By 7:30 p.m. Monday night, the parking lot of Wire Road Studios was already full. Two men were standing outside, helping latecomers find parking nearby. Inside, a few dozen people congregated in the kitchen, mixing drinks and chatting among themselves. Out back, a larger crowd had gathered around a few coolers, a pot of crayfish and a grill.
Standing behind the grill, flipping chicken breasts and sausage links, was Nick Greer, the man of the evening, smiling ear to ear. He happily greeted friends and fans as they arrived, bumping elbows while he wiped his hands with a rag.
After a little over an hour of mingling, eating and drinking, attendees were ushered inside, where Greer played a short video before the listening party began. In it, he spoke of the efforts put into making the record. Despite how catchy and accessible every song sounded, Greer spoke of pain and anger being two of the primary emotions rooted in Heart on Fire, the sophomore album from Nick Greer & the G's.
"I don't know what anyone is going through, but I know that it's only April and I've already been through a lot of shit [this year]," he told the crowd, a few of whom were seated in Studio A while most others huddled in the corners."It took a lot to make this record.
"Everybody should be able to relate to these songs and not feel like there's some hidden message," he continued. "And I hope the album speaks to people, because I can't be the only one who's this angry."
And speak to the audience it did. For the next hour, the crowd was arrested by a combination of strings, horns, keys and funky bass lines, all of which blended together and accentuated Greer's vocal lines.
"Help me free my mind," he pleaded on the album's first single, "Trippin." Later, he sang of wanting to kill someone for the one you love. And near the end of the record, Greer and his crew attempted to recreate "Billie Jean" and "Bad" and "smash them together." It was so ambitious and could have easily sounded cluttered, but the album had a cohesive feel to it, seamlessly transitioning from one track to the next.
"This is the shit that's in our heads, and this is how we deal with things," Greer said. "It's helping us all connect and cope, and it's not just about the music. It's about the people in this room, in this building tonight. You guys are here for a reason."
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Pain and anger notwithstanding, Greer was not lacking in gratitude. Both to his company on on his record, he expressed graciousness and even humility, consistently eschewing any self-flattery and instead acknowledging everyone else's hard work on the album.
"This last song is called "Thank God," and that's how I feel... I feel like there's something bigger going on," he said. "You can call it Buddha; you can call it Ganesha; call it Yoda, it doesn't matter. There's something bigger going on, and you need to pay attention to it."
Greer described his group's last album as a powerhouse blend of funk, blues, soul and hip-hop. Heart on Fire possesses similar characteristics, but it's bigger. It sounds more grandiose and combines into a triumphant, unique sound.
"We put out a record last March, and it was good," he said, "but this one...this is better."
Heart on Fire will be available June 21. Nick Greer & the G's will have an album release party at Warehouse Live June 28.
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