At only 30 years old, singer-songwriter Chase Gassaway has more musical experience than most artists twice his age. And he’s putting it to good use with the release of his second solo album, Certain Circles, his first full-length record in nearly a decade.
A lifelong Texan, Gassaway studied music composition and theory in college, honing his skills as a composer by creating works for a wide range of ensembles from choirs to full orchestras, as well as composing the score to short film Take Two. He has also been trained in classical guitar and voice, and plays a variety of instruments from banjolele to reed organ. His training, and the onstage lessons he’s learned as a solo performer and member of groups such as Canaries in the Coal Mine and formally the Matchmaker Band, has resulted in multi-textured pop songs that recall the Head & the Heart and Ben Folds. In a Chase Gassaway song, it’s not unusual to hear strings, horns, woodwinds and piano accompanying Gassaway’s engaging lyrics and slightly husky vocals, which might remind listeners of Jakob Dylan’s.
Married to his college sweetheart, Gassaway rarely writes about the trials and tribulations of relationships. Instead, he prefers to use his music as a means to explore the inner workings of the human spirit, call for social justice and hope, and encourage people to “ask questions they never thought to ask.” The result is an album that’s both insightful and inspirational.
Certain Circles has been a work of optimism since its Kickstarter campaign genesis. While Gassaway does get pensive on “Break of Dawn,” the introspective and rootsy “Where I’m Coming From,” and the poignant piano ballad “The Ship,” the overarching theme of the record is hope.
The opening track, “Turn This Thing Around,” is a buoyant, horn-heavy tune that offers a positive outlook for the future while serving as a plea for people to find common ground and love one another. The banjo licks and group singalong anchoring “Feeling Good” are guaranteed mood-enhancers, and the anthem “Hear Love,” which closes the album, is the apotheosis of that hopeful tone. Recorded in six days at Ramble Creek Recording Studio in Austin, most of the album’s 10 tracks were captured in one take. The result is an organic feel perfectly suiting the material, which Gassaway wrote and produced himself.
Instead of pigeonholing his music into Americana, folk or alternative categories, Gassaway prefers to pursue diversity and eclecticism. “I’ve written full symphonic works, choral pieces, chamber music and folk songs, and they’re all the same for me,” he explains. “I like to think of my style as ‘honest.’”