The Wans frontman Simon Patrick Kerr has officially announced the release of his debut solo LP, Doldrums, out July 20th. Doldrums was recorded by Mark Petaccia (Jason Isbell, LeAnn Rimes, Moon Tax) and features contributions from Noah Denney (Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown), Eleanore Denig, Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers, Joe Bonamassa) and more. Along with the announcement, Kerr shared a short album teaser as well as the record's first single "Wrecking Ball," both of which are currently available to post via YouTube and Soundcloud, respectively.
Simon Patrick Kerr has made a name for himself as the frontman for blistering Nashville power trio The Wans, whose brand of 60's psych rock has landed them on bills alongside Queens of the Stone Age, Jack White, Pearl Jam and more. But Kerr isn’t the kind of artist to be filed neatly into a box. On his forthcoming solo LP, Doldrums, Kerr returns to a more stripped-down approach to his songwriting, crafting intensely personal Americana and indie-folk songs inspired by Nashville-outsider heroes like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, while chronicling one of the more tumultuous periods in his life.
Kerr’s acoustic shift on Doldrums may come as a surprise to longtime fans of The Wans, but for Kerr it was a logical step. “I played in The Wans for six years and we were touring pretty heavily the last four,” he says. “In between tours I was writing songs that didn’t really fit the mold of the band—they were less party friendly, definitely more on the folkie side. On our last tour in 2017, I asked [Wans drummer] Mark [Petaccia] if I could come in and record a few songs at his studio, and it ended up becoming a full record.” Of this more bare-bones approach to writing and recording, Kerr says, “I never want to get to the point of being comfortable as a songwriter. So I wanted this album to be as vulnerable as possible.”
Doldrums wastes no time establishing itself as Kerr’s most personal album to date. Lead track “Strung Out Again” finds him grappling with returning home after four years of heavy touring feeling exhausted, rattled and lost. “I only like me when I get stoned / I fell in love with a sinking stone / Talking to myself at night / Strung out again,” he delicately croons atop sparkling guitars and a washed out backing chorus of oohs and aahs.
On folk ballad “Songbird,” Kerr captures the grief of losing a family friend to cancer. “Greg Trooper—one of my family’s first friends when we moved to the States from Ireland—had just passed away from cancer,” he says. “About a week later I decided I wanted to honor him by writing a song and giving it to his wife and son.” To round out the track, Kerr recruited Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers) to play the fuzzed-out slide guitar on the bridge.
Standout track “God Was A Gambler” finds Kerr reflecting on the commodification of religion in America’s Bible Belt. “God was a gambler with human kind / Wined & dined then sold off to the richest,” he sings backed by a single finger-picked acoustic guitar. "In its purest form religion was for the down trodden and the poor so they could have a voice & now I feel that voice has been taken from them. Now its become some kind of corporate business." The song builds to an impassioned bridge featuring string accompaniment by Eleonore Denig, Kerr’s close friend, and wife of Noah Denney (Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown), who also contributed drums and bass to Doldrums.
An Irish native whose family immigrated to Nashville in 1997, Kerr was exposed to songwriting from a young age. His father is also a singer/songwriter, and spent a sizeable portion of the ’90s touring, playing numerous shows opening for the legendary John Prine. “When my parents decided to move to Nashville, the Prines were one of the few families we knew,” Kerr says. “We used to go over there when I was younger and people like Cowboy Jack Clement would be there. I don’t really think I knew what legends they were until later.”
Kerr’s exposure to these veteran artists would go on to impact his life in ways he never expected. “I really had no interest in writing music until I was about 18 or 19,” he says. “Guy Clark was a family friend of ours and we went to his place one Christmas morning and got to exchange songs and that was really a turning point for me. He played us a song he was working on at the time, ‘My Favorite Picture of You,’ and it was just such a surreal experience—it really made me think about how powerful a song could be.”
From then on, songwriting became Kerr’s foremost means of processing his experiences. This tendency has never been spotlighted more clearly than on Doldrums’ closing track “Out of Your Mind,” a scathing takedown of the current administration from the perspective of an immigrant who comes to America in search of a better life. “Something I hoped I’d never see / A mindless twat on my TV / Not one ounce of empathy,” Kerr sings. “We felt helpless during the election,” he says about himself and his father, both of whom were still Irish citizens during the 2016 election. “We’d finally had it— so we drove down to Memphis to become American citizens together. I want to stand up for those who don't have a voice. Needless to say, I'll be voting in the next election.”