Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Jay Carlis' Solo Americana Debut 'Here We Are' Out Now

Article Pixel

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jay Carlis has released his Americana, solo debut.

Jay Carlis' Solo Americana Debut 'Here We Are' Out Now

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jay Carlis has released Here We Are, his Americana, solo debut. The album features eight original songs inspired by the songwriting of Jason Isbell and Robert Hunter and recorded at Turtle Studios in Philadelphia with production by Ross Bellenoit (The Waywards, Michael Braunfeld, Lizann Knott). Players include Tommy Geddes on the drums, Nate Gonzales on keys and Jeff Hiatt on bass.

Carlis's lyrics paint raw, intimate portraits of love, longing, loss, coming into middle age and the relentlessness of change. His plainspoken vocals and acoustic guitarwork are supported by an array of instruments (many played by Bellenoit) including banjo, lap steel, fiddle, organ, upright bass, mandolin and piano giving the record a distinctly Americana feel.

Of the record, Carlis says, "the songs on this record are about coming to terms with change and learning to let go. Things are changing so fast these days. The climate is changing. Technology is rapidly changing the way we live and earn a living. And of course, now COVID has changed our lives so profoundly. This is all pretty tough to navigate, no matter who you are and where you are coming from. This record is about learning how to live in these times with our people and ourselves."

Here We Are kicks off with the driving "Unwind" and features shimmery guitars, a lap steel solo and Carlis's declaration, "you know where to find me when you need me, I'll be waiting for you baby, like I always do." Next up is "Change My Mind" which touches upon change in its many forms including personal change and climate change and the worry that that brings to a parent of young children. "Every Passing Day" opens with complimentary banjo and fiddle riffs and touches upon learning how to accept the change around us. He sings, "these changes are more familiar with every passing day."

"Writing on the Wall" reminds us that "It's better late than never, to take a wakeup call," while "Sittin' on the Porch" is a reflective portrait of love, loss and growing up and sometimes growing apart. The title track, "Here We Are," is a haunting, nostalgic duet. Carlis sings "don't blame me for looking back in time, don't blame me for thinking I was right, don't blame me honey, for trying to hold on so tight to the memory of a less complicated life." "Fire and Flood" is an up tempo, passionate love song that finds Carlis trading verses with vocalist, Katie Barbato and the album closes with the light and lovely, "Hey Juniper," a sweet ode to a long-term love.

Jay Carlis hails from the Lehigh Valley and after a stint in his mother's musical theater troupe, he began songwriting as a teenager. After taking an extended break from songwriting as an adult, Carlis found himself called back to his guitar and notebook and the songs came spilling out. The joy and heartache of marriage and the challenge and celebration of raising young children inform the emotions and storytelling of Carlis's return to the craft. His songwriting style developed inspired by the great modern songwriters like Jason Isbell, Josh Ritter, Drive-by-Truckers and Hiss Golden Messenger. In 2017, he was a finalist in the Philadelphia Songwriters Project competition.

Jay Carlis's musical foundation is steeped in Americana and Folk from his many years covering Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan tunes. As a high-schooler, Jay was part of a roving pack of like-minded, guitar-playing kids who sang around campfires at Bear Rocks on the Appalachian Trail, on benches in the Allentown Rose Gardens at night and parking lots of Grateful Dead and Phish shows.

"We all loved the Grateful Dead and the whole jam vibe," he says. "We'd weave from song to song, trading off verses and guitar solos. We'd break into open tuning jams and explore the interweaving soundscapes. Everyone brought their own unique flair. We learned little riffs and tricks from each other, grooves and chord patterns. As we separated after high school, I took all those influences with me and started writing songs by merging all these styles together into my own sound."

In addition to his solo work, Carlis is lead singer and principal songwriter for The Barrel Fires, a Philly-based rock band. The Barrel Fires have released two EPs, their self-titled debut recorded live at Range Recording Studios in Ardmore and Run Around Years, recorded at Turtle Studios produced by Ross Bellenoit and Doug Raus. The band has performed in various venues throughout the region including the Haverford Music Festival, Milkboy Philly and 118 North in Wayne. In Jan 2020, Jay joined an all-star lineup of Philly musicians in a tribute to Robert Hunter at the Ardmore Music Hall.

Jay Carlis lives just outside of Philadelphia with his wife, their three kids, two guinea pigs and six chickens.

Listen to the album here:


Related Articles View More Music Stories

From This Author TV News Desk