Back when he was in his late teens, Ricky Lewis decided it was time to get out of his New England hometown and head to New York. It was a different city then, with a different music scene; it was the ’00s, the time of the retro-rock renaissance and the rise of Williamsburg indie. Even so, like plenty of us who decamped to NYC from our hometowns in that era, Lewis found a different city than the mythologized one he’d grown up imagining. Far removed from the Village of the mid-century, the city of rambling poet musicians, it was the commodified NYC of indie blogs and the Bloomberg era.
Lewis spent a few years waiting tables and trying to make it as a musician while reckoning with the city he’d found himself in. He had a band called Dear Lions that started to find some success — one of those oddities in which the main item on their resume aside from playing SXSW is a minor rock radio hit in Germany thanks to a German label putting out an EP of theirs. Something about it freaked Lewis out; he decided the band wasn’t what he wanted to do musically, he broke it up, and started from scratch as a solo artist.
Soon, he linked up with producer Rod Sherwood, who used to work with Au Revoir Simone. Lewis set about working on music in a different vein, a heartfelt folk- and country-rock that’s reminiscent of My Morning Jacket, Strand Of Oaks, Ryan Adams, and Kevin Morby. His solo debut will see release later this year.
Today, he’s shared the first glimpse of the record, “Gauntlet In The Sun.” It’s a gently rollicking, roadworn track that Lewis singles out as encapsulating the transitional moment of going solo at the same time that his longterm relationship was collapsing. “I think I subconsciously knew that my whole world was turning upside down and this song was my way of admitting my part in that happening,” Lewis says of the song, alluding to the idea that sometimes it takes that kind of upheaval to really find your way to what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
“Gauntlet In The Sun” is a sneakily catchy thing, rolling on through Lewis’ meditations until it gets to a beautifully fuzzed-out, Beatles-esque guitar at its climax. The song also features Jon Graboff, who used to play with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, on pedal steel, as well as Tim Mislock (the Antlers, Holly Miranda) on guitar and Chris Egan (Blood Orange, Solange) on drums. Check it out below.
Lewis’ debut album will be out later this year.