By Todd Houston
The band? Letters from Jett. The album? Heartbreaks & Hangovers.
Rockford native Trace Foster and company offer up a new album and are calling the genre Southern rock/country. While I suppose that’s true, you’ll find from the first two chords of “Best I Ever Had” to Foster’s outro guitar solo on “Oklahoma’s Got Me Loving You” that this ain’t your typical “Cookie Cutter” way of doing it. I tried my damnedest to pick apart every song and came up flat. Yes, there are certain cliches that pop up in singer/guitarist Heath Molton’s lyrics and the occasional “punch line” chorus associated with country/rock music but it’s easily forgivable. Why? Because the songs are so damn good! One listen will make you want to share a can of Busch Light with your best girl in the bed of a pickup truck. Heartbreaks & Hangovers honking out of the Hi-Fi of course.
The rest of the band consists of Lucas Petersen, bass/background vocals; Nathan Cloos, guitar/background vocals; and Gunnar Molton, drums/background vocals. Hell, I would have hired Gunnar just because he has a such a cool name. The guy also has chops.
Last weekend we caught up with guitarist Trace Foster for a Country fried chit chat.
RRI: Trace, what have you been up to since the last time we spoke?
Trace Foster: Well, I finished up getting my own label off the ground, it’s called UTB records. It’s a small independent type label. I produced, engineered and played on the Letters from Jett CD, which is the first release on my label. I somehow found time to work for Angus Young and AC/DC. And I may have slept a few hours in between but I don’t really remember. (laughs)
RRI: Dude, you were zipping around the world with AC/DC and you still managed to start a record label and make an album? Impressive.
TF: Well, the CD took eight months to complete from day one to final mastering. The good news was the songs were already there, I just had to spend time moving things around vocally and working on the bands sound and instrumentation. I feel it’s really important for a band to have a sound. It will still develop more over time but I think you can hear it already in this CD. To get it done was a challenge at times. Anytime I was home I had one or all of the guys in the studio playing or singing or both. There were days where I would be home for 24 hours and I would get some BGV’s recorded or a few guitar parts here and there. It became an obsession after awhile. I knew it was good but it just kept getting better and better. These guys delivered the goods.
RRI: Tell us more about the band.
TF: This band is amazing. I had been looking for a project to kick off my label and I literally had spent years trying to find a band that I felt was a project worth doing. I was told to check these guys out. They were playing together under a different name with a different guitarist and I gotta tell you from the first minute I heard these guys I was hooked. As the project carried on I ended up playing more and more of the guitar parts and replacing the other guitarist parts. (Sad but that happens a lot.) After a while the band felt he wasn’t contributing and asked me to be a full member and we sent him for coffee. (laughs) After the CD was done we asked Nathan Cloos to join as the second guitarist. He had played some guitar on the CD and did some background vocals so he was the perfect choice.
RRI: But you’re a rock ‘n’ roll rebel! How did you get into country?
TF: I think it’s two parts territory, I live in Oklahoma, and one part age. Yes age. The age we live in that is. I think that country is really just ‘80s rock music now and that’s the stuff I grew up on so it was pretty seamless. I had worked for Bon Jovi a bit last year and I realized that he was as close to country as you can get and still be called rock and roll. So I knew we could be called country but we could stretch the boundaries a bit with this band. We can open for Aerosmith one day and Keith Urban the next. It’s all how we present the songs. We have been compared to a lot of different bands, But no one says we sound too much like this band or that band, One guys review called us the Eagles without the coke. I liked that one.
RRI: Well whatever it is the songs are great. Was the album recorded in you studio?
TF: The drums were recorded in Fayetteville, Arkansas at a studio called Crisp Recording Studio. It’s an amazing studio and they have this room that makes it easy to get a great drum sound. I have been in that room so much I know exactly where to place the drums. Everything else was recorded in my home studio in Oklahoma. I spent about a year building my studio which is on my property and thankfully after all that time it came out sounding great.
RRI: They certainly did.
TF: Thanks man. We spent a lot of time and every detail is right were it should be. I can actually listen to it and not find anything wrong with it, which is very rare for me.
RRI: I know you have a lot of guitars and amps in your collection. Which ones did you use on the album?
TF: Oh boy, here is the funny part. I do own a lot of guitars and a lot of amps, too many probably. But actually I used the Fractal on 99 percent of the CD. I used an old Mesa Boogie on the intro to “One More Time” but pretty much everything else was the Fractal. For those who don’t know what the Fractal is you need to go to there website and check this thing out. Fractalaudio.com. It’s basically every amp ever made in a box! I have worked with these guys for a long time. Ten years ago the technology wasn’t there, now it is. I told a producer friend of mine that our CD is pretty much all Fractal and he thought I was lying to him. He went out the next day and bought one. At first I was only gonna use it on a few things and the more I used it the better everything sounded. We’re actually touring with them as well. As for guitars, I used my 1960 black Les Paul and my Suhr Strat. Slide was played on a Dusenburg Dragster (Peter Stroud Model) there’s a Dan Electro Barritone on a few songs. I would add bits and pieces of things in every song. The funny thing is you don’t really hear it but you would if it wasn’t there. We used various old Gibson and Martin Acoustics and a 12 String Adamas acoustic. I have an old ‘60s Gibson J50 that is so smooth sounding. Live we leave all the acoustic stuff to our singer Heath, he is a Takamine Endorsee so he will be playing them on our upcoming tour.
RRI: Gunnar (drummer) looks to be about 13 years old. Do you ever have any problems getting him into the clubs you guys play?
TF: No. ( laughs) But he will love to hear that! Yesterday was his birthday and let’s just say he isn’t 14. I think he may be 25 but he does look young as does our other guitarist Nathan.
RRI: How many shows have you guys been playing lately?
TF: Actually our first show as Letters from Jett is Friday in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The club called and told us it’s gonna be huge by the response they’re already getting. So that makes us feel really good. I think the hard work will pay off. We start a full US tour in Sept.
RRI: You and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry are pretty good pals. He poo-pooed Steven Tyler’s country album in an interview recently because it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll. Has he heard your album?
TF: Not that I know of. I was thinking of sending him a copy the other day but I have been so darn busy lately. I do think Joe will like it though. It’s country yes, but it’s easy to listen to. By design it was made like the albums we grew up with, made to work together. Every song is in the exact place where it should be. It’s a musical journey. You can put this on and just enjoy it from song one to song ten. You don’t have to skip any songs. You said it yourself Todd, there isn’t a bad song.
RRI: All right, what’s next for the band and where can we purchase Letters from Jett music?
TF: Next is our tour starting in Sept. We have great management out of Nashville, of course, and they are planning some amazing things for us. Everyday I hear more cool things that we have going on. It’s nice to see it getting to this level. We are just enjoying the ride. You can go to our website: www.lettersfromjett.com. Of course you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and all that other social media outlets as well. Our music is available on our website or on iTunes or Amazon, You can go to Spotify for streaming. Youtube for content. It’s pretty easy to find us. By the way I think we are looking at doing some shows up in northern Illinois in late September. R.
Photo credit: Michael Gomez