Hustle Souls celebrate the debut of their debut full-length album

MAKING MOVES: Hustle Souls debut their first full-length album this week. “We think it’s going to be a big step for us — a big leap for us,” says singer and keyboardist Billy Litz. “It’s the first album that captures who we are and what we’re going for.” Photo by Donnie Rex Bishop

Teetering between classic, midcentury soul and modern, feel-good rock, Hustle Souls — an Asheville-based powerhouse band — have found their groove among a sizable stack of influences.

“It’s definitely influenced by ’60s and ’70s soul music, but it’s not a revival of that music at all,” singer and keyboardist Billy Litz says of the group’s style. “It sounds like its own, new thing. The roots are in [classic] soul, and that’s at its core, but there are definitely outliers that hit a wider range of music, rock, R&B, progressive stuff as well.”

Hustle Souls formed about 2 1/2 years ago. After Litz returned from the Peace Corps, he found himself in Asheville. With a group of new friends — who eventually formed the indie-soul outfit — he recorded a five-song EP, with a second released the following year.

Hustle Souls will premiere their debut full-length album, Color, on Friday, Feb. 2, at Ellington Underground. Fellow local soul acts Window Cat and Brie Capone open the show, and, in addition to the band’s four core members, the Hustle Souls’ set will feature a full horn section with Derrick Johnson on trombone, Austin Litz on saxophone and Billy Litz on trumpet.

“Throughout [the first two] albums, you hear a progression in our music — a change and a development in our sound,” Billy Litz says. “We believe in this album a lot. We think it’s going to be a big step for us — a big leap for us. It’s the first album that captures who we are and what we’re going for.”

Litz and his bandmates, guitarist Chris Everett, bassist Sean McCann and drummer Tommy Moore, recorded Color at Echo Mountain. While the album came together through the band members’ collective vision, the project was set into rapid motion by gold- and platinum-status mixer and producer Eric “Mixerman” Sarafin.

“We wrote the songs over the last year to year and a half, and last February, we did a live video series out in Burnsville at this mountain arts compound — and those videos got in front of Eric Sarafin,” Litz says. “We didn’t have a relationship with him at the time, but he contacted us after seeing the videos, saying that he wanted to work on something with us.”

He continues, “We had been talking about doing a full-length album, but we didn’t have anyone to help us with it.” So, with Sarafin’s expert guidance, the team set out to make it happen.

One successful Kickstarter campaign and $9,000 later, Hustle Souls were on-site at Echo Mountain, laying down tracks for their debut LP. “We basically just got to lay back, relax and play music — and mess around with all this great, vintage gear,” Litz says.

Asheville is blessed to have both the renowned recording studio, Litz says, and its great community of people. “It’s superhumbling that people believed in what we were doing enough to put some of their energy and hard-earned money into it,” he says of the Kickstarter campaign. “It was just a really nice thing, and we’re not taking it at all for granted. We’re in a really special place, and we’re extremely grateful to have the opportunity to create this album.”

As for the record-release show, “We’ll be playing with some of our great friends and some of the best bands in town. … This is the first three-band Asheville bill that we’re headlining — and also the first time we’re working with horn players,” Litz says. “It’s been a hectic time getting the show together, but the stars are aligned and it’s going to be an awesome time.”

WHO: Hustle Souls with Window Cat and Brie Capone
WHERE: Ellington Underground, 56 Patton Ave., ellingtonunderground.com
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 2, 9:30 p.m. $10

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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