Over the past few years, we have presented numerous artists from the Chicago music scene to our readers and today brings the next instalment in that series with singer-songwriter Leon Frear giving us solid reason to do so with the release of his new single ‘A Town Called Chapel’ – the second track to be released ahead of his much-anticipated debut album ‘Wild Rice’. Independently released, the full album drops on February 2 – both digitally and on vinyl.
With a unmistakeable voice deserving of becoming a regular fixture in the mind-memory of music lovers everywhere, Frear’s new single is catchy and contemplative, showcasing clever lyrics channeled through his smooth and deep timbre. This song exposes the listener to a man still affected years later by the frisson and fallout of a clandestine love affair. Very much worth your time, the album itself is fabulous from start to end and is obviously confessional while also being an invested labor of love.
This album represents a new start for this artist under the Leon Frear moniker, having been involved in numerous projects to date in his native North Carolina. Now based in Chicago, Frear describes this single as “a poison pen love letter to an historically musical time and place, to big blown-up plans and irreplaceable, lost relationships. No matter what else I say, It’s a letter I sign with love.”
“The song ‘A Town Called Chapel,’ is the opening track on my album because it paints the landscape and provides background on the insular, dissolute college town / former-small-town music mecca that this whole experience sprang from,” says Leon Frear.
“It’s a song about knowing that you need to leave a situation that is grimy, bad for you and a little hedonistic. But you’re so used to it – the feeling is so warm and comfy that you just can’t bear to leave. I might sound hypercritical of the place and maybe that makes me a hypocrite. But I’m also from there and a fair target for these less flattering descriptions myself. Love, lust, and naïveté. All that stuff. It’s part of me. It’s my home.”
This follows the artist’s debut single ‘Secret Second Moon’ with its fantastic animated video, created by French artist Ronald Grandpey. It’s a powerful introduction to a collection of songs that reflects a dramatic period in which Frear experienced a life-altering love affair, its implosion and aftermath, followed by a decade of reflection and changes.
Informed by his own personal experience, Frear’s music speaks of love, lust, broken promises, broken phones, and multiple incinerated bridges. This 10-track collection was produced by Frear in his home studio in Chicago, playing every instrument and capturing every breath to tape during a recording process that took years in isolation to complete.
About the forthcoming album, Leon Frear says, “‘Wild Rice’ is the story of those times, but told in reflection. The songs came from a place of true grief, regret and a little bit of anger. But through all of those things, I gained wisdom and became a better person. And while the details may be different, I think every human on this planet shares in the experience of feelings of grief. Ultimately, I think it is an album about empathy.”
“Sonically, I was inspired to make Wild Rice while listening to old Leonard Cohen albums, Harvest by Neil Young, Stories from the City by PJ Harvey and lots of old ballads by Nick Cave. Those albums and artists sound weary and world worn and I did my best to capture a similar feeling.”
Laced with hints of sadness and regret, anger and remorse, somehow the lyrics are tempered with a sardonic wit that leaves the listener wondering if Frear doesn’t secretly savor feeling bad, just for laughs. If there’s an opportunity to mock an uncaring universe, this is an opportunity Frear doesn’t let go to waste.
Dubbing his brand of post-alternative music “vocabulary rock”, Frear aims to shift the emphasis away from the man and towards the music and lyrics, while inviting the listener to commiserate together through this exploration of grief, depression and sadness.
As of January 4, ‘A Town Called Chapel’ is available from fine music platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. The ‘Wild Rice’ album will be released (on vinyl and digitally) on February 2.
Music and lyrics written by Leon Frear
Recorded by Leon Frear in his Chicago home studio
Mastering by Adam Boose at Cauliflower Studios
Vocals and instruments performed by Leon, except
Faye Whitt – backup vocals on ‘Murder of Crows’
Front cover collage by Faye Whitt
Ronald Grandpey – Director / animator for ‘Secret Second Moon’ video
Artist photos by Jeremy Glickstein