There are big things brewing out of Concord these days. Sure, we all know about The Avett Brothers and the band's success, including the ties to Ramseur Records. The label's latest talent goes by the simple name of Paleface, but while he may be new to the label, his story is nearly two decades long.
Paleface's acoustic music, backed by girlfriend Monica "Mo" Samalot on drums, has an Americana and folk feel to it. His latest release, and Ramseur debut due on April 28, The Show Is On The Road, focuses on the recent journey he's taken from New York to North Carolina and readjusting to life on the road. It's his first label release in more than a decade and that long journey has had plenty of twists and turns.
"We had to leave New York so we could start touring," Samalot says. Paleface adds, "The Avetts actually found the place that we're living in now because they knew the owner and Dolph [Ramseur] was advising us and had an interest in what I was doing."
Paleface, who was once friends and roommates with Beck, was signed to his first major label deal in the early '90s. Of him, Paleface says they no longer have a connection, though Beck has cited Paleface as an early influence. "I think it was a bigger deal back in the day," he says. Samalot thinks the connection may bring about some mutual fan interest in the music of both artists -- Beck fans checking out a Paleface show and vice versa.
By 1996, Paleface was near death from years of alcohol abuse and spent the next four years regaining his voice and strength. He rarely performs anything from those early years, though he occasionally gets requests.
"I was off the road for 10 years and don't feel connected to that music anymore," he says. "I've got so much new stuff. I can't do songs from 15 years anymore. The alcohol kind of puts a cloud over you and you can't see the mistakes you're making and the way it's affecting people. Part of me getting over it was getting sick, laying in bed and suffering."
He and Samalot met around 2000 -- she was a fan -- and they began performing together in the band Just About to Burn in 2003. He released a solo album and some other efforts over the years, including the 2008 album, A Different Story, under the monicker Paleface and Just About to Burn. For the last year and a half, since moving to Concord, the duo has left the band and now simply tours and records together under the name Paleface.
"I look at Paleface as a survivor of the industry -- he's been chewed up and spit out," Ramseur says. "In Concord, you can be yourself -- you don't need to worry about being cool and it's mixed with a blue-collar attitude. It's given Paleface a second life. That environment helped The Avett Brothers, too. Paleface hasn't given up -- he's still working hard and getting better with age."
It's almost as if there have been a number of phases to his career -- the early major label days, the post-alcohol New York days and the new North Carolina-based touring phase.
"This is really a transition record," Paleface says. "The last one we did was done up in Brooklyn with a band. We had a bass, lap steel and electric guitar. We hit the road as a two-piece so this is a completely different thing. I think this record is me trying to figure out how to go between extremes -- only playing in New York 12 times a year and now going on the road for five nights a week. Sometimes I succeeded on this record, sometimes I didn't."
When asked why he decided to go back with a label after doing the indie route for so long, Paleface says a big part of it was Ramseur himself. "Dolph is really comfortable -- it's so much easier than a major label," he says. "It's the DIY ethic -- he's got it. He's different from a lot of the other do-it-yourselfers because he knows what he's doing."
The connection with Ramseur was also formed through his ties to The Avett Brothers. Paleface has joined the Avetts on stage a number of times -- including the last few New Year's Eve performances in Charlotte -- and Seth Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon all appear on the new disc. Scott Avett was busy with the birth of his child at the time it was recorded.
"We were put on a show together with the Avetts through Nicole Atkins," Paleface says of meeting the band for the first time roughly six years ago. "She put us together for this tiny show and there were only eight or nine people there, but it was Langhorne Slim, Regina Spektor, Jaymay, Levy and a couple waitresses. We all became friends after that."
He's selling an album, Paleface Faves, at shows, which is a compilation of outtakes from the new album, demos and older songs he recorded. As for the future, Paleface is already hard at work on the next album, even though Road hasn't been released yet.
"I've already written a bunch of new songs," he says. "Most of the new album was recorded last year at this time, so I've been working on the next one. Albums take so much longer to release these days. I wish we could release two albums a year. I think it would hold the interest of fans more. We're already playing new songs live, but nothing else would come out until probably next year at this time. As far as musically, I'm just happier these days and the music is going to show that."
Ramseur feels the new album is a nice step forward in the singer's career and won't hold him back in the case of new material. "Even though he has shades of Tom Waits in his voice, his music has his stamp on it," Ramseur says. "I feel that an artist has to let it pour out of them and I don't ever want them to feel constricted like they can't do something. He's got an open slate, and it's no rules."
Paleface will have a CD release party at 10:30 p.m. at The Evening Muse on April 25 with The Never and The Barnraisers. Tickets are $10 in advance.