May 12 Feature – Caleb Slade
by Tru Blu
B/W photos: Gary Isaacs
Color Photos: Christopher Kuehl
When you witness a Caleb Slade show, it’s like digging in to a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream–there are so many great bits to discover with every bite. As a solo singer/song writing machine, he is hard working, soulful and provocative. His lyrics evoke serious introspection, and make you feel like you’re there, in the song, with all the other characters as a part of the storyline. He boils on stage with music carefully composed, verbally seductive, and rhythmically and brutally melodic. Usually, you’ll see Slade play solo; just his voice and his piano, but on Friday, April 27 at the Oriental Theater, I witnessed an amazing show with local heroes, ELDREN, joining Slade on stage for the first time live. It was definitely one of those moments in life, full of those delicious bits. I had previously seen Slade perform with Eldren’s Josh Lee at the Hi Dive. Lee, who is insanely talented, and a creative genius as a rock violinist, adds a dimension to a live performance that I haven’t seen or heard anywhere locally or nationally. Slade informed the audience that they had only had time for four practices together. I later learned that it was only three as an entire group. The collective performed four epic songs together, including “Always on my Mind,” the title track on Slade’s current EP, Victory In defeat, and ended the set with a brilliant performance of “Given a Chance.” The chemistry that exudes from the Caleb Slade and ELDREN quintet is seemingly effortless and unmistakable, and their collective talent was a force of nature that night. It’s as if they’d been on a collision course to come together through some undeniable cosmic fate from the start. It had me thinking to myself that they may be the next great Colorado indie rock ensemble to break. That’s probably a stupid statement, since ELDREN has their own large presence in the local scene, and come equipped with two incredible lead singers in guitarist Nasir Malik and keyboard/guitarist Tyler Imbrogno, along with violinist Josh Lee, drummer Rick Walker, and bassist Steve Halloway. They also have such a unique style, that it doesn’t have to be a one or the other scenario. No pressure guys, just an observation.
Early in Slade’s set, Kyle Simmons (former lead singer of Boys and Speakeasy Tiger) joined him on stage. Simmons helped to set a stunning tone to the night. Their only song together, “Never Had a Love,” was powerful and passionate, and their voices meshed in a way that would make you think that they were meant to be together on stage. They gave me goose bumps on that one. It sounds weird, and they’re not at all country, but I got a flash of an indie version of Johnny Cash and June Carter playing off of each other on stage in the Walk The Line movie. They were natural and ethereal, and told a story with every measure. I couldn’t wait for the next note to be delivered. It was surprising and delicious. Needless to say, I will be at as many Caleb Slade shows that I can possibly get to, and you should too. Oh, and “Never Had Love” is new, and not on his current EP, Victory in Defeat, so you can only hear it live. Slade is the May cover boy of Colorado Music Buzz Magazine because he’s really good. He’s on the cover because he has a talent that is special and unique. He’s on the cover because we want to share with you, a gifted lyricist that tells a story with every word, and I want to tell you to go see him perform. Do it!
Caleb Slade – The Man
Listening to Slade sing, you’re inescapably drawn into an experience, and certain feelings of love and loss. We’ve all felt that emotion, and Slade touches it off with a raw and poetic phraseology that’s all heart infused with art. His thoughtful delivery is intentional with every note, and he doesn’t waste time within his writing. His music and words are direct, impactful, imaginative, historical, methodical and beautiful. His passion for the meaning and essence of each line is honest and clear, and his message cuts to the bone. He has a famous sibling, and it’s obvious that Caleb has been genetically gifted, but he is his own man, and uniquely gifted with a voice, a mind, and a haunting style that is all CALEB SLADE.
Caleb Slade – The Music
Supporting local music and the local musician can be cathartic and rewarding. In this case, the gift you give will be given back to you tenfold. You can download Victory In Defeat on www.calebslademusic.com for only $4.95. Do it! Contributing on the CD are piano and vocals by Caleb Slade; drums, percussion, and synthesizers by Tim Husmann; Guitars and Bass by Nate Meese; String Arrangement for “Always On My Mind” by Jay Clifford; Produced by Tim Husmann, Warren Huart and Jeff Linsenmaier. “Always On My Mind,” “Hand To Reach For,” “Given A Chance,” and “Sure As Hell” were written by Caleb Slade and Warren Huart; “Victory In Defeat,” and “Space and Time” were written by Caleb Slade and Tim Husmann.
Caleb Slade makes music:
Individually his songs tell stories. Engaging tales of love and revenge; hope and reason. Together, they convey a message that the path to bliss is not ignorance, but intellectual honesty. As compositions, his songs are full of bravado: Strong vocals backed by steady and rhythmic piano. Their cinematic qualities create scenes of people finding the authentic victory in defeat and the determination to live a worthwhile life.
Caleb lives, writes, and performs in Denver, Colorado.
Caleb Slade – The Questions
CMB: Can you tell our readers what got you into music? When did you know that’s what you wanted to do?
CS: I started messing around on our family’s piano when I was about fifteen, and began songwriting as soon as I could play three or four chords. I had been writing some poetry before that, but never really liked the medium, or I just wasn’t a very good poet; either way, I fell in love with the way my melodies would pull words out of me. It wasn’t until 2009, though, that I realized I had been writing for about 10 years, and that it had become one of the most important parts of my life- something I couldn’t live without. I made that leap from secret songwriter to performer and haven’t really looked back.
CMB: Your songs illicit strong emotions. Where do those lyrics come from, and what are some of the feelings that you are trying to convey?
CS: Most of my songs are about things I’ve experienced, or the experiences of people close to me. I think that my songs are often my attempt at making sense of a confusing world, and that fuels the strong emotion and desperation behind my lyrics. I use music like a therapist: it is how I give structure to my thoughts and feelings; it is how understand what I feel about the world I live in; and it is how I am able to express my otherwise ineffable experience of life. I don’t think there is a one feeling I care most about conveying other than an honest and authentic examination of what I’ve experienced.
CMB: I’ve seen and heard you perform and your voice is amazing. The last time I saw you, you had to drink tea and honey to get through the performance. How hard is it to take care of your most important instrument?
CS: It’s definitely a struggle to keep my voice on par. It’s one of those things I’m always trying to get better at, but I don’t really want to get 9 hours of sleep a night, eat no dairy or spicy or citrus foods, cut out smoking, cut out drinking, and cut out extraneous conversations for the sake of my voice. Maybe I’m being lazy, but it feels like if I did everything I was supposed to for my voice, I wouldn’t have any life worth writing songs about.
CMB: You have joined forces with ELDREN. What is it like to have an accomplished group of musicians in their own right have your back?
CS: It has been amazing to work with ELDREN. I had been dreading the administrative nightmare of building a band from scratch, and the amount of time it would require to get show-ready, so being able to come into an already cohesive group of musicians has been a huge relief. They’re all so stupid good at what they do, and I can’t wait to see where we end up. From the beginning of my project, I operated under the mentality that I should figure out what I’m good at, and let other people I trust do the things I’m not good at. When I first started rehearsing with ELDREN, I told them that I wanted their creativity; that I wasn’t just looking for studio musicians to play exactly what I tell them to, and they have blown my expectations out of the water. They fight with me, and argue with me over parts, and that honest challenge has resulted in some awesome music that I’m really proud of.
CMB: Obviously, you have a famous sibling, has that helped or hindered your career?
CS: I think the jury is still out on that one. There are certainly ways it has helped, some doors that have opened for me, and whatnot. But there are also ways it has hindered. One odd thing about having Isaac for a brother while trying to do this whole music thing, is that people seem to have an idea in their head about what I sound like before they even hear one of my songs. They either think that I’ll be awesome like Isaac (and probably sound just like him), or they think that I’ll be terrible and have only gotten to where I am because of his coat tails or whatever. I’m not particularly comfortable with either of those notions, so that gets exhausting at times. But, then again, half of the battle in music is just getting people to listen to you for that first time, so I can’t really complain. Beyond that, I’m really proud of what Isaac has accomplished, and proud to be his brother- I wouldn’t change it if I could, so I don’t spend to much time thinking about it.
CMB: What are your future plans? Tour? Album?
CS: I’m currently working on writing a new album, and plan on touring later this year. I’ve learned a lot through my first release, and am still figuring out exactly where I want to go in music. Until then, I’m just going to keep on making music I love.
CMB: Who are some of your favorite local musicians?
CS: Eldren, though I’m biased. Off the top of my head, though, Mercuria and the Gemstars, the Photo Atlas, Input, In the Whale, Cobraconda, Churchill, Fairchildren, Epilogues, Gauntlet Hair, Kitty Crimes, Take To The Oars.
CMB: How is it working with the Vinefield Agency? They seem to be making a big impact on the local scene, and beyond, and represent some of the best talent Denver has to offer.
CS: Working with Vinefield has been awesome. I’m so administratively handicapped that it’s been amazing to get to rely on Sarah Slaton to organize my music and career. I used to just play whichever show came my direction, but with her and Vinefield’s help, I’ve been able to be more selective and intentional with the kind of shows I play. It’s been a huge honor to be a part of the Vinefield roster, and I can’t wait to see what we can get done in the upcoming months.