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Drew Nelson talks about making tilt-a-whirl All photos © Arthur Wood


D


rew Nelson was raised in Michigan in a musical household—“…mostly gospel; some folk crept in…”—his maternal great-grandfather, a grocery store owner, played mandolin, guitar and banjo


and performed vaudeville music in local grange halls. “My grandma would tell me I reminded her of her dad. So it’s really interesting that I ended up doing this.” Growing up, Drew sang in church, witnessed musical gatherings with family friends on his parent’s front porch, listened to forbidden radio stations under the bedclothes, and assumed ownership of his older brother’s guitar: “I took a pretty good whuppin’ for that.” In junior school he was a member of the choir, and in high school performed in plays. “All this time, I was playing guitar, writing songs, buying tutors, going to friend’s houses and listening to stuff and figuring it out.” Drew Nelson’s fourth album, TILT-A-WHIRL was released by the


Minnesota based imprint Red House Records on Valentine’s Day 2012. Already knowing some of the story behind the release— he’d written the songs but had no idea how he was going to fund recording them, until a guy handed him a cheque—I asked Drew to explain further. Whilst Drew had been attending a party at producer, Michael Crittenden’s house, a friend commented: ‘You need to make another record.’ A casual ‘how much’ conversation ensued, including reference to the cost of Drew’s third studio recording, DUSTY ROAD TO BEULAH LAND (2009), at the end of which his friend enquired: ‘Am I an investor or a patron?’ With the songs written and financing in place, another obstacle arose. Crittenden’s Mackinaw Harvest studio, where Drew had cut all his studio recordings, was fully booked for the ensuing six months. Crittenden’s facility is located in Drew’s home town of Grand


Rapids, Michigan. “I was destroyed. Within a day he called me back and had a cancellation. He had two weeks open up. This was a week away, so I called all of the people I wanted, and they were all available.”


56 Maverick Crittenden has been involved in making all of Drew’s studio


recordings. How had the pair had met? “I was listening to a community radio station while driving to work on the other side of the state. It was winter time and snowing and I was at the point on the drive where the signal started to get fuzzy. These guys were in the studio playing a session and their song simply touched me. I pulled over to the side of the road and before I knew it, I was in tears. It hit me like a ton of bricks.” Drew got back on the road and didn’t think any more about it.


A few weeks later on New Year’s Eve, his little sister was home. “She invited me to this club and the band playing there was the guys on the radio. Michael was the lead singer of Troll for Trout. I talked to him that night, told him I wrote songs and we started hanging out. Later, he invited me to play a cover gig and I did a couple of songs. At the end I said: ‘I’d like to thank Michael for letting me play tonight, and for producing the CD we’re going to make.’ I hadn’t even asked him. He’s funny and real gruff. He walked up and said: ‘I reckon we’ve got some work to do.’ That was in early 1999 and now it’s 2012. He’s a dear guy.” Prior to recording TILT-A-WHIRL, had Drew considered working


with another producer? “I think at some point I’ll probably make a record with somebody else, just because it might be time to, but not in this instance. Michael and I have talked about that. It’s probably good for an artist to try new things, but no, not this one, I really wanted Michael.” The session players on TILT-A-WHIRL proved to be a marriage


of old and new. Crittenden (acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, shaker, tambourine, string arrangement, vocals), Brian Morrill (drums) and Dominic Sctucha (bass) reprised past roles, aided by new boys, Mark B. Schrock (bass, mandolin, violin, vocals) and Drew Howard (pedal steel, electric guitar, Dobro) and more. “Mike Lynch was scheduled to play B3. He was in a great Irish rock band called The Lash. The day before Mike was due to show up; his Facebook page displayed a picture of him in an arena and the caption: ‘Just got the Kid Rock tour.’ In


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