Any Minute Now is a new EP from Nashville-based singer-songwriter Dean Fields due to arrive… wait for it…. As much as I’d love to type “any minute now” at this point, there is a release date and it’s just days away, Tuesday August 13. The EP follows his 2011 EP Under A Searchlight Moon, a clever and wildly romantic selection of tunes that Fields wrote himself. On this collection all but one of the tracks were co-written with other artists, yet they are tracks that he felt strongly invested, and that he felt spoke for him as an artist. It was a big change for an songwriter who had always worked alone. It may seem odd to follow up an EP with another EP, and in fact, he had planned a full length album. But a confluence of life circumstances and aesthetic considerations led to the decision to release this collection of songs now, saving the others for a later release. The songs seemed to belong together, and they were ready for release.
I learned about all of this and more in an August 1, 2013 interview with Fields in the Stratton Student Center at MIT, in the midst of a series of concerts in Cambridge, Boston and environs. Now based in Nashville, he grew up in Mechanicsville, VA, just outside of my hometown of Richmond, VA. I’ve been listening to his music for a while, but had not seen him perform. We talked the morning of his show at that institution of the Cambridge music scene, Club Passim. Of course the main topic of conversation was the new record Any Minute Now. He told me about the sound he was going for on the songs, the process of writing them, and how it was impacted by life events such as the illness of his wife and their move to Nashville afterward. Fields is a fun guy to interview because he likes to talk about his music, speaks eloquently about it, and is friendly and outgoing. He also says what he thinks in colorful, entertaining terms.
Those same qualities were evident when that evening during his set, opening for Margaret Glaspy at Club Passim. He chatted with the audience between songs, announcing toward the beginning of the show that one of his “favorite things to do” was to “make everyone in the audience his friend.” Club Passim is a small, intimate room, and most of the audience appeared to be there to see Glaspy, so Fields could have had an uphill battle. Indeed, there was a little awkwardness in the beginning, with the audience not quite sure what to make of this guy with an acoustic guitar and a hat, but he quickly won them over, partly through the dry humor of his banter, but mostly through the songs. They were not only well-written, but also engagingly performed.
He’s a skillful guitarist, so his playing does more that just provide a melody to sing along with. It decorates and embellishes, but tastefully, and with restraint. It was clear in our interview that Fields puts the song first. His voice is an ideal one for a singer-songwriter who wants his words understood. He sings with clear, melodic precision. His voice is emotive, and he’s got range, but he’s not a vocal stylist like the artist who followed him on stage. In addition to a selection of songs from his earlier records–Under a Searchlight Moon, Everything Just Happened the Way That it Happened, Songs on the Mend and Imitations–Fields played several songs from Any Minute Now, giving me a chance to test the assertion he made in the interview that the songs on the EP had to work live whether he was performing with his band or alone with his guitar. They did. Indeed, had he not told us that “I Hope You Don’t,” written with Massachusetts’-own Lori McKenna, has a fantastic, albeit “self-indulgent” arrangement of 16 strings on the recording, I wouldn’t have suspected anything was missing. (UPDATE: Having received the EP, I must say the arrangement doesn’t seem self-indulgent at all. The song holds up brilliantly on its own, but the strings definitely add a layer of emotional resonance.) I’m now very eager to see him live with the band! It must be a totally different feel.
Whether or not you’re already a fan, and whether or not you’re planning to buy the new EP, you might enjoy listening to the the interview below and get to know this guy. He’s soft-spoken, but funny. Find out why he says he doesn’t really trust drummers, why he says the piano “is a total bummer,” how he chose the songs on this album, what he thinks of co-writing songs, and how getting the sound he wanted when he recorded the tracks on this EP meant bringing in great musicians and then “telling them not to play.”
Summary: (29 min.)
I began the interview by asking him what had brought him to Boston. He explained that he comes to Boston regularly, and the system of house concerts he does for his supporters on a regular basis. We proceeded to talk about Any Minute Now, the new EP, and how it differs from his previous work. That led into an extended conversation about the process of co-writing and how it differs from his usual writing process. Fields is an artists who writes deeply personal songs, and who takes his time. He gives specific examples of how working on these songs required him to let someone else in and for the process to go faster. We then talked about musical influences and when he first began writing songs.
Fields recently moved to Nashville from Mechanicsville, VA where he grew up. I asked him what was behind that move, and he explained the history of his relationship with the Country Music Capital, which didn’t begin as you might expect, but rather with his parents move there when he was still in college at William & Mary in Virginia. He explained the back and forth through the years as a result of his music career, through the recent decision to definitively move there after his wife had a life-threatening brain tumor removed. By the time they decided to move, work was already underway on the record at a studio in Richmond, VA. It continued to be recorded, mixed and produced in Richmond, even as Fields was setting up house in Nashville.
That led to an extended discussion of the record, the musicians, arrangers and producers who worked with him on it, and the sound he was going for. To end the interview, he broke it down, track by track, telling me about the song, who he worked with on it, and what it sounds like. I suspect it will leave you as eager to hear them as it did me. If it does, and you want tofind out more, visit www.deanfields.com.
Here’s a couple videos to check out, as well.
A demo of one of the tracks from Any Minute Now
The track the provided the title for the 2011 EP Under a Searchlight Moon