Irie Sol at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville, TN
A few months ago, my partner, Tom, joined a new band. He has been through the rounds of the Minneapolis music scene(s) this past year, playing with a number of bands ranging from R&B and Funk to Jazz to Indy Folk Rock. It’s sort of Reggae this time, he said.
A few short weeks later, Tom and I found ourselves in a van packed with Irie Sol members, tugging along a small U-haul trailer filled with sleeping bags and instruments, headed for Nashville to record an LP at an analogue-only studio called Welcome to 1979. I had been invited to come along to photograph the whole endeavor, and had readily accepted. As our 8:30am planned departure time in reality became 6pm, I wondered if we would ever actually make it to Nashville; but as we drove through state after state, all night long, I began to believe in Irie Sol. We pulled into Nashville around 11am that Friday morning, and through a haze of exhaustion and sleep deprivation, gratefully stepped into the intense heat of a Tennessee morning.
For the next 48 hours, Welcome to 1979 was our home away from home. Chris Mara, owner, engineer, and producer, and his assistant producer, Bridget Guise, made us feel completely at ease in our new surroundings, the vintage-styled studio spaces decorated with ’70’s paraphernalia, cozily frayed furniture, studio magazine features, and an eclectic art collection. After a rejuvenating rest, the band started practicing, gearing up for the recording session the following day. There would be one run-through, the old fashioned way, and the record would be made; hours of practice would garner one 30-minute album, so the pressure was on. As repeated riffs became the ongoing soundtrack of my weekend, I wandered through the studios and practice spaces, gaining a new appreciation for all aspects of effort that go into making music. I spent the two days trying out new photographic angles and notions, battling the studio’s habitual low light, providing peripheral support and encouragement for the band, and observing the workings of this analogue studio. This was why I became a photographer; I couldn’t imagine a happier way to spend my weekend.
Irie is a Rastafarian term, meaning positive vibrations (source: OED online); Sol is the Spanish word for “sun”. This is a fitting name for this group, whose mission is to send out positive, sun-like vibrations wherever they go. I have rarely felt such respect and esteem from a group of self-proclaimed “raggedy” musicians. Many thanks to Irie Sol, for bringing me along on your adventure…