Published on March 11th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Tyler Mechem is in Fine Spirits as Crowfield Says ‘Farewell’
Charleston-based singer/songwriter Tyler Mechem dropped a bomb in January when he announced that his long-running pop-rock group Crowfield was calling it quits in March. It was a shock to fans and friends who were still digging into the band’s recent album The Diamond Sessions, an introspective collection of melodic Americana-pop and alt-rock released independently last March.
On the surface, Crowfield seemed to be pushing ahead at full steam. Mechem and his crew — Parker Gins (drums), Whitt Algar (keys), Ben Meyer (bass), and Ryan Holderfield (lead guitar) — had been touring regularly and drawing strong crowds in town.
“We had an absolute blast — all the lineups of Crowfield,” Mechem says. “I think I’ll miss hanging out with the guys before and after the shows the most. I became numb to the frustrations of dealing with the business side of music, so I think I’ll miss scheduling practices and getting everyone everywhere at the time the least.”
Under Mechem’s guidance, Crowfield weathered financial difficulties, lineup adjustments, and the death of a close associate in recent years. Longtime members had amicably come and gone, including co-founding pianist Joe Giant, lead guitarist Micah Nichols, and bassist Ethan Ricks. Recent deals with Universal Records and the William Morris Endeavor Agency popped up in 2010, but they were short-lived. Locally, radio station the Bridge at 105.5 and recording studio Charleston Sound were among the band’s most ardent supporters. In the fall of 2011, the band’s manager Johnny Diamond took his life after battling severe depression.
For Crowfield, 2012 seemed like a bounce-back year. Free from label affiliation, they raised $20,00 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund The Diamond Sessions, a well-produced collection of Mechem originals recorded in Atlanta with acclaimed studio wiz Rick Beato. Titled in honor of their late colleague, The Diamond Sessions earned favorable reviews in the local press and across the Southeast.
Dealing with the challenges of road work and the red tape of the business side of rock band life had taken a toll, but essentially Mechem felt like Crowfield had run its course.
“I just got to a point where I was proud of what we’d done — where we’d crossed things off our bucket list several times already,” Mechem says. “There was nothing personal about it. There was no animosity.”
Mechem was a little anxious about announcing Crowfield break-up, but he was pleasantly surprised by outpouring of goodwill and appreciation from fans, friends, and colleagues. “I was kind of taken aback by some of the nice notes and e-mails people sent us,” he says. “I probably received more kindness in the days after we announced than I ever had in my life. It overshadows everything I got out of the music itself. Some protested it, which was a huge compliment, but I never felt anything like it. It was kind of like being able to go to your own funeral without having to die. I got to read my own obituary in a way.”
While he’s not promoting any solo shows or making concrete plans to record or tour, Mechem is determined to carry on as an independent singer-songwriter in the near future. He’s already played out as a solo act.
“I have no intentions of putting another band together right now,” Mechem says. “I really like doing the solo stuff on acoustic guitar. I’ll keep working on writing and recording. I love that stuff, but it’ll be just me doing it now. I’ll still have an allegiance to all of my bandmates, and I’ll be glad to help them out with anything they need, but it’s pretty exciting to have 100 percent control over my music.”
Over the last few months, Mechem has performed solo sets at festivals, churches, clubs, and record stores. A solo performance at uptown venue the Royal American last November was documented by Music Initiative’s Eclectic Evenings series and aired on Comcast Channel 2 in February.
This week, however, Mechem is focusing on Crowfield’s repertoire as the band prepares for two full sets of early and recent material at the Music Hall. They’ll touch on a little bit of everything — from the country-tinged tunes of their 2008 debut Goodbye, Goodnight, So Long Midwestern through the romantic and moody guitar pop of their slick 2010 self-titled album and The Diamond Sessions.
“We really appreciated all of the things that newspapers, radio stations, and venues have done for us over the years, and we especially appreciate the fans who kept coming out,” Mechem says. “I ran into somebody recently who told me that this final concert will be his 27th Crowfield show, and that’s almost unbelievable.”
According to Mechem, Crowfield’s final setlist includes 30 songs with a brief intermission. Former bandmates and special musical guests will join the core quintet on stage throughout the show.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all these guys on stage that I love — the guys I shared so many amazing experiences with over the years,” Mechem says. “I’m looking forward to us playing all the songs we love playing the most and looking out into the crowd and seeing our families and friends who’ve stuck by us and were supportive of us when we were struggling and broke. All of that in one room together will mean a lot. I’ve already thought about and felt those emotions as I’ve practiced these songs. I just hope I’m as smiley as Robbie Robertson was in the Band’s The Last Waltz.”
Crowfield performs its farewell show at the Charleston Music Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Fri. March 15 with support from local songwriters Luke Cunningham, John Wesley Satterfield, and Ryan Bonner. Tickets are available for $17 in advance and $20 at the door. Visit crowfieldmusic.com and charlestonmusichall.com for more.
Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.
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