Tim Easton: Through Being Cool

TimEaston

Roots-rocker Tim Easton finds himself right at home in the fertile Nashville scene

“This town is full of hardworking, talented people,” Tim Easton says of his new hometown of Nashville. “I just got back from buying my morning coffee, and the guy behind the counter was a singer/songwriter. Everyone sitting in the café was jotting down lyrics or singing a melody into their iPhone. There’s something in the air that’s inspiring. When your neighbors are all artists, writers and musicians, that energy keeps you at the top of your game.”

Easton has been singing and writing songs since he was 14 years old. He never considered another career. “I used to write a lot of poetry,” he says. “One day, my older brother told me I could turn them into songs if I knew how to play guitar. I started playing music later that day, and I’ve never stopped.”

After finishing college, Easton hit the road with his guitar and spent seven years singing and playing on European street corners. “I rambled around without having to pay attention to anybody’s needs but my own,” he says. “It sharpened my performing and improvisational skills and helped me roll with the punches, no matter what the situation was. I was spoiled a bit by the absolute freedom, but I compiled journals full of experiences that I can draw on for my songs.”

When he got back to Ohio, Easton joined the Haynes Boys, a roots-rock outfit that made one album before breaking up. Free again, Easton picked up his guitar and returned to the road, touching down long enough to make nine albums that earned him a loyal following with their blend of gritty roots-rock and heartfelt songwriting. Every LP took a slightly different approach and his latest, Not Cool, shows off his love of rockabilly and early R&B. “I want to make a record as fast as possible,” he says, “in the studio with a live band, sticking to the primal qualities of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Easton found the musicians who helped out on the album at Robert’s Western World, the venue that gave BR549 its start. “I saw these guys—J.D. Simo on guitar and drummer Jon Radford—playing there and hired them and their pals,” he says. “When you give them a three-chord R&B song, they tear into it.” Easton encouraged the band to add its own ideas to the arrangements, and the result roars out of the speakers like a souped-up hot-rod Lincoln. “We made the album in five days,” says Easton. “There’s no fat on it, just 10 songs clocking in at about 30 minutes.”

The LP includes “Crazy Motherfucker From Shelby, Ohio” (a jaunty rockabilly rave-up), “Lickety Split” (a sly greasy rocker) and the title track (a ballad of loss and regret, featuring one of Easton’s most poignant vocals). Not Cool is out on Easton’s own imprint, Campfire Propaganda. “Having your own label is another exciting and terrifying part of making a living as a musician,” he says. “But I’m not complaining. At this point, I feel like I have it made.”

—j. poet