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Spotlight artist Sorrell soars above musical genres

The Be Colony member opts to fly solo for unique record, gets picked for ALT Spotlight

Atticus Sorrell is the latest local musician to be featured in the ALT Spotlight.

Published October 5, 2022

If his long hair, boots, and denim jacket don’t tell you Atticus Sorrell is a throwback, his 1971 Plymouth Fury that still has an 8-track player should.

“My dad’s dad was a hippie, so I just grew up listening to ’60s and ’70s rock n’ roll,” he said. “I just resonated with that music. 

“From my earliest memories, I can hear The Beatles in the background. I can hear Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin. I got hungry playing guitar, started playing when I was 6, had a good teacher, and it made me really hungry for music.”

That led to him joining The Be Colony at 19, then releasing his own self-titled album in August. A couple of the songs off that album caught the ear of ALT 99.5/102.3 FM DJ Zack Skyler, who made him the station’s latest Spotlight artist.

“Well, I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time with The Be Colony, and when I heard some of his new solo music, I wanted to feature him again,” Skyler said. “He’s such a good dude. Salt of the Earth kinda person.”

As a part of The Be Colony, guitarist and singer Sorrell has become accustomed to hearing his voice on the radio, but he still feels honored to be part of ALT’s weekly Showcase that airs from 7-8 p.m. every Friday.

“I really appreciate it,” he said. “It’s a cool premise, and I just like what Zack does. I like the fact that there is this local outlet that focuses on local artists. I say I’m pretty used to it at this point, just because I’ve been playing for so long and I’ve been featured so many times, but it is still a little weird hearing your voice on the radio.”

Chance to record in favorite studio again

It might be weird for him to hear his voice, but it’s clear a lot of people in town will go out of their way to hear it.

While performing with The Be Colony, Sorrell began to notice he was writing songs that might not fit into the band’s sound.

“I had always wanted to release a solo record, and I kind of had this stuff that didn’t sound quite like The Be Colony,” he said. “It was like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do with these. These don’t sound like psychedelic rock songs to me. I’m just gonna hang on to these.’”

While hanging onto the songs, Jason Davis had decided to move his local recording studio Off the Cuff to a new location, and asked Sorrell if he’d like to record there before it was too late.

“My musical coming of age was as a teenager in his studio, when I was still in high school,” Sorrell said. “There was just something about that old farmhouse. I recorded a bunch of records there, I interned there in college, I was tape operator for a bunch of albums like (The Legendary) Trainhoppers, Streetlamps (for Spotlights), Rogues & Bandits, and a bunch of others. 

“He told me that he was moving the studio down the street, and he was like, ‘It’d be cool if we did one last record together in that old building,’ because he knew I had a connection with it.”

new kind of sound

What Sorrell recorded was a something hard to describe, a mix of folk, soul, jazz, and more that seemed to grow organically.

“It’s funny, because when I initially demoed the songs out, it was still soul, but more folky at the same time,” Sorrell said. “It turned into this funky soul thing. In my head, I kind of wanted it to sound sort of like Bill Withers. Obviously, he’s soul and funk, but he’s got this folky thing to it. 

“When I hired (keyboardist) Tommy Saul and (saxophonist) Logan Weber, they’re soul, jazz cats,” he added. “So, it just kind of flipped it on its head. I don’t even know, it’s more Curtis Mayfield, sort of, I guess, Steely Dan-ish, kinda.”

Along with Saul and Weber, the record also features Wes Johnson on bass, Bray Coughlin on drums, Jacob Terhune on harmonies, and Davis doing everything in-between.

“A good portion of the original Be Colony are on the record,” Sorrell said.

not staying in one genre too long

When he talks about his musical upbringing, it’s easy to see why the guy named after a character in To Kill a Mockingbird has recorded an eclectic album.

“I grew up always digging for vinyl and reading about old rock n’ roll music, and YouTube was new, and I would get suggested artists through its algorithm, and it just helped me find all these other obscure ’50s and ’60s artists,” he said. “It just blew up. I started in rock, then it got into funk and soul, then I got into old jazz music, and now I’m going back into old country music.”

And while he might also be pushing the barriers, he’s also the definition of retro, preferring to record on reel to reel and work on vehicles that don’t need to be plugged into computers to find out what’s wrong.

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