Interview: Aaron Einhouse Gets ‘a Little Bit Darker’ on ‘It Ain’t Pretty’
After opening for the Randy Rogers Band at the famed Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas, Einhouse struck up a conversation with Ketchum, who was there watching the show. The "Past the Point of Rescue" singer offered to write with the up-and-comer -- as long as he brought that beer.
"I was happy to pay [that 'entry fee']," Einhouse tells The Boot with a laugh.
Together, the two penned "It Ain't Pretty," the title track of Einhouse's fourth studio album, out now. When they were done, "both of us were kind of like, 'Damn, that's a pretty decent song,'" Einhouse recalls. "That doesn't always happen, and especially not with somebody you don't really know."
In fact, Einhouse says that Ketchum told him that he could imagine Guy Clark digging the track.
"That's a good litmus test," Einhouse notes.
On the whole, "It Ain't Pretty" is indicative of the 10-track, Erik Herbst-produced album with which it shares a name. Near the beginning of the song, Einhouse sings, "In this world, it can't be sunny every day / It ain't pretty, but it's real," backed by a rockin' band and slide guitar -- and that, in a nutshell, is what this disc is all about.
"I was just in a little bit of a darker place [while making this album], and I think it came out in the writing," Einhouse admits, specifically mentioning a miscarriage that he and his wife suffered. "I think I've strayed away from that in my career, and I'm not sure why, but now it seems to fit me so well that I'll probably do more of it."
The addition of that slide guitar, played by Einhouse's new guitarist, Tony Browne, also sets It Ain't Pretty apart from the singer-songwriter's three previous releases. Walking through his musical progression, Einhouse explains that on his first record, "I was just so new ... I just didn't really have that much experience with a band," and so that disc is "I wouldn't say minimalist, but as natural and as acoustic as you can get with a full band." However, the artist cites classic rock and '80s and '90s country as his childhood influences, plus a little bit of grunge music, folk and bluegrass, and even some blues; therefore, on his second and third albums, Einhouse found himself "progressively getting to the edge of the fine line between rock and country."
"With this new record, it was like a whole group of things came together," Einhouse continues (for example, his growing interest in slide guitar and the departure of his former guitarist combined into a perfect storm, so to speak, that resulted in Browne's hiring). "I got to the edge of that rock area and have figured out where I want to be in that."
As a singer and a songwriter, Einhouse is a product of the scene that the late Kent Finlay cultivated at the aforementioned Cheatham Street Warehouse. Quite simply, Einhouse says, "He was such a huge part of me doing this": In 2010, one month before Einhouse got married, he quit his job and started pursuing music full time thanks to some kind words from Finlay.
"If you're willing to work hard, I think you could really do something," Einhouse remembers Finlay telling him after a songwriters' round one night. "And I thought that was really cool.
"I remember leaving Cheatham Street Warehouse that night and calling my [now-]wife and [telling her the story]," he continues. "I know this lifestyle's hard on her sometimes, but it's been really cool, and it's getting even cooler, and we owe a lot of that to Kent."
Character-wise, however, Einhouse owes a lot to his grandfather, whom the singer remembers "[always] talked to me like I was just a friend and not a subordinate." On It Ain't Pretty, Einhouse includes a song titled "The Richest Man," written for his grandpa, who passed away two years ago. The track dates back to Einhouse's earliest years as a songwriter, but it wasn't until now that he figured out how to record it to his liking.
"It's just really cool to be able to remember him in that way," Einhouse says, "and have that constant reminder there of how much he affected my life and how much of him I am, you know?"
On the road, Einhouse and his band have begun playing these 10 new tunes, "and it's just been a remarkable difference in our show," he admits.
"I think this record is geared as much for Americana as much as it is for the scene we have down here in Texas, which i'm happy about," Einhouse reflects. "I've always kind of wanted to end up there, and that's the plan -- just take it as far as this record can take me and keep the bus moving.
"It's been really cool to see all the feedback I've gotten just this far," he adds. "It's been just completely different and magnified from my last record."
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