Mark Erelli

August 2019 Newsletter

August 2019 Newsletter

My beloved Creston Telecaster

After this month's essay...
-Some exciting news about more new music coming your way next month.
-Rocking new live version of "Basement Days" available as a free download
-Last-minute tour addition opening for Josh Ritter


Most of the people reading this newsletter first connect with me in my role as an acoustic guitar-wielding singer/songwriter. However, the irony is not lost on me that my sideman work with higher profile artists puts me and my electric guitars in front of many more people than have ever seen me play acoustic guitar. Having just finished a European run with Josh Ritter, I thought this month I'd write a bit about how my relationship with electric guitar has evolved over the years.

My love of rock n' roll predates my appreciation of acoustic folk music by nearly a decade. I took a handful of electric guitar lessons in junior high, but quit when I didn't turn into Eddie Van Halen in a few short weeks. I wouldn't get my first electric guitar (a Danelectro) until 1999, for use at an informal weekly gig with musicians in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. Plugging in felt akin to getting onto an unbroken horse, and I was determined to learn how to tame the beast. The electric guitar opened up uncharted extremes of the dynamic spectrum for me, and it was exhilarating to recede into the rhythmic texture of a song or step out with a stirring, melodic solo.

Around the (ahem) turn of the century, I fell in love with a 1960's Guild Starfire III that Kevin Barry played on The Memorial Hall Recordings session. The Danelectro was made out of solid bakelite (think diner counters), but the hollow body Guild was a perfect entry to electric guitar playing for a folksinger. Stained a gorgeous shade of deep cherry red, it felt like a slightly skinnier acoustic guitar, and the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece sealed the deal: I had to have it. It belonged to the recording engineer, and he offered to sell it to me after the record was done. This would serve as my main electric guitar for over a decade, and if you saw me playing with Kris Delmhorst or Lori McKenna in the early 00's you saw this axe in action.

Over time, I longed for an electric guitar made out of solid slab of wood, something with greater sustain that could be played at higher volumes without feedback. Through Kris Delmhorst I found a wonderful luthier named Creston Lea who was making custom Telecaster-style electric guitars up in Vermont. You could even get them whimsically painted to your liking by a fantastic artist named Sarah Ryan. I worked through the specs of the guitar with Creston, told him I wanted it to look like a western shirt, and I got my Creston Telecaster in 2010. This has become my go-to guitar for Josh Ritter gigs, and has recently seen a lot of use with Lori McKenna as well.

I still remember playing drums down in the basement in my high school rock band, looking at the electric guitarist in awe. If you had told that kid that someday he would someday play electric guitar onstage at the Boston Garden, the Ryman Auditorium, and Royal Albert Hall, he never would have believed you. Maybe some nights, there's some kid looking up at me with the same mixture of awe and disbelief. To her I'd just say that in the moments after you plug in an electric guitar, turn the amp up, and wait for the drummer to count you in...anything feels possible.

NEW SINGLE: Have you heard "The Hitter"?, and I want to thank No Depression and Red Line Roots for the wonderful reception. I know the latest single was just a couple months ago, but I'm onto a new, more rocking sound and I can't wait to share it with you. So stay tuned next month, when I'll be releasing a new single for "Her Town Now" on September 4th. The song was co-written with Chuck Prophet and Klipschutz last year, and I'm pretty excited for you to hear it! I'll be needing your help before its release, so keep an eye on the September newsletter for more details.

MP3 of the MONTH: Since this is my summer of electric guitar, what better song to put out there than a recent spirited live take on my ode to rock n' roll "Basement Days?" This recording was captured during the first of what I hope will be more appearances with a new band, and also features the incredible Miss Tess on harmonies. "Basement Days" is available for free for the month of August on my Bandcamp page. Enjoy!


Sat Aug 24 - Minneapolis Zoo, Minneapolis MN - 7:30 pm
I took the unprecedented step of not doing any gigs in between my longer runs in Josh Ritter's band this summer, so I could be with my family. I'm heading back out for another leg with Josh in a couple weeks, and I'll be opening the last show of the run! When I heard that Barnstar! teammate and current Minneapolis resident Jake Armerding was coming to see the show, I press ganged him into backing me up on my set. This is just another data point supporting the hypothesis that it is always best to arrive to a show on time so you can catch the opener.

Aug 16 - Moonlight Music Fest, Big Sky MT* (*with Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band)
Aug 18 - Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Lyons CO*
Aug 20 - Slowdown, Omaha NE*
Aug 21 - Madrid Theatre, Kansas City MO*
Aug 22 - The Pageant, St. Louis MO*
Aug 23 - Castle Theater, Bloomington IL*
Aug 24 - Minneapolis Zoo, Minneapolis MN*

Sept 10-14 - Americanafest, Nashville TN
Sept 26 - Rehmsworld Concerts, Loomis NE
Sept 27 - The Lark, Hastings NE
Sept 29 - The Dyck Arboretum, Hesston KS
Oct 10 - Arts at the Armory, Somerville MA^ (^opening for Anais Mitchell)
Oct 13 - Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord NH^
Oct 15/16 - Barnstar! at Club Passim, Cambridge MA


updated: 3 weeks ago