After years of local and regional success with groups of their own, Asheville musicians Leigh Glass and Corey Bullman have combined their musical projects into one group, Devils in Dust. Along the way, they also fell in love and got married. To celebrate the release of its debut, self-titled recording, Devils in Dust is playing an album release party at UpCountry Brewing on Saturday, Nov. 12.
When faced with the chicken-or-egg question — which came first: the musical relationship or the personal one? — Bullman is unequivocal. “It was definitely musical first. I met Leigh because I was subbing in her band. I really liked the music — and her — so I said, ‘Anytime you need me, just call.’” As time went on, he got the call more and more often, and eventually Bullman was asked to join Glass’ backing outfit, The Hazards.
“We both had other relationships at that time,” he says. “But we had an extreme musical connection from the get-go.”
The Hazards were playing regularly, turning out distinctive originals in a Southern rock style. “The Hazards were a straight-up expression of Leigh,” Bullman says, characterizing even the group’s quieter moments as somewhat aggressive. “And that’s weird,” says Glass with a wink, “because I’m really not like that!”
Meanwhile, on his own, Bullman was nearing completion on a soul-music project he called Hi-Fi Revival. That still-unreleased recording is “a beast of an album,” says Glass. But when the two decided to embark on a collaborative musical endeavor, they opted to start fresh: Both the Hazards and Hi-Fi Revival would be shelved. With drummer Jacob Baumann rounding out the new trio, Devils in Dust took its name from a similarly (but not identically) titled Bruce Springsteen song.
With Devils in Dust, both Bullman and Glass seek to grow and explore the areas in which their individual musical sensibilities overlap and intersect. The result leans more in a country and western direction than either has pursued in the past.
Glass and Bullman each bring a distinct writing style to their new band. “I’m all about a musical picture,” Glass says. “And then I have to put words to it.” Left completely to her own devices, she believes she can sometimes be too wordy.
“I should have been a folk singer,” Glass laughs.
In his own songwriting, Bullman asks himself, “‘What’s the essence of this idea?’ I strive to get down to the truth of the song.”
Now working together, the couple seek to combine the best of both approaches. “That’s the big difference,” Glass says. “I had almost always written by myself.”
Bullman agrees. “I had never found a writing partner who worked well,” he says.
It can be difficult to write with other people, Glass admits. But she says that working with Bullman, “we never found it to be a challenge.” Sometimes one musician will bring in a kernel of an idea, and they’ll build on that together. Other times, they start from scratch, collaborating from the ground up.
And sometimes songs come when they’re not even trying. “Corey was screwing around on a guitar one day,” recalls Glass. “And he played this killer guitar line. I said, ‘Dude! Write that down now!’” A week later, they sat down to make a song out of the bits they had.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What is this song about?’” says Glass. “And because of the guitar line, we knew it was a heartbreak song.” Eventually it became “Rosalee,” one of the seven tracks on Devils In Dust’s new album.
Bullman characterizes the music on Devils in Dust as “an exploration of some other sides [of us] that we finally have an avenue for.” With the band, both he and Glass leave behind any perceived baggage of their previous music.
“There’s no association of it having to be a certain way,” Bullman says. “It can be softer, quieter. We can be understated, and it’s not a bad thing.”
As for the future, the irrepressible Glass admits, “I don’t have any idea where we’re going to be musically. So with Devils in Dust, we decided we might as well do some awesome s**t while we can.”
WHO: Devils in Dust
WHERE: UpCountry Brewing, 1042 Haywood Road, upcountrybrewing.com
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. $10