Drop the needle on Glorietta to get transported to a remote New Mexico mountain town at the very moment, in a tequila-soaked jam session, an unlikely singer-songwriter super group was born. In 12 songs, Glorietta — a self-titled “friend record” (Nine Mile Records, 2018) captures rocking, heartbreaking and introspective songs recorded by pals of Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit, Middle Brother) at a ramshackle rental outside Santa Fe over five days.
In a way, though, Glorietta was conceived long before that thanks to a serendipitous Craigslist connection. Grammy-nominated Austin artist Adrian Quesada (Brown Out, Black Pumas) scored a 1975 Fender Super Reverb amp that Vasquez posted online for $700. As Vasquez tells it, he and Quesada went for a “grown-ass man hang” at Antone’s to catch a set by Texas raconteur David Ramirez. After the show, the three of them had such a good time that Vasquez promised himself not to let the best drunken idea of the night — recording a stream-of-conscious record with buddies — to disappear with his tequila buzz. “I’ve been making my solo records and wanted to play with friends. I thought fondly of the experience making the Middle Brother record with John McCauley (Deer Tick, Diamond Rugs) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and how fun that was. Adrian and David were in on it immediately.”
Vasquez tapped Seattle solo-artist Noah Gundersen and Austin artists Kelsey Wilson (Wild Child) and Jason Robert Blum, a prolific songwriter. To round out the crew, Vasquez called his long-time pal Nathaniel Rateliff, who agreed to pop in along with backing musicians Patrick Meese and Luke Mossman. The collection of strangers and acquaintances didn’t know what to expect, and frankly a few of them almost didn’t show up. Ramirez nearly balked under the weight of “possibly the worst hangover of my life.” Gundersen was in the middle of a break-up induced “meltdown.” Wilson, worried she might not fit in with the guitar-playing boys, needed a nudge, too.
But once the kindred strangers unpacked the gear and poured the tequila, hangovers, heartaches and insecurities faded. Vasquez — their connection to each other — served as maestro of the vibe. “Basically, Vasquez threw us into a house together and said, ‘We’re gonna do this thing, don’t worry about it. You’re all going to love each other,’” Wilson said. “And that very first night, within the first few hours we had set up, written and recorded a really solid song. That kicked it off. It was like, ‘That’s how this week is gonna go.’ And it never slowed down after that.” Gundersen described the makeshift studio this way: “Shit was everywhere. Mics were duct-taped to stands. It was … different but there was a certain seamlessness to it that felt very organic and it was special.”
On their first morning together, as Blum fixed a breakfast of migas (and mezcal), the Glorietta crew recorded Gundersen’s “Lincoln Creek,” harmonizing on the chorus, a tender relatable truth for the touring musicians in the room: “Somewhere someone is singing for free/ The tab and a couple of 20s is all they need/ Somewhere someone is singing for free/ Thank god it ain’t me.” And that was just the beginning.
Rateliff, who planned on sitting in for a single session but stayed for three days of recording (and epic naked hot tub soaks), makes a featured appearance on “I Know,” an inspired, emotional collaboration that happened in an instant. “Adrian had a riff that was cool and really funky. Rateliff and I were at the kitchen table drinking tequila and started singing a little melody,” Wilson remembers. “We yelled, “Guys keep going!” and wrote lyrics about what we were feeling in that moment.”
“Fight to fold, to spin you can’t sit down/ Too old to win, too young to hit the ground,” the song goes. “To heed the beat, surprised you pulled around/ Stoke the fire, I know you feel put out.”
On “Friends,” Vasquez reveals a hilariously true moment that cemented his friendship with Rateliff more than a decade ago. “Remember the first night that we got acquainted/ You fell out of my window/ I hadn’t laughed like that in ages,” Vasquez sings. Listen closely and you can hear the imperfections that come with recording live in a living room. “What’s happening is people are waking up. Jason is cooking breakfast. The place smells of corn tortilla, eggs and bacon and peppers,” Vasquez says. “You can feel people rising, and that song is being put into existence in that space.” Ramirez, a life-long front man, found joy outside the spotlight collaborating to produce Wilson’s “Sinking Ship.”
“That was the first time that I produced someone else’s song, the arrangement and the harmonies. It’s such a beautiful song. The sentiment is so sweet and tender, Ramirez said. “There was a moment when the guys were singing that Nathaniel and I were in tears.” The album’s opening track, Blum’s “Loser’s Lament” offers a glimpse of the Glorietta vibe. “I can’t have a sip of that thing,” Blum says before the tape rolls. “We were drunk on mescal, loose enough to sound fun and tight enough to be a good recording,” Blum said. “The beautiful part of all this was the openness. There’s a bit of a party in there but there was beautiful, deep songs getting laid down.”
And what you get, Ramirez says, is an robust “pinball machine of a record where not a single song sounds like another. What you hear on the album is exactly what happened. There are mistakes and flaws and humanity on it. It captures all of the personalities that were there at work. I hope people can vibe with that. I hope they can get the spirit of it.” Quesada, who co-produced the record with Vasquez, engineered the recordings and contributed instrumental songs that inspired lyrics from Ramirez and others. “Everything was fair game. There was no formula. I was along for the ride and I’m glad we got to work on a couple of my songs,” Quesada said. “It was a oncein-a-lifetime experience that we could have never predicted and there’s no way to replicate it.”