as a Top 5 Pick of the Week by The Guardian of London. But in order to juggle his hectic musical schedule, DiLego will often use modern recording tools, like most other musicians, to finish a project. Perhaps the back-to-basics recording process for Western & Atlantic is what makes the early buzz around the EP so heartening.
“In a sense, this album that you are listening to was never meant to be,” he said. “I went in to record [the next Beautiful Small Machines] album ‘Magnificent Ram A’ and found a lot of songs [I had written] went in a completely different direction [than what we intended for that album]. They were two very different groups of songs. Some were more along the lines of the singer-songwriter, Americana, which I love, and the others were a bit more off beat.”
After gathering the Americana songs that ultimately went on a Western & Atlantic, DiLego planned to set them aside until others in urged him to release them.
Perhaps the songs took shape as they did because of the somewhat casual way that DiLego introduced them to his A-list players.
“I didn’t give anybody the songs ahead of time,” he said. “I just got in the room with my guitar and said ‘This is one of the songs” and I’d play it. It would be the first time the musicians had heard it. They are a good set of musicians and everybody was adding to it. It was a very very cool time.”
DiLego is proudest of the song “Here Comes the Regular,” which has garnered much critical acclaim.
“That was not intended for the album by any stretch. That was simply a bunch of musicians in the room with their gear, playing live and saying ‘This sounds nice,’” he said. “That song [quality which is completely live] really surprised me. I often tear things apart with a fine tooth comb trying to make them perfect. That was a moment I knew I didn’t have to do that.”
Find out more about DiLego and his music on his website.