Silas Nello Releases His Debut Album "Out of the Light"
Silas Nello may not be an artist you recognize, but his album sounds so familiar you swear you’ve heard it before. Really it's a testament to his years of hard work behind the scenes writing and crafting the perfect album to tell his story. Out of the Light is his first full-length album recorded last year at Modern Electric studios with the help of engineer Jeff Saenz and few members of the Texas Gentlemen. Recently signed to Hand Drawn Records, Silas will be releasing his perfect blend of rock and americana music on vinyl tonight at Spinster Records. Silas was kind enough to sit down with us earlier this week to tell us everything you need to know about his much anticipated album, Out of the Light.
Tell us a little about your musical background that led you to your EP and recent album.
I started playing guitar 15 years ago and played in multiple bands. I randomly played guitar in a couple bands in Florida, I was in Kansas City for a brief amount of time, and I’ve been in Dallas for the past few years. I’m originally from Daingerfield, Texas — hence the title of my first EP — which was kind of a starting point. I came up here to Dallas just trying to get my feet underneath me for a while, and was just writing. Took a couple years off right before I got married, and went into strictly writing. I kind of hid out, and decided after a trip to New York I wanted release this album.
Your music has a lot of psych rock and country elements. Who were some of your music influences?
It’s very broad. I mean I definitely would say Daingerfield went for more of an americana feel, and this album went more towards rock and folk rock. There’s tinges of everything in there, which is very cool because we never wanted it to just stay. We wanted it to progress from album to album to album. Jeff Saenz of Modern Electric was really good at working with me on that vision. We didn’t really have any hiccups the entire time. It was a very collective thought process on how we wanted the whole album to sound. But a lot of the influences vary. At one point I was really into Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. Sort of veered off into Harry Nilsson, Dylan, even some weird stuff like The Brian Jonestown Massacre. You know, Jack White, The White Stripes. I never was really able to pinpoint exactly what I wanted to sound like. I just got out the emotion in each song. Fortunately at the end of the record it all molded to be a great little journey and story.
You recently signed on to Hand Drawn Records. Can you talk about your decision on why you wanted to work with them?
Yeah, so I met Dustin Blocker at the Jack Mason grand opening. My guitarist, Robert Cody Maxwell, and I played the release party down there and did two solo sets and he introduced me to him. I originally was just interested in pressing vinyl, but then I found out they have a record label side too. In a meeting, we talked about how Hand Drawn is very much centered around the working man’s group like Sun Records was back in the early days where there’s a lot of cross promotion. It’s very independent, but it’s great because it doubles as the pressing side. I decided to go with them because at this point, I don’t want to tie myself down to anything bigger. I’ve seen way too many people and friends get involved with bigger labels and next thing they know they can’t do anything under that pseudonym for the next 5 years.
And also, the music industry is in such a weird state right now that if you’re going to do anything, it’s better to do it DIY for a while - very independent - and working along side with Hand Drawn has been the same. We’re just both helping each other out — them more so than me, but we’re getting each other’s name out. It’s very cool because Hand Drawn is mostly comprised of former musicians or just big music lovers. It’s cool to work alongside someone who’s been in your shoes at some point and that’s actually done the touring, the recording, the releasing. They know what you’re going through. You’re not dealing with some guy in a suit driving a Mercedes sitting in an office in New York saying, “Well you didn’t sell 10,000 records in your first week, so…” or whatever it is now, and they cut you loose.
Describe the feeling of seeing your album being pressed onto vinyl?
It was very surreal. It’s cool because we started recording this record in April 2016, so about 15 months later, actually seeing it physically pressed was big. I’ve never had vinyl pressed for anything else I’ve ever done. Especially being able to physically see it being done — I was actually there when they pressed the 100 limited edition white copies. It was crazy man, ‘cause you see it come out and drop. And we got some really gnarly green and swirl ones because the previous record was green and there were some pellets leftover. Definitely one of those thing — when you hold your record and see your artwork, and it’s not just a CD or a digital download — you feel like you’ve made it. You know, it’s part of your life, it’s part of history.
The other thing with vinyl that you lose with digital or CD, is it’s harder to skip songs on vinyl than it is to go next, next, next. Because the way I wrote this album is to tell a story. If you listen to Side A and then Side B it tells a story. But if you listen to Side B and then Side A, in reverse order, it tells a different story — like an alternate ending.
You’ve said that you wrote this as a concept album, tell us the story behind it?
I have two really close friends to me, basically my brothers — they’re not blood related, but they might as well be. I met them when I was 21, so over the years, I’ve watched their lives and heard their stories, and also my own. And I sort of came across this character I wanted to create based on everyone’s different stories put together as one. Because we’ve all shared a lot of similar yet different experiences and I wanted to put that into writing. It was a big part of my life and there was a story that needed to be told about it.
I remember sitting outside at a bar with them when I first met them, and we had become really close friends, and one of them looked at me and said, “Someday you’re going to write this story.” And when I started writing the record, I just decided that this was where I’m going to start. Some of the greatest records you ever hear, people ask, “How is it so personal? Did you really go through all of this?” You can’t write completely from your own experiences all the time, you deny a lot of other things going on. So you have to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and other character’s shoes.
I think that’s one of the greatest things about being a writer. It’s like Blood On The Tracks by Dylan. Some people think that was his divorce album, but others claim it was actually written about an old 14th Century literature, or something like that. But later he says, “It’s hard for me to relate to this record because I don’t understand how people can enjoy that type of pain”...even though that was one of his top records of all time.
But there’s a lot of that on this album. There’s joy, there’s pain, there’s sorrow, there’s happiness, there’s loss, there’s life. Some people may get it, some people may not, I may be the only person that gets it (laughs). But you write because you have to get something out there.
A lot of great local albums have come out of Modern Electric, how much did they play a part in shaping the songs?
I wrote the entire record strictly on acoustic and added a couple small layers for pre-production and when I went into the studio with Jeff we actually cut every song except two of them with Texas Gentlemen — Ryan Ake, Scott Lee, and Dan Creamer. We cut it live the first 3 days in the studio and they had never heard the songs before. So it was a very organic approach and a very different way, because I had never cut anything that way.
It’s one of those things where the songs can stand alone acoustically, but they really came to life when we went in and recorded them with the guys. We spent about 15 days in the studio collectively, but it was always a process. We cut it in the last week of April, and the second week of May we started laying down the additional key overdubs. I remember Jeff sending me tracks while I was in New York at the time visiting family for the holidays and I was just staring out the window listening. It was cool because one of the characters in the song was from New York and I wrote a couple of songs about him.
I was listening to a brand new mix, staring out the window thinking alright. It’s one of those things when you write something but you’re not completely coherent until you hear it later. I took that approach hiring the backing band, choosing people I’ve never played with. I wanted to write the song and it have its core and essence, and then I wanted to see what could be brought to the table. It just fell into place, it was crazy. I don’t know if I’ll ever record like that again because I’ve hired a live band, but I’m just very fortunate and lucky to experience that approach. They’re just the most down to earth and talented people I’ve ever met.
The name "Rosie" appears on a track on the EP and the album. Who is Rosie?
She’s a character (laughs). Rosie is...the one that everybody knows. I don’t want to give it away too much because it’s a bit of a secret of myself. It’s all a big story and the Rosie that’s in the songs isn’t necessarily the Rosie that I know, but she might be the Rosie that somebody else knows. There might be a final Rosie track on the next album — three stories. But then I’ve got to retire that (laughs).
The name of the album is Out Of The Light, what’s the meaning behind that name?
That was probably the third or fourth working title we came up with. I remember sitting at the bar at my house and I don’t know where it came from, but it popped in my head and I wrote it down on a napkin. And I saw it the next morning and I was like okay, (laughs), I guess that’s the album title. And it just made sense, ‘cause I had probably listened to the record in its early stages about 150 times, and reading that title — it just fit.
It’s also what spawned the album artwork. You look at the album artwork and you see two people on a motorcycle hitting a curb. And you don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s sort of the story of the album. You’re taking this turn in life and what happens is you either make that curb and there’s your happy ending. Or, you take that curb and you bite it and that’s it, you’re done. So that was the whole concept of the album title and artwork. There’s a duality or dichotomy in there — are you coming out of the light and going forward or are you lost and out of the light? There’s a double meaning behind it.