It's been more than a decade since Ian Fisher left his home state of Missouri and moved to Europe, forever changing his life and his music. A prolific, independent songwriter who combines an international lyrical perspective and a world-traveler’s musical influences with Americana roots, Fisher has remained on the road ever since emigrating, penning over one and a half thousand songs while also playing hundreds of concerts around Europe, North America, and Africa.
That experience fuels Fisher's latest album, a socially-conscious record that finds the expatriate looking back on a country he's left behind, remaining both skeptical about and nostalgic for a place that is no longer his only home. Inspired by the musical diversity of albums like the Beatles’ White Album or Neil Young's Harvest — records that, like Fisher's, encompass everything from acoustic, stripped-down songs to full-band performances — and the hooked-filled sonics of bands like Foxygen, this is Ian Fisher at his most dynamic.
The making of the album started when Fisher shared over 300 song demos with producer René Mühlberger (AKA Pressyes) and musicians/co-arrangers Ryan Thomas Carpenter, Andreas Laudwein, and Camillo Jenny. They then whittled that list down to their ten favorite tracks and took them to a picturesque studio in the Austrian countryside where they created a sound that roots itself in Fisher's sharp songwriting while still reaching far beyond the confines of the solo-artist world. This isn't an intimate singer-songwriter record. Instead, it builds on his Rolling Stone acclaimed 2017 release, Idle Hands, and shows not only the range of Fisher's influences, but the broad scope of his abilities.
At times, the album reads like a cautious love letter to Nashville, whose influence looms large on tracks like "Be Thankful" and "Winterwind." Elsewhere, songs such as "AAA Station" and "American Standards" shine a light on some of the political and social issues that forced him to emigrate. Even though this record finds Fisher writing with class and compelling charm about the place of his birth, there is no mistaking him for a hyper-patriotic songwriter — the title "American Standards" slyly references a toilet brand, after all.
"This is the least country-sounding album I've ever made, but I can’t deny that it's still related to that genre that I love through its lyrics and the songs' influences," says Fisher, who grew up listening to Nashville hitmakers of the 1990s and his father's vinyl collection of 1970s songwriters. "The theme of Nashville plays into my political ideas and how I want to take back the meaning of country music for people like me. It doesn’t just belong to NRA members. Country music doesn’t need countries to exist. It's bigger than that."
It's bigger than that, indeed. Over diverse arrangements that make room for guitar, synthesizer, piano, pedal steel, and layers of vocal harmonies, Fisher sings songs about taking stock of the modern world, letting go of past grudges, listening to independent radio, and balancing the starry-eyed ideals of his 20s with the sober groundedness of his 30s. "Three Chords" delivers a potent punch with little more than an acoustic guitar and Fisher's vibrato-laced vocals, and "It Ain't Me" mixes a Wings-worthy groove with funky bass, swooning steel, and an anthemic refrain. The sadly elegant "Melody in Nashville," with its slide guitar riffs and late-night ambiance, nods to icons like George Harrison and Harry Nilsson, while the album closer, "Ghosts of the Ryman," pays tribute to the iconic Nashville venue with call-and-response vocals and a grandly cinematic outro.
An independent self-starter who handles his own management, Ian Fisher has remained inspired and busy over the years, touring far-flung cities in South Africa one minute and writing original music for a handful of theater projects (including Shakespeare productions at the Residenz Theater in Munich and Chekhov plays at the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna) the next. Luckily he saved some of his best work yet for this record. An album that, like the artist himself, resonates far beyond the borders of genres and countries.
Ian Fisher - lead vocals / guitar René Mühlberger - lead guitar / bass / drums / synth / backing vocals Ryan Thomas Carpenter - piano / synth / backing vocals Camillo Jenny - drums / percussion / synth Andreas Laudwein - bass Ollie Samland - pedal steel guitar / synth Ida Wenøe - backing vocals Marlene Lacherstorfer - bass on “Melody in Nashville”
Produced & Engineered by René Mühlberger Mixed by Ben Majchrzak at Native Sound Recording Except “AAA Station” Mixed by René Mühlberger Mastered by Sam Irl Manufactured in the EU by AustroVinyl
All Songs Written by Ian Fisher Except “Be Thankful” Co-written with Sarah Clanton & “It Ain’t Me” Co-written with Adam James
Cover Photo by Andreas Jakwerth Album Layout by Ryan McArthur
Thanks to Our Friends, Families, & Fans / Jean, Brad, Morgan & The Fisher-Kraenzle Families / Donna & The Carpenter Family / Marlene Lacherstorfer / Maria, Peter, Jakob, & Christine Lenk / Sonja, Stephan, Annelies, Emanuel & Isabell Mayer / Chris & Heike Baranowsky / Palina, Linda, & Alex Stolar / Caspar, Liz, & Christoph “the dad” Baldinger / Alina Nock / Ana Kohler / Angie Mancuso / Angelika Klee / Bjørn Strømme / Carl Bonn / Chris Koether / Christine Pätzold / Daniela Tangl / Fred Tosi / Guido Weidner / Hagen Tepper / Heinz Odehnal / Helmut Stemmer / Janine Nakotte / Julia Zoephel / Justus Annika / Kathrin Willmek / Kaycia Turner / Leni Steindl / Lisa Maria Lobeck / Magdalena & David / Matthias Gaßmann / Nadja Gluch / Nina Kren / Patrick Vacek / Philipp in Europe / Philipp Haubold / Phillip Sulke / Ralph Degenkolb / Ragna & Reinhard Janssen / Ruben Schauer / Sebastian & Patrycja Król / Sophie & The Stemmer Family / Tamara Thiehoff / William Kumke
Maybe a Little More 3:160:00/3:16
AAA Station 3:340:00/3:34
American Standards 3:250:00/3:25
Be Thankful 4:290:00/4:29
In Front of Another 0:260:00/0:26
Melody in Nashville 3:260:00/3:26
It Ain't Me 4:280:00/4:28
Ghosts of the Ryman 6:340:00/6:34