ON HIS OWN Jon Fee's new album reestablishes his skills as a songwriter.
Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Jon Fee has been playing in a band one way or another since he was in junior high.
The Sonoma County native first hit the indie music scene as the bassist in the melodically experimental band the Rum Diary and then in the dreamy post-punk outfit Shuteye Unison. Now for the first time in his musical career, Fee breaks out on his own with a new solo project and album, the Things of Youth's Volume One.
Speaking from his home in San Anselmo, Fee shares his inspiration for going solo and how he did it with help from his friends.
"The Rum Diary and Shuteye Unison were both bands where no one brought in a complete song start to finish; a song would come about collectively," says Fee. "I got so comfortable co-writing, I lost the ability to finish a song, which is kind of scary, so I said to myself, 'You've got to get back to being a holistic songwriter.'"
Two years of honing his songwriting skills culminated in Fee forming the Things of Youth last year. On Jan. 27, the Things of Youth unveils its debut album. It's a record that features major contributions from Fee's musical friends, including Daniel McKenzie (the Rum Diary, Shuteye Unison) on guitar, Cory Gray (Carcrashlander) on piano and Jake Krohn (Shuteye Unison) on drums. With Fee singing and playing bass, the Things of Youth brings a lyrical introspection to its hypnotically driving lo-fi indie pop; think Jeff Tweedy and Elliott Smith fronting the American Analog Set.
"I'm in my 30s, I've got three kids, and I think when you start doing your own project, you do a lot of self-reflecting. I naturally started writing about either being young or growing old or the different experiences of my life," says Fee. "There are a couple fun ones as well. I wrote the song 'Eleventeen' specifically for my oldest son. When he was three or four, I was trying to teach him to count one to 10, but he kept going beyond 10 and would say 'eleventeen,' and it's always stuck with me," says Fee.
For "Eleventeen," Fee also collaborated with illustrator Lindsay Watson on a children's book, meant to be read while listening to the song. The book will be available with the limited pressing LP, available on Fee's own record label, Parks and Records. Volume One is the 10th release for the label, and as with every release, Fee, who is also an avid outdoorsman, gives a percent of all sales back to organizations that take care of the parks he like to spend time in.
The Things of Youth's Volume One is available for download and on vinyl on Jan. 27 at Parksandrecords.com.