Santa Cruz singer-songwriter Bryn Loosley had a single lyric running through his head: “Hard to find that $50 feeling on the back of a dime.” He didn’t know what it meant, but he liked it, so he stored it away in his head.
Loosley has written many songs in his life, but they rarely come fast. And these days, with children and so many other responsibilities, they usually take even longer. But that’s okay—he’s in no rush to crank out tunes.
“I’ve not been lucky enough to have the Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder experience of just waking up with a song fully intact and written in my head,” Loosley says. “It’s something I have to tease out and draw out. I’m picky about what I want to finish and what I don’t. I don’t feel the drive to put it out into the world. I’m doing this for myself at this point.”
Since he liked the “$50 feeling” line, he spent some time exploring what it meant to him, finally arriving at the idea that there are things in life that are valuable because they’re hard to access. He wrote a few verses with this theme in mind, like about how rewarding it is to finally hear your song on the radio after waiting a long time, and appreciating the imperfections of vinyl records.
“The biggest thing is just figuring out what the song is about. That takes the longest time,” Loosley says. “Once I have that, I can chase it down pretty quickly. Give me another hour with a guitar. But that process of finding inspiration is the hardest part.”
The resulting song, “$50 Feeling,” toggles between breezy California rock ’n’ roll, classic country, and Jackson Browne style singer-songwriter material. It’s one of five on Loosley’s new album, his first release in seven years.
The self-titled album came out of a very special recording session from May 2019, at friend Jon Payne’s house—Payne lost his house a few months ago in the CZU Lightning Complex fire. That loss was the impetus for Loosley to get the album out; rather than wait for the world to open back up so he could gig in support of it, he decided to release it and help raise money for victims of the fire.
“We were far from the only people to record there,” Loosley says of Payne’s house. “We took over the living room, kind of this big open space that was on the first story. We all just slept on the floor or couches or spare beds and hung out together for three days. It was a great experience, especially for those of us—which is to say most of us now—that have kids. It was a chance to get away and get the band back together and spend a lot of time together in a way that we don’t often get to do.”
The entire experience speaks to the great community that Payne had created there. The band recorded everything live, with a few exceptions. This was an entirely new experience for Loosley, who’s always gone with a more traditional studio overdub setting.
This change in setup added a uniquely loose feel to Loosley’s Americana songwriting style—the songs groove with an almost R&B swagger.
“It was special to actually play together. We recorded the drums, the guitars and the bass and the keyboards all together in a big open room. If somebody made a mistake, we just started over,” Loosley says.
The record is also particularly special because Loosely’s not sure how many more he and his band have in them. With everyone busy with adult responsibilities, it’s not easy to craft songs that are worth releasing into the world. These five songs most certainly were, though.
“I think we feel like this is a good record of us as a band,” Loosley says. “If this is the last of it, this is a good place to stop.”
For more information, go to brynmusic.bandcamp.com.