South Texas songwriter – nay – troubadour Garrett Wieland has been on the scene for years soaking in everything in his path to form his own unique and quintessential Wieland-esk sound.
Those mesmerizing results will finally see the proper light of day with the release of his debut solo album, “What Keeps the Heart Afloat”, out June 11.
According to Wieland, a former resident of Mathis, these songs have been gestating for years, or rather, just lying in wait, ready for their opportunity to be realized.
“All of these tunes are songs I had laying around for seven years or so that didn’t fit into the folk-rock format of my band The Independent Thieves,” Wieland explained. “These were what I considered my ‘Kerrville Folk Fest Campfire songs,’ meaning that I thought they could stand on their own with just a voice and a guitar, played at a song circle around a campfire.”
According to Wieland, the annual Kerrville Folk Festival (held in May of each non-pandemic year), and its listening room atmosphere – or “by-the-campfire” intimacy – was really the impetus for the songs on the record.
“I wanted to do ‘listening room’ songs of this kind,” Wieland added. “So I had them, or pieces of most of them, and slowly refined them at home when I wasn’t out playing.
A bulk of the songs were inspired by Wieland’s lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety, and all of the lessons learned from those experiences, as well as his love for the Old West. In fact, there is an “unofficial” suite of songs inspired by the Old West at the center of the album – hence the cover photo.
“What Keeps the Heart Afloat” is chock-full of great songs and technique, but there are two true standouts, “Dennis” and “A Hand in the Dark” – and as Wieland describes it, the inspiration behind these songs came from keeping his eyes open and his ears tuned in.
“Dennis Wilson was the ‘screw-up’ brother of the Beach Boys; wild, gruff; a drummer, and the only actual surfer of the group, from which not much was expected,” Wieland said. “But he released his own roughly beautiful solo album, ‘Pacific Ocean Blue,’ and I return to it over and over again with the realization that the Beach Boy ‘sound’ was inherent in all three brothers and distilled beautifully in Dennis’ sandpaper voice.
“He died by drowning, too young. I hope this song reflects his spirit, and the spirit of the brothers.”
As for “A Hand in the Dark,” the idea for the song came from working in a book store, and people watching.
“An old man (was) in love with National Geographic magazines, who was clearly in the midst of major dementia, and his long-suffering wife would bring him to the store to indulge his love,” Wieland said. “I recounted the tale one night to my wife, and we both broke down crying in the middle of the kitchen, realizing that one of us might one day have to be that old woman at the bookstore, handing National Geographics to our rapidly fading partner.
“It made us hold each other that much closer.”
Once he was ready, Wieland finally unleashed his songs from their lying-in-wait state and entered the studio, and recorded the tracks with Mason Shirley at Sound Machine Studio in Skidmore.
“He was in the process of moving during the first part of the sessions, so some of it was done in (Corpus Christi), and the other half was done way out in the mesquite thicket of Skidmore, where his new studio is,” Wieland continued. “I feel, or hope, some of that environment rubbed off on the recording.”
As this is Wieland’s first solo record, after previously releasing an album with his folk-rock band The Independent Thieves back in 2015, he hopes to get as many ears tuned into these songs as he can. Thusly, he’s enlisted the help of radio promoter extraordinaire Adam Dawson, who has worked with the likes of Texas legends Adam Carroll and Susan Gibson.
“I’m hoping to get some great reviews and spins from that and from there work on getting some out-of-town listening room style gigs,” Wieland said. “After it’s released, I’m hoping to do a music video as well.”
As an independent artist, Wieland is accomplishing all of this on his own accord and at his own pace, and for him, the best end result is the songs themselves; everything else is icing on the cake
“For me, it’s always been about playing as much as you can and to write a better song than your last song every time you do it,” Wieland said.
“What Keeps the Heart Afloat” will be released June 11 on CD and all digital platforms. For more information visit garrettwielandmusic.com.