BACK TO THE MIDDLE
Release Date: September 24th 2021
In 2021, music fans have the ability to hit search on their phones and computers and discover both mega hits and hidden gems from any point in the history of recorded music. As a result, genre cross-pollination has become the norm, yet one of the essential threads that runs through all of the most iconic songs is that of melodic and soulful guitar pop. Right now it feels like we’re in the middle of a sweet renaissance of that sound and one of its finest proponents is Sydney, Australia’s Bryan Estepa.
As he’s proven time and time again, across six albums, Estepa’s music is universally appealing. He possesses an innate ability to create timeless melodies that perfectly convey the poetry and intent of his songs, whether that’s uplifting devotion or melancholic heartache. You can hear the last 50 years of popular music coursing through his musical veins. From The Beatles to The Beach Boys, Big Star to Steely Dan, Neil Finn to Elliott Smith and on to You Am I and Wilco. It’s all there in his vivid and evocative arrangements, effortless vocal melodies and world class songcraft.
In 2020, Estepa partnered with multi ARIA and APRA award-winning Australian songwriter Josh Pyke for an exciting new batch of songs. With Pyke producing and playing on Estepa’s songs the pair recorded the critically acclaimed singles ‘Admit Now, Pay Later’ and ‘Trick Of The Light’. Now the listener gets to dive deeper into Estepa’s latest compositions with the release of this sublime six song EP Back To The Middle.
“Sometimes the most exciting type of music I create is when songs are not overly thought out or conceived with a grand plan and sound. I feel that these sessions were the tonic to freeing up my songwriting choices and making me unafraid of where things could end up. I credit Josh and the fine musicians who helped me shape this record for that.”
‘Admit Now, Pay Later’ is rich with pop tropes that recall the work of artists such as Harry Nilsson and Beck. On ‘Trick Of The Light’, Estepa combines heavenly melodies and a melancholic air on an irresistible slice of indie guitar pop; singing about acceptance, letting go and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that comes out while you’re treading new waters.
The title track and new single ‘Back To The Middle’ kicks off like an 80s Springsteen outtake before settling into an irresistible head-nodding rhythm and a super-catchy chorus that swells with an Elvis Costello organ and a Beach Boys-sounding pop exuberance. ‘Everything You Wanted’ changes gear into a wistful Americana-tinged power pop vista with an exquisite Nels Cline-styled guitar solo.
‘Little White Lie’ is a showcase for Estepa’s willingness to experiment and expand his sonic palette. Keys, synth horns, baroque pop flourishes and artful backing harmonies all add to the kaleidoscopic beauty of the song. Rounding out the EP is a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Threw It All Away’, from his 1969 album Nashville Skyline. In the hands and voice of Estepa, an even deeper emotional resonance is revealed as he sings of the universal and timeless importance of love.
In the recording of these songs, the shared creative experience was wholly rewarding for both musicians, with Estepa confessing “I’ve always wanted to work with Josh Pyke, who I’ve known and admired for a long time now. He’s one of my favourite Aussie songwriters and a real inspiration. This Back To The Middle EP was born out of the need to stay creative during COVID’s forced lockdowns and an opportune and exciting chance to collaborate with Josh,” he explains. “I found it liberating to enter his studio with only a rough plan and literally see where the music would take us. Half-finished songs ended up becoming co-writes, unexpected production choices were made and a lot of ideas formed around the much-used pool table. It was basically my funhouse and escape during that time.”
Music & Lyrics by Bryan Estepa (2021)
*’Everything You Wanted’ (Music & Lyrics – Bryan Estepa/Josh Pyke)
**’I Threw It All Away’ (Music & Lyrics – Bob Dylan)
Produced, Recorded & Mixed by Josh Pyke
Recorded at Timshel Industries (June 2020-May 2021)
‘I Threw It All Away’ – Recorded by Brian Crouch. Mixed by Josh Schuberth.
Mastered by Josh Schuberth
Bryan Estepa – Vocals, Guitars, Banjo, Piano & Toy Piano
Josh Pyke – Bass, Guitars, Synths, Xylophone, Percussion & Backing Vocals
Russell Crawford – Drums, Percussion & Backing Vocals
Dave Keys – Bass
Jadey O’Regan – Piano & Organ
Tim Byron – Piano & Organ
Peta Caswell – Backing Vocals
Brian Crouch – Piano & Organ
Josh Schuberth – Bass & Percussion
Cover Art by Talk.Ink
“Bryan’s a great writer and collaborator. He’s got a classic pop sensibility but is really open to feedback and experimentation which made my job as producer really fun and free.”– Josh Pyke
“Both the track and its video are a testament to Estepa’s status as a widely-unsung hero of the Australian music scene, and gives listeners an idea of what is still to come from this beloved and critically-acclaimed artist.”– Rolling Stone Australia (‘Admit Now, Pay Later’)