“I wanted to record an EP that represented me as a solo act as accurately as possible,” solo singer and guitarist Richard Strater wrote in preface to his last album, “The Pessimistic Troubadour,” in 2014. “That’s why the only audio you will find on this EP is the sound of my guitar and of my voice.”
Strater plays solo on guitar and vocals on each track, which were recorded by Gary Bolton at Strawberry Skys Recording studio in West Columbia, SC. Bolton also worked with the likes of Hootie and the Blowfish in their early career.
“Working with Strawberry Skys was absolutely fantastic,” Strater recalls. “Gary and his staff are top-notch people who really know what they’re doing. . . . He really pushed me to make my music upbeat and opened my eyes to how my music was a little folk influenced. Gary is a great guy.”
Strater will soon make his first appearance in the Port City on January 21 at Ted’s Fun on the River, along with special guests LightMyFire from Shallotte.
In the midst of preparing for his upcoming show and a new year of touring (and possibly recording) Strater is also back in the classroom. He’s majoring in anthropology and minoring in linguistics at the University of South Carolina.
Nevertheless, the young musician was able to take some time to chat with encore before heading back to school for spring semester.
encore (e): What’s your primary focus at USC? Any relation to musical aspirations?
Richard Strater (RS): In 2016 I performed over 90 concerts in 36 of the lower 48 states. When I finally got home after this 19-week tour I was quite burnt out. I learned a lot about the many cultures that exist in the United States of America and across the world on this journey. If a musical career isn’t possible, I can’t think of a better way to continue my cultural excursions than as a linguistic anthropologist.
On the flip side, I learned that I know close to nothing about foreign languages on my journey across America. I now know that learning other languages and about other cultures will make concert tours in other countries much easier. I hope that the skills I learn in my linguistic and anthropological studies will someday lead me to a successful tour of Europe.
e: Tell our readers more about “The Pessimistic Troubadour.” Where’d the name come from?
RS: When I recorded my first EP I wanted it to be something that was strictly and uniquely me. I thought long about who I was and what I was doing. My original music has always been a way for me to purge myself of negative feelings and escape instances of anger, depression, and sadness. So, naturally my music is a little sad and pessimistic. I took this realization and combined it with what I viewed myself as at the time.
e: What sort of themes have you gravitated toward or explored within this EP?
RS: With “The Pessimistic Troubadour” I explained situations of rejection, alienation, and cynicism felt in my life and as I viewed them in the world around me.
e: Can you tell our readers about one or two songs, such as their origin and journey from conception to final product?
RS: “Carry On” is my favorite song off of the EP. On the surface, it is a song about the situation of being a struggling musician. I’ve come to find that (to me at least) it is a message of hope. I think about how many musicians I’ve come across on my travels and how many more exist worldwide. I feel that musicians collectively struggle together, which I think is a beautiful thing. The song started out as a feeling of frustration and alienation that later developed into what it is now.
e: Did you venture into any new lyrical or musical territory for yourself with this EP? Please explain.
RS: The only other music I have recorded features drums, bass, guitars, and various other instruments. With my first solo EP, “The Pessimistic Troubadour,” I had to learn to hold back a little bit.
e: As you continue to tour, do these songs continuously grow and develop nuances?
RS: Absolutely! I feel that touring has allowed me to mellow out artistically. I now view writing music as a meditative and reflective instance instead of a release from a negative feeling. As such, my songs and singing have calmed down a little bit.
e: What can you tell our readers about your background as a solo guitarist? How did you get started and what made you want to pursue it?
RS: I started out, like most people do, strumming a few chords in my bedroom. In high school I started a garage band that went through a tremendous amount of lineup changes. After a few years, I decided to call it quits on having a band. I’ve been performing solo ever since.
e: Any aspirations to form a band eventually?
RS: I would at some point like to get around to having a full band again. I really miss the late-night jam sessions and having people to jump around with on stage. Logistically and economically right now I just don’t see that happening.
e: Any new projects on the horizon in 2017? Please explain.
RS: I’m really hoping to record a new EP in the coming year. I feel it will be a collection of the best songs I’ve written yet, and I’m really excited for everyone to hear the final studio cuts. I’m also hoping to tour Canada and/or Ireland for a week or so this year.
e: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your upcoming show at Ted’s?
RS: I would like to add that I am excited to be performing my first ever concert in Wilmington, North Carolina. I’m also excited that Wilmington is going to be my 104th city to perform in thus far.