Death, uncertainty, love, change, hope — grand ideas abound on Rachel Eckroth’s new album When It Falls.
As do bold musical statements: Perhaps better known as a jazz keyboardist, Eckroth here evokes the aura of the late David Bowie, experimental rockers Can and perhaps a great, lost David Lynch soundtrack.
“This is an evolution,” admits Eckroth. When It Falls, her third solo release, certainly marks a transformation: Featuring guitarists Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, drummers Matt Chamberlain, Gary Novak and Sterling Campbell, and bassist/producer/husband Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie/Tedeschi Trucks Band), the album explores sonic areas far removed from the singer’s early work.
“The album I did before this was very jazzed out,” Eckroth says. “Tim helped get me into more sonic textures and using pedals and more outside gear besides keyboards.” (That expertise was one reason Lefebvre was recruited by Bowie and became an integral part of the late singer’s Blackstar album).
And how was it working with her significant other? “It could go both ways,” she laughs. “I always loved what we made, but we could occasionally butt heads.” So it’s not Fleetwood Mac, but a few of the tracks on When It Falls do allude to their relationship (“We’d Be on Fire,’ “Walls” and first single “Dark Waters”).
As a major part of Bowie’s final album, Lefebvre also indirectly inspired this record’s lone cover (Bowie’s “Love Is Lost”). Says Eckroth: “I just love that album it’s from (2013’s The Next Day),” she says. “And we had started writing this record when Blackstar came out — it was actually the same time my dad passed away. And I just started working with Tim. There were some strong connections going on.”
Connections you can certainly hear in the title track — a dreamy vocals and synth piece written and performed by Eckroth that examines her father’s passing. “It’s about that time period and wondering how I’ll put my life back together,” she says. “That was the dominating theme when we were writing songs.”
With the record finished, you can catch Eckroth touring this fall — potentially on her own with Lefebvre and Bowie compatriot Gerry Leonard, and later opening for Rufus Wainwright (where Eckroth will also be playing in the band.). As well, you’ll soon see Eckroth’s video for the When It Falls single “Dark Waters,” shot by Derek A. Welte and featuring, as the singer notes, some “dark, Twin Peaks vibes.”
While When It Falls marks new musical ground, it’s not the first time Eckroth has shown a knack for the unexpected. Growing up in Phoenix, the keyboardist was already playing in bands before studying music at both the University of Nevada and Rutgers. She released her acclaimed jazz trio debut Mind in 2005 and a more expansive jazz/pop record (Let Go) in 2014.
More recently, Eckroth played keyboards with the experimental jazz trio Antelog, performed as the backing vocalist and keyboardist for popular singer-songwriter KT Tunstall and served as part of the house band for NBC’s The Meredith Vieira Show. She was also the Assistant Music Director for the Women’s March in D.C. in early 2017.
For Eckroth, new ideas constantly abound and need to be explored. So when you hear songs from When It Falls later this year, don’t get too comfortable. “When we’re live and on stage, we’re gonna open things up and get into different sonic territories,” she says. “It’s always going to be about exploration.”