Day Into Night was a dream for me, a dream I thought would never come true. When I wrote those songs in that very fertile but turbulent period (1987 - 1992) I was obsessed about writing, not putting the music out. That said, making a cassette was always possible but a CD or dare I suggest a vinyl record was out of the question. I, like all my friends were broke. We spent our lives broke until we grew up a bit more as ya do. So when I went to my 10 year college reunion I was shocked at how many people kinda had there shit together by then….except us lowly musicians. Be advised, I'm talking financially here. We were good in other areas. So when a guy whose name I'll never remember told me: "Hey man….give yourself 20 years. That's REALLY how long it takes for most graduates to find their footing in this world…especially as an artist.” He was right. So I had a lot to talk about at my 20 year reunion. Which brings me to the 2000s.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1999 and started at the bottom of the barrel in order to rise to the top. It's the only way. Many thought I was crazy to leave the comforts and security of my hometown but I, as I said, was obsessed…this time with succeeding as a drummer/singer in L.A.…to do "important" work. Those things did indeed happen and the real possibility of putting out my songs seemed within my grasp. Those songs built from a seven year window of pain and written during what I call "The Great Lost Folk Rock Revival" (1987 - 1994) were ready to record, AND I had the moolah as I was recently hired by Brian Wilson. After only a few months with Brian I started to get arranging and orchestration ideas I never knew I could, that's what Brian does to people. Steve Refling the great power pop producer was the man to produce the music and his hide-away studio in Venice, CA. was my haven. I asked Steve to officially produce what would become my first record: Day Into Night. Was I ready to write, arrange, sing and release these songs? Yea. But to produce the project was fool-hearty at best for a newbie like me. Steve kicked my ass in the way I knew he would. He changed keys on a few tunes, slowed tempos, trimmed fat off songs, and played a lot of bass and some electric guitar on the record. His most valuable skill though was policing the vocals to the nth degree. You see, Steve has dog ears. It's a great gift but really annoying for a first time songwriter singing with headphones on. He hears what artists don't hear…but that's how it's done isn't it? That's why you should never self produce until you've developed sea legs in the studio yourself. (These days I produce others and love doing it.)
The songs I chose were about a few subjects: girls, mom and dad, my friends and to be frank: me. To say they are personal is a great understatement. I've always had a lot of admiration for those prolific souls who could sit and write a song at the drop of a hat about baseball…or trees. I've always been the writer who has to experience something very personal to be able to draw a story that is worthy of music…I suffer, a song is written. A friend suffers, a song is written. My parents do stupid things, a song is written. A friend does something stupid, I do something stupid, and so on. I write "happy" sometimes and that's cool…just not that often. One thing I do do a lot however is shroud pain in happy music. I'm not sure why, but it comes completely natural to me. Maybe others who write this way can explain why we do such a thing. Personally, I think I'm afraid of the dreaded "Tortured Ballad Syndrome"…too self-indulgent I guess. Subsequently, Day Into Night does NOT come off as a singer/songwriter record. It's a solid electric folk-rock album with some orchestrated ballads…big difference.
And I'm influenced by the best: Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey of The dB's and their magical reunion duo album Mavericks. R.E.M… .Document through Out Of Time. The Grapes Of Wrath, that incredible Canadian folk rock juggernaut from Kelowna, BC. Their albums Now and Again and These Days were revelations to me. XTC's Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons. The Indigo Girls “Closer To Fine”. I might call this record the centerpiece of "The Great Lost Folk Rock Revival" and will. This record blew my mind and the minds of my bandmates in Farmhouse, the folk rock outfit outta Northampton, MA. It was with these guys that I learned how to write a remotely decent tune. They are John Lebhar, Chris O'Connor and Brent Nielsen. We worked 1989-1992. In this framework I was suffering a long distance love affair, a subsequent break-up and the destruction of the band itself including a personal eviction from The Farmhouse. Good times! But the records mentioned above came out around then and I was depressed in rural America people! This was how Day Into Night came to be. For some it's how you do this.
Now I won't lie and withhold the fact that some songs were written as a result of living in NYC (1987-1989) and provoked by a separate breakup entirely…”Death Of Caroline” being the centerpiece of those songs. “Every Minute Of The Day” was that period too..a song written to myself about learning to take care yourself. I left NYC and went back to my hometown of Rockport, MA. with my tail between my legs and a truck-load of demos on cassette. In an apartment with old friends in neighboring Gloucester I made real these NY demos amongst the security of my friends and shed the pain of Caroline forever. Soon after, I hurt someone myself and was forced to write “Return The Love You Take”…another song to me and the first to become a staple in the Farmhouse catalogue. As it happened, I left home again and formed the band in Northampton and started the odyssey that would become the 2nd batch of songs for the future Day Into Night.
With Farmhouse the world was a blank canvas. John, Chris and myself wrote deep into the night for each others voices. We had a nice blend á la CSN. We drank cheap beer, kerosine heated the rural farmhouse we barely survived in. I was gonna be 30 soon and I was in love with a gal far away. “Forever Days” my signature song, was born out of this picture described. To this day I play it live. I always felt very lucky to have a song that really stands the test of time. All writers need a song like that. I'm lucky to have it. But after 3 years of folk rockin' we called it a day and it was my fault. I was a chocolate mess in most areas of my life and the lads had had enough. Add to it the long distance gal l loved said goodbye as well. I moved into a $190 dollar a month room in NoHo and started writing like a madman. With ammunition like this how could I go wrong? I wrote 10 songs on the porch of the new pad in about 6 weeks. For me that was a lot and significant as this batch of songs were personal but still kinda good! I demoed 6 of them in full with my friend Paul Rocha whose pop CD Crayons is a power pop masterpiece. Those demos and the NYC songs lived with me until 2003 when I finally decided to record a real CD.
I had songs about my mom's suicide, my dad leaving us in 1971, my friends betraying me and me them, girls leaving me and me them. On top of all this I recorded George Harrison's stunning song “Dark Sweet Lady” and had The Stockholm Strings (whom I had just toured Earth with in 2004 doing the Smile album live) play on. They played on 6 more tracks on the album. I also recorded my dear friend Ken Cleveland's song “Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark” and in fact wrote a song about him as well. “Turn The Darkness Into Gold” closes the Day Into Night song cycle. And it most definitely is that…but purely by accident...
After tracking and mixing the songs, I was really excited about the track order…obsessed even…a man on a mission. I tried every imaginable configuration until one day I realized that a theme was created completely by accident…a thread if you will. Day and Night. Dark and Light. A dual existence…which is portrayed on the cover. Even a single day from morning to late night as The Moody Blues had done with Days of Future Passed seemed to be what I had done with this record. I'll reach here a little….the word Day or Days was in 2 song titles. Dark or Darkness was in 3 titles. Thematically there appeared to be lighter and wispier songs that felt right together AND in a specific order whilst there was also darker and heavier songs that felt correct and in an order. As a 12 track CD it flowed like butter, in every way. "Forever Days" developed through 5 songs into “Every Minute Of The Day” while “Death Of Caroline” seemed to flow wonderfully into “Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark” and developed through 4 songs into the closer, “Turn The Darkness Into Gold”. It was morning to night…no doubt. The title Day Into Night was born. The record was a biography….even in the cover songs. I was elated.
Fast forward 10 years after it's initial release on Jerry Boyd and Brian Battle's great label Side B Music, Day Into Night is now a two sided vinyl record on my own Steel Derrick Music…Day Side and Night Side….the way it always was meant to be. It's a proud electric folk-rock album with strings and horns all over and huge vocal harmonies to quench the thirst of pop fans from L.A. to The UK. It costs a lot. A lot of pain, a lot of years, and a damn bit of money. But I have a record, and at 54 years old, I had the thrill of cutting the seam of the shrink wrap on that puppy with my thumb nail revealing the magic within: a full color inner sleeve and opaque blue vinyl. It smelled like Aerosmith's Rocks 40 years ago. That teenager was awakened, but this time…this time it is MY record and my songs. What a mind-blow. From ‘80s cassettes to ‘90s CDs on to the thrill of your own vinyl album bought with your own money in 2016. What a Day! I'm grateful for all of it and hope you'll dig the music as well.
Have fun this summer!! I know I am.
Love, Nelson Bragg - Steel Derrick Music ………June 25, 2016