When songwriter Willie Breeding returned to his home state of Kentucky to record his debut solo record, Big Sky with co-producer Duane Lundy, and members of Steelism, there was a great deal of focus and energy in the studio.
“Working with Willie was an inspiring experience. We have a long history together, both as friends, and as collaborators, and this record was an opportunity to put into action ideas, and philosophies that we had been discussing for years. From the type of songs, to method of production, to textural ideas, this was our time to put these discussions and preparation into action. Certainly having the talents of Jeremy, Jon, and Jon from the Steelism crew lifted the talent bar, and allowed us to realize these ideas in a way that we had not quite imagined. There was a great deal of respect and love in the room, and that lead to a great deal of thoughtful and inspired decisions.” - Duane Lundy.
Breeding, (also an engineer and producer), had spent much of the preceding decade writing for other people and touring in his band The Breedings, but this particular batch of songs had something about them that Breeding felt he needed to own.
"I had this collection of songs that were all over the map," Breeding says, "But I noticed they all had this weird, sad restlessness to them that pulled them together in my mind."
With influences ranging from Lee Hazlewood to The Strokes, Marty Robbins to A Tribe Called Quest, from the 1960's to the early aughts, Breeding brought in members of Steelism to bring the songs to life.
“I wanted to find a group of musicians who understood exactly what I was going for, but that would be fully invested in bringing their own ideas to the table,” says Breeding, “I had been working with Jeremy Fetzer, and the more we hung out, the more I felt like he got where I was coming from, as I recognize I have a large, and not always cohesive variety of influences. He brought in Jon Estes and Jon Radford, and it all came together very easily. Who better to do this than an amazing instrumental band?”
Big Sky is first and foremost an album of well-crafted tunes. The melodies are rich and wavy, complementing well the lyrics of someone torn between their years in New York City, and their generations in Kentucky.
"Can't afford to stay," sings Breeding poignantly in [the opening track], "Can't afford to leave." It's a lyric that defines in many ways Breeding's life in New York [and Nashville], but also the record itself.
Ultimately, this is a record not about love, or loves. It's not about heartache, or a sense of place. Rather Big Sky is a candid account of everything that goes into making those feelings possible. From filthy dogs in New York to a love story from Prague, when all put together what you get is a revealing biography in the form of a rewarding listen. And you get a songwriter at his best.