By Martin Bonica
For the past month, singer-songwriter Grant Frazier has been broadcasting performances from his home over Facebook and Instagram. The shows, accompanied by a steady drip of singles, are part of the buildup to the release of his second album, “In This Moment,” which dropped May 22.
Recorded at Arbor Ridge Studios in North Carolina, this album is the product of a collaboration with producer Daniel Levi Goans of Lowland Hum, and its smooth but dynamic sound marks a development from his 2016 debut, “Runaway.”
Frazier’s 2016 debut was recorded at M80 Recording Studio in Purcellville the summer after his freshman year of college. He had been releasing songs sporadically on SoundCloud for some time prior, but decided that summer to start recording formally.
“I knew I had a batch of songs that I felt were good enough to put some money towards to get into a studio, but I couldn’t really find the space, or the right people to work with,” Frazier recalls. He made his connection with the studio’s owners after he performed at the Purcellville Music and Arts Festival. “I was the very first artist to record there,” he recalls. “It was a brand new studio.”
The album, seeing Frazier backed by cellist Nick Rupert, bassist Will Finn, drummer Nathaniel Davis, and guitarist Pete Durand, has a homegrown, in-the-moment feeling to it (indeed, part of the album was tracked live in M80’s live room). Cello, piano, and an anchor of acoustic guitars and brushed drums create a spacious yet cozy soundscape. Frazier delivers his lyrics, which paint pictures of relationships and self-reflection, in a manner ranging from a croon to a drawn-out falsetto.
Its followup, “In This Moment,” could be described as more poppy.
“Don’t Wanna Think About That” is evocative of a John Mayer song (one of Frazier’s biggest influences), with very slightly funky muted rhythm guitar and flourishes of electric from guest keyboardist Charles Cleaver. “Welcome Home, Virginia” is more evocative of his earlier work—a breezier, propulsive song anchored by a relentless train beat and swells of lap steel guitar. “Pick You Up” sits somewhere in the middle, with a steady backbeat, almost entirely electric, with some unexpected splashes of synthesizer.
Frazier wasn’t concerned about his sophomore effort sounding over-polished or indistinct; he credits his studio collaborators for helping him achieve his vision. “I felt like I knew what sound I was going for. I had a lot of different ideas for production that we ended up using in the songs, and Daniel had a ton of ideas as well. … We went into the studio and it was one of those things where we had an idea and a roadmap, but we were also open to seeing where the magic of the studio space could take us,” Frazier said.
He cites Cleaver’s keyboard playing on “Don’t Wanna Think About That” as a standout moment in the sessions. “He was able to do something that I never envisioned before for the song,” he relates.
To facilitate their use of session musicians, Frazier and Goans planned their studio time meticulously, arranging tracking sessions for particular songs around the availability of the album’s different session musicians.
“There was a lot of planning involved. Once Daniel and I sat down, saying ‘what instrument can we see on this song and where do we see it going?’, we transferred it onto the calendar and said ‘on Saturday and Sunday if we’re laying down drums and bass, the next day we need to have our electric guitar player and our keyboard player come in for a two-day stint’, and mapping it out through those two weeks. It was down to a science, hour-by-hour.” The album’s full roster, in addition to Frazier, Cleaver, and Groans, includes Jeff Crawford on bass, Daniel Seriff on guitars, Daniel Faust on drums, Rusty Smith on trumpet, and Charles Owens on saxophone.
The plan had been for the album to come out in April, accompanied by a record release show at the Southern Cafe and Music Hall in Charlottesville. However, like most performing artists in this spring, Frazier’s plans had to change because of the social distancing protocols put in place to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Shows have been canceled, venues closed, and large gatherings discouraged or outright prohibited to stop the spread of the disease.
Frazier made the decision to delay the album’s release in March. “I felt like it wasn’t the right time,” he explains. “Everything was getting shut down, anxiety was high, and as a country we were trying to figure out how we were going to move on from here and adapt to the new life that we’re living right now.”
Prior to the concert freeze, Frazier was a regular appearance in both Loudoun County, having played Leesburg’s Acoustic on the Green three times and as a regular fixture on the winery/brewery circuit. He also plays in Charlottesville, where he attended UVA as a pre-med student.
“Up in Northern Virginia I feel like there are a lot more familiar faces, but down in Charlottesville I’m still working on trying to establish myself in that area,” he said. Now, though, he has pivoted to a way of reaching fans regardless of geographic boundaries, performing to followers on Instagram and Facebook. The ephemeral nature of his online live appearances are part of an effort to maintain momentum from his last Charlottesville show in February, where he played to a sold-out Jefferson Theatre, opening for local singer-songwriter Nathan Colberg.
“I feel like as an artist during this time, I feel like it’s my responsibility to share my music with people so it can give them 10 or 15 minutes of getting their mind off of everything that’s going on, the craziness, the state of the world. I feel like it’s important for all of us as artists to find new avenues to reach the listeners.”
As he continues to promote his new album, Frazier finished up his final semester as a senior at UVA remotely. He still thinks about his musical aspirations; someday, he intends to reschedule that album release show at the Southern Cafe in Charlottesville.
In the meantime, his new album “In This Moment” released May 22 on streaming platforms, accompanied by an hour-long virtual release show on Instagram and Facebook.