[Interview] Jerry Castle

Podcast revelation led to deep dive

Jerry Castle has been playing music most of his life with differing degrees of commercial success.

His 2016 album, “Not So Soft Landing,” begins with a song titled “Ride,” which is either ironic or coincidental since the singer-songwriter has been down the road of optimistic expectations. All he can do is wait to see if this is the time that people will take notice and anoint him an overnight sensation.

“There are things (about this album) that have felt like they are falling into place that have never fallen into place before,” he says after taking a moment to ponder the answer or pray that he doesn’t jinx the outcome by talking about it. “This record felt special early on.

“There’s usually a struggle at some point when you’re recording that you try to force something. It felt great the whole way … but you know, trying to measure yourself as an artist, that’s not your play, it’s not your thing to do. It’s your job to make the art, it’s not your job to interpret the art.”

Castle is more the rule than the exception in the music business where talent isn’t the deciding factor on success. “Landing” is his fifth solo album after leaving the jam band Toast, but it takes a somewhat psychedelic detour from his earlier country/Americana songs.

Before Sturgill Simpson became the latest savior of traditional country music a few years ago, he was opening shows for Castle. As that buzz began to build, Castle tuned into a podcast where host Joe Rogan was telling Simpson how floating in a sensory deprivation tank had helped him get a better grip on life.

At the time, Castle was meditating and had dealt with what he calls “more than my share of depression.” He was intrigued by Rogan’s float tank theory, researched the topic and discovered that Float Nashville was less than a half-mile from his home. After a less-than-pleasant initial visit, he found the tank to be the perfect complement to meditation.

“On this record, every single song was influenced somewhat by the tank,” Castle says. “The first song that was written was ‘Sunday.’ I started writing it on a Sunday, then went for my second float on a Monday or Tuesday. While I was in there, I actually slipped into what felt like the meditative state for the first time in my life.

“I was stuck on the song at that point, then later in the float – it’s 90 minutes – it was like it instantly revealed itself; ‘Oh, here’s the melody, here’s what you’re missing.’ I got out, hummed it into my phone and got back in the tank. Then 30 minutes later, the lyrics for that section of the song came up.”

Apparently, Simpson never entered the tank, but he didn’t stick to the straight-and-narrow tradition either, and has only become more popular for his psychedelic-soul recent approach. Castle isn’t imitating his friend, however; the tank has taught him that what’s important is following your own path.

“At this point, it’s not really about having some sort of success,” he says. “I want an outlet to create art that is self-sustaining and pays for itself, allows me to support my family while I do it.”

He deserves to keep that dream afloat.

Jerry Castle performs “Ride”.


Originally published in 2016.

Each week, Bob Hust and Bill Thompson feature the best songs – old and new – from artists they have loved for many years and others they have just discovered. The best songs transport people to a time and place. That’s the foundation of BS&B.

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