Broke, newly single and juggling three jobs with a full-time education, you might think Oklahoma City singer Chase Kerby’s life has hit a rough patch. He’d achieved relative success with his old band, The City Lives, having toured the country with fellow Okie pop rockers All-American Rejects before deciding to depart late last year.
Still, he’s happy, if overwhelmed, because he’s now operating on his own terms.
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“It’s humbling, starting over again,” Kerby said. “If anything, inside my head, things have gotten even more confusing. Having to branch out and try something new ... really figuring out what it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place. I’m sort of taking the training wheels off, you might say.”
Leaving The City Lives wasn’t an easy decision, but necessary. The songs coming out of Kerby — the band’s chief songwriter — weren’t coming off as The City Lives anymore. Rather than bending the tunes against their nature, or Kerby against his will, he choose to split.
“It’s kind of like ending the greatest romance you’ve ever had,” he said. “The best moments I’ve had as a musician are with those guys. We were a great band, and for what we did, it was awesome, but I never really got to utilize any of my influences. Now, I can really hone in on the music that inspires me.”
Kerby approached 2011 with the full intention of becoming a solo artist, digging into his backlog of half-finished demos as old as seven years.
Inspired by a wide array of artists like Bon Iver, Robert Johnson and Jeff Buckley, they were a far cry from The Fray and Jimmy Eat World track his old group traveled.
The demos range from dreamy, folk-rock ballads to grittier, blues-inspired works, and he approached guitarists Zach Zeller (The Non) and Alex Coleman (Feathered Rabbit), drummer Alberto Roubert and ACM@UCO instructor and bassist Michael Trepagnier to flesh them out. The immediate chemistry demanded they be more than session players.
“The lines have become really blurry,” Kerby said, describing the distinction between his solo material and his new band, The Defining Times. “Everything is so sporadic at this point, the songs are coming out in all these sorts of styles. For now, it is what it is: one and the same.”
He’s carrying forward with his instinctual ear for melody and emotion-driven style of songwriting, but the pairing with three technically — and theoretically — proficient players has helped bring his simple home recordings to new heights.
“I’m excited to see what musical creatures can crawl out of the ears of these guys,” he said. “It’s going to be whatever it is. It is what it is, I guess.”