One of the artists Rocks Off has most enjoyed getting to follow in the last couple of years is Tim Qualls. On the surface, his music is the same self-deprecating white guy acousti-pop that John Mayer and Jason Mraz are doing, but as we hear more and more of his work, we realize the depth of soul in his compositions and his true dedication to a good set of lyrics.
Qualls' debut EP, This Is Our Land, was a hell of a good record, released by the always consistent boys over at the Red Tree Music Studio, but its biggest flaw was that it was basically a single masquerading as an EP. There just wasn't enough meat there, like one of those tiny steaks you order at a good steak house because the prices make you want to pretend to go to the bathroom and slink out of the restaurant in poverty and shame. Now, one year later, Qualls is preparing a new EP, The Melancholy Sessions, and in an effort to bring his fans into the creative process he is releasing snippets of studio time through his YouTube channel. The short videos are a great look into what the modern indie-rocker must go through to create music in a time when the music industry simply can't support sending someone on a local level into a high-powered studio.
Hell, in the current recession, most musicians can't scrape enough together to rent somewhere like SugarHill on their own. What you see through the eye of the camera is simply a dedicated group of musicians having a good time creating in a bedroom studio, laying down tracks the way other people grill outside on the weekends. The music being put together for Melancholy is fairly appropriate to the title. Qualls sent us an unfinished, and unfortunately not for sharing, version of "one of the more upbeat tracks" from the upcoming album called "For Love." If this is an upbeat number, the downbeaters must be real wrist-cutters.
All jolly emo-kid fanfic-ing aside, though, the song itself is stellar, subtle battle cry to braving the dangers of the everyday world in the name of love. Qualls is a man who realizes that the average American doesn't really need to fear a terrorist attack or some kind of exotic superflu with an animal's name painted on the front like a Valkyrie on the hood of a douchemobile.
No, he understands that most of us are going to die from the things we see every day, like the traffic on the way to work. But don't let that irrefutable fact consume you in fear because somewhere out there there is a love for everyone, and that love is reason enough to brave the gauntlet of the mundane and impossibly dangerous. The Melancholy Sessions is being produced, mixed and engineered by Jay Snider, the drummer featured on Quall's debut EP who runs a small home studio called Tight Sounds. A welcome addition to Qualls' work appears in the videos as well, that of guitarist J. J. Cole, who works with local worship leader Daniel Pratt.
Cole is a man obviously very comfortable in laying down the kind of half-blues, half-indie-rock solos that can let a man open a used panty store if played the right party. He's definitely someone we're going to have to watch, and we look forward to hearing the rest of his finished work when Melancholy is released later this year.
Tim Qualls plays the Houston Rocks! showcase at House of Blues Sunday, Feb. 27.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.