From the White House to “Real Housewives,” transparency has become the promise of the digital age; everyone is broadcasting everything all of the time. So what happens when a rock band throws open the studio doors, stops being polite and starts getting real?
Des Moines rockers The Nadas found out when they set out last January to record their seventh LP, Almanac, virtually live. The rules were simple: the band would write, record and release one song a month all year. What’s more, every step of the process would be streamed live on the band’s website and with unprecedented access to the creative process; fans were allowed to become an integral part of this album. By joining the band’s web-based Almanac Project, fans could monitor their blog and read the band’s project journal. Comments and criticisms on everything from lyrics to instruments were welcomed and even, in a few choice cases, incorporated into The Nadas’ music. In September of 2009, select fans that had joined the Almanac Project were extended an exclusive invitation to a special songwriting session arranged to write that month’s addition to this most unique album.
By 2009, with hundreds of thousands of copies of their previous six albums sold, and having toured along thousands of miles of highway (in Meatloaf’s old tour bus, no less), one would think Playboy Magazine’s “Best College Band You’ve Never Heard Of” would have little to worry about.
However, singer/guitarist Mike Butterworth regretted the whole song-a-month idea almost immediately, “By February, I’d decided it was a terrible mistake,” he says. ”I didn’t like being forced to be creative on a schedule, and it wrecked havoc on the creative process. Knowing that people were watching me fumble through musical and lyrical ideas was really difficult. I was self conscious the whole time.”
Co-founding singer/guitarist Jason Walsmith was equally dubious, “The truth is, the process of writing and recording is kind of ugly. I felt dumb singing things for the first time, sounding like junior high choir boy.”
Butterworth and Walsmith are known for their flawless songwriting, but opening the normally intimate process for public scrutiny proved to be a trying time. By the end, though, the finished product is truly their best to date. Despite (or perhaps because) of the rigorous, self-imposed deadlines and wildly public creative process, the 12 tracks produced on Almanac, finds The Nadas in top form. Read more.....
The Nadas are a heartland foursome with a good ear for melody and a clever lyricist in the form of Mike Butterworth. Some musicians in their position decide to take a self-important attitude that betrays the simplicity that this sort of music deserves. On top of that, many also try and dumb down their lyrics to the point that it is insulting to fans of the genre. But Butterworth is a grounded songwriter that isn't afraid to write clever and witty lyrics that aren't all sentimental small town odes. Admittedly, the band does nothing that a hundred other musicians in their spot haven't done before. But their laid back attitude and inviting sound definitely put them ahead of the pack, and that's where their charm lies. Take the humorous ode to success, "Rock Star." Instead of packing the song with cheap shots at more famous musicians, Butterworth puts himself in their shoes and allows himself to become a pompous jerk throughout the song, ending with an excellent line ("I broke both my legs from my fall from the top") that displays the same wit as vintage Paul Westerberg. Not every song is this clever and insightful, but more importantly they are all pretty solid tracks. Without a lick of ego and an appealing sound, the Nadas deliver a great little album with Coming Home. ~ Bradley Torreano
— allmusic.com (Jul 13, 2011)
The Nadas down-to-earth, hard-working approach to rock and roll is refreshing and so is their music. If you feel like your lacking something in your life, pick yourself up a copy of Almanac by The Nadas and let them make you whole again. ~ Laura McDonald
— Denver Examiner (Jul 13, 2011)
We started The Nadas sixteen years ago with just a couple of songs, a van and a newsletter, then grew a community from there. The tools we have now to communicate with and build that community are crazy. But it’s still about the songs, and our fans. They’re why we do this.
— Jason Walsmith (Jul 13, 2011)