Brightshine could have started playing shows in 2017, when singer/guitarist Pete Sawyer began writing the songs, but he wanted to approach this band differently than his previous groups.
His reggae-infused group Echo Street had just broken up and Sawyer spend the better part of a year writing new material for Brightshine. His focus was on recording an album, not on shows. In 2018 and 2019, he and his group worked on Shadows in the Sky. Their record release show on May 2, 2019 at Michaels on Main was their debut performance as a band.
“I thought making an album would be a good way to start, because you have to define what you want to sound like,” Sawyer says. “If you start out live, you have a lot of pressure to come up with stuff quick and make people dance. That’s not a great place to come up with something new and original.”
Setting aside gigs in the early days allowed Sawyer to carefully consider the details of each song. His vision for the group was to go back to his rock origins a la his old group Seconds On Both Ends, and combine its sounds with the funky and reggae rhythms of Echo Street. The result is a group that takes lush, nuanced, harmony-rich sections that recall Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, and punctuate them with Brazilian music, jazz, and funky elements—along with frequent lengthy jam sections.
As meticulous as the songwriting was, the jam sections during the recording were improvised. The album recordings are mostly first takes, and there’s a little bit of every player’s personality all over it.
“It’s a combination of having the songs be right where we want them to be, but having the improvisation being an open and free thing,” Sawyer says. “I feel good about how we’ve gone from studio recordings and now we’re a live act. It’s been a cool bridge.”