My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel brings solo tour to Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m.
How much: $15
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
Playing guitar in the beloved band My Morning Jacket, Carl Broemel has torn through solos in front of roaring stadium-sized crowds and had more than his share of rock star moments.
But it’s apparent that he’s not in it for those fleeting touches of rock ’n’ roll glory. Between My Morning Jacket projects, Broemel has carved out an admirable solo career where he steps out as a frontman and showcases a mellower side of himself, touring smaller theaters and clubs.
“It reminds me of being 25 years old and being on tour in a band with my friends,” Broemel, 44, said from home in Nashville during a recent tour break. “It’s a bit of a blast from the past. And it’s always fun, even if there’s 40 people there or whatever.”
Broemel is currently touring in support of his third solo album, “Wished Out,” released last month. He will headline Belly Up Aspen on Tuesday and the Bluebird Theater in Denver on Wednesday.
“No matter if we’re playing an amphitheater or the Belly Up, it’s, ‘What music should I play to make this show match the energy of who is here and the energy of what I feel like playing?’” he said. “What can we do differently from last night? That’s the game I play.”
The new album isn’t as low-key as Broemel’s two previous solo efforts. It’s filled with guitar hooks and irresistible melodies under witty and introspective lyrics that span the personal, the metaphysical and the literally universal (Broemel is an astronomy buff and has a way with space metaphors).
“I’ve always written songs and always will, no matter what else I’m involved in,” he said. “There’s always something to learn, whether I’m in the studio or by myself I always learn so much about what I’m capable of, what I’m good at, what I’m bad at, what I enjoy doing and what I don’t.”
The new material is expanding into harder rock territory on tour, he said.
“They seem to have more impact than the album in a live setting,” he said. “I’m excited about that. I made the record kind of alone and with a couple friends. Once you start playing it with new people it starts to take on a life of its own.”
The “new people” are Steelism, the adventurous Nashville-based instrumental duo that’s both opening for Broemel and serving as his backing band on the current tour.
Broemel first performed with Steelism a few years back at the Newport Folk Festival, where he roped them into joining him for a solo set.
“It was a good fit artistically and musically and energetically, so we booked a tour last year for a week and fleshed it out,” he said.
With Steelism behind him, some of the new songs have evolved into all-out rockers.
“It’s getting pretty intense on tour,” he said. “The songs are amped up, for sure.”
Broemel carves out time to write his solo songs among his duties with My Morning Jacket, touring with Ray LaMontagne, producing records and raising a young son. Much of what became “Wished Out” was born out of a solo writing retreat to a beachside cabin in Malibu.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to work,” he recalled. “You romanticize, like, ‘If I could just get some time alone with no distractions, I’ll write the greatest songs!’ But you’re terrified that you’re going to do that and it’s all going to be horrible.”
The three-day hideaway was decidedly not horrible, producing the skeletons of what would become “Wished Out.” The beach environs lent the record some sunny guitar tones, folky Laurel Canyon vibes on songs like “Starting From Scratch” and direct inspiration on “Malibu Shadow.”
His “Second Fiddle” is a gorgeously dark reflection on the inherent hollowness of stardom and its pursuit, punctuated with a dreamily sung refrain: “fame don’t take pain away.”
Best known as a sideman to My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Broemel said he looks up to the great second fiddles of pop music like Art Garfunkel and George Harrison. The song, he said, was inspired by thinking about them and about the miserable chase for fame he’s witnessed in the music industry.
“All that stuff rolled into it — the chase of fame and the disappointment that you’re still you, no matter how famous you are,” he said. “So you have to be cool with yourself. Otherwise it’s a waste of time. You put all that work and it’s still you.”
My Morning Jacket is on a break, with no recording or touring plans on the calendar. Broemel isn’t resting on his laurels in the meantime, challenging himself as a singer and songwriter and a performer.
“It’s a constant shift of perspective, he said. “I think it keeps me from getting tunnel vision. … I’m Carl from My Morning Jacket, but I’m also something else. Whether that becomes something that’s well-known or not doesn’t matter.”