Assistant Photography Editor
Drinks clinking and chatter filled the halls of The Grey Eagle as patrons gathered in anticipation of Matt Sellars and his band for the release of his new album, After You’ve Gone.
“It’s been long overdue that I’ve had this in my mind to do it. The Grey Eagle isone of my favorite venues probably ever, definitely in the Southeast. There was never a question about having it here,” Sellars said. “The album release, it’s kind of funny, technically, it came out last year. This is just a good way to seal the deal on the album, get all of our friends out and just have fun.”
The Grey Eagle, both a music venue and a taqueria, opened in 1994. They operate by their motto, “to spotlight rising talent, offer a diverse assortment of musical genres tailored for the local interests and provide a friendly and inviting atmosphere for people to mingle and relax.”
Sellars is a plumber and a musician. He said he always wants to have a full-time job but describes music as an itch he has to scratch.
“When I was 16 I started to play the guitar. I was trying to learn Guns n’ Roses, be a cool guy,” Sellars said.
Matt was raised in Greensboro, but says he feels more at home living in Asheville than he ever did there. When he isn’t working, he takes care of his dog, Nancy, one of 11 chickens and two sheep.
His last album, This Side of the Mississippi released five years ago. Sellars new album was long anticipated, but worth the wait. The whole process was fast, awesome and ridiculous, according to Sellars.
“I’m weird about genres. It seems stupid that there would be rules, because you’re instantly limiting yourself. Americana is a good one because it means nothing and everything. That’s a good genre,” Sellars said.
The album was fully recorded in two days of studio time. Sellars said the majority of the album was recorded during the first day. The second day was used to fill and fix any of the tracks as well as any last-minute recording needs.
“The second day me and John James were doing overdubs. I’m playing banjo and my string tuner breaks, then John James gets his dobro out and his dobro breaks, then he started doing the pedal steel and his amp broke, but we got just enough of what we needed before all our instruments broke that day, ” Sellars laughed.
Opening for Matt Sellars was a friend and local musician, Billy Litz. Litz is not only a well-versed musician and songwriter, but he also teaches music lessons at his studio, Experience Music. Although part of a band named Hustle Souls, Litz performed solo this evening with his guitar, harmonica and trumpet accompanying his vocals. Working in loops, he played some instruments at the same time.
“I met Matt years ago at Brown Bag Songwriting Competition in Downtown at the One Stop. I don’t know why we became friends, he’s a terrible person,” Litz laughed. “I’m joking, he’s the man.”
Sellars and Litz collaborated on After You’ve Gone. Litz features on the new album with his keyboard and harmonica. The show started at 8 p.m. with Litz playing a set of his original songs he says aren’t fit for a full band. Afterward, Litz joined Sellars and his band, with John James on the pedal steel, Mick Glasgow on the bass and Stacy Glasgow playing the drums. They even shared songs with a few friends he brought to the stage.
“This album he put out is a great one. He’s got a great backup band. All these people play around Asheville all the time, they’re amazing,” said Jess Figueroa, a friend of Sellars.
The album release was a special night for Sellars and his friends, Sellars said. They all played and performed together for the first time, really making the music come alive. Despite the lonely lyrical content, their ebullient energy, spread smiles throughout the toe-tapping audience.
“I really just have fun making albums with my friends,” Sellars said as he prepared to fill the room with his Americana bluegrass-soul fusion.