Softly, Dear Won't Settle

genre-defying indie rockers travel, learn, and get better

Eric Christenson

SQUINT-LY, DEAR. Softly, Dear’s got a bright future ahead, what with traveling around, writing songs, moving, and getting used to being a band... Sunglasses might help.
SQUINT-LY, DEAR. Softly, Dear’s got a bright future ahead, what with traveling around, writing songs, moving, and getting used to being a band... Sunglasses might help.

When I sat down with three of the members of Softly, Dear, I gave them a softball — albeit cliché — question: “How do you define your music? What genre?”
All three of them — songwriter/guitarist Tyler Hart, drummer Alex Adkinson, and guitarist Josh Frederick — visibly stiffened up.

“If people ask me, I say indie rock, if they absolutely need an answer,” Hart said. “But I shrug when I say it.”

“I want to throw out buzzwords like ‘scenic,’ ” Adkinson added, laughing.

Look, defining yourself is tough. But it may be especially so for Softly, Dear.

“We’ve been living life pretty good lately, so you see a lot of that in the album, I think. It’s an emotional journey of our lives and I think we put a lot into it and you can kinda see that.” – Softly, Dear drummer Alex Adkinson, on living a life worth writing songs about

To try, it tends to whip around somewhere between alt-country, folk, rock ’n’ roll, and jamband with just a touch of orchestral psych. Actually, “scenic” might be the right word.

Out today, their partially crowd-funded eponymous full-length flips between upbeat rock and breezy folk balladry with the added ease of ethereal transitional tracks, purposefully added to give the album the resonance of a travelogue. Each song sort of passes by like billboards or roadside trees; there’s no particular destination in mind — and that’s a good thing.

Softly, Dear’s first proper release, an EP called Portico came out just over a year ago, and since, they’ve toured, traveled, had a session with Daytrotter, finished school and grown up a lot.

“When we started recording that EP, we were only band for like four months or something,” Frederick said. “Now it’s been almost two years. It feels like we know our stuff.”

And a year and half in, they’re still pretty green; they’re feeling around for a niche, all the while remaining as creatively explorative as possible.

“None of us have been in a band before this, so we didn’t know what starting a band would entail at all,” Adkinson said. “We didn’t know what writing together was like, we didn’t know anything about pretty much anything. We just learned a lot since then and got better at all of it.”

The old cliché says, “Write what you know” and “Live a life worth writing about” so with the travels and throes of frivolous adulthood, Softly, Dear gained something. The trick then is to translate that something in the studio in front of microphones.

The group recorded Softly, Dear over the span of eight days at Pine Hollow Audio just south of town with engineer Evan Middlesworth, tracking and working 10-hour days, even writing some fresh stuff.

“I didn’t go to school that week,” Hart said. “We were walking around the woods and Josh was sitting on a stump writing the string parts.”

“It helped us embrace the studio a little more; we were creating while we were there,” Adkinson said.

If it sounds more like a vacation, it is and it isn’t. It is just as expensive though. In order to combat the studio time price-tag, Softly, Dear launched an “unsuccessful” IndieGoGo campaign — they didn’t quite reach their goal of $3,000, but IndieGoGo let’s you keep whatever you raise, which in this case was nearly all of it.

“We also had a lot of donations from parents and grandparents who didn’t know how to use the site,” Hart said.

All in all, Softly, Dear — though still getting used to being a band — is traveling around, playing shows, writing, learning, getting better and getting inspired. They haven’t been doing it that long, but they’re doing it right.

“We’ve been living life pretty good lately, so you see a lot of that in the album I think,” Adkinson said. “It’s an emotional journey of our lives and I think we put a lot into it and you can kinda see that.”

Said Hart: “We kinda did our homework in terms of life experience.”

Softly, Dear — the album — came out Aug. 7 as Softly, Dear — the band — swung by the Sounds Like Summer concert series before kicking off an East Coast tour. For updates on the band, check out their Facebook page.

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