Located roughly halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Salisbury, Missouri isn't much different from thousands of nondescript tiny Midwestern towns, but Eric Lysaght still carries with him the memories of his time there. Those days inspired the songs on Salisbury's second album, Life Is a Heartbreak, which is due out on Red Pill Music on December 10th, 2013.
Lysaght, who lives in St. Louis, spent a lot of time in Salisbury as a kid while visiting his grandparents, and fashioned Life Is a Heartbreak out of his perceptions of their world. "Your memories as a kid are so much bigger and grander than when you get old and living in the real world," Lysaght says. "To me, Salisbury was a magical place when I was a kid. Now I go back there and it's just a little dying town. It's something way
different from what I remember, and I'm trying to get at that."
Opening with barnyard sounds, an old Victrola recording, and a calliope, Life Is a Heartbreak is an interconnected collection of stories that reflect rural Midwestern lifein the 1930s and 1940s. From its mandolins and fiddles to Lysaght's detailed, sepiatoned lyrics, the album is infused with the haunted beauty of a lost era, of front porches, homemade whiskey, and star-filled summer nights scored by the sounds of nature. The characters are composites of the people he encountered – with a few of his own imagination – although one of them is based on a specific person.
"The main character of the record is Mary Alice, and that was my grandmother's nextdoor neighbor," Lysaght continues. "She was an old, sick lady that was living in this really nice, old Victorian house. My grandmother was very poor, so she had this tiny place that was next to this gorgeous mansion, and I just tried to tie all these things together and create some stories to go along with it. The main story is of Mary Alice getting out of the town and leaving the field hand, who's in love with her, waiting at the county fair, and everybody else is floating through."
Lysaght created Salisbury in 2006 after the death of his father, who is buried in the cemetery at St. Joseph's Parish, the main church in Salisbury. At the time, his band, Neptune Crush, had been attracting major-label interest, but the songs he was writing in response to his death was better suited to a different musical approach, and he found it more creatively rewarding. Salisbury's self-titled debut came out in 2007.
Recorded in Red Pill’s St. Louis studio, Life Is a Heartbreak features Lysaght on lead vocals, guitar and mandolin, Tony Esterly (pedal steel) Dave Aholt (piano), Dan Eubanks (upright bass), Mark Hochberg (violin) and Joe Meyer (drums), with Bryan Hoskins on vocal arrangements. The album was produced by Red Pill co-owner Jacob Detering.
“Even the first demos of what would become Life Is a Heartbreak were still just so visual and compelling, although a bit rough” Detering said. “Eric is such a gifted songwriter and storyteller. As we embarked in tracking the record, I really took on a ‘do no harm’ approach - trying to keep the team honest to the original demos."
released December 10, 2013
Eric Lysaght: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, harmonica
Bryan Hoskins: vocals
Tony Esterly: pedal steel
David Aholt: piano, B3
Dan Eubanks: upright bass
Kelly Wild: vocals
Produced by Jacob Detering and Eric Lysaght
Executive Producer: Lauren Markow
Engineered and Mixed by Jacob Detering at Red Pill Studios, St. Louis, Mo.
Mastered By Brad Sarno at Blue Jade Audio Mastering