By Tim Easton

I am tempted to call this essay “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” but I’ll just not.  Now that it’s suddenly September and Summer 2014 is more or less in the rearview mirror excepting the super heat and humidity of Middle Tennessee, I just have to say that was one of the most fun Summers I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some great ones.

  The land and people of Alaska are to blame for much of it, and there was the massive Rainbow Trout that I nearly caught on the Kenai River which sent troubadour brain into quite the tailspin.  I’ve been getting up nearly every day and writing up a storm.  Prose, poetry, lyrics, letters, essays-the whole spectrum.  I’ve been reading a decent amount too.  Mostly about fly-fishing.

  My Dad just sent me a major care package which had a lot of old books on the subject. 

  The Easton Stagger Phillips Alaska Summer Tour 2014 Extravaganza was a complete blast.  Successful too.  Our newest album, Resolution Road, was performed in it’s entirely quite a few times-and we played fairly well for a band who doesn’t hang out together all that much.  We also had some great turnouts at the shows, and I want to thank Evan Phillips, my band mate and promoter, for that.  

  It all started with rehearsals where the backing band just laid a solid groove down for us to sing over.  Marty Severin on the bass, James Glaves(who also mixed Resolution Road) on guitar, and the solid drumming of James Dommek Jr. all made it very easy for us to have the kinds of shows you want to have.   

  We tested the waters at a house concert as a trio, which was a lot of fun, and then blasted through the full album at the Tap Root for our first full band show.  It went very well, and it only got better.  

  Up North in Fairbanks, we played two more house shows and performed on Alaska Live on KUAC with Lori Neufeld.  The luthier Greg Pacetti gave me one of his guitars and, well, I still can’t believe it.  I’ve been working with it a lot in an Open C tuning and writing plenty of music.  I am super grateful for that gift, and will put it to very good use.  

  Denali was out for the viewing on our drive back south to play a house show in Palmer, and you really can’t ask for more than that when it comes to a trip to Alaska.  There is one member of our band, incidentally, that has summited that mountain three times, and his name is not Leeroy Stagger or Tim Easton.  

   After another live recording(film and audio) we did at Marty Severin’s studio-in conjunction with Monolith Promotions,  it was off to play the Salmonstock Festival in Ninilchik which is located on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.  It was the fourth Salmonstock Festival and I’ve played them all, which is something I do not take for granted.  The entire festival was started to raise awareness for something that many people have heard about, but don’t fully comprehend.  The festival itself is a form of “Creative Resistance,” by using music and art to bring awareness of the serious need to protect Bristol Bay so that future generations may enjoy Salmon as we do now.  

 http://www.creativeresistance.org/salmonstock-wild-alaskan-music-and-art-fest-to-protect-bristol-bay/

  Within hours of the end of that festival, I was fishing for Silver Salmon down on the Homer Spit.  A few days after that, I floated the Kenai River and that is where I hooked into the life altering Rainbow Trout.   I know, it’s just fishing, but I’ve been on that river-and to Salmonstock-with my father, who turned 89 this year, and let’s just say it means a lot to me to be able to come back to Alaska each year and participate in it’s grandeur and beauty.   

  No trip to Alaska would be complete without a few days spent in the magical hamlet of Hope.  This year, I was able to raft down 6 Mile Creek, which has some class IV and V rapids, thanks to the Nova Rafting Guides that live and work there.  Also, the violinist and songwriter, and my musical team mate for the last four journeys to Alaska, Ms. Megan Palmer, joined the party in Hope and she also got to shoot the rapids with the Nova gang, and then help me propel some serious dancing on the deck of the Seaview Inn, where the last show took place before heading back to Anchorage for a last night BBQ up on Flat Top Mountain at Mark and Carol Barnhills’ place.  

  I thank my band mates in Easton Stagger Phillips for their dedication to this project, and it appears we shall carry on with some new ideas.  Preliminary research is taking place to see if we could have our own Songwriting Retreat Summer 2015 in Alaska.  If this is something that interests you, please reach out to me on the CONCTACT Page of this website.  As it is right now, we are still looking for a suitable location, most likely in Talkeetna, but it could be closer to Anchorage or on the Kenai Peninsula too if the right location presented itself.  We will most likely have room for six to nine workshop attendees and it will also most likely go for three days and two nights-preferably the week after Salmonstock 2015, or somewhere around the second week of August.  

  So, there you have it, plans are already being made to come back to Alaska.  I feel very lucky to say that.  

  Let’s go fishing!  

 

esp overseasIn 2008, following the release of their debut album, One For The Ditch, Easton Stagger Phillips embarked on a European Tour.  In order to maximize creativity during their time together, Easton brought along his portable recording studio-AKA a laptop and a Mojave microphone-and began recording the songs and White Album-esque snippets that were intended to be the bedrock for a second album.

Each member of ESP had new songs on deck and there was one -”The Road”- that was the trio’s first co-write (having been composed backstage at Paradiso in Amsterdam).  Recording sessions were done wherever and whenever the band found time and space – a frigid sitting room in Dublin, a laundry room and apartment right on the Damrak in Amsterdam, a friend’s basement in Germany, and a hippodrome in southern Holland.

After the tour, Easton took the rough mixes to his studio in Joshua Tree where he added a few flourishes, built a few more sound collages, and sequenced a project he called Overseas.  Soon thereafter, Phillips began physical therapy for a climbing injury and the boys put everything on hold. When the band re-surfaced 5 years later to make Resolution Road, they decided to start from scratch.

With the successful release of Resolution Road behind them,  ESP would like to offer up this batch of tunes that defined a special and nostalgic time for the three friends and songwriters.

 

Easton Stagger Phillips – Alaska Tour 2014

Thursday, July 24     Anchorage    * House Show     730pm

Friday, July 25     Anchorage     ** Taproot   7pm

Saturday, July 26     Ester     Hartung Hall      8pm

Sunday, July 27      Fairbanks     House Show     730pm

Tuesday, July 29     Palmer     House Show      730pm

Wednesday, July 30     Anchorage     * House Show     730pm

Thursday, July 31      Anchorage     * House Show       730pm

Sunday, August 3    Ninilchick      Salmonstock      2:50pm

* For House Show Information, contact evan@monolithagency.com


ONLINE TICKET SALES ARE NOW CLOSED

ESP taproot Adjust

American Songwriter Magazine had some kind words about our new album saying, “With echoes of the sepia-toned late ’60s, early ’70s singer-songwriter sounds of Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jackson Browne and as well as the newer folk-rock of Dawes, Resolution Road may surprise you as one of the year’s best roots albums.”  Read the full story here.

They also premiered our new video for Easton’s catchy number, ‘So Much In Tune’ (Below).  Evan Phillips filmed, produced, and edited this fun piece on a sunny weekend in Anchorage a few weeks ago.  The video stars Alaskan songwriter and artist Sophia Street, as well as a number of other local characters including the bands mixing engineer James Glaves, and americana folk singer Emma Hill.

Res Road CoverEaston Stagger Phillips
Resolution Road
Campfire Propaganda/Rebeltone Records [2014]

fire-note-headphone-approved

Fire Note Says: Easton Stagger Phillips return with a sophomore record that is a breath of fresh Alaskan air!

Album Review: What happens when you get three extremely talented singer/songwriters in one room together? You guessed it – great songs, great harmonies and a record that is hard to put down. This result is really not surprising when the group features Fire Note favorites Tim Easton and Leeroy Stagger which each placed a record in our Top 50 last year. This sophomore album, Resolution Road, is the long overdue follow up to 2008’s One For The Ditch and also represents a progression from their debut’s quieter folk sound as the guys now bring along drums, electric bass and guitars, organ, and piano which results in a more vibrant and warm sound.

“Always Came Back To You” kicks off the record with the harmonizing line “I’m gonna believe – cause you never could make predictions; we were something to see – yes we had our afflictions” as Phillips takes hold of the song and Resolution Road comes to life. This bigger sound will immediately grab fans and bring new listeners in closer. It is the opener you want to hear when you have three compatible voices and Easton Stagger Phillips will bring to mind groups like The Jayhawks and CSN. This more flowing and upbeat vibe rides on with Stagger’s “Traveler” as they sing “I wish that we could go back in time when we were young and feeling alright.” This catchy reflection songwriting is easy to connect with as I think many of us always have moments we would like to repeat. Tim Easton completes the trifecta of tracks with “Stay.” It is a song that his fans will recognize with its thoughtful storytelling and emotional pull as the song hits its big sing along chorus “Darling won’t you stay, darling must you always go away.”

ESPPressPhoto: Greg Benolkin
What I really like about Resolution Road is that ESP sound fully committed and confident. This could not been that easy to pull off as ESP connect via Nashville, Anchorage and Lethbridge Alberta plus are dealing with their expansive personal and professional careers. The first record was more of a spotlight on each individual but on Resolution Road you hear a greater interplay of the friends. There are still distinctive leads but background vocals and group harmonies stand much taller here and Resolution Road benefits because of it. The expansion of instruments gives this album a bigger stage as it moves you beyond the campfire and into a more personal space called everyday life. When Easton sings the closer, “Baby Come Home,” you can hear Resolution Road’s sincerity when he pleads “I need you” as the piano plays sensitively in the background.

Each track here has its own personality but it works. The trio did an excellent job of making seamless transitions and a cohesive album while still shining individually when the light was on them vocally but it never finds them overshadowing another member. The time, dedication and focus here paid off as Easton Stagger Phillips surpass their debut. Resolution Road is truly a record that won’t be leaving my player anytime soon with its timeless appeal and is easily one of the finest Americana/folk-rock records I will hear this year!

Easton Stagger Phillips is happy to announce the release of their first album since 2009′s One For The Ditch. Resolution Road, which comes out on vinyl, cd, and digital formats on May 20, is a genre-blending suitcase of 10 classic sounding folk and rock songs. ESP’s evolution from their first to second album is notable as Resolution Road features layered vocal harmonies, drums, electric bass, piano, organ, and electric guitars. The outcome is a very nuanced and tastefully produced set of songs that will have listeners hitting the repeat button.

Stay tuned for details and Alaska tour dates.

ESP