Change is afoot in the world of perennial Asheville musician and producer Aaron price. He’s grown his hair really, really long. He’s just released a new album, Glass Opera and he’s about to leave town.
Price is a busy guy. Besides involvement with numerous local bands (including Junior James & the Late Guitar and Vendetta & the Nines) he created Collapseable Studios with cohort Bill Reynolds where he produced the likes of Kat Williams, The Choosy Beggars and Abe Reid & the Spike Drivers. After selling Collapseable in 2005, Price continued to work as a producer and engineer with select bands such as Strut, Malcolm Holcombe and One Leg Up.
He performed in N.C. Stage’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, jammed with Bob Moog, gigged at classy places like The Richmond Hill Inn and was occasionally spotted purchasing Chianti at the French Broad Food Coop or setting in on keys for Kellin Watson and Woody Wood when they made their big CMTV appearance.
And then he went and made a pop record. Now, Price has, in the past, carved out spare moments to record his unique musical inspirations. He captured street musicians on 2005’s NYC Subway: Songs From The Underground. The same year, he released Bouquet, a collection of piano music. Samples of his pop compositions surface, now and then — his single “Switch” leads off the Asheville-centric Peaks & Curves album. But only now — 10 years after Price’s arrival in Asheville, has he taken time out from his whirlwind schedule and committed a full album’s worth of pop songs to CD.
“Some of the songs are really old,” he tells Xpress. “They’ve survived the years and incarnations of bands. It’s about a seven or eight year chronology.”
Glass Opera is a 10-track disc with eight originals including the jazzy, atmospheric, falsetto-studded “Medallion,” the rock-operatic “Shadow of Death” and the thumping, 70s-styled “Metronome.” The two covers are John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” and Crowded House’s “Private Universe.”
At first listen, Opera is accesible, seamless and polished to a gleam. Price’s years of experience as a producer and engineer shine through, though there’s little trace of influences gleaned from the numerous projects on which he’s played the man behind the curtain. Instead, Price’s songs are immediately identifiable as his own, boasting theatrical touches reminiscent of Queen, pre-‘80s pop-jazz a la Steely Dan and a penchant for a bygone era of smooth, cinematic production (think post-funk Kool & the Gang, or pre-cheese Barry Manilow). In fact, Price’s artistic point of view and stylized, sophisticated sound is such a departure from the Asheville sound he helped to create over the past decade, that Opera is, in many ways, a revelation.
But, just as Price finally lets his fans in to his personal space, he’s leaving us. While emails from the musician note he’ll be working in New York City for five months during the coming year, his bio on JukeBoxAlive.com says, “Aaron anticipates appearances in his native Asheville, NC and in the New York City area, where he will take residence in early 2008.” “Take residence” sounds kind of permanent.
“I’m going there for a change of pace and see my brother and hang out with him,” Price tells Xpress. The musician’s brother, Jon, is a bassist.
For now, Price is in the process of lining up a tour in support of Opera, with shows that will bring him back into WNC. He also claims he’s “holding a candle for Kellin Watson’s band,” which he calls his “musical anchor.”
Alli Marshall, A&E reporter