Nearly a decade after pressing “pause” on his music career, Jeremy Boger has emphatically hit “play” with a masterful solo album, one bursting with a level of creativity that feels as if it’s been evolving and expanding during the artist’s dormancy.
A resident of Asheville since July 4, 1995, Boger soon began performing in local rock bands — including The Makeout Room, The Hellsayers and Cobra Horse — and spent a considerable amount of time hanging out and playing shows at the now-defunct downtown venue Vincent’s Ear. There, he became friends with such future longtime local players as Tyler Ramsey and Joshua Carpenter, but after 15 years in the business, Boger enrolled in the University of Kansas’ civil engineering program, which all but consumed his life from 2010-19.
“I basically stopped doing anything music-related so I could focus on my studies. I didn’t even really listen to music because it was too distracting,” says Boger, who works full time as a self-employed general contractor. “After I graduated, I realized how much I missed playing music, so I bought some recording gear, wrote some songs, brought some talented friends into the mix and ended up putting out an album.”
The result is Golden Eagles, a rich collection of 10 originals and one distinctly Boger-esque cover. The album was digitally released on May 6, which gave him a reason to stop tweaking the mixes — something he realized could become an endless endeavor — and fulfilled his desire to move on to the next project. Though plans for an album release show and some regional gigs with the musicians who played on the album have been delayed (due to the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closing venues), the labor of love is arguably best experienced in its studio-recorded form.
“It would be a bit tricky to pull it off live because the instrument arrangements are intentionally different for every song, and a lot of the songs have high track counts,” Boger says. “Even if we had a 10-piece band, we’d have to figure out what instruments are most important to keep, and which ones wouldn’t be played. So, basically, we’d be trying to nail the vibe of each song and not necessarily the arrangements as they were recorded. It would be a cool challenge, though. I would definitely want to make it a big, fun show for the band and the audience.”
The album’s sonic complexity is the result of Boger investing what he calls “a crazy amount of work” and “an absurd amount of time” into getting it right. After deeming the spare bedroom in his home “too noisy to make good recordings,” he built a small, soundproof studio in his backyard, which he finished in May 2019 and has been using almost every day since. The cozy, 11-feet-3-inches by 11-feet-3-inches space is “so small that I have a CO2 monitor to make sure we don’t die from CO2 poisoning when we are recording,” he says. It was there that Boger taught himself how to record, which he notes is still an ongoing process. He “watched a lot of videos, tried stuff that didn’t work out and generally made a bunch of mistakes,” quickly understanding why there are four-year degrees for learning audio engineering.
“Also, I recorded one instrument at a time instead of recording a whole band at once, which is very time-consuming. For instance, if a song ended up having 30 parts, that meant you had to play and record 30 parts, edit all 30 parts and mix all 30 parts so they worked together,” he says. “I would guess that maybe that’s 30 minutes to an hour per part, per step, which could be 45-90 hours for one song. It really adds up if the album has 11 songs with 30 tracks each. I also spent way too much time mixing the album, as I mentioned before. I think I’ll be a lot faster now that I’ve gone through the whole process.”
Additional time arose from Boger’s thorough, hands-on approach to the instrumentation. On the liner notes for Golden Eagles, he’s credited with vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, Mellotron, piano, organ, synthesizer, electric piano, drum machine, glockenspiel, vibraphone, celeste, marimba, orchestral arrangements and samples. He describes his typical process as recording “a bunch of instruments” until he’s out of ideas, which generally gives him a good overall feel for where the song is going.
“I can play some basic guitar and keyboards, but I’m really just a bass player. When a part needs something more exciting, I reach out to one of my talented musician friends,” he says, and aimed for at least two other musicians on each song. “I definitely didn’t have any problem deleting parts I played if somebody else had a better part or if a song needed more space. I did end up playing a lot of the instruments myself, but I don’t think the album would have been very interesting without the input of the other players.”
To complete his vision, Boger recruited much of the old Vincent’s Ear gang, including multi-instrumentalists Ramsey, Carpenter, Kevin Rumley and Billy Sheeran, the last of whom he fondly remembers pushing a 600-pound piano around downtown Asheville to busk before they became friends. Each contributes backing vocals, as do fellow local artists Jonas Cole, Emily Easterly, Joti Marra, J. Seeger, Matthew Sherwood, Angi West and Andrew Woodward. Alex Farrar, a professional audio engineer, critiqued Boger’s mixes at West Asheville’s Drop of Sun Studios, providing welcome objectivity at a critical juncture. Also key to the process was Brian Landrum, who plays lap steel guitar on multiple tracks and reviewed the final masters of each song. Once Landrum gave Boger the thumbs-up on the masters, he knew the album was done.
Firmly back into creating music after years away from it, Boger is already building on the “huge learning experience” of making Golden Eagles. The jumping-off point for his next project is the album’s lone nonoriginal, a reworking of Sparklehorse’s “Heart of Darkness,” one of Boger’s favorite songs by one of his favorite bands. He chose the song to see if he could rework it in a way that felt true to the original while still reflecting his recording and production style.
Sparklehorse’s late frontman, Mark Linkous, spent his final years living in Hayesville and working at his Static King Studios in Andrews. He also made regular trips to Asheville and crossed paths with Boger a few times, including one particular memorable encounter at Altamont Recording Studios. Boger was helping Sparklehorse drummer Scott Minor during a studio session with a band that was recording “some really difficult, technical songs” and “really struggling with one song in particular.” They were in the middle of what Boger estimates was take 30, when, all of a sudden, Led Zeppelin started blasting from the stereo in the lobby.
“It totally ruined the take. Everyone was instantly pissed off and poured into the lobby to see what the hell was going on — and there was Mark Linkous, rocking out to the recently released Led Zep DVD and playing air guitar without a care in the world,” Boger says. “On the screen, Jimmy Page was wearing that famous outfit with the moons and stars, and Mark told us that he had his grandmother make him the same outfit when he was a kid. Everyone took a break and rocked out to the DVD for a while. Then the band went back and finished recording the rest of their material without too much trouble.”
His successful tribute now out in the world, Boger is currently hard at work on a full covers album. On June 26, he released his take on Sebadoh’s version of David Crosby’s “Everybody’s Been Burned,” featuring Rumley and Sheeran, and plans to post a new track to his Bandcamp page “every month or so” until he has enough — 11 or 12 — for an album, appropriately titled Friends and Covers.
“I’m picking songs that I love, that I think are timeless, and that I can do something interesting with. I’m generally not trying to do sound-alike covers. I’m also picking songs that will be challenging and that I can learn from as a musician and songwriter,” he says. “I’m hoping to work with all the musicians that helped out with my album, and maybe some new ones, too. COVID has definitely made it more difficult to collaborate, so we’ll just have to see how that goes.” jeremyboger.bandcamp.com