Photo Credit: Cole Berggren
Making a big jump into a new situation and leaving an old one tends to leave a jumble of things right in the middle, whether that’s missing your old home, friends you’ve known for years or just familiarity of the day-to-day. All of which is what Philly musician Cole Berggren, who also plays in the band The Vernes, looks at in the first installment called Lonesome Light of his solo project he titled Number One Lovers. He brought together old friends and new to help him craft the EP, which features a relaxed sensibility, smooth vocals, and some heartfelt melodies that are hard to forget.
Berggren’s self- description of the project as “soul-folk” hits the nail right on the head. He blends instrumentation in a refreshing, clear way that makes the record incredibly approachable and inviting. To the horns in the title track to the twangy guitar chords in “Slow Driver”, there is something to love within each song.
Read on as Cole breaks down the ride of making the EP and his favorite production aspects…
“Feel it All”
“Feel it All” was the first song I wrote for the record. When I started writing the songs, I had just moved to Philadelphia to play with The Vernes. I didn’t really know anybody in the city yet, but I lived in this finished basement with a little studio setup and I had all this free time to write and record. At the time I was playing keys and trumpet with The Vernes so a lot of the songs for the record ended up being less guitar-driven and relying more on a variety of instruments and vocals. I’d had the instrumental part of “Feel it All” written for a while and I was struggling to write the lyrics and a melody. At my first job in Philly, I delivered cookies on my bicycle to these U. Penn students in West Philly. I remember riding my bike one night with a backpack full of cookies and thinking up the opening melody to the song. Sometimes I feel like you have these strange moments like that where a song writes itself.
Right after I finished writing the songs for the record, I took a trip to where I’m from in California. I booked a solo show at this venue called Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco and put a band together to try out some of the songs I was working on for the record. The band was Nick O’Connor on keys, Alex Lefkort on bass, and Reid Riegelsberger on drums. We tracked the record live at an old friend Ryan Ellery’s house. Ryan’s a fantastic engineer who’s done a bunch of great work with Bay Area band Just Friends. After we finished up the instrumental tracks in CA, I took them back to Philly with me. I recorded the vocals, with the help of Matty Terrones and Alyssa Milman. And I recorded Tommy Levecchia on trumpet, Sam Greenfield on sax too. Joe Michelini who plays in this incredible band American Trappist mixed the record for me at Berlin Studios in New Jersey. Probably due in a big way to that long recording process, the song “Lonesome Light” sounds very different than its original version. When we played the song in San Francisco, it had a totally different melody, different lyrics, and a different guitar part too. It wasn’t until I got back to Philly that I really figured out where the song wanted to go.
“Wasted Time” is a breakup song. When I left the West Coast I was getting out of this really frustrating long term relationship. A lot of the song is about that conflicting feeling you can get when you end something like that. Like, the feeling of “did I get anything at all out of this?” I love Tommy’s horn arrangements on the chorus of this song. I gave him a lot of specific melodies to play on the record, but that chorus was all his idea. Tommy and I recorded all of the trumpet over two sessions at his place in South Philly. I biked down there in this crazy thunderstorm one day and I wrapped my laptop up in a trash bag and threw it in my back to keep it safe.
“Slow Driver” is the song that changed the least from its first version to its last one. The whole song came together super quickly for me initially, and we recorded it in one take. Nick, Alex, Reid and I’ve been playing music together for over ten years so we gel really well. At the end of the song, you hear Reid go “Next” in the drum mics which cracks me up every time I hear it.
“New Love” is my favorite song on the record instrumentally. It has all these cool little pauses where the drums and the vocals come back in together. I remember I recorded all of my vocals last summer as I was moving into this new place which didn’t have any AC. I would turn the fan on in between takes and I was so hot and sweaty by the end of it. Matty wrote these super cool harmonies that sound like the Beach Boys for the bridge and at the end, it’s got this amazing trumpet melody by Tommy which is one of my favorite moments on the record.
Take a listen to Lonesome Light below and keep up with Number One Lovers here