Jerry Castle had just wrapped up a long string of shows in support of Not So Soft Landing, his most acclaimed album to date, when he found himself waking up one morning to some particularly devastating news: Donald Trump had just been elected president.
"It was such a heavy feeling — something I'd never felt from an election before," he remembers, thinking back that day in November 2016. "I wound up starting a new record the very next day, almost like therapy. I didn't know what else to do with myself."
Working in his newly-rigged home studio, Castle spent seven months crafting Brand New Hello, a self-produced album that merges his sharp singer/songwriter roots with upbeat tempos, layered arrangements, pop melodies, and rock & roll muscle. It's a bright album for cloudy times, filled with a sense of buoyancy — an anthemic synthesizer here, a four-on-the-floor drumbeat there — that emphasizes hope and renewal over sorrow. The most modern-sounding project in his catalog, Brand New Hello fires twin barrels of political insight and poppy punch, influenced by everything from America's social climate to the Top 40 music his daughter would play in the car during the album's creation process.
A storyline runs throughout Brand New Hello. Together, these 14 songs tell the fictional tale of a family man who's struggling to remain afloat — financially, socially, and emotionally — in modern America. Disillusioned, divorced, and bankrupt, he finds himself at odds with his ex-wife and peer group, all of whom seem to prize material possessions over the things that truly enrich a life. Donald Trump's election delivers another blow to his sanity, and in a moment of mania — or is it clarity? — our protagonist packs up his children and runs away to Costa Rica. There, he finds a new life that's free of the weight and weariness he felt back home. In short, he learns how to live again.
"People are so beat up by politics at the moment," Castle acknowledges. "Each song unpacks a piece of the storyline, but I wanted the songs to stand on their own, too, so everyone can enjoy it. I wanted to cover everything that's been influential to me, while trying something new, too. Because if you're just making the same album over and over, why even bother?"
Tracks like "The Moment" — a blast of modern pop, rooted in a landscape of electronic beats and groove-heavy R&B — show just how far Castle's influences reach. A former jam-band frontman whose solo albums have typically explored an Americana-inspired sound, he began attracting a wider audience with 2016's Not So Soft Landing. One of that album's standout songs, "She Kills," became a Number One single on the Roots Music Report's Folk Rock Chart that year, while outlets like Rolling Stone praisedNot So Soft Landing's"haunting, trippy vibe." Brand New Hello follows in a similar vein, offering a diverse mix of pop, guitar-driven rock ("Lunatic God," "Curtain Call"), and Triple A-friendly songwriting ("Brand New Hello," "Lil Bit").
Jerry Castle still sings with a slight southern twang — a product of his childhood days in Abingdon, Virginia, a small town not far from the Tennessee border — but he writes from a more universal perspective on his sixth solo release. Brand New Hello is exactly what its name suggests: a reintroduction to an artist who's been around for more than a decade, discovering uncharted territory with each record. Poignant, pointed, and punchy, it's the soundtrack for a fresh start.