Wander Away, the sixth release from New York City’s Mike Errico, is lush pop-rock that draws comparison to Elbow and Iron and Wine. From the urgent “Ready or Not” to the otherworldly “Everybody Knows,” Errico expands his signature songwriting style with new instrumentation — including dobro, string sections, harmonium, and pedal steel — a varied group of cowriters, and a vocal vulnerability only hinted at previously.
In welcoming cowriters for the first time, Errico says, “I think of it as social networking within the artistic process. I’ve toured with (Soulive’s) Eric Krasno and Ari Hest, met Raul Midon and (Goldfrapp/Peter Gabriel keyboardist) Angie Pollock through friends, and worked with (Grammy-winning producer) Ben Mink before. Together, we went places I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. And,” he adds, “it was a lot of fun.” Errico also showcases his skill as a guitarist in an intricate arrangement of the Tom Waits classic, “Johnsburg, Illinois.” “The song has such an aching quality to it, and I just needed to arrange it, so I’d always have it with me,” Errico says.
For Wander Away, Errico reunited with producer Ken Rich at Grand Street Recording. “Ken and I go way back,” he says. “I have always respected his naturalistic approach, and felt it would be a great match for the songs I was writing. We both introduced fantastic musicians to the mix, and he kept me open to choices that made me vulnerable and were deeper as a result.” Together, they reached back into Errico’s catalogue, rearranging “1000 Miles” and “Someday” and orchestrating “You Could Be Anywhere” and “Count to Ten,” songs that were originally released as solo performances.
A surprise addition to Wander Away is pedal steel master Bruce Kaphan, known most for his work with Mark Eitzel and American Music Club. After hearing the rough tracks, Bruce enthusiastically joined the album, trading takes over the Web from his studio in Northern California. “The first track he came back with was ‘Wish You Well.’ My jaw hit the floor,” Errico says. “There aren’t many guitarists I’d die to have on one of my records. There’s Angus Young. Eddie Van Halen. And Bruce.”
Errico’s mother, the painter and sculptor Angela Errico, provides the cover art. “She had the painting hanging in her Chelsea studio, and I found myself returning to it when I went in to see her new work. It’s called ‘Toxic Walk in the Park.’ I don’t know what the figures are doing, what they’re walking away from, or towards. I do know that they’re outfitted for a tough journey, and they’re together, maybe walking out of the frame entirely. Listening to the record as a whole, I can hear these characters.” He says, with a laugh, “For better or worse, I can relate.”
Concurrent with the release of Wander Away, Errico has launched The Mike Errico Podcast, which includes live takes, stories, and interviews with the many people that influenced the new release. The podcast is available for free on iTunes and his own Web site, www.errico.com.
For all its expansion, Wander Away is, at heart, Mike Errico at his most focused and distilled. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder of anything I’ve ever done,” he says. “The combination of my writing and the artistry that was brought to it—it’s an unrepeatable moment.”