TEDO STONE & BAND [L-R]: Frank Keith IV (bass), Tedo Stone (vocals, guitar), Grafton Tanner (drums), Clay Houle (guitar) [photo:Maggie Gibson Blauvelt]
He uses the word “happenstance” a lot, but it’s no coincidence that musician and ramblin’ man Tedo Stone has proven himself a more than worthy addition to the Americana scene. Weaned on a balanced diet of Wilco and Motown, this native Southerner curates his distinct bluesy psychedelia from his sonic adventures around the States.
On the debut album, Good Go Bad (This Is American Music), he oxymoronically keeps things light. But Stone says it’s “happenstance” that such a cheery release comes on the heels of the deceiving Happy EP.
“Everyone jokes around— they say that all the songs on the Happy EP are real sad. I guess that they kind of are,” he supposes, chuckling a bit. He continues: “And the new one is called Good Go Bad, but (these songs are) a lot more upbeat in my opinion. So there’s a little bit of irony there.”
Happy, pieced together in 2011 with producing giant John Keane (R.E.M., Cowboy Junkies), relied on a more straightforward country-rock sound. But with Good Go Bad, Stone infused, well, stoner elements that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Wavves or MGMT record. Dig “High” for example: Omnipresent, feverishly echoing backing vocals accompany his mellow tenor, as warm synths skitter like crabs across the refrains.
The beachy-keen imagery might stem from Stone’s stint of living in Hawaii with a few buddies. “I was in between being in school out in Mississippi (he got a degree in business marketing) and thinking about coming back to Atlanta and pursuing the music. Being out there really was like more an awakening. I was removed. I had a group of friends that was living out there, and I stayed on their couch pretty much for about two months. It was out there that I realized, OK, I just finished up school; I could go get a desk job, or I could wait tables and play music.”
Born on island time was the stripped-down GGB track “Circles,” featuring little more than a yearning ukulele and the artist’s soul-baring vocals, recorded on his cellphone. “I’m a dog at heart… I am circles starting to unwind,” he sings. You can almost see Stone staring out into the Pacific, wondering where the tide will take him next.
His inner compass pointed back to Atlanta, where he lends a hand at his older brother’s medical tech company to fund his band’s weekend performances. He’s amassed a hefty network of local musician pals (bassist Frank Keith IV, drummer Grafton Tanner and guitarist Clay Houle are his current brothers in arms), as well as some friends in high places.
Enter Matt Goldman of Glow in the Dark studios, who met Stone and crew years ago when they came to his facilities to record with his intern. After Goldman had wrapped his regular work, his ears led him to Stone’s grooving piano-thick march “War.”
“I guess the drummer we had brought wasn’t up to par. So he stepped in, played drums on the song,” Stone recalls. “He ended up engineering and producing the whole thing.”
That version of “War” appears on Good Go Bad, which was ultimately fully produced by Goldman. It took awhile for Stone and this coveted hardcore studio whiz (Underoath, the Devil Wears Prada) to meet again, but when they did, the results were a sumptuous blend of dreamy rock and country-fried blues over 10 tracks.
Tedo Stone is road-testing these numbers this summer throughout the Midwest and South— a jaunt this wanderlustful lad is greatly anticipating.
“Piling up in a van with your buddies and seeing the countryside is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. Even not our own music— just going with friends and stuff. Obviously, there’s a lot more business, a lot more things to get done on the road, but I kind of like the idea of being detached or not being in one spot. That’s just where I am right now in my life.”
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