“After 11 p.m., you stop hearing regular rock on the classic hits radio station and start hearing more strange stuff, one-hit wonders from 1976, or really minor singles from artists I thought I didn’t like because I just hadn’t heard this one weird song before,” says Bloomington, Indiana-based singer-songwriter Damion. Rather than let those offbeat classics fade into the twilight on his late-night drives, Damion returned home and went straight to the Tascam cassette machine. Inspired by both the sound and the bleary-eyed ambiguity, the result of that late-night recording is the bronzy Special Interest, a record bathed in memory and the antigravity of ‘70s AM radio.
Once he had finished demoing songs at home, Damion brought the nine tracks that would make up the album to his preferred studio, Russian Recording, and worked with Ben Lumsdaine and Lewis Rogers to polish them up. Aesthetically, Damion aimed to fit within the limits of the era that inspired the songs. “Recording to cassette tape, you either have to play the part right or learn to love the way it sounds wrong, so even in the studio we abided by those same limitations,” he says.
Rather than limitations, the structures and styles of vintage rock perfectly suit the album’s lithe falsetto, eerily familiar melodies, and hazy storytelling--the listener immersed in a soup of poetic fragments, Damion himself always at a beguiling arm’s length. On lead single and opener “Company Man”, resonant acoustic guitar and Super Ball bass provide a platform for Damion’s knowing ability to split the difference between confident swagger and laid-back charm. The singer-songwriter pulls joy out of musical echos and lyrical wordplay, in part coming from his love of classic songwriters and long history as a performer. “I am mostly inspired by singer-songwriters like Carole King, Todd Rundgren, Eddie Kendricks,” Damion says. “I [also] began as an Elvis impersonator at age three. I think the razzle-dazzle energy he had made an impact on me as a kid.”
The glittering “Your Secret Is Safe With Me” follows, the layered ballad perfectly suited to prom night, meeting your crush under a disco ball. “I wanted to write a song that sounds like it oozes out of the speakers,” Damion says of the track. “We kept doing takes until we locked into a tempo that felt a little too slow to play, but was just right to hear.” Elsewhere the vibrating and twangy “Come Alive”, a la Roy Orbison in a bolo-tied Western suit, comes complete with a pedal steel solo from guitarist Drake Ritter. The wordless sing-along backing vocals of “Roadhouse” further inject a little glam into the mix.
Damion sounds right at home in the ethereal wonderland of Special Interest, sinking headfirst into the maple syrup sweetness and impressionistic lyrics. And as the album closes on the title track, it does so on the mystic compulsion of art, of music, of being a musician. “The song is about that feeling you get while you’re playing at the same bar for the thousandth time,” he says. In Special Interest, the young Hoosier singer-songwriter honors the compulsion and the magic, cobbling together a style all his own--instantly familiar and magnetic, capable of breathtaking beauty in its embrace of life’s smallest moments.