With a little help from his friends
Jesse Aycock has been gracing Tulsa stages with his unique brand of folk-infused roots rock since he was a wee lad of 18, toiling in half-empty coffeehouses just for the chance to have his music heard. Now 30, Aycock is among the top dogs of Tulsa’s live music scene, playing lap steel guitar for the Paul Benjaman Band, sitting in occasionally with various local acts and sprinkling in solo performances, whenever his schedule permits, to showcase his own material.
Aycock’s new album, which he recorded at the historic Church Studio with a lineup of big-league musicians, is in the final stages of production, and I caught up with him one sunny afternoon to get the scoop on its status.
How’s the album coming?
It’s in the finishing stages. I’ve got a mastering session booked, so that’s the last step as far as the actual record goes. Then, I’m going to start shopping it to some labels.
I’m not someone who thinks a big label is really necessary as far as making a lot of money or anything, but it’s just an opportunity to get the music out to a wider audience. That’s the perk of signing with a label.
I understand you recorded the album with members of (Black Crowes lead singer) Chris Robinson’s new band?
Yeah, I met (guitarist) Neal Casal and (drummer) George Sluppick separately — before either joined up with Chris Robinson — but one day I got a call from George and he asked, “Guess who I’m sitting with?” It turns out he and Neal were talking about Tulsa music, and my name came up, and they both said, “I know that guy!”
So, recently George called and said they had some time off from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and wanted to get together for some gigs or something. It was really funny timing, because I’d been planning to do this record, and I had always had those guys in my head as people I’d love to play on it. So, I decided it was the perfect time to start, and they were on board. Then, I got Eric Arndt to play bass — I’ve played with him for years and years — and we were all set.
What was the recording process like?
We had two weeks in the studio and we just went in and started working the songs from the ground up. We had never played all together, so we were all just trying that first day to figure out where we all mesh. It was really cool, because every day we got tighter and tighter and got into a nice rhythm.
And it was great because George and Neal are big J.J. Cale fans, and they were really excited to record at the Church Studio because it has that legendary status, with Leon (Russell) and everything. So, there was a lot of storytelling about Tulsa music.
Do you have a timetable for releasing the record?
It just depends on whether a label picks it up. But I’m not going to wait forever. If it doesn’t get picked up, I’ll figure out a way to release it myself.
December’s best bets for live music
12/5 Ghostland Observatory, Cain’s Ballroom
I remember the night Tulsa fell in love with Ghostland Observatory. The (then) little-known electro-soul-funk duo from Austin, Texas, performed at the main stage of Dfest, back when Dfest was a thing, and the crowd was positively transfixed by their infectious beats and mesmerizing laser light show. Ever since, Ghostland makes a yearly trip to Cain’s, and Tulsa comes out en masse to recapture the magic. In other words, don’t wait to get your tickets. Doors open at 7 p.m. All ages welcome.
12/6 Old Crow Medicine Show, Cain’s Ballroom
Americana. Bluegrass. Country. Whatever label you prefer to place on Old Crow Medicine Show, there’s no denying that this Tennessee string band can get toes tapping and heads bobbing at the drop of a hat — cowboy or otherwise. Best known for its indelible sing-along “Wagon Wheel,” the band’s catalog includes original tunes with an old-timey flavor, as well as old-timey tunes with a modern flair. Doors open at 7 p.m. Opening act is Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys. All ages welcome.