The See Saw of Parenthood—Captured in Song: Locally-Based Musician Kristel Axel Releases A New Song
Some of the best and most iconic music has a specific geography to it—and I don’t mean that metaphorically, about musical landscapes, but literally; as if the exact longitude and latitude on earth’s globe literally attached something to the spirituality of the songs. Take Muscle Shoals, a recording studio in backwater Alabama that produced the gritty and soulful songs like Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There” and the Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar.” Or, consider, LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s that produced an entire genre of folk-rock. Detroit is, of course, Motown magic, and in the late 80s and early 90s, a murky sound bubbled from the darkness of Seattle.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is perhaps an unlikely cradle for music, but has been producing earnest, heartfelt, easy-going, but well-versed ditties over the past decade. More sonorous than splashy, and more easy-going Americana than electrified anthems, this spot on the globe first gained real notoriety when Justin Vernon emerged from a hunting cabin and heartbreak from a failed relationship to release his Grammy-winning and indie fave album, Bon Ivers’ For Emma, Forever Ago. Since then, the northern town has hosted one of the fastest up-and-coming summer music festivals and has built a cottage industry of recording studios.
Recently, local (as in Ashland, Oregon-based) musician Kristel Axel sat for a recording session at one of the hotspot recording studios (and yes, picture a red barn). The day, according to Axel, was awash in fall colors and, later in the session, lit up by a lightning storm. And the result is the musician’s first single in a decade, a mellow but catchy tune—and one that whets the appetite for more songs.
Although the sound and softness may be Eau Claire-influenced, Axel’s lyric’s are clearly Pacific Northwest inspired. “There’s a light on the mountain shining over the rain,” he sings. (As a Wisconsin-raised kid and skier, I can tell you, there aren’t m/any mountains in the state.) The song, “Weightless Heart” was written a few years ago for his daughter, and captures that emotional tension between the freedom of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood.
Although the result from the recording session is just one song, Axel has set up an upcoming show and has scheduled another recording session in LA this coming summer.
“When I came home from Eau Claire,” says Axel, “I immediately wrote three songs in the course of two days; it was as if the trip itself had unlocked a new part of me.”
Axel also is finding collaborators locally, and has a session this month with Sean McCoy from Central Point.
He goes on, “some of these songs may be featured in the upcoming session; I have continued to write a lot more than usual lately, strictly on piano, so before this summer session I will probably be releasing an EP of songs on piano.”
We can only wait and hope.
Axel will perform a set of original songs—and perhaps a holiday one or two—1 pm, Thursday, December 19, La Baguette Cafe, 340 A Street, Ashland.