“We’ve had a whole six-year career that’s basically all existed in our heads,” says Star & Micey’s Nick Redmond.
Redmond and bandmate Josh Cosby are sitting in a Midtown café, pondering the long gap between the Memphis folk-rockers’ 2009 selftitled debut and their just-released latest effort, “Get ’Em Next Time.”
They remained active in that time — writing more than 100 songs, selfreleasing a handful of digital singles and EPS, and touring on their own, playing anywhere that would have them (“street corners, pizza parlors, bars and theaters” as the band’s official bio notes.) But the group’s career was in something of a holding pattern as they waited for label and management opportunities to present themselves. That moment finally came in 2014 following a performance at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto, where they met and signed a deal with rising Nashville entertainment powerhouse Thirty Tigers. “Not sure if they knew they were signing a rock and roll band or not,” says Redmond, “but that’s what they got.”
Fresh off a monthlong run of dates, following the release of “Get ’Em Next Time,” Star & Micey will play a free show this evening outside of Shangri-la Records.
Nearing a decade of making music together, Star & Micey was formed in 2007 by Cosby and Geoff Smith; Redmond joined in 2008. For several years, a revolving cast of notable Memphis musicians — including Jack Oblivian, Adam Woodard and Jessie Munson — passed through the band’s ranks, before the lineup was solidified with the arrival of Jeremy Stanfill.
After signing to Thirty Tigers in 2014, the group began work on their album late that year. Through longtime Sun Studio engineer Matt Ross-spang, the band hooked up with Grammy-winning producer/engineer Mark Neill (The Black Keys, Old 97’s, etc.) and recorded at his throwback Georgia enclave, Soil of the South Studios. “You walk in, and you are instantly transported to 1955,” says Cosby. “Every microphone, every piece of equipment, from the coffee cups down to the rotary telephones, even Mark himself, is vintage.”
Neill manages to contribute significantly to the record, mussing up the music and adding an edge to the band’s jubilant pop songs. “All of the producers we’ve worked with — from Mark to Dennis Herring to John Hampton — were very clear in their vision,” says Cosby. “That’s what you’re hiring that person for, and hopefully that’s what you hear on the record. It was good to have him come in and add his perspective to the music.”
“I was told a long time ago that a song that is able to relate to the world is both sad and happy at the same time,” adds Redmond. “That can go two different ways: You can make happy music with a sad lyric, or sad music with an optimistic lyric. We’re always trying to find that combination.”
Beyond the production, the sound of Star & Micey in 2016 is very much about the vocal interplay and evolution of the band’s two lead singers, Redmond and Cosby. “That’s the one thing that’s changed more over time — how we sing together, switching parts back and forth,” says Redmond. “That was the biggest change in how we sound that has actually stuck.”
Much of the material on “Get ’Em” also explores the widening collaborative dimensions of the band. “It used to be Josh and me on the piano, building the songs that way,” says Redmond, “but now there’s four different people in the room who make the song.”
“Jeremy’s on drums, and he’ll be like, ‘What if you cut that part out and do a beat like this?’” adds Cosby. “The songs come together a lot faster, I tell you.”
So far, the new album (and the band’s new professional brain trust) have helped yield a spate of high-profile opportunities. In addition to a recent appearance on West Virginia public television’s “Mountain Stage” program, Star & Micey will be appearing in an upcoming national commercial for the State of Tennessee’s Department of Tourist Development. The group already scored a big success in 2014 when the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau used their song “I Can’t Wait” in its TV ads. “Man, that commercial did more for us than six years of touring did, and we didn’t have to leave the couch,” says Redmond. “So we’re eager to see what this one does.”
Although they’ve already done a headlining tour, the band expects the rest of their road work for the year will come in the form of opening shows for bigger acts. Warming up and winning over crowds is something Star & Micey have proved quite adept at. “It seems that when we get a chance to play in front of a lot of people, we connect with them,” says Cosby. “So we’re gonna try and get in front of some bigger audiences and do that.”
Says Redmond: “We’ve done the thing for six years of playing and shaking hands of all 10 people at the gigs, and then probably staying at their houses, too,” says Redmond. “You can only do that for so long. We did, and we didn’t break up — and we’re coming up on 10 years together.”
That relentlessly positive personal and musical vision is what continues to sustain Star & Micey. “We’ve always called what we do ‘Rock and Roll Recovery,’” says Redmond, chuckling. “We’ve always wanted to help as many people as we can. How else can we do that other than through our music? Well, we can paint your house. If the music doesn’t work, we can always paint your house.”
Memphis folk-pop combo Star & Micey will celebrate the release of a new album with an in-store performance at Shangri-la Records at 1916 Madison Ave., on Friday evening at 6:30.