Creosote Flats is a geographic term for the soft-sloping steppes that lead to canyon lands and cliffs, and which are a favorite environment of the creosote bush, which gives the desert it’s particular “rain” smell. Creosote is ancient — there is a colony still living that’s nearly 12,000 years old, and driving through much of the desert in Arizona and California, it’s the dominant plant on the horizon, perfuming the air.
‘Creosote Flats’ as an album aims to evoke the multi-sensory experience of the Sonoran desert that has brought inspiration my whole life: I’ve gone out there annually since I was a kiddo, and before I was born my parents lived out there, so returning always feels like revisiting the world before me.
In 2014, on tour in Europe driving through the alps with Adriano Viterbini, I was first introduced to Saharan Desert Blues — that floating, levitating pulse — and immediately knew that I wanted to try and create a music that drew from some of those rhythms, but talked about and was grounded in the desert around Tucson, the desert that has called to me.
So, on multiple trips to Tucson, I would wake up before dawn and drive out into Saguaro National Park with an acoustic guitar and a field recorder, and sit playing and singing to the sunrise and the birds — sometimes letting the landscape do the singing and only playing instrumentally — and listen back to find what sounded like the most accurate representation of the feelings and place I hoped to somehow translate to tape.
Gradually, from that process, themes and songs emerged. The lyrics are grounded in simple, visceral language based on observations of what I saw around me, and yet, larger metaphorical meanings slowly unspooled on their own accord, and gave the album its shape.
Sonically, I knew I wanted layers of texture and polyrhythm, so I brought the tracks back to Nashville and gathered musicians that were interested in exploring this sound with me — Mike Meadows and Lemuel Hayes on drums, Heather Moulder on keyboards, Lee McAlilly on bass. Similarly to writing the songs, I only provided loose direction for those additional parts, instead allowing the energy of the music, and of photos and videos of the desert I brought in, to shape the musical mentality.
The album is intimate, and personal, but I believe that the sense of spaciousness, nature, and temporality in this world are universal themes.
ANDY ELLIS – ELECTRIC OUD
LEMUEL HAYES – DRUMS, PERCUSSION
LEE MCALILLY – BASS
MIKE MEADOWS – DRUMS, PERCUSSION
HEATHER MOULDER – KEYBOARDS
REED TURCHI – GUITAR, BASS, VOCALS
SPECIAL THANKS TO ADRIANO VITERBINI
FOR INTRODUCING ME TO THIS MUSIC