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Aaron Lee Tasjan's revealing new album, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, February 5, 2021

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Aaron Lee Tasjan has never been easy to classify.

The Ohio-raised singer and songwriter, now in Nashville, has covered a great deal of musical ground; As a member of the band Semi Precious Weapons and as a solo artist since 2008, his arsenal has ranged from folk and Americana to gleefully psychedelic rock. He's also collaborated with Sean Lennon (in the band Operation Juliet), Spin Doctors' Chris Barron and others and was part of BP Fallon & the Bandits.

Tasjan's latest effort "Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!" -- out Friday, Feb. 5 -- is his most personal and his most sonically ambitious. The 11-track set finds him singing openly about his sexuality amidst a wash of textures and instrumental flavors, and no shortage of infectious melodic hooks. The exclamation points in the title are well-placed, as a first listen to "Tasjan!"-cubed is only a beginning that will bring any listener back for rewarding repeats...

Tasjan, 34, finished recording "Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!" back in January of 2020, but had to finish mixing and other post-production work as the pandemic set in. "Honestly, it was really nice to have a creative outlet in a moment where there was nothing else to do. I've never been in a situation like this before, where I can't go play shows. That's how I make a living, so it's kind of scary, but having something kind of dumb to think about, like 'Is this vocal harmony too loud?' or 'Should I mute that Theremin part?' or whatever was a nice distraction."

Tasjan's "modus operandi" for the album, he says, was "to just be, like, the most unabashedly me that I could be. Lyrically it's a much more personal record. Traditionally I think my lyrics have always had me in them, but coming from a place that was more observational. These (songs) are right out of my life -- even the ones where I'm singing more generally, like, 'Cartoon Music,' I only have that perception of what the song is about because of things that directly happened to me in my life that caused me to sort of think in that way."

He acknowledges that revealing himself like that was "scary," but that wasn't enough to prevent him from following his instincts. "It's something that I wanted to try and just, like, see if I could handle it. We've made vulnerability feel like a liability in our culture, for some reason. I think vulnerability is very brave. I think being 'rock 'n' roll' is trying to conquer your fears a little bit. I don't think this is going to peg me forever or hold me back in any way. I think some people view my work as this guy who's searching for things, and other people view it as hard to label. I think it's probably in the middle of those things, really."

Tasjan also took a different sonic approach on "Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!," branching out further from its predecessors. "The guitar has always been such a centerpiece in what I've done, this time I wanted to find somewhere to take it -- not that I'm doing anything that's brand new, but I do enjoy seeing what can be done sonically with that instrument. This time around it was finding ways to make the guitar sound like some sort of analog-type synthesizer or something. A lot of things you hear on the record that sound like synthesizers or keyboards or organs, even, are actually guitars that I just made sound that way. I just combined a lot of different, weird stuff, honestly. I was just trying to keep myself interested."

Tasjan has done a couple of virtual performances leading up to the new album's release, and he says that's been "a huge learning curve" as well. "Those are such a trip, man. I did one for Oculus, this headset Virtual Reality experience, and it's so strange to be addressing this non-existent crowd throughout your performance. Very, very strange. But it's a skill set. So is filming and lighting. It's a challenge. Some people are amazing at it -- Nicole Atkins does a phenomenal job, and I love the simplicity of how Lily Hiatt does it, just sitting on a couch and playing a little bit of a song and then sign off. I think we're all trying to figure out what works best, and what we're comfortable doing."

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