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Much has changed since Softly, Dear first stumbled out of the Wisconsin woods nearly two years ago. Green to the scene but full of ambition and perseverance, the Eau Claire quintet quickly began turning local heads with their sensible blend of indie folk and classic rock (think more late 1960s, less mid 1970s), compounded by Tyler Hart’s earnest, heartfelt lyrics. By early 2013, Softly, Dear solidified a permanent membership with the addition of Addie Strei on bass guitar and backing vocals; this allowed Josh Frederick to turn a large portion of his attention back to his lead guitar duties and provided a sense of stability at live shows as the band’s reputation began to grow around the Chippewa Valley.
June of 2013 saw the release of Portico, Softly, Dear’s debut EP. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Evan Middlesworth at Pine Hollow Audio, the six-song collection highlighted the band’s penchant for crafting anthemic sing-alongs often bolstered by dense, intricate instrumentals rounded out through contributions from keyboardist Ben Possi and drummer Alex Adkinson. Portico soon spawned the single “Better Times,” which helped to push Softly, Dear beyond the realms of western Wisconsin. Aside from receiving frequent air time on Milwaukee’s 88.9 FM, “Better Times” found itself featured on London’s Amazing Radio and in internationally-reaching publications such as Gold Flake Paint, A Music Blog, Yea?, and Witness This.
Now armed with studio recordings to augment their solid live shows, Softly, Dear continued to progress. Having already showcased their DIY sensibilities by self-packaging and self-releasing Portico, the band immersed themselves in the revived Eau Claire house show scene, opening up their basement as a frequent venue for both local and touring acts. The end of 2013 was capped off by a short Midwest tour that also found Softly, Dear cutting a live session at the Daytrotter studios in Illinois.
An extensive performance regimen inevitably led to new material, and the band soon found themselves back at Pine Hollow to work on their self-titled, full-length debut record. The album’s impending arrival has been preceded by lead single “Things I Say,” mastered by Grammy award-winning engineer Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir). Though the song retains many of the hard-charging, salient traits that have become synonymous with Softly, Dear, “Things I Say” proves to be somewhat of a misnomer within the context of the rest of the album. Pensive instrumental interludes weave together the collection of ten songs in an almost effortless fashion, and the back half of Softly, Dear reads as a rather scenic ordeal, undoubtedly inspired by the band’s numerous road trips across the ever-changing Midwest landscape. Flexing new musical muscles while simultaneously conditioning established ones, Softly, Dear is poised to take the next big step in their artistic odyssey.
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