We give C&I readers a first listen to the singer-songwriter’s latest album, Burning the Deal, available June 28.
Musician Erik Koskinen conjures sepia-toned Americana-country on his latest album, Burning the Deal, out June 28. Though the artist is based in small-town Minnesota, he recorded it in Ojai, California, with Jason Mariani at Brotheryn Studios.
Known for his storytelling style and blend of folk, country, rock ’n’ roll, and blues, Koskinen takes listeners on a journey of heartache and loneliness, love and war, history and complicated past on this latest outing.
The band — Bernie Larsen (electric guitar, B3 organ, Wurlitzer), Jennifer Condos (bass), Greg Leisz (pedal steel, lap steel, mandolin), Jay Bellerose (drums) —put the music to the lyrics with masterful craftsmanship.
Recently, we caught up with the artist to talk about Burning the Deal and to give readers a first listen.
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on your upcoming album. What are you most excited about, and what do you hope listeners will get out of it?
Erik Koskinen: Well, we recorded some of these songs around two years ago, and I painfully mixed the record myself. Right now I am just excited to hear the finished product without me having to think if the bass is loud enough, or if the vocals cut through, or if it sounds good in general. I certainly lost clarity on the 2,000th listen. Beyond me, the listeners will get it, or not, and they’ll relate it to themselves in some way. It’s meant for them.
C&I: What’s the journey of this album been like?
Koskinen: It’s been long and educational! I went from having an advance and support from a record company to losing all that and trying to fund it myself. Then to recording a different record — Cruising Paradise — before this one was finished to keep some momentum while we shopped this one around to no avail. A lot of people love the record, but I’m not sure they know what to do with it. They weren’t sure what genre it was. The process of playing music with the folks on the record was one of the most humbling and rewarding musical experiences of my career.
C&I: What inspired Burning the Deal?
Koskinen: Two things inspired this record: people, regular folk, low-downers to regular work-a-dayers — did I make up a new word? — and love.
C&I: How does this stand out from your other music?
Koskinen: The musicians really stand out here. No doubts about that. They played with an important patience I hadn’t seen before. Nobody in the band was in a hurry to get to the end of the song.
C&I: Any favorite stories about how certain songs came together?
Koskinen: I’ve been asked about “Gun” a handful of times. It’s fictional, mostly. I heard a story about a buddy I went to high school with whose third felony was robbing a Stewart’s gas station in the North Country (way north of upstate) of New York State. He had no gun but pretended he did by using his finger in his pocket. Back then three strikes and you’re out. He got life. It’s my version of a story that is likely true for many — maybe not him, though. I’ll see if I can find him next time I’m there and give him the song.
C&I: Is there a particular song you’re most proud of?
Koskinen: “Ordinary Fool” is my favorite song I’ve written. I’m pretty hard on my songs and self-praise never happens, but this song took 10 minutes to write and four years to edit. When it was done, I brought it to the session for the record. I showed it to the band and it took two run-throughs for them to learn it, and then the next take was on the record. These folks playing the song understood it — it was heavy to me. I just about choked up before the bridge and barely made it through the take when I realized what was going down. It was all live to the recorder, no overdubs.
C&I: Is there a specific song that you feel your fans will really take to?
Koskinen: I’m not sure about any of that. I’m always surprised by what people respond to and what people will dismiss. The simplest excuse of a song I ever penned is the one the most people sing along with when we play live shows.
Get an exclusive first listen to Burning the Deal, below.
For more information on Erik Koskinen, visit his website. Photography: Courtesy Darin Kamnetz.