The rich musical history of Muscle Shoals continues to grow with Belle Adair. Fronted by Matt Green, the group has infused modern ambience with acoustic overtones to create their full-length debut, “The Brave and the Blue.” Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) is a long time friend of Green and joined him in the studio for the creation of this album. With the soothing, hypnotic nature of “The Brave and the Blue,” Belle Adair will provide the perfect conclusion to a weekend filled with intense holiday revelry.
SC: Your hometown is Muscle Shoals. With such a musical reputation, what’s it like living there? It seems like it would be populated with nothing but musically-inclined people.
MG: I don’t think the town is necessarily overpopulated with musicians. There’s a small group of people here who’ve played music in the past and are currently playing music. Some of the people who started it all are still playing music all the time. Growing up here, it kind of escapes you a little bit. When I was growing up, the history of the town was not a focal point. Since the documentary (“Muscle Shoals”) has come out, the town has figured out that there’s some commerce to be had and just general tourism and bringing people in to see the studios and shows and music festivals. I think the town is really starting to push the history a little more and capitalize on it. When I was growing up in the ‘90s, there wasn’t as much of that going on.
SC: Your debut full-length album, “The Brave and the Blue,” came together when you moved back to Muscle Shoals from Birmingham after your apartment was destroyed in a fire. What was it about that experience that inspired you to compose this music?
MG: I was living in my parents’ house (laughing). So, that was driving me insane, probably. I was in my mid to late 20s at the time it happened. Part of it was just how I was dealing with my situation and having to move home and not really having a whole lot to do, to be honest with you. I was just trying to get back on my feet. I had a lot of really good friends here, who had either moved back from college or met them playing music here and there. They were all still involved in music somehow like Ben, who recorded the record, I grew up with him. He moved back here years ago and started recording bands and playing in bands. I had a lot of friends around, and I realized that if I’m ever going to start writing songs and put together a band and play out more, then now is the time to do it.
SC: This album has such instrumental depth. One thing about Muscle Shoals is that there has to be a lot of session musicians to choose from. How did you bring together the players on this album?
MG: It was just knowing people and getting to know people. I was going out and meeting folks. All the guys who recorded on the record, I guess I sort of knew them before they joined the band, but I didn’t know them very well. I had met them a couple of times here and there. You see people play, and you like the way they play. You approach them with your songs. It was cool. I had recorded some stuff prior to the record that actually got released as a six-song EP with just me and a couple of friends of mine from Birmingham. Those guys had heard that stuff and liked it too. It was slow. At first, it was just me and Ben a lot with Ben playing keyboards and me on guitar. Then, we added a pedal-steel player for a show. Then, I knew I needed a drummer and a bass player. It was like a process of filling out the band, when we first started playing together. We played together for five or six months and recorded that record here in Sheffield.
SC: You mentioned Ben Tanner, and you tapped him to engineer this record. You two are old friends. What was it like working with him in a studio environment?
MG: I’ve worked with him on and off on recording since 2005. We started doing it some when we were in college. He moved here to make it a full-time gig and started working at FAME (Studios) as a studio assistant. After-hours and on weekends when he would get the studio for free, we would go in and record demos. When it came time to make a record, I had been working with him for so long that he was the only person that I could imagine myself with in the studio. We’ve done more recording since then, as well.
SC: The opening track is this ethereal ambient experience called “Be Brave.” You continue that ambient vibe through the two tracks that followed. What made you want to lay the foundation for the album that way?
MG: Well, they’re all in the same key, so that was really easy. It was like, “OK, we got these ideas I guess that flow together.” The second track is “Sister,” and we had played that one live for awhile. We had always done an ambient intro to it when we played it live. It all made sense, and we decided to make the beginning of the intro its own track, instead of calling it “Sister” and having a two-minute intro. With the next track, it made sense to bleed into it, since it was the same key and same instrumentation used in the same way. It came together pretty easily. I think with the record, for me at least, the first track is the gateway into whatever world the band is making or whatever kind of music they’re making. We just wanted to have a soft welcoming, if you will, into the record. A lot of people probably skip it, but it’s OK. I listen to a lot of electronic and ambient stuff too, so we try to work it in wherever we can.
SC: Newer bands have thrown out the two years between albums rule. So, what are you working on now?
MG: We’re about to start a new record. We will be recording February 1st through the 8th here in town. Ben is going to be assistant engineer on this record. We’ve got a guy from Chicago coming down here to record the record with us. We’re going to go up and fix it in Chicago in early March. So, those are the current plans. As far as a release date, who knows? It will probably be sometime later next year.