Gregg Fells has returned home. A few years ago, this singer-songwriter relocated to Nashville to expand his musical career in a different setting. While there, Fells made the rounds in a number of Music City venues and surprised audiences with his mix of traditional, acoustic-based songwriting and soulful, poignant delivery. Along the way, he composed the tracks that would become his latest full-length album, “Songs from a Weathered Troubadour.”
From fictionalized snapshots of life to personal testimonies, “Songs from a Weathered Troubadour” evolved into a beautiful collection of tracks that are a perfect representation of Fells’ unique songwriting style.
After the album’s June release in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Fells is preparing to give the public the live performance release party “Songs for a Weathered Troubadour” deserves. Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni spoke with Fells about his return to Mobile, the new album and the release party.
Steve Centanni: What made you want to make the move to Nashville?
Gregg Fells: Well, most of the guys that I played with or worked within Mobile had moved up there. Sonny Findley had moved up there. The Van Etten Brothers had moved up there. Les Hall was already up there. I felt like the network was strong enough where you’re not by yourself. I also wanted to shake some things up and get out of the monotony a little bit.
Centanni: How does it feel to be home?
Fells: Honestly, it feels amazing to be home. It’s definitely different now that COVID and everything else is going, but my soul feels more grounded being home again. I feel regrounded. It’s hard to explain, but it feels good to be back.
Centanni: You’ve got the new album, “Songs for a Weathered Troubadour,” and in recent weeks you’ve been able to get out and promote it live. Where did you record this album?
Fells: We recorded at Ronnie’s Place in Nashville for part of it. Then, we did some of it at my partner’s place. Mike [Hartnett], the bass player for REHAB, also does production work, so I worked with him during pre-production at his Old English Studios.
Centanni: What was it like recording this album compared to your previous releases?
Fells: I felt stronger, and I felt more secure. I felt like my voice was cleared, as far as what I wanted to say. I felt like I was more on my feet. My previous recordings were live recordings that weren’t serious studio productions. I did the last one live at Serda’s. This is the first really serious studio production that I’ve done in years. So, that was a major difference. This was the first serious project.
Centanni: How would you describe a “weathered troubadour?”
Fells: Man, that’s me in a nutshell. It’s the last 11 years of my life. The title was definitely chosen for a reason. It’s a chronology of my life over a decade. It was the perfect way to summarize my own life and just pushing through all the adversity that just got thrown at me from 2011 through 2015. I said, “You know, I’m going to write myself out of it.” So, that’s what I did.
Centanni: I really like the album’s opener, “Timbalier Bay.” Where did that one come from?
Fells: I’m really glad that you asked that! I was actually in a rut with my writing process. I just didn’t know how to get myself out of it. So, I got an old map like the one that you’d get from a gas station. I opened it up to a map of Louisiana and put my finger on the map. I decided I would write a song about wherever my finger landed. I put my finger on the map, and it landed in Lafourche, La. So, I created this fictitious story around this place that I had never been before. My finger landed in Timbalier Bay, and I created this idea about a guy going into a juke joint to give this old lady a piece of mind.
Centanni: I also loved “New Orleans Apartment.” How did you come up with the concept for that?
Fells: That’s another one. I wanted to do something about what happened with [Hurricane] Katrina. I wanted to create a story around two fictitious characters. They’re a couple in their ‘80s who have decided to stay during Katrina, while people are saying, “Get out!” The story behind the story is that you have this biracial couple with a husband and a mulatto wife. For them to survive living in New Orleans in the ’30s and ’40s when they were younger, that’s a storm all its own, but they made it.
Centanni: Give me all the details on the release.
Fells: It’s September 19 at The Peoples Room of Mobile. I’m super excited about it. We’re doing two shows at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on that Saturday. We’re pushing forward a little bit more. If we at least have one celebration, I’ll be happy. If it’s one and done, then I’ll take it. It’s going to be a full-band performance, and I’m pumped and ready to do it.
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