By Ed Condran
Jerry Castle has plenty left in the tank. The gifted singer-songwriter has morphed thanks to the float tank. When most recording artists talk about altered states, the reference is to drugs. But when Castle waxes about reaching the Theta state, he’s talking about utilizing sensory deprivation tanks, which has helped change his course as a songwriter.
For the uninitiated, the experience Castle benefitted from is floating weightlessly, courtesy of epsom salts, supported by skin temperature liquid inside a sensory deprivation tank. You are freed from all sensations of gravity, temperature, sight, sound and touch. It’s difficult to distinguish between parts of the body, while immersed.
“It’s like floating in outer space,”Castle says. “There really is nothing like it. When I go into the tank, it takes me to another area. It definitely has opened me up as a songwriter. Music and lyrics come to me quicker. I can remember ideas longer and my music sounds pretty different.”
After a spin of Castle’s latest album, “Not So Soft Landing,” that assessment is evident. Castle has evolved. The former member of the jam band Toast is a different animal. His solo albums, 2004’s “Back Side of Down,” 2010’s “Don’t Even Ask” and 2013’s “Desperate Parade” are primarily comprised of contemporary country songs with some Americana elements.
But the tunes on “Not So Soft Landing” take fans to a different place. The leadoff track “Ride,” packs a punch but like the rest of the album, the catchy rocking cut is atmospheric and dense.
When the longtime Nashville player sings “it’s time to start the ride,” it signifies a new beginning. One of the few common denominators from prior releases is Castle’s unmistakable low tenor.
“It’s true that everything has changed except my voice,” Castle says. “I can’t do much about that (twang). I’m from the South. But in terms of music, I’ve never written material that’s so ethereal or spacey.
“She Kills” is a moody, dramatic and baroque straightforward rocker inspired by an old friend in Los Angeles. “It’s more literal than you would think,” Castle says. “It’s about a girl who is younger than me, who had a crush on me and she was well, interesting. She was involved with a guy in prison. She just made some unfortunate choices.”
The hook-laden sonic salvo “American Dream” (“The more he makes/ the more he needs.”) is all about what’s wrong about the rat race, which Castle was part of a decade ago when he worked radio promotion for Taylor Swift.
“I had to figure out how to monetize things and that led to a gig with Taylor,” Castle recalls. “ It wasn't what I wanted to do but it paid the bills. I was working in the music industry but it's different than making music. After that job ended, I googled highest paying job with a bachelor’s degree and pharmaceutical sales rep and financial advisor popped up.”
Castle toiled successfully at the latter, while still maintaining his career as a singer-songwriter. Castle was making good money but he paid a price for it. “I was drifting into writer’s block,” Castle says. “Shit wasn’t going so good.”
The former college running back dove into songwriting and the comfortable confines of the tank.
“I had no idea that the tank would have this impact on my songwriting,” Castle says. “ I just wanted to chill out but once I started floating, the music and lyrics came quickly. This was the quickest writing process I’ve ever experienced and I think it has to do with floating."
And now like Modest Mouse, Castle will float on.
"And now I have this album (due to his latest inspiration)," Castle said. "How cool is that?”