Known for his music production prowess and multi-instrumental mastery for artists like The Avett Brothers and Charles Bradley to name a few, Nashville’s Paul DeFiglia is putting himself in the spotlight this time with his debut album, In Daylight.
The 11-song covers album spans a range of notable artists and vintage classics, from the Native American peyote-chant-influenced track “Witchi Tai To,” by Jim Pepper, to one of the earliest known Appalachian folk tunes, “Country Blues,” by Dock Boggs. But you won’t reach those songs when listening from start to finish without kicking things off with the opening track, “Asshole,” by Beck Hansen. DeFiglia also covers “Woe Unto Me” by Beck on the record.
In Daylight offers a delightful and swirling range of songs, along with an impressive supporting cast making appearances throughout. In the aforementioned “Country Blues” track, which makes its appearance at #7, you may hear some familiar vocals, which are credited to Scott and Seth Avett with DeFiglia on bass and piano. The fourth track, another traditional folk tune, “Katie Cruel,” is sung by notable Nashville songstress Erin Rae. And despite its antiquated roots, DeFiglia and company’s version offers a soulful, percussive groove underneath Rae’s icy vocals. DeFiglia’s work on keys and Mellotron in this track and others adds a unique flair that makes it stand out that much more.
DeFiglia has long been steeped in the music composition world, and operates his own Nashville studio, aptly named Daylight, which go figure, is where this album was recorded. Production credits include The Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Charles Bradley, and many others.
In Daylight is set to drop in February of 2021, and you can get a jump on obtaining your copy by pre-ordering it right here.
We had the chance to fire some questions to DeFiglia about the album, and he was kind enough to deliver some answers.
So your debut solo album, In Daylight, which is a covers album, is set to be released in February. Is there any rhyme or reason to the artists and song choices selected?
I started with the songs. I chose some of my favorite songs from a variety of genres and eras. I started with a scratch (placeholder) vocal on most of them and then began to decide which ones I was going to attempt to sing for real and which ones would be better suited for someone else. From there I began thinking about what artists would fit best with each song.
You also managed to assemble an impressive crew to take part on the album, including Scott and Seth Avett, Erin Rae, and several others. How did you get them on board with the project?
Blackmail! Kidding. I am really fortunate to have worked in the past with each one of them, so it just took a phone call. Everyone was so cool and on-board, I was kind of shocked actually. I think musicians this year have been eager to work or collaborate in whatever capacity they are able to.
Did you approach them with the precise songs they are part of on the album, or kind of give them free range as to what they might want to record for the album?
Yes, I approached each one of them with a specific song in mind.
I see you wear several hats when it comes to credits for these songs. Aside from bass, what do you feel most comfortable doing, and what do you feel least comfortable doing?
I spent a few years playing keys for The Avett Brothers. During that time I really fell in love with the Hammond B3. Although my keyboard technique is limited, a little can go a long way on the B3 and the nature of the instrument is so expressive that I end up using it a lot. Singing lead is something that I still feel pretty uncomfortable doing, but this record was a good challenge for me in that way.
“a friend of mine once told me, ‘a mix is never really done, you just run out of money.'”
How might your process change when producing your own songs versus recording other artists?
I try to experiment with different sounds and recording techniques with other artists I work with, but the reality is that a lot of time there is a time/money constraint. On this record, I was able to really go in depth with using some weird sounds and techniques that took time to develop. I feel more confident incorporating them into future projects now that I’ve been able to learn and test some of them out.
How much time goes into the order in which the songs are arranged on the album?
It’s something that I have always been very conscious of, and usually I belabor it or put too much thought into it. On this record it all came pretty easily though. Once I decided on the bookends, it just fell into place.
How do you know when you have a quality song ready to be cut and shared with the world?
It’s an intuitive feeling. As far as tracking, that’s the cool thing about tape recording. You have limited tracks to work with, so you are forced to be more judicial with what you are adding to a song. As far as mixing, a friend of mine once told me, “a mix is never really done, you just run out of money.”
Have you found this year to be a detriment to your creative process, the opposite, or par for the course?
No, this year has been helpful in my creative development. It has forced me to keep busy with my own progress both as a musician and producer. The thought of doing a solo record occurred to me just before COVID hit the U.S. I thought it would be cool to have a recording to showcase some of the things I can do as a musician, producer, and engineer. After a few weeks of quarantine, I began to realize it was a good opportunity to start on it.
Is songwriting something you’ve tried your hand at, and can fans expect any original songs down the line?
I have co-written a few songs, but songwriting is generally not my bag. I’m also terrible with words. I do enjoy writing instrumental music, so I think my next record will likely be along those lines, unless I find the right lyricist.
And I know the future is as uncertain as ever, but if live shows and modest touring slowly emerges again in 2021, might you be taking these songs to Nashville stages and beyond?
It’s hard to say. I miss performing a lot, but I’m not sure if I see myself performing any of these songs. They were more intended to exist as a document of place and time.
Photos by Crackerfarm, Joshua Black Wilkens, & Nichola Valdés