Babcock emerges with steady left hook of “Fight I Need”

Singer-songwriter Stephen Babcock makes a fresh return with new music in just a little less than two weeks on June 28th in the form of upcoming single “Fight I Need”. The one-off is the followup to Babcock’s exceptional 2018 EP “Fiction”, and represents yet another linear step ahead in the development of the musician’s sound.

Material like “Fiction” and Babcock’s prior 2016 LP “Said & Done” largely felt most at home in a stripped down, coffeehouse format allowing the upfront intimacy of the moments to flow cleanly off the acoustic guitar strings. “Fight I Need” doesn’t exactly lose that well-shined sensibility for the landscape. Rather, it just surrounds it with an added edge of slinky organ work, trailing harmonies, and the bright punch of electric guitar fills racing right out of the melodic gateway.

That auditory kiss with a fist makes for a fitting companion to the track’s lyrical energy, which takes the notion of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and riffs on it as a way to describe a desire for a relationship’s emotional toil. And indeed, either experience feels akin to 10 rounds in the boxing ring, with equal amounts of stamina needed just to outlast the conflict. 

You can see Stephen live just after “Fight I Need” comes out at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 for a release show June 29th at 9pm!

Stellar followup is no “Fiction” on new Babcock EP

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When I was first introduced to Stephen Babcock through his prior record Said & Done, I could sense his developing potential. The kind of young musician beginning to reach out and establish himself as he found the basis of his sound and where it might possibly stake his career.

Said & Done felt like the initial foundation of that structure, built on charming acoustic-laden fixtures. Now, Babcock’s new release Fiction feels as though the walls of that metaphor are starting to build up and take on a greater shape. Not that it isn’t without its fair share of familiar moments.

The folky Dawes send-up of album opener “Atlanta” and folk-rock of “Seersucker Dress” could certainly slot in easily alongside tracks from Said & Done. I think the major difference for Babcock on this album though, is more experience. As with any talent, getting to constantly learn, hone and repeat your art is always the best medicine. And you hear those results both in the familiar, speedway-chugging, Paul Simon wit of “Atlanta”, as well as the real left turns that start coming in with tracks like “Darlin” and “Good Things”. The first gets off the ground on the wheels of a boisterously racing Hank Williams-style hoedown, while the other is a smoky, organ-accented blues take that rewards Babcock handsomely for reaching outside the box.

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In fact, “Good Things” final, guitar-searing crescendo may be the most head-turning moment of the whole record. Its the kind of hallmark standout that takes a good song and makes it great, while hinting at greater vision along with it.

Closer “5A” settles back into what Babcock does best without ringing of repetition or ground retread. If the first four tracks of Fiction weren’t enough to have you at least humming a chorus or harmony the first listen in, the earworming lines of “5A” will handle the rest.

Now ordinarily this would be the line where I’d riff a closing pun about how Babcock’s talent is no Fiction, but since I already did it in the title suffice it say: put this album in your summer playlist. You’re gonna have fun.

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Find Stephen online at stephenbabcockmusic.com, on Spotify, and where good social media is sold! 

“Atlanta” gives 2018 the right side of folk rock kick

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As we wind down March and meander into April, it seems like a biennial rite of spring to hear new music fresh off the grapevine in 2018 from New York City troubadour Stephen Babcock. His prior album Said & Done was a fresh favorite of mine and a hot topic on this site at about this time in 2016. Now, two years later Babcock’s preparing followup EP Fiction, due out April 6th.

And while my first thought is its been two years already? What’s really important here is the song. On one hand, “Atlanta” continues the best qualities of Babcock’s well-crafted songwriting. Though in this case, it feels as though it hones in more on the Ryan Adams Gold-era as opposed to John Mayer’s Room For Squares. You can sense the growth in Babcock’s craft since Said & Done, tinkering and getting his weapons sharper. The instruments feel thicker here, with variations and new inclusions that show promise for the entire album’s direction. While the rest of the track hooks with the charm of a foot-tapping Southern ladykiller.

If the reason for our slow start to Spring has been because we don’t have enough 2018 summer driving songs to warm things up, lets start with “Atlanta”. That Jason Isbell-y sounding guitar hum that kicks towards the end is worth the miles alone.

Check out “Atlanta” over on Spotify, and Stephen Babcock online at stephenbabockmusic.com! 

Babcock Brings “5A” To Our Floor For New Video Debut

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of collaborating with smooth-folk troubadour Stephen Babcock in order to discuss his current LP Said & Done. Babcock was a new face to me at the time, and I found myself immediately charmed by his music.

For one thing, it’s often easily straightforward without being stereotypically indie or coffeehouse. No offense to the Bon Iver’s or St Vincent’s of the world, but it’s often pleasant to just go back to the bare essentials of music’s bedrock beginnings. The era when folk music felt like an innocence rapidly turning cloudy, or… ya know, when a man named Dylan came along and changed the game forever.

Babcock has that same stripped down charm to his sound, as well as a sense for songwriting that combines to make for a hard punch in a velvet glove. It was a prominent force on Said & Done, and also makes a fresh appearance for Babcock’s latest song “5A”.

Shot in Central Park for A Remote Session, “5A” finds Babcock directly in his element. With just a guitar slung across his shoulder and a song on his sleeve, he strolls casually singing about a relationship gone on a downward bender.

He opines, “She was an hourglass, she could spare no time” with a gentle reserve some might spare for conversation eased into the picture frame of a moment. In a sense the cinematography of the video fits that conversational tone as well, painting Babcock as the everyman’s example of making the difficult look easy.

It’s a reminder of a simple adage that seems relatively forgotten nowadays: less is more. A reminder that yeah maybe you can’t get a bank of synthesizers or a quartet of strings, but you can still take out a guitar and make it sing.

Check out the video for “5A” up above, and be sure to go find Stephen on social media if you like/want to hear more of what you see! And be sure not to miss the line in this song “is it bad that I miss her mother more than I miss her?”.

It might not jump out at first, but it’s a deceptive killer.

 

 

 

Views From The Road: Catching Up With Stephen Babcock


I always find April to be an interesting time in life and in the world as I know it. 

On one hand I think of it like that because it is the month of my birth (originally supposed to be in May, don’t ask), but also because April is such a time of travel and transition. The temperatures creep up higher, the last of those stubbornly sticking snow piles disappear, and it finally starts to make sense to leave home in order to pursue a view from other windows. 

So as I take my own advice and look out upon a window scene that is not my own, I share with you the words of someone else who is doing much the same. As you may remember, OTBEOTB spoke with musician Stephen Babcock back in March about his album Said & Done. As is often the case, we did a review on the album as well as an email interview with Stephen who was kind enough to answer some questions and add some…. illumination to the man behind the music. 

Luckily, Stephen recently reached out to us again and we wound up chatting about touring life, the reception to Said & Done, and a bit of what the world of a traveling musician is all about. 


1. Hey Stephen, good to catch up with you again. How has touring life been treating you since we last spoke around the release of your album “Said & Done”? And how have the audiences enjoyed it as you’ve toured it out?

(SB): So far things have been really great! The release show was amazing and really blew me away with how people responded to the songs. The shows lately have been really fun as people start to learn the songs and the words. I see people singing the lyrics at shows now, which is super surreal. It means a lot to me to see that. The songs mattered enough to someone that they learned the words and feel invested in the lyrics. That’s pretty darn cool.

2. Are some areas you’ve toured to more or less receptive to the music, or do you find that the places you tour to are pretty much all greeting you warmly?

(SB): So far its been pretty warm everywhere, but I’ll be honest, my music always feels right when I am in the south. Since the subject matter is mostly about being in the Southern US, I think people really grab onto that when I am playing down there. Still, the songs are really all about heartbreak in one way or another, and that resonates with folks no matter where they are from.


3. What’s life on the road like, depending on whether you’ve touring solo or with other bands? As a music writer who has always aspired to see the touring life, give us a mental taste of what some of that day to day is like. 

(SB): Honestly I’ve only ever toured as a solo artist. I have done tours with friends, who are also solo artists, but I have also done a tour with just me and that’s it. I like being out on the road with friends though a lot more as you get to share that road experience with someone each day. As far as a tour day to day, it’s pretty straight forward. Basically I just get up each day, grab some coffee, and hop in the car and drive to venue. Once I am there I basically drop my stuff and wander the town a bit. I always like to get a feel for where I am playing. Even if I have been there before, it always is nice to see what is new and what stayed the same. After that I usually hit the venue and get warmed up and then I get to playing. After the show I try and meet as many people as I can and talk a little bit before packing up and getting ready for the next night’s show.

4. Now regarding your album “Said & Done”, have you largely toured it solo acoustic or have you had a backing band to bring more of that instrumentation on the record to life?

(SB): It’s been a little of both. When I am in New York I basically always play with a band. It’s my favorite thing to do and I think it really brings the songs to life the way I always imagined them. When I tour outside of New York though, it has been fully acoustic. The great thing about that is I think it allows me to give the songs a more personal spin. It’s just me up there with these songs of mine, and I think it allows me to be more spontaneous on the road. A lot of people I meet while touring have never seen me before either, so I think the acoustic experience is a great way to start that connection off. It allows people to see my music in it’s rawest form.


5. And regardless of whether you’ve done it solo or in band mode, have you found the arrangements of the songs on that album to be changing at all? I know a lot of bands talk about taking new songs on the road and finding them change in some ways over time. Have there been any twists or curveballs in your sets like that?

(SB): That has happened a bit. I know with the band, we tend to draw out instrumental moments more and make the vibe more fun and bouncy. I love it when a solo just like takes off and brings the song to a whole new place from where it started. On the other hand, when I play acoustically I tend to take more vocal chances that I might not with the band. I will change how I sing certain things and occasionally I’ll even add a new verse or outro to just see how it comes off.

6. Now I know one of your latest touring cycles has been shared with Darryl Rahn who I’ve heard a little bit about. What has it been like touring with him, and in general what’s it like on the road with another band? Is that sort of a bonding experience, and does it become like a band of brothers over time?

(SB): It has honestly been fantastic. Darryl is a great guy and just all around amazing songwriter. I think touring with friends is definitely a great experience. I think it is great to have people around to share that experience of the being on the road. A lot of things can happen while you’re out traveling around, so it is great to have a good friend to share a laugh or two with while you are playing.


7. Have you found yourself writing any new songs or getting new ideas while you’re on the road? Do you find the road to be an inspirational place to write, or do you save that side of your creativity for when you’re in your element at home?

(SB): For me the road is a catalyst to pull things out of me. I never really write while I am on the road, but touring allows me to think about things in my personal life. When I tour, I kind of escape my day to day life. It allows me to think on recent heartbreak or whatever may have happened in my life. I know lately when I have been on the road, it has made me think a lot about certain people I wish were still in my life and are not any more. So by hitting the road, it allows for a certain sense of clarity I can’t always get just sitting at home. I think there will be some definite heartbreakers coming out of me sometime soon haha.

8. And finally, now for those who might be reading this and are curious, where can we catch you out on the road next? And who will you be with?

(SB): Well I hit the road with Darryl Rahn April 27th, 28th, and 29th. We will be at Gypsy Sallys in DC on the 27th, Café Caturra in Midlothian, VA on the 28th and 7 Locks Brewing on the 29th. Then in June I will be out on Cape Cod for a weekend run of shows and then another southern tour in July. And I will also be playing here and there in New York. I’ll be on my own when out touring, but I’ll be back to give everyone their full band fix in New York. Basically, I am all over this summer hahaha, but I hope that anyone who is curious swings by and checks out a show or two.

Big thanks goes out to Stephen Babcock for catching up with us! As he said in the interview you can catch him with Darryl Rahn tonight in DC (along with plenty of dates still to come). 

Also be sure to check out his album Said & Done which is currently available on a variety of platforms. Go check it out and give Stephen’s music some much-deserved love! 

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