Nashville-based Progressive Rock band Evership is the brainchild of composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer/engineer Shane Atkinson. Shane played in Nashville bands and as a backup musician for Artists in the late 80’s and 90’s. As a composer he wrote on Music Row and, always having a studio running somewhere in the Nashville area, was a prolific composer with musical work spanning from commercials and film to orchestral and theater. He made two records with the 90’s Alternative Rock band ‘Curious Fools’, but after three labels, including false promises from a large internationally-known label who eventually dropped the band, and with the birth of his first child, he decided to leave the music business for the budding software industry.
Shane says he never really stopped writing. “The music just kept coming, haunting I’d constantly wake up in the night to record song ideas. Over those years I amassed at least a hundred hours of material. But I was so successful in software, it became nearly impossible to get out. Something like Evership was bound to happen, it had to happen, I was profoundly depressed.”
Finally, in 2005, in response to a dream, he sold their big house in the suburbs, downsized, built a recording studio, and opened a commercial and film music production company to finance the album effort. It would take about ten years to make the record; not just for the actual recording, but for raising a family, building a studio, holding down the production company and remaining business interests, and sifting through the mountain of song material.
Many of the Evership songs were already written long before the project started. Some were five to ten years old even then, and there is purportedly enough material for four or more albums. “I’ve got other material, but I wanted to do this first. Musically-speaking, Prog is where my heart is.” He said while growing up, listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, Queen, Kansas and Jimmy Hotz, he had no idea it was progressive music. He just liked it. Amongst his other influences were classical composers, particularly Bach, Rachmaninov and Ravel. He has a sizable Opera collection and is a Puccini fan. Fusion music also played a role in the early years; Chick Corea, Al Di Miola, Mahavishnu Orchestra, anything that challenged him musically. “Even what I’m writing now is not intentionally Prog. It’s just what comes out. These songs are life-stories, I can’t tell them in three-and-a-half minutes.” After deciding on material for the debut album, demos were started in 2009, but life circumstances halted production until 2013 when Shane shut the music production company down to focus on the record.
Shane met Beau West, the lead vocalist, through session singer Mike Priebe (who sings BGVs on the record, along with Nicelle his wife on violin). The singer he had originally keyed the music to was longtime friend and 90’s band mate Jason Beddoe who ended up needing to bow out due to life circumstances. Shane says, “I thought it was over. This was operatic music; these kinds of singers just don’t exist anymore. Beau was literally an answer to prayer. He had that rare range and tone that sounds great anywhere on the scale. He could handle anything I threw at him, and had such a great attitude as well, which was critical because so much production had already been done.”
Shane choose to play drums, keyboards, and an assortment of more obscure instruments like the Theremin and Chapman Stick, but to sub-out most of the guitar and bass work to like-minded musician friends and family. The earliest recording (Flying Machine) was performed by Dan Smalley on classical guitar and Brandon Vestal on electric guitar. However, most of the rhythm electric, acoustic and classical guitars were performed by the classically trained Rob Higginbotham.
Shane’s brother James moved into town later in the process and performed the lead guitars, which turned out to be a critical event for the sound Shane was reaching for. “Having my brother here reminded me of when we were kids. We used to do these ‘concerts’. We’d open the garage door and play songs from just about every classic rock group we knew. The neighbors would set up lawn chairs and watch.” With James on guitar, the ‘brother magic’ (a termed James coined to explain their telepathic ability to communicate musically) made the lead guitar production more organic.
The infamous Nashville Prog bassist Jaymi Millard rounded out the tracks. Once the album was in full swing Shane engaged the know-how of recording engineer Mark Aartun of Innerspeaker Records who cut the beginning of Flying Machine – Part 1: Dreamcarriers on plexiglass using a rare 1940 Presto K-8 portable record cutting machine. They then re-recorded it from a Newcomb schoolhouse tube record player. “This gave me the vintage Victorian feel I was after.” Finally, as a last minute production idea, Shane contacted his oldest Nashville friend and classical composer Charles Heimermann, who had been leading a professional chorale made up of session singers and singers from both the Nashville Symphony Chorus and The Nashville Choir, to push the production over the top with live choir recorded in a catherdral in Green Hills, Tennessee.
The panoramic artwork was illustrated by Nashville-area artist Philip Willis. Like the music, it is immersive. If you buy the CD you’ll be rewarded with that, and more so when the Vinyl comes out; a double-album with gatefold cover.
The debut Evership album digital release was on July 1, 2016. CD’s will be available in a few weeks. The vinyl is in the works and has been mastered by Grammy-award winning engineer Cameron Henry at Welcome to 1979, and they are shooting for it to be released on Record Day in April next year (2017).
The release of the Evership project signifies both the end of a very long journey and the beginning of another. In essence, that journey is what the band and music are about.
Evership (Self-Titled) Released: July 1st, 2016
2. A Slow Descent Into Reality (12:39)
5. Flying Machine (t) (13:44)
6. Approach (Binaural) (01:58)
Evership Genre: Progressive Rock/Classic Rock
Shane Atkinson: Vocals, Keyboards, Drums, Percussion, Theremin, Chapman Stick,
Dulcimer, Experimental Guitar, Sound Design and Orchestrations
James Atkinson: Acoustic and Lead Guitars
Rob Higginbotham: Classical, Acoustic and Electric Rhythm Guitars
Mike Priebe: Background Vocals
Dan Smalley: Classical Guitar, Ebow (t)
Brandon Vestal: Electric and Acoustic Guitars (t)