Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chicago musician Derek Nelson bringing new band, Martin Van Ruin, to Lincoln Hall


Chicago singer-songwriter Derek Nelson has been garnering acclaim since he first burst onto the scene in 2009. 

Now Nelson, www.dereknelsonmusic.com, has a new project that will likely generate a large following - the band Martin Van Ruin, comprised of members of Derek Nelson & The Musicians, Jenny Dragon and Planetsexploder. 

Martin Van Ruin will celebrate the release of its debut album, "Every Man a King," by performing Dec. 20 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The album was recorded and engineered by Neil Strauch, known for his work with Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Iron and Wine.

The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are available by going to www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

I had the chance to talk to Nelson about his latest musical project.


Q - Great talking to you. Of course, your new project Martin Van Ruin, will be releasing its debut album, "Every Man a King," on Dec. 20. In putting together the band and CD, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them? What is the meaning behind the project's name?

Our goal was just try to make something that we would really like to listen to, and take whatever direction felt right as a group. The final album turned out be the sound we had in our heads, and Neil (who produced it) had a lot to do with that. 

The name is just a weird historical reference. It's what they called Martin Van Buren when the economy tanked.

Q - Do you have any favorite tracks on the new CD? What songs are you looking forward playing live?

We're looking forward to playing it all. I really want to do the songs that can show off a lot of the layers of the new sound. Songs like "Wilderness" and "Gold and Love and Gin" come to mind.

Of course, you will also be releasing your latest solo EP, "Missouri," on Dec. 20. Is it just a coincidence that you are releasing the two CDs at the same time? Which do you consider your main project?

Nah, it's not really a coincidence. I recorded a lot of the solo songs in the middle of sessions for the MVR album. MVR is the focus, and is something new and very important to me. But I'll never stop writing and recording solo songs.

Q- Do you see Martin Van Ruin and your latest solo album as showing off your different musical sides? How would you compare the two albums lyrically and musically?

I'd say they're completely different. All the MVR songs are written collaboratively with six other people, and were written in a different state of mind altogether. I wrote most of the solo EP in my head when driving back and forth from Missouri, and it keeps that sparse feel. But there are common threads between the two.

Q - I understand that you only played your first gig in 2009. Is it especially gratifying then to be named as the "top band to see at Taste of Chicago?" How would you say your music has evolved since you first started?

The process is a lot more open now. I like writing songs with other people more than by myself.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see your music fitting into it?

 I think the music scene has gotten a lot more helpful to one another in the past couple years, and the barrier to entry is lower, which is a good thing. There are things popping up like the Chicago Songwriter Alliance (by Tom Schraeder, Gabe Liebowitz, Donne Biggins, Ryan Sweeney) where talented people can get up and play good shows without having to worry about draw or name recognition or any of that. 

It's a big step in the right direction, because it'll be about merit and songs instead of all the other stuff that doesn't matter.

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