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Simon Patrick Kerr's 'Songbird' Is a Stirring, Folksy Ode to a Friend: Exclusive Premiere

Simon Patrick Kerr
Laura E. Partain

Simon Patrick Kerr 

After nearly eight years fronting the psychedelic rock trio the Wans, Simon Patrick Kerr is getting quieter with his first solo album, from which the track "Songbird" is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (June 12).

On Doldrums, due out July 20, the Irish native shows off his Americana roots and the influence of singer-songwriters such as Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. "It's definitely quite a departure, sound-wise and song-wise, from the band," Kerr tells Billboard. "It's quite a vulnerable record for me song-wise. My parents moved to Nashville when I was 11 to pursue songwriting and people like John Prine and Guy Clark became family friends and sort of showed me the ropes on how to write a son. From 18 to 23 I was writing a lot of folk songs, before I started playing rock and roll music. Now I'm back to writing this music."

As its title indicates, the material on Doldrums was inspired while Kerr was "going through a bit of a dark headspace...dealing with regular life problems." One of those was the January 2017 death of singer-songwriter Greg Trooper, a family friend, from cancer at the age of 61, which inspired "Songbird."

"They were one of the first families we met here (in Nashville), along with John Prine," Kerr recalls. "We'd go over there every Sunday and my dad and him would sit around and share songs and I picked up a lot from just watching them. I think I was on the road when I heard he passed and the day after I came back I started writing ['Songbird'] and sort of realized it was about him. I had to stop a few times; It was a little tough to write it, and then maybe six months later we went in to record and I pulled it out. I'm really pleased with the way it sounds. It's pretty trippy, pretty heady."

The other Wans have been supportive of Kerr's striking out on his own; drummer Mark Petaccia engineered the initial Doldrums sessions and bassist Thomas Bragg also plays on the album. Kerr predicts that "at some point I'll definitely go back to writing some stuff for the band. I look at writing these songs as the bridge to whatever project comes next." But he plans to make his solo career a going concern alongside whatever else he winds up doing.

"I needed to get these songs out of my systems before I write more rock and roll songs," says Kerr, who plans to tour in support of Doldrums and has also started doing some co-writing sessions on Nashville's Music Row.

"I definitely thing another solo record will be on the way. I'm gonna keep plugging away and see what kind of songs I can churn up, and then we'll figure out the best way for them to come out."


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