Simon Patrick Kerr steps outside the box into an unembellished Americana sound on his debut album Doldrums. The Nashville songbird was previously the frontman for The Wans, a rough-around-the-edges psych rock group that worked with superstar producer Dave Cobb and opened for acts like Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White.
Moving into the folky side of things on this solo LP, which came out July 20, Kerr channels country troubadours like Townes Van Zandt. Though this is his first release in this canon, it isn’t his first rodeo in the world of singer-songwriters as he grew up with a musician father who toured with John Prine and other independent Nashville-outsider heroes. “Guy Clark was a family friend of ours and we went to his place one Christmas morning and got to exchange songs and that was really a turning point for me,” Kerr said of the inspiration for Doldrums.
In the video for the title track, Kerr painfully roams around an abandoned building in a dreamlike state, eventually learning to grapple with what is holding him back. The dark but optimistic journey through the song is a metaphor for his personal experience of growth, “doldrums” itself meaning depression and complacency, which he had to leave behind to make this record.
This track shows an expression of the artist and his expansive knowledge of genre; it sounds like if In Rainbows era Radiohead picked up an acoustic guitar or Elliott Smith had delved into country.
The melancholy tone allows for reflection that isn’t indulgent. On Doldrums, Kerr confronts topics like his personal experience with immigration framed within the current administration, religion in the Bible Belt and mental and physical health after years of heavy touring. The songs were recorded with former bandmate Mark Petaccia. Their already forged connection allowed for an understanding that’s evident in the music.
The video for “Doldrums” documents all of these feelings succinctly, providing a visual that, much like his music, is just as dynamic as it is stripped-down, revealing the deeply personal alongside a broader view of the world.