Nashville-based Progressive Rock band Evership
is the conceptualization of composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer/engineer Shane Atkinson. Shane played in Nashville bands and as a backup musician for artists in the late 80's and 90's. As a composer he wrote on Music Row and, always having a studio running somewhere in the Nashville area, was a prolific composer with musical work spanning from commercials and film to orchestral and theater. He made two records with the 90's Alternative Rock band Curious Fools
, but after multiple labels and false promises, and with the birth of his first child, he decided to leave the music business for the budding software industry.
Shane says he never really stopped writing. "The music just kept coming, haunting me. I'd constantly wake up in the night to record song ideas. Over those years I amassed at least a hundred hours of material. But I was so successful in software, it became nearly impossible to get out. Something like Evership
was bound to happen, it had to happen, I was profoundly depressed."
Finally, in 2005, in response to a dream, he sold their big house in the suburbs, moved the family, downsized, built a recording studio, and opened a commercial and film music production company to finance the album effort. It would take about ten years to make the record; not just for the actual recording, but for raising a family with his wife (and PR person) Michelle, building a studio, holding down the production company and remaining business interests, and sifting through the mountain of song material.
Many of the Evership
songs were written long before the project started. Some were five to ten years old even then, and there is purportedly enough material for four or more albums. "I've got other material, but I wanted to do this first. Musically-speaking, Prog is where my heart is." He said while growing up, listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, Queen, Kansas and Jimmy Hotz, he had no idea it was progressive music. He just liked it. Amongst his other influences were classical composers, particularly Bach, Rachmaninov and Ravel. He has a sizable Opera collection and is a Puccini fan. Fusion music also played a role in the early years; Chick Corea, Al Di Miola, Mahavishnu Orchestra, anything that challenged him musically. "Even what I'm writing now is not intentionally Prog. It's just what comes out. These songs are life-stories, I can't tell them in three-and-a-half minutes."
After deciding on material for the debut album, demos were started in 2009, but life circumstances halted production until 2013 when Shane shut the music production company down to focus on the record.
Beau West, the lead vocalist, had moved to Nashville to do music in 2005 with his wife Melanie. He met Mike Tharret and Mike Priebe with whom he had some great musical moments with, coupled with some great recordings, but nothing materialized. With no prospects on the horizon he put his guitar in a closet and there it stayed for three years. "My wife asked me if I wanted to do music anymore. My answer was "'I don't want to write, I don't want any creative control, I just want to sing.'" Little did he know that around the corner of that third year he would get exactly that.
Originally, the singer Shane had keyed the music to was longtime friend and 90's band mate Jason Beddoe who ended up needing to bow out due to life circumstances. Shane says, "This was operatic music. These kinds of singers just don't exist anymore. I thought it was over." Beau was literally an answer to prayer.
Shane met Beau West, the lead vocalist, through session singer Mike Priebe (who sings BGVs on the record, along with Nicelle, Mike's wife, on violin). Shane and Beau had a conversation about music that lasted hours. The two had the same musical interests and the same vision for what they wanted to accomplish. After an initial meeting to review the material, Beau was invited to the studio to sing on the most challenging vocal track, Ultima Thule
. Shane says, "Beau has that rare range and tone that sounds great anywhere on the scale. He could handle anything I threw at him, and had such a great attitude as well, which was critical because so much production had already been done." Beau says, "This music is everything I'd heard whirling around in my head since I was fourteen and couldn't get it out. Shane unlocked what was already inside and I can't wait to sing every note he writes." From there, Shane and Beau set course for a three year journey of finishing the recording and coming up with the brand that is now Evership
On the album, Shane choose to play drums, keyboards, and an assortment of more obscure instruments like the Theremin and Chapman Stick, but to sub-out most of the guitar and bass work to like-minded musician friends and family.
The earliest recording, Flying Machine, was performed by Dan Smalley on classical guitar and Brandon Vestal on electric guitar. However, the classically trained Rob Higginbotham performed most of the rhythm electric, acoustic and classical guitars.
Shane's brother James moved into town later in the process and performed the lead guitars, which turned out to be essential to the Evership
sound. "Having my brother here reminded me of when we were kids. We used to do these 'concerts'. The neighbors would set up lawn chairs and watch." With James on guitar, the 'brother magic' (a term James coined to explain their telepathic ability to communicate musically) made the lead guitar production more organic.
The infamous Nashville bassist Jaymi "Pink Bassman" Millard (Innocent Monday, Kinetic Element, Mark Slaughter) rounded out the tracks.
Once the album was in full swing Shane engaged the know-how of recording engineer Mark Aartun of Innerspeaker Records
who cut the beginning of Flying Machine - Part 1: Dreamcarriers
on Plexiglas using a rare 1940 Presto K-8 portable record cutting machine. They then re-recorded it from a Newcomb schoolhouse tube record player. "This gave me the vintage Victorian feel I was after."
Finally, as a last minute production idea, Shane contacted his oldest Nashville friend and classical composer Charles Heimermann, who had been leading a professional chorale made up of session singers and singers from both the Nashville Symphony Chorus and The Nashville Choir, to push the production over the top with live choir, recorded in a cathedral in Green Hills, Tennessee.
The panoramic artwork was illustrated by Nashville-area artist Philip Willis
. Like the music, it is immersive. If you buy the CD you'll be rewarded with that, and more so when the Vinyl comes out; a double-album with gatefold cover.
The eponymous debut album Evership
was released on July 1, 2016. The vinyl is in the works and has been mastered by Grammy-award winning engineer Cameron Henry at Welcome to 1979 Studios
, and they are shooting for it to be released on Record Store Day (April 15th, 2017).
Ten years in the making, the release of the Evership
project signifies both the end of a very long journey and the beginning of another. In essence, that journey is what the band and music are about.