Before patching up the old trailer in West Tennessee, grass grew through cracks on the floor and copperheads mingled between decades of stacked boxes on a grandfather’s hand-me-down farm. It was in this abandoned singlewide that Americana artist Joseph LeMay cleared a space for his new life as a married man and Seventeen Acres, his first full-length release.
LeMay began performing at an age when most kids are focused on learning the alphabet. Just barely a teen, the young musician could add Showtime at the Apollo, an opening gig for Brian Wilson and a countless line of county fairs across the southeast to his list of growing accomplishments. This passion for music continued to manifest during high school as LeMay took to writing and moved to New York in search of work as a performer.
During his time in Manhattan, LeMay’s musical future bent when he met music veteran Charlie Peacock, producer of The Civil Wars and The Lone Bellow. LeMay moved to Nashville and spent hours as a silent observer of Peacock as artists passed through his studio. Witnessing the life of a working musician changed LeMay, inspiring him to find his voice.
But it wasn’t long before LeMay found himself in an age-old Nashville ritual- working a part-time job to pay the bills and creating on the side. “After making sandwiches for 60 hours a week, it’s hard to find the energy and time to do the work you want,” says LeMay. To escape the inevitable pace their life was heading, LeMay and his new wife made a drastic change of scenery and moved into that forgotten trailer on her family’s inherited farm on the outskirts of Dyersburg, Tenn.
“It’s like sitting under a magnifying glass,” says LeMay of the isolation of rural Tennessee. “Writing this record, I was constantly alone and in a period of self-doubt. I was worried I wouldn’t measure up as a new husband and as a songwriter, more or less thrown out in the wilderness.” The intensity of his self-examination led to what we now know as Seventeen Acres.
Filled with stories of dissecting the nuances of love and uncertainty, Seventeen Acres was produced by LeMay himself and came to life in the same space the stories originated. Songs like “Fruit on the Vine” and “Warrant for My Worry” ache with missed expectations and hope in their draught, while “Molly My Girl” and “Just So” are timeless tales of endearing love. Start to finish, LeMay’s labor is driven by this love and all the desperation, fear and commitment that comes with it.
“Music fulfills a need,” says LeMay. “It’s communicating across mediums. We don’t just want words. It’s the color and the canvas. The cadence and the lyric.” It’s with a balanced grasp of bare truth and pursuit of grace that LeMay channels this primal need in the desolation of his Seventeen Acres.
Produced by Joseph LeMay
Recorded by Chad Wahlbrink at Single Wide Farms in Dyersburg, TN
Mixed and Mastered by Chad Wahlbrink at The Pink Mailbox in Nashville, TN
String arrangements by Eleonore Denig
Noah Denney - Drums, Bass, Percussion, Bgvs
Caleb Hickman - Keys, Organ, Lap Steel, Banjo, Bgvs
Juan Solorzano - Electric Guitars
Molly Parden - Bgvs
Eleonore Denig - Violin
Austin Hoke - Cello
Ben Jones - Upright Bass on Molly My Girl
Joseph LeMay - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Bgvs
All songs written by Joseph LeMay, Wet Bandits Publishing (ASCAP)*
*Except Fruit on the Vine written by Joseph LeMay, Wet Bandits Publishing (ASCAP); Noah Denney, Champion of the Sun Music (ASCAP); and Ben Jones, Benjamin Chakoian Jones Music (ASCAP).
Art direction by Juan y Samuel Elias Solorzano
Photos by Juan Solorzano
Design by Samuel Elias Solorzano