Barzelay didn't know Avett, but he didn't ignore the signs. "I just went for it and reached out to him and started sending [Avett] songs," he recalls. "We started emailing each other and then we talked. It was one foot in front of the other, and the next thing you know we're demoing songs together and realized we had an album, maybe. He rounded up some people and boom, boom, boom, we had us a record."
He adds, "It was kind of miraculous for me. We immediately vibed. We vibed hard. I felt this connection to him, and when we did get together and got to hang out, it was great, man. He saved me."
For Forever Just Beyond, which came out March 27, Avett took Barzelay to his farm in North Carolina, converting his painting space -- used for the "Don't Bring No Ladder" video -- as the studio. Subsequent sessions in Nashville added appearances by Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor and Avett Brothers' cellist Joe Kwon.
"It was illuminating for me to see through [Avett's] eyes," Barzelay explains. "I'd just been looking at myself for so long, and it's really hard to do this alone. If you have a partner, someone who can come in where you need a little something and just see it with fresh eyes, it helps. He was so enthusiastic and so encouraging. That's exactly what I needed because my belief in it had waned."
With his former band members gone, Barzelay did consider crediting the album to something other than Clem Snide. But Avett pushed him to retain the moniker. "It made perfect sense; this record was made very much in the spirit of Clem Snide," Barzelay says. "Like all the other ones it was just getting some people together and making a record. There have been some recurring dudes for sure, but the band went through a few different lineups, so in a way this is the most recent iteration of Clem Snide."
Forever Just Beyond came out in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, of course, which ground what was "fixing to be my best year ever" to a halt. So Barzelay is driving for Lyft until things start up again -- although he's not playing his own music for passengers. "It's essentially Stan Getz, or Art Blakey -- I've turned more than a couple people on to them in the car," Barzelay says. "That's five-star stuff, every time."
The video for “Don't Bring No Ladder” is below.