Out of the myriad of CD's that fall upon my desk over the course of a year from both new and established artists, one that stands out from the pack is a self-titled release from local artist Chase Engel, which based upon the eclectic array of musical skills upon display, indicate that Engel is definitely a shooting star with the right amplification to make him heard above the din of the crowd as his career gains altitude.
Only 19-years old and hailing from Hemlock, Engel recently recorded 10 tracks in New York City with producer Anthony Santo that demonstrate an impressively divergent musical range, yet all share a common thread of both melodic and lyrical strength.
Ironically, although he hails from a family that shares a love of music, Engel states that his true passion - similar to Jeff Beck - is “race cars and racing”. “But one day I just tried playing guitar and it took off. I was good at it and started teaching myself until my father secured me lessons with Bill Fiebig.
Gaining a solid fundamental foundation in classical training, Engel eventually hooked up with local musical icon Andy Reed and advanced both his abilities and knowledge from that point forward. “I was twelve years old at the time and Andy got me into Pro Tools and recording techniques,” he explains. “I progressed from there and have been performing locally since the age of 15.”
With 40-self-penned original songs under his belt, Engel's first CD showcases ten tracks, ranging from the almost Wagnerian opening cut, Coming Home, which is centered upon a dynamic and layered crescendo of sonic coloration, similar to what one might expect from Pink Floyd, to the more intimate and haunting third track, Give Your Heart Away.
“I've written a lot of tunes and ever since I started playing guitar it seems I've been writing songs and experimenting with sounds,” explains Engel. “I like to mix up moods and tempos and experiment with changing melodies. Usually, once I have a musical framework to work with, I'll start putting words to the melodies. For this first CD I took the best of the material I've written to date and basically spliced different elements together. Some songs took 20 minutes to write, others took days and weeks. We 'Frankensteined' a lot of songs together and it was a lot of fun.”
“There really isn't a formula to what I do,” continues Chase. “Sometimes I'll write a good lyric and the music fits to the mood of the lyric; and other times I find the words more challenging because you can always take a melody and change it.”
Although he started primarily as a solo artist, Engel has added Nathan Newman on bass and Cole Garrett on drums for both his recording session and upcoming live performances.
Lushly and elegantly recorded, the production quality on Engel's debut release is largely due to producer Anthony Santo, whom Engel recorded with in New York City. “He's the Vice-President of A&R for a record company and for me, being from Hemlock with the cornfields and cows, New York City was an eye-opener for me,” he explains. “We lived in the studio for two weeks, working 14 to 15 hours on some days, but I loved it. We'd get up at 2 PM and go to bed at 6 AM, but the focus and attention to detail seems to have paid off.”
“I'm a big fan of Matchbox 20,” continues Engel, “and with their first album if you listen from the beginning to the end, most of those songs were radio hits and those that weren't are still great songs, so I was going for that type of attitude, vibe, and approach to the album. I wanted it to be good from top to bottom.”
With a physical CD release party slated for Saturday, December 10th at Bennigan's in Midland, you can purchase Engel's CD on I-Tunes, CD Baby, or by contacting Engel at AmpBurner21@aol.com.
Thus far, sales have been decent, with 100 units sold since Engel rolled it out about 8 weeks ago. In terms of his future career, Engel laughs when he comments that his Dad says that he should change his name, similar to the way Kid Rock did, but Chase feels differently. “What about Bruce Springteen? He didn't need a stage name, so I'm more from that type of school on the topic.”
Engel admits that most challenging component of pulling his recorded musical debut together is getting people to hear it, especially nowadays with corporate radio basically passing over musical access to local musicians. “There isn't any radio support anymore,” he laments. “But I a hoping to get signed by a management company that is fairly connected, so we shall see what happens.”
Apart from Matchbox 20, Engel says another large influence musically is Led Zeppelin. “I like the way they mix the soft with the heavy and Van Halen also had a knack for that. It doesn't have to be hardcore tuning to make a great song. Take Dance the Night Away, I enjoy songs that build up and work up to something spectacular. Springsteen has a knack for that, as do bands like Kings of Leon and Shinedown.”
“My goal is to see how far I can take this,” concludes Engel. “I want to see how far it will go. This release represents the culmination of my whole life in songs and I realize that it's rough times right now and hard to get people excited about new music when they're worried about losing their houses, but for me it's an exciting point in my life.”
As well it should be. From the screaming guitar build-up on The World To Me, to the album closer, The Way You Do It, Chase Engel has assembled a remarkably compelling first endeavor that deserves both recognition and support.
You can check out more by going to his facebook page.